Various Artists – Smithsonian Folkways, Rhythms of Life, Songs of Wisdom: Akan Music from Ghana

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
The tiny Akan region of central Ghana makes itself heard.

Fishermen, farmers and even civil servants — these are the people who made this music, with percussion and metal instruments. These really are the songs that reflect their lives in the tiny Akan region of central Ghana. It's often as much chanting as singing, giving these pieces a timeless air. But just when you think you're familiar with the sound, a curve ball comes flying in, such as brass instruments, or the highly unusual water drums, whose attractive sound is so alien to Western ears. As much as the voices, it's the drumming that's at the heart of this — powerful, steady, insistent rhythms that imprint themselves on your brain. This is the music these people make for themselves, music of celebration and incantation, the sound of a people at play where tradition remains a strong and natural part of life. You don't need to understand the words to feel the heartfelt pleasure of this music. It transcends language in its eager joy.