Music News

Various artists

Too often, enthusiasts of African music from the '60s and '70s focus on the sounds trickling out of Lagos and Johannesburg as if the barometer for continental coolness depended solely on Nigeria and South Africa. There were dozens of good musical styles emanating from those two hotbeds during that time period, but thankfully, the folks at Otrabanda Records chose to explore the funk vaults in Ghana and discovered a bevy of musical gems along the way. The recently released Bokoor Beats is an eye-opening representation of the overlooked highlife and Afropop sounds of Accra. The tunes on this 12-track collection are mellower and slightly more jazz-driven than, say, Fela Kuti's Afrobeat, but there's a richness to these dug-up recordings that permeates like an audible treat for lovers of obscure West African rock/funk. John Collins' Bokoor Studio was home base for all of these recordings, and his in-house session players, the Bokoor Band, make up the bulk of material here, which is both impressive and disappointing. The Bokoor Band could obviously hold its shit together in a studio, but when you hear acts like the Mangwana Stars crank out "Atiadele," which is all slow-winding highlife at its best, or the Oyikwam Internationals on "Anoma Franoas," you can't help but wonder what other acts glided into Bokoor and laid it down. There's plenty of stellar horn and African guitar work here, which is typical, but as the harmonica and kalimba sounds start jumping out of the speakers, you'll know that the influences of Lagos and Jo-burg have nothing to do with it.

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Jonathan Cunningham