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King Ayisoba - 1000 Can Die (Glitterbeat Records)
King Ayisoba, born Abert Apoozore in Ghana in the 1970s, makes an arresting and compelling music. His sound is in a tradition rather than traditional. He plays the Kologo, a West African stringed instrument that creates a pulsing percussive beat. But it is Ayisoba's vocals that stand out on first listen to this album, rather than his prowess with the Kologo. His voice, a powerful, raw instrument that he pushes to its limit, just screams with passion and power throughout this album. Against the bedrock of his Kologo his voice is as striking and impassioned as anything Johnny Lydon ever spat into a microphone. Grandfather Song and Ndeema are just Ayisoba's vocal and Kologo, a reminder that he has a firm grounding in Ghanaian traditional music. Elsewhere, with the drums leading and upfront, not an exotic textural addition, the music takes from electronica and from hip-life (a Ghanaian style that fuses local highlife music with hip-hop and rap).
Tracks like Africa Needs Africa, Wekana and Dapagara layer traditional instruments against grainy electronic keyboards, Ayisoba's voice and guest vocalists to create a soundscape that is rich and hypnotic. Anka yen Tu Kwai has a beautiful groove of Kologo and electronica pulsing together that contrasts the passionate and raw vocals over the top. 1000 Can Die with a dark texturing that recalls Transglobal Underground, cutting through the soup is a dubby shimmer is the distinctive spoken rap of Lee Scratch Perry, building into an anthemic statement. Nigerian saxophonist Orlando Julius adds a raw jazz edge to Dapagara, a melodic base over which the vocalists just soar. After the fusions and juxtaposition of past present and future on this experimental album, Ýalma Dago Wanga and Ndeema, the final tracks, with traditional drum, kologo and vocals that are more crooned than roared, are by comparison gentle and soothing. Unlikely to ever appear on one of those soothing, carefully sequenced African music compilations, this is an uncompromising album that looks confidently to the future.