Archive for the ‘Koo Nimo’ Category

Palm Wine Guitar

August 12, 2014
The History of the Palmwine Guitar by Ed Keazor (edited):

The Palmwine Guitar sound is a distinctive Folk sound, which originated in West Africa at the turn of the 20th century. As the story goes, the style emanated from Sierra Leone, where the Portuguese and Spanish sailors whose ships berthed on Merchant ships on the West African Coastal ports of Freetown (Sierra Leone) , Lagos (Nigeria), Monrovia (Liberia) and Accra/Tema (Ghana) lent their Guitars and style to their African shipmates who formulated a unique style fusing native rhythms with the Latin style bequeathed by their Latin benefactors and resulting in an expressive twangy, melodious Guitar sound.

The early African Guitar pioneers, primarily played on the ships in their spare time to entertain themselves, often raw and rudimentary, a revolution was nonetheless taking place. The Guitars were often played to accompany Native vocal renditions, varied in their content but often centred around themes of Love and peace , Native wisdom, satire and often times personal angst and social commentary.

As time went on the Guitar moved away from the exclusive preserve of the African sailors to the general populace and the local musicians adopted the Guitar, Violin, Mandolin, Banjo (and rather annoyingly that dreadful Instrument- The Kazoo) as elitist forms of expression. A word of note, West African musicians in general played in the Traditional form (using Traditional instruments) at Funerals, Weddings, Religious Feasts and Festivals and to entertain Royalty in Court and not much else- these were the elite.

At the lower end of the rung were the Bards and Minstrels, who would go round houses and local bars in the evening (when self respecting people had come back from work) and get a few cowries or pennies for their troubles, often walking several miles on this beat, kind of like Mobile buskers (this practice continues till today). Their Guitar heroics being accompaniment to tales of joy and pain and mostly praise singing of their often inebriated and mostly ego-possessed clients, they would often move around solo or accompanied by Native drummers or Thumb Pianists (Agidigbo in Nigeria) and a variety of other Native Instruments.

The Palmwine Guitar style evolved over the years and fused with various forms, became most popularly known as Highlife, being a fusion of Big Band Native rhythms and indeed the Palmwine Guitar style. one of the biggest superstars of this fusion was the Ghanaian Tenor Saxman- E.T.Mensah and his Tempos Band formed in the 30’s, whose popularity stretched far beyond Ghana.

However the purists have refused to be swayed and the old boys and young hawks have stayed faithful to the Sailors and Minstrels of yore.

Koo Nimo

January 21, 2013
Koo Nimo: Highlife Roots Revival (World Music Network CD TUG1064)

Koo Nimo is one of the last true veterans of highlife roots and palm-wine music, which dominated Ghana’s popular music scene throughout much of the twentieth century. Recorded in his backyard at home in Accra, expect acoustic guitars and rolling percussion all topped off with his gentle story-teller singing style.

Whilst listening to Highlife Roots Revival, you might be surprised to hear the faint crowing of a rooster or the distant murmur of a child’s voice bubbling underneath the guitars. But rest assured: it is no accident that these sounds were left in the mix; they were captured during a series of recording sessions, which took place in Koo Nimo’s courtyard at home in Ghana.

Adding a wonderful sense of intimacy to the album, these interjections underline the ethos of palm-wine music perfectly. This is, after all, a musical style named after the strong alcoholic drink imbibed at outdoor acoustic sessions, where musicians swapped their songs beneath the starlit sky and where palm-wine music was born. Join Koo Nimo in the spirit of palm-wine; kick back, tap your foot and listen to the stories unfold.

Palm-wine music has its roots in the burgeoning krio culture of late nineteenth-century West Africa. Portuguese sailors winding along the coasts of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana introduced the guitar to the region, an instrument itself circuitously related to the various harps and lutes of West Africa. Sea shanties mixed together local styles like gumbé and foreign influences such as Trinidadian calypso. During the early twentienth century, palm-wine gatherings were commonplace, often taking place under the shade of a large tree, with performers happy to play on as long as they were still being bought drinks.