(GIF via Art Becomes You)

Got some more Iswayski for ya! Today’s focus is Azonto beats.

The Ghana dance that’s been wildly popular for the past few years continues to result in a lot of good music. The beat that’s generally associated with it is a super dancey and effective pop formula blended with traditional Ga drumming. Who made the first beat is up for debate, but E.L‘s “U Go Kill Me” is what brought it to the masses.

I’m still surprised I don’t hear more of this in US club sets outside of African nights. It’s impossible not to move your body to, has high production standards, and a lot of the lyrics are even in English. Maybe it’s because so few Western artists are producing it? The UK has Fuse ODG bringing it to the Grime crowds and the whole Afrobeats thing is probably helping to spread it over there. But there’s not much of an American counterpart to any of that. Not that any of this matters as a symbol of the sound’s success, I just personally fuck with it and would like to hear more of it.

So let’s go over a few recent tracks that are doing pretty well that I like a lot:


My friend Asumaya has been actively collaborating with Ghanaian musicians and producers for the past few years, and I recently re-mixed one of these collaborations (cop it below). Here is the background in Asumaya’s words:


I first met Awuni “Judicious” Bismark back in 2003, when I was a Peace Corps volunteer and he was a student at Zebilla Secondary Technical School in the far Northeastern corner of Ghana.  I had come to West Africa with ears accustomed to Smithsonian Folkways recordings, old highlife, and the Nonesuch Explorer Series and expected to arrive in the pulsing birthplace of polyrhythm.  Instead I washed up on the shore of a musical landscape dominated by Celine Dion bootlegs and a homegrown style known as hiplife.

As the name implies, hiplife is a fusion of hip-hop and modern Ghanaian highlife, and Judicious was the first person I met who took his love of the genre beyond the realm of listening.  He wrote lyrics constantly, and wherever he went he carried with him a book of songs waiting to be born.  The book kept getting fuller, but I never got a chance to hear a finished track before I left.

In the years following Peace Corps I returned to Ghana twice to teach for short intervals, and work with traditional musicians around Zebilla on putting together a group called Bawku West Collective.  While I didn’t see Judicious on either of these trips, the word got around that he was living in the capitol, Accra, and recording music.  It wasn’t until he summer of 2012 that we were finally able meet up again.  Hiplife had grown up considerably in the four years since my last visit, and it had just spawned the Azonto dance-craze that spread its appeal arguably farther than ever before.  This time in Ghana it was clear that Judicious was the teacher and I was definitely the student.  He introduced me to the producer Mad Beat Z in Ashaiman (just outside Accra) and I watched as the talent of the neighborhood drifted into his Phayaworks studio at all hours of the morning, afternoon and night, day after day.  It was there that I met BB and Reeload, two other Ashaiman musicians Mad Beat Z and Judicious had collaborated with in the past.

The track “This is Africa” was originally built around a Bawku West Collective recording of a traditional musician named Alalba Awin from the Northern town of Binaba.  BB, Judicious and Reeload tossed around lyrical ideas for the better part of June and July while I was there.  I didn’t get to hear the final track until I was back in the States again in August.  I passed it along to Chants and now you can hear the result.

-        Luke Bassuener (Asumaya)


Bonus video:


So this Thursday, January 27th, Chief Boima and yours truly, along some good friends from Garbon, Ivory Coast, and  Madgascar will kick off a new party in the southeastern part of Manhattan Island (a neighborhood commonly referred to as the Lower East Side of Manhattan borough) at Gallery Bar (art gallery by day, and lounge/party space when its dark.) We’ll be joined by very special guest, founder of Akwaaba Music and DJ, BBrave. Facebook RSVP.

Going Africa and Beyond. Though I won’t be popping champagne like my Ghanaian brothers Ruff-N-Smooth (they have all the money and the honeys!) I will be playing their music.

[youtube width=”525″ height=”393″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etFHI594-rE&feature=player_embedded#![/youtube]

I’m in the near south with family and friends observing yet another fucked up and annoying holiday – this one associated with the genocide of indigenous Americans. While unpacking my bags after the journey, and thinking about stuffing and delicious chocolate and pecan pies, I turned on a new mix from a trio of young, Afrocentric DJs – Crowdkrushers, from the south of Germany – a town called Tübingen. The mix was commissioned by Akwaaba Music to celebrate the netlabel’s second anniversary. It’s been two years already! Although I have lost count of the releases, Akwaaba remains consistent and continues to exposed us to some amazing music. So enjoy this mix, containing a healthy dose of fine Akwaaba Music.

A word from Crowdcrushers – “So this is our exclusive mix for Akwaaba Music. It‘s not so much all new and exclusive bangers but rather our impression of African music and its big influences on other musical territories (with one or two stylistic exceptions in the mix). We also kinda tried to give an idea of what we do in our club sets, not paying too much attention to tempo or style while keeping it funky and a wee bit humorous… Featuring Akwaaba artists Appietus, Ruff‘n‘Smooth, Kedjevara, Onyenze, Killamu, Dred Man-Gi and Arc Djebe. Hope you enjoy!”

Krush on Akwaaba by Akwaaba Music

[youtube width=”524″ height=”393″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=246fZPv-LBY[/youtube]

I first heard this tune at a party in the Bronx, Summer 2005 or maybe ’06– I don’t remember exactly. Big up all Ghanaian massive in the Bronx. I can recall a friend telling me at the time that “You May Kiss Your Bride” was a smash in Accra, on the radio, in bars and clubs, at football marches, and of course at weddings.  This clip also appears on a VCD compilation titled Ghana Vs Nigeria: Super Hits Videos –purchased in a street market in Freetown in December ’09. By the way, if you dig this track don’t sleep on Akwaaba Music’s Move It Chaleh — more recent hiplife goodness among other things (like Monou Sidibe’s incredible “Mali Mousso.”)

The first sub-Saharan African country to get independence in the 1950s head to the polls today to vote for a new president and parliament.  Well, if you’re sick of the Obama-Memorabilia overkill, readjust your binoculars and take a look at this; Two young men with bodies painted in striking campaigning colors were spotted in the streets of Accra entertaining commuters and raising personal funds.  Pictures of men with their bodies painted with party colors, it seems, is a top visual choice for many internet news sites.