Sep 10, 2012

Kwame & AfroVibes Band - Let's Go!

Kwame, who Acan tongue means "Saturday" is the stage name of musician and composer John Kwame Adzraku. Kwame was born in Ghana in 1958 and in 1977 at age 19 he founded his first band by the name of City Brothers Band, made up of musicians from Ghana, who practiced various styles: Funk, Afro-Beat, High Life, Reggae, Makoussa ... In 1980 he moved to Nigeria where it forms the band The Super Ashantis Band with whom he published his first album to be entitled "Waterproof" where John played drums.

After three years with this band gets an offer from Zebs Band International, prestigious band across Nigeria which would toured several African countries such as Cameroon, Congo, Niger, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Senegal, Libya, Chad and others. The 1992 recording with a new band, Akumamba, the album "Africa Democracy" in his own recording studio. Following this work with an important contact with a German promoter who hires them for 6 years to work in different countries throughout Europe, the summer of 2003 coming to Barcelona.

This was the first time I stepped Kwame Catalonia, here was reunited with an old friend of Guinea Bissau, Oli, singer, guitarist and percussionist of the band formed in Barcelona Qubamba by African musicians, South American, Catalan ... and who collaborated on his latest album. Once installed in Barcelona John decides that it's time to carry out his own musical project in which spent years investing time and effort and where to try to capture all your experiences and musical styles has learned over his many years Road and convey a message of defiance and hope: Kwame & Afro Vibes Band.

The band formed Afro Vibes the people of different countries and cultures which are united by the great love you have for African music. It is a changing and dynamic project for which they have been musicians of different origins (Ghana, Senegal, Argentina, Spain, Poland, Italy, Chicago, Canary, Uruguay, Brazil ...). In short Afro Vibes is the result of the dream of Kwame: to publicize the African cultural variety through music with a big band made up of people from around the world to enrich these styles with new influences. John is also the author and composer of all the issues that currently form the repertoire of this large band. From African rhythms like Makossa or Afro-Beat and combining with the High Life, Reggae or Rock makes his live performances are a veritable whirlwind of rhythms and melodies that attract even the most indifferent. Spirituality of Reggae, Afro strength hotter and High Life Madness drag the listener into a state effervescent sensations.



An interview

So you arrived in Barcelona 9 years ago, what made you stay?

I came here to Europe from Africa, stayed in Germany, France and then Spain but Barcelona has treated me very well. When I arrived, I came on a bus and seeing the weather change as we descended down through France I was taking off a layer every few miles!! I felt this was the place man. I needed to make a band, I needed to record and make a project and this was the perfect place with so many people from so many places.

When did you decide that you wanted to make music?

Around 1977. All schools in Ghana have their own band and every year they do a student band competition between all the schools. The government sends the music to these schools and each has to interpret this music and as a group play it in their own style. The love for this caused me to become a drummer. So in the first band I joined I was just a chorus singer, from there I learnt the drums. I never learned with lessons, I just learned it myself, just natural rhythm. I practiced the guitar, taught myself that as well as I needed a way to play the melodies that were spinning around my head. But originally I was playing guitar like a drummer! It took me so long to learn without a teacher! I left Ghana in 1981 for Nigeria. This was a completely different country, the music was especially different; in Ghana we have a unique 'high life' rhythm which is evident in nearly every song but Nigeria is a country which is very hospitable to outside influence, I learned a lot. I stayed there a fair few years before going to the Congo and Cameroon. I would go to places and be the only Ghanaian. For this album I used all the rhythms from all around Africa, I took a little of the rhythm of Congo, of Mali, of Nigeria and put in the voice of Ghana!

So do you think it's really important to have people from lots of different cultures coming together to make music, it's been shown especially in your band hasn't it?

Yeah this is why I need to be in Europe to make music as I can't build this sort of thing in Africa, in Europe people come from North America, South America, from Asia and that's the perfect melting pot. I'm the pillar around which they build. I teach them how to play each individual part separately as you can have a lot of cultures but they all need to be moving to the same rhythm. I mean there are 12 people in the band, you can't give them all rhythmical independence. You have to have a lot of patience when you're playing in a group. I'd played in a group all my life and by coming to Europe I had to do it my way, I couldn't be told what to do anymore. African music has three guitars, one for the solos, one for the tenor and one for the rhythm. Add to that the keyboard, the drummers as well as three horns and chorus singers. Like I said, a lot of patience!

I will go to the house of the guitarist and spend two hours there just to teach him one thing. I'll go to the bass players house an spend an evening with him and spend so long on just one bassline because even though I don't play bass there's still a way to teach people these things.

Construction starts with the drums, never the guitar. When I'm doing this with the drums I don't even know which chord I'm playing! I find the chord using my voice.

Do you play any other instruments?

The keyboard as well, I find all the minor chords there. That, the guitar and my voice. I played in a reggae band in Barcelona as a keyboard player but I came here to do my project, I didn't come here to join any band. Heres an example, imagine there are two ships, the captain of the first ship is heading along steadily and another ship pulls alongside, this ship offers the captain to jump aboard and join the second ship because it is a faster sleeker model. So he joins because they offer to pay him more money and head off into the distance, leaving the captain's ship, his project, behind and abandoned. This is what it is like when people offer me the chance to play in their bands. I tell them I cannot abandon my project. I like to think, now I've finished this album, my ship has arrived! It took me seven years man!

I feel with this the sound of the album reflects the journey I've made, you can feel all the feeling of Africa inside.

The CD itself how long did it take to record?

About two years, because of the money, and then all the equipment in the studio was stolen! So it took another two years again to complete it. Now I'm planning to go home to Ghana in order to send this to the radios, Nigeria as well. Because remember this isn't the music of Ghana, this is the music of Africa gone wild.

Do you have any advice for young musicians?

Advice that I give to all musicians is you have to be strong doing it. Don't lose your confidence in yourself, it's something you have to push through with, there isn't too much opportunity to showcase yourself so you have to take advantage of them by working very hard to get people to recognise it. When you play in a band you cannot be lazy, you have to give all your energy to it.


01. Tro Dzime 7:13
02. No Sé 6:04
03. Suffer Suffer 5:36
04. Mama 6:06
05. Suffer Suffer 6:15
06. Mpaebo 4:20
07. Dzedzivi Nye 6:20
08. Novi Nye Wo Dzolo 5:42
09. Mebo Ne Din 6:18
10. Let's Go 6:42

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