Ghana Soundz: Afrobeat, Funk and Fusion in the 70's

Various Artists

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Ghana Soundz: Afrobeat, Funk and Fusion in the 70's Review

by Chris Nickson

Ghana was one of the centers of the music called highlife, but the Afro-beat and funk that came out of the country in the 1970s, in the wake of Fela Kuti's musical success in Nigeria, has largely gone undocumented -- until now. Compiled from obscure 45s and albums, Ghana Soundz is the first of a three-volume series that will most definitely put Ghanaian funk on the map. Some of it is truly fabulous, like tracks by the Sweet Talks, the Ogyatanaa Show Band, and the Apagya Show Band, all of which do funk in the Afro-beat mold of interlocking parts over an infectious rhythm, giving room for improvisation. Others, like Oscar Sulley & the Uhuru Dance Band, take more of a jazz tack. And then there's the Honey & the Bees Band, whose "Psychedelic Woman" is irresistible simply because it's so cheesy (but also very good). Truth to tell, there's not a single bad track here, although the political consciousness that was an integral part of Fela's Afro-beat is largely missing here, with the major exception of the African Brothers' lengthy and steaming "Self Reliance," which builds relentlessly before exploding into a strange synthesizer solo. With some remarkable music that covers such a wide range -- and with the highlife influence fairly well hidden throughout in favor of a more Americanized African model -- this is a find indeed.

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