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 Africas legendary figures. It is an eclectic, even eccentric,
selection of previously unreleased material recorded by Africas
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
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.
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The words Blowing and Trumpet
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