popular

You Need This Rare Ghanaian Record In Your Life

Homowo, one of Ghana's most sought-after LPs, emerges from obscurity

Excerpts from the liner notes for 'Basa Basa – Homowo,' to be re-released on February 13 by Vintage Voudou.

Homowo, one of Ghana's most sought-after LPs, emerges from obscurity on a high-quality reissue. Also known as Together We Win by Basa Basa Experience, the album was first released in Nigeria in 1979. The LP is a unique collaboration with Themba 'T-fire' Matebese, who propelled Basa Basa's sound, inspired by Ghanaian traditional music, soul and afrobeat, into another dimension, adding disco elements, synthesizers and the production aesthetics of the next decade.

"Here are the twins from Ghana!" announced the guards, as they escorted Joe and John Nyaku, the 22-year-old founders of Basa Basa into Fela Kuti's living room. Fela was seated, surrounded by his entourage of female dancers, band members and followers. Upon seeing the brothers, Fela rose to his feet, bowed theatrically and exclaimed, "Dear twins! We are honoured to welcome you."

[It's a] humble gesture by a superstar whose shows attracted crowds of up to 60,000. But then, the twins possess a special status in the Yoruba religion, and to Fela Kuti the identical Nyakus signified good fortune. And so the Ghanaian brothers' friendship with Fela began, a relationship that would ultimately result in their relocation to Lagos.

Basa Basa at the Napoleon

During that time Basa Basa claimed its spot at the Napoleon, Accra's most prestigious night club. They shared resident duties with Bunzu Soundz, which was led by Cliff Eck (with John Collins a member), and whose music leaned more towards highlife, owing to the fact that they had been Alhaji K. Frimpong's support band.

On a typical night at the club, the Bunzus would play from eleven o'clock, Basa Basa would pick up between one and three, and a DJ would play until closing time. The interludes would be filled by the Nigerian comedian Ajax Bukana and the dancer Kojo Tawia Brown, a man of diminutive stature who performed James Brown-moves in platform shoes and doubled as a mascot for the Napoleon club.

Basa Basa continued to develop its own unique sound, adding guitar, bass and flute to a bedrock of percussion performed by three drummers, each of whom specialised in different rhythms and drums. They looked the part: "ancient horned headdresses, multi-colored hand woven kente cloth attire and adornments of leather, beads, feathers and gold. Basa Basa Soundz is both visibly and audibly a unique addition to the contemporary music scene, and most definitely an enhancement to the new wave of progressive music," as a quote proudly proclaimed on the sleeve of their first album.

Core members included lead guitarist Wallace Tay, who remained with the group throughout its existence, singer and bass guitarist Nii Ayitey II (aka Edmund Ayitey Larmie or Eddie Watts), and Amoah Azangeo, a Frafra percussionist from northern Ghana who famously performed with Les McCann and Eddie Harris in the Soul to Soul movie. Joe played drums and John played both percussion and bass. They made a point of teaching every band member how to sing, to avoid ever being short of vocalists.

Unlike Fela, Basa Basa didn't include controversial messages in its music. Joe Nyaku: "In those days, I didn't know much about politics. But in music we learned that we have to do good. If you do good, good will come to you. So we always played music to inspire people. We didn't get it from the church but we were playing our spiritual, African rhythms."

Debut LP

Basa Basa signed a two-album record deal with their manager Faisal Helwani, and in November 1974 embarked on its first trip to Nigeria. Ghana didn't have a sufficiently equipped recording studio at the time, so the 8-track EMI studio in Lagos was booked. While in Lagos in 1974, the band, as well as their sister band the Bunzu Soundz, stayed at the Empire hotel, home to Fela Kuti's club, the Africa Shrine.

They were at the Shrine on their first night in town, after their gig at the Papingo nightclub, when riot police turned up and began raiding the premises. Fela was beaten up and arrested for allegedly housing a runaway teenage girl. He was released three days later. John Collins recalls: "He came back from the court to the Kalakuta with a cavalcade of vehicles and ten thousand supporters, causing a major traffic go-slow in Lagos that day. On top of a car outside the shrine he blasted the government to the huge crowd—and again blasted them at his show that night." That same evening Basa Basa and the Bunzu Soundz also performed. They spent the next days in the studio recording their albums, with Faisal and Fela on production duty.

The vinyl LP, which contains extensive liner notes and a 60 x 60 cm cover-art poster, can be ordered through Vintagevoudou.com and is available in select vinyl shops around the world. The album can also be downloaded from iTunes and Amazon.

popular

Janet Jackson Returns With Afrobeats-Inspired Song & Video 'Made For Now' Featuring Daddy Yankee

The icon's latest is a nod to the sound, fashion and culture of the diaspora.

Ms. Jackson is back.

The iconic artist returns with her first single since the release of her 2015 album Unbreakable, and it's a timely nod to the "made for now" influence of afrobeats fashion, sound and culture.

On "Made For Now," which features Puerto Rican reggaeton titan Daddy Yankee, Janet Jackson does what she's done successfully so many times throughout her decades-long career: provide an infectious, party-worthy tune that's fun and undeniably easy to dance to. "If you're living for the moment, don't stop," Jackson sings atop production which fuses dancehall, reggaeton and afrobeats.

The New York-shot music video is just as lively, filled with eye-catching diasporic influences, from the wax-print ensembles and beads both Janet and her dancers wear to the choreographed afrobeats-tinged dance numbers, even hitting the Shoki at one point in the video. The train of dancers travel throughout the streets of Brooklyn, taking over apartment buildings and rooftops with spirited moves.

It's obvious that Jackson has been studying and drawing inspiration from the culture for some time now. She even hit the Akwaaba dance, popularized by Mr Eazi, during her Icon Award performance at this year's Billboard Music Awards.

The bouncing video, directed by Dave Meyers, features contributions from a number of creatives from Africa and the diaspora who were involved in the creation of the video, including designer Claude Lavie Kameni and choreographer Omari Mizrahi. Ghanaian health guru, Coach Cass pointed out some of the many dancers involved in the production on Instagram, who hail from Ghana, Nigeria, Trinidad, Grenada and the US.

Ahead of the video's release, it garnered attention on social media when Jackson was spotted filming in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, wearing what many thought was a questionable fashion ensemble. The outfit in question only makes a small appearance in the video, and we're glad to see that Janet's other looks appear, at least slightly, more coordinated.

Watch the music video for "Made for Now" below. The singer is set to perform the song with Daddy Yankee live for the first time tonight on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, so be ready!

Audio

You Need to Hear Juls' New Single 'Saa Ara'


New hip-hop and highlife grooves from the celebrated UK-based Ghanaian producer.

By merging the diverse influence of growing up in Accra and East London, Juls has managed to cultivate a hybrid afrobeats style that has set him apart from the rest.

For his latest single, "Saa Ara," he teams up with award-winning rapper Kwesi Arthur and gifted lyricist Akan.

The brilliant fusion of vintage highlife instrumentals and booming hip-hop beats, along with Kwesi Arthur's lively chorus and Akan's fiery delivery gives the song a very spiritual and classical feel.

Soothe your soul this weekend with these tasteful sounds from Juls.

Listen to "Saa Ara" by Juls featuring Kwesi Arthur and Akan below.

Keep reading... Show less
News Brief

FIFA Refuses To Meet with Nigeria's Sports Minister as Ghana Takes Steps to Avoid Ban

This could jeopardize Nigeria's qualifier against Seychelles in September, while the Ghanaian government has pledged not to dissolve its football association.

In lieu of the ultimatums Nigeria and Ghana's football associations faced from FIFA, one country is on its way to dodge the threat of being banned, while the other is not going down without a fight.

FIFA has refused a proposed meeting with Nigeria's sports minister, Solomon Dalung, to discuss problems in the country's football federation, BBC Sport reports. They say their leadership and the FIFA president is unwilling to meet during the proposed time period.

FIFA is giving the NFF until August 20 for Chris Giwa, who was acknowledged by the courts as the president of the federation, to leave the NFF offices.

Giwa's lawyer Ardzard Habilla asserts that FIFA can't ban Nigeria as the federation's issues need to be sorted out internally by the country's judiciary.

Habilla questions, "Do we take it that FIFA laws are superior to the judgment of the highest court in our land—the Supreme Court, and has FIFA elevated itself before the constitution of Nigeria?"

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.