Jan 21, 2013

Get it: Edikanfo - The Pace Setters

The inside gatefold of this album touts Edikanfo as "African Super Band". Combine that with a production credit to Brian Eno and hip Mingus/Dolphy-esque abstract art on the inside and there was no way I was passing this up. The Eno credit was surely to help sell albums in the US as the executive producer, Faisal Hewlani, is a giant of Ghanaian music with album credits stretching back to the 1960s. The band just sounds too tight for this to have been given serious "production" from a British minimalist/ambient musician... but what do I know. I just wouldn't be surprised if this collaboration was more to benefit Eno's musical experience and Edikanfo's distribution. Whatever the case, this record is really slamming, and frustratingly the only record by the band to make it to the West. Recorded at an equally famous Studio One based in Accra, Ghana, and located in a defunct nightclub called "The Napoleon Club", where many of Ghana's top highlife and afro-pop bands cut records through the 70s and early 80s. The recording has the quality of being just a couple pre-synth-takeover in afro-pop.  There is definite use, but not over-use of strange keyboard sounds.

The disc starts us off with a track written by the bass player, Gilbert Amartey, titled "Nka Bom"and has a real nice afro-disco feel to it.  There's something distinctly 80s sounding about this track but I can't place my finger on what it is.  The keyboarist Ishamael Odai really really surprised me with his very western/soul-styled playing on this track.  It's extremely understated (surrounded by pounding drums and disco hi-hats) and almost "gentle" but is extremely sophisticated.  The next track, "Something Lefeh-O" is the weakest track on the disc.  Going full-out disco in parts, the lyrics are just that sort of cliche "happy happy dance dance" style and the combination of the two just make for bad song writing.  Last on the A-side is "Gbenta", the most solid cut on the album.  Written by the sax player Paa Akrashie, it has a nice quick 6/8 feel with funky keys and bass.  Minimal vocals accompany the tune leaving most of the rhythm to be traversed by horns and soloists.  

The flip side gets us started with "Blinking Eye", a poppy disco-beat kind of track with all kinds of crazy little synth "pings" and lines. Again, the keyboardist Odai stands out taking a tasteful solo on the Rhodes (or a synth that sounds like a Rhodes as there's no Rhodes credit). "Moonlight Africa" takes us into funky-highlife territory after a somewhat cliche'd opening. This track falls a bit flat comparatively, but still has that infectious driving beat. Rounding out the album is "Daa Daa Edikanfo", a catchy tune written by trumpeter Osei Tutu. The use of some kind of snyth drum (or a live drum with some strange fx on it) is pretty funky but then annoying by the time the needle runs to the center.  For the most part,  a solid track (except for the trumpet wackery at the end).

This disc shouldn't be that expensive if you can find it, and if you like African music you should definitely grab it.



Talking Heads' Remain in Light (1980) had adapted and bent African pop music to its own ends, no doubt from the influence of lead man David Byrne and Brian Eno, who were discovering the music of Fela Kuti and the like. It wasn't too surprising then, that a year later Eno went to Ghana to produce an Afro-beat group called Edikanfo. Produce is definitely the term, not collaborate, because without Eno's name on the cover, you'd never know he had his hand in this one. Primarily, this is because Edikanfo were already a tight, accomplished band, and not, like a lot of groups that work with Eno, looking for "a new direction." If being on EG Records allowed Edikanfo to sell more records in the West, that was fine. Their music is upbeat, extended, horn- and organ-led jams, like the terrific "Nka Bom" and the funky "Blinking Eyes." Sadly, their one album is all that remains of them in the West. 



1. NKA Bom
2. Something Iefeh-O
3. Gbenta
4. Blinking Eyes
5. Moonlight Africa
6. Daa Daa Edikanfo

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