Palm-wine'sstance as an early roots version of highlife is historically important and musically fascinating. By delving deep into Koo Nimo's narrative style you can trace out the link to the melodious strains of Prince Nico Mbarga and, subsequently, the heady didactic Afrobeat of Fela Kuti, and even further to the current-day exponents of the highlifehip-hop fusion, hip-life.Nimo's music effortlessly revives the beautiful roots of highlife once more.
Koo Nimo was born in 1934 in the Ashanti region of Ghana. By his early twenties, and by the time Ghana had achieved independence (1957), he was well respected across the nation for his gentle acoustic approach and versatile skill. During the 1960s he studied science in London and schooled himself in several diverse musical styles, including Western classical music and flamenco guitar technique. He is also a keen jazz fan and holds a deep respect for the music of American pianist Thelonious Monk. Though well versed in multiple genres, Nimo's own music remains firmly in classic palm-winestyle. Ensuring the continuation of tradition is a sentiment he holds dear, and one he instils in his music. 'Old Man Plants A Coconut Tree' is an ode to the virtues of preserving tradition - the lyrics intone, 'Grandson, I know I won't live to see the fruits of my labour. Because of you, and children yet unborn, I am planting the coconut tree'.
Now approaching his eighties, the music on this album showcases Nimo's relaxed style, and is his first recording with a large ensemble. The line-up here includes guitars, seprewa, traditional drums, percussion and an accompanying vocal group. On the track 'Medley: Anansi Song Story/Bear, What Is the Matter With You?/Hornbill', you can hear the full ensemble in rich polyphony. Other tracks draw on varying traditional influences, such as the 'Adowa Palm-Wine Set' based on adowarhythms. Or 'Praise Song For Otumfuo Osei Tutu 2nd', a song composed for a court occasion that praises the first Ashanti King Osei Tutu and the Asantehene, the present King.
Whilst listening to Highlife Roots Revival, you might be surprised to hear the faint crowing of a rooster or the distant murmur of a child's voice bubbling underneath the guitars. But rest assured: it is no accident that these sounds were left in the mix they were captured during a series of recording sessions, which took place in Koo Nimo's courtyard at home in Ghana. Adding a wonderful sense of intimacy to the album, these interjections underline the ethos of palm-winemusic perfectly. This is, after all, a musical style named after the strong alcoholic drink imbibed at outdoor acoustic sessions, where musicians swapped their songs beneath the starlit sky and where palm-winemusic was born. Join Koo Nimo in the spirit of palm-wine kick back, tap your foot and listen to the stories unfold.
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