Awe­some mu­sic from the ar­chives: this week, De Frank Pro­fes­sion­als

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - Donal Di­neen

In the Gha­nian cap­i­tal of Ac­cra in 1978, De Frank Kakrah was the undis­puted king of a flour­ish­ing mu­si­cal scene. Pho­to­graphs re­veal a pen­chant for ex­trav­a­gantly heeled kung fu shoes and num­ber-52 flares. He brought a lot of sparkle to the pre-bling game with his sump­tu­ously at­tired band the Pro­fes­sion­als.

Born in the To­golese cap­i­tal of Lome in 1953 he moved east to Ac­cra in his late teens, and chose a good time to hit the bright lights. The re­ver­ber­a­tions from Fela Kuti’s rise in nearby Nige­ria had coaxed a new gen­er­a­tion of mu­sic-mak­ers into ac­tion.

Af­ter the fall of pres­i­dent Kwame Nkrumah in 1966, many Ghana­ian mu­si­cians moved abroad. But by the decade’s end, new mu­sic was flow­ing back in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. Dif­fer­ent styles and psy­che­delic spice were be­ing added to the melt­ing pot. Tra­di­tional high­life was over­taken by elec­tric gui­tar bands ped­dling a brand new type of hy­brid boo­gie. A seis­mic mu­si­cal event in 1971 fur­ther stirred the lo­cal scene: the Soul to Soul mu­sic fes­ti­val in Ac­cra. The in­flu­ence of two of the head­lin­ing acts, Wil­son Pick­ett and The Sta­ple Singers, runs deep in the mu­sic of De Frank Pro­fes­sion­als.

The ma­jes­tic power of the or­gan-driven dance-floor clas­sic Afe Ato Yen Bio is born of tan­gi­ble soul and gospel roots. It’s ev­i­dence of the way mu­si­cal seeds can sprout such fan­tas­tic life­forms in dif­fer­ent con­di­tions and for­eign soil. The un­re­strained en­vi­ron­ment of mid-1970’s Ac­cra was fer­tile ground.

De Frank started out as a per­cus­sion­ist be­fore find­ing his voice as a singer. An in­nate feel­ing for the groove gives him ex­tra el­e­va­tion on this mag­i­cal tune. His yearn­ing vo­cals glide over over beats that would slay into sub­mis­sion any­thing a mod­ern com­puter could con­trive.

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