TITLE: Volume 7
LABEL: Awesome Tapes From Africa
There’s no doubt about it: drum machines and synthesizers are radically changing African music. On one hand, they’re making large ensembles like Franco’s OK Jazz or Toumani Diabate’s Symmetric Orchestra rarer and more uneconomical than ever. On the other, a new generation of musicians is employing today’s musical technology in surprising, and occasionally tradition-enhancing, ways. Bola Anafo from Ghana’s Upper East Region (bordering Burkina Faso and Togo) sings urgently (“declaims” might be a better word for his vocalizations) in Frafra and plays the kologo, a two-stringed lute with a calabash used as its body and resonator. Bola fast-forwards Frafra traditional music into the 21st century by adding drum machine rhythms and synthesizer keyboard and bass lines. He even throws in a little Auto-Tune -- just enough to be fun. The trancelike music that results, which might remind you of Konono No. 1 and the other Congotronics bands, or of South Africa’s Shangaan Electro sound, really is “ancient to the future,” to borrow the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s old saying.
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