Awesome mu­sic from the ar­chives – K Frim­pong and his Cubano Fi­es­tas

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - SUNKEN TREASURE -

Gen­er­ally I shy away from putting mu­sic into boxes but for high­life I’m happy to make an ex­cep­tion. In the chart of ap­pro­pri­ately named gen­res of mu­sic it’s per­ma­nently perched at num­ber one. As James Brown so point­edly said: It is what it is.

High­life orig­i­nated in Ghana at the turn of the 20th cen­tury, a merger of the melodic, rhyth­mic struc­tures of tra­di­tional Akan mu­sic with western in­stru­ments.

The other sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor was the dance. Wher­ever high­life was played there was a whole lot of shak­ing go­ing on. The mu­sic and the dance were in­sep­a­ra­ble. The up­tempo rhythms sim­ply be­gat bod­ily move­ment.

In­flu­ences from other re­gions, coun­tries and con­ti­nents were ab­sorbed. The 1960s version was char­ac­terised by jazzy horns and arpeg­giated mul­ti­ple elec­tric gui­tar lines.

In 1971, a seis­mic mu­si­cal event was held in Ac­cra that sent tremors through Ghana­ian high­life. The Soul to Soul fes­ti­val fea­tured earth mov­ing per­for­mances from The Sta­ple Singers, Ike & Tina Turner and Wil­son Pickett. Added to the lo­cal fires was some highly flammable funky gaso­line. All bets were off.

K Frim­pong started making mu­sic on the crest of a wave set off by th­ese re­ver­ber­a­tions. His sound bris­tled with soul power. The in­sis­tent tone in his mag­i­cally quiv­er­ing voice her­alded a new age of ad­ven­tures in high­life.

Or­gan stabs bor­rowed from Ja­maican mu­sic punc­tu­ated the beat, adding warmth and weight to the rhythm. The dusty grooves plunged deeper still. Cho­ruses of voices har­monised their way to the heav­ens. In Frim­pong’s hands, high­life took flight. This 1976 al­bum en­cap­su­lates the magic. To hear it and sit still would be some feat. Wher­ever it’s go­ing, let it take you there.

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