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newsletters from the recent past

Summer 2002

Drum legend is still ahead of his time

The latest RetroAfric release, Guy Warren/Ghanaba: The Divine Drummer (RETRO16CD), is an aural adventure in rhythm from one of Africa’s legendary figures. It is an eclectic, even eccentric, selection of previously unreleased material recorded by Africa’s most controversial and enigmatic drummer. By coincidence most of it was recorded in the same year, 1969, as our two most recent albums but they could not be more different.

A vibrant basketful of drums, percussion beats, chanting and flutes of fantasy leads into a surprising series of instrumentals using harmonica, piano, bull roarer. And voice. On one track Warren preempts scratching by scat vocalising in a stop-start technique that is more than just a beat generation period piece, while the deconstructed swing music has a contemporary edge. Some of this is spacy stuff. Strictly not for squares.


Warren, aka Kofi Ghanaba, is a unique and radical figure in African music. A leading member of the Tempos highlife band, he is credited with introducing African percussion into American jazz in the 1950s, from the large fomtomfrom drums to talking ‘squeeze’ drums, shakers and other idiophones. He jammed or rehearsed with jazz legends Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk. He played with Lester Young and the Sarah Vaughan Trio in the Birdland All-Stars and recorded several albums in the States which sold millions of copies.

As the master drummer Max Roach later remarked: "Ghanaba was so far ahead of what we were all doing, that none of us understood what he was saying – that in order for African-American music to be stronger, it must cross-fertilize with its African origins... we ignored him. Seventeen years later the African sound of Ghanaba is now being imitated all over the United States."

By the end of the 1960s, Warren had changed his name to Kofi Ghanaba, meaning ‘son of Ghana’. He embraced Buddhism and began to experiment with new forms of music — and this is some of it. Thirty years later, the drum legend is still ahead of his time.

Retro discs online

Since this site went live about one year ago we have fielded many requests from listeners who, understandably, want to know where to buy our products. We have recently added a shopping basket which takes you directly to the database of our UK distributors enabling customers to order and pay by credit card. Prices are in UK pounds reflecting British CD and shipping costs. However, web users in countries outside Europe should check with their local distributors to see if products are available at more favourable terms. We remind our listeners that RetroAfric itself has no retail operation.

The words Blowing and Trumpet

A new reviews page added to our catalogue area called Praise Singing. Here you can find some comments and reviews of RetroAfric CDs gleaned from all parts of the world, on websites and the printed page.


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