KonKoma, KonKoma

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

By Ben Beaumont-Thomas

on 06.25.12 in Reviews

Having reissued lost classics from South America, Africa and the Caribbean, the Soundway label are now also putting out contemporary acts like Will “Quantic” Holland’s neo-cumbia group Los Miticos Del Ritmo and sample-heavy Angolan kuduro peddlers Batida. KonKoma are their latest signing, a London-based band featuring a variety of expat Ghanaian musicians, some of whom have been playing together since the early ’70s.

Slicker than many of Soundway’s releases, but it’s no less spellbinding

Where Soundway’s Ghanaian reissues are often clogged with the sonic dirt left by cheap recording equipment and old master tapes, this new material is clear and clean — the steady Afrobeat rhythms, funk guitars and synth details all arranged with plenty of space and fidelity. Some listeners who fetishize the raw, lo-fi sound in early African music might miss the peaking levels of past Soundway releases, but the robustness of the grooves and the earworming melodies are likely to win anyone round. The vocals, in particular, keep the whole set on its toes, with sweet close harmonies rubbing against free-associative hollering and rapping.

The strongest tracks, including “Me-Kyin-Kyin” and “Handkerchief,” sound like Afrobeat standards that have been played for decades. But there’s also a delicate Malian flavour to the closing section of the album, as pretty kora skips through fat, undulating rhythms on “Senture,” and around melancholic vocals on “Jojo’s Song.” This may be slicker than many of Soundway’s releases, but it’s no less spellbinding.