Raving through the night, acoustically. In Bongo, in the far north of Ghana, on the border with Burkina Faso, they call it "man power": performances that reach the ears of hundreds of listeners with only unamplified voice, horns, kologos and traditional drums; performances that connect the inhabitants of Bongo with their ancestors; performances that sometimes seem to have no end, in which both musician and audience end up in a state of trance. Arnold de Boer (The Ex, Zea) visits often, collaborated with local musicians on the compilation album This is Frafra Power and earlier this year took photographer and video maker Nick Helderman with him for a portrait.
Video & photos: Nick Helderman
Written by: Ruben van Dijk
This is Frafra Power does not contain acoustic raves immortalized on record, but it does bring together the musicians from Bongo who have their roots deep in the above-mentioned tradition. King Ayisoba is such an artist, who has now made a name for himself far beyond Bongo and has played in Paradiso before but started in clay 'Pitho bars' and at funerals. Man power, or kologo power, or Frafra power. In any case, it is a form of catharsis and a spiritual expression that is strongly linked to 'Juju', a West African belief system that can be defined somewhere - somewhat bluntly - between karma and voodoo.
Helderman visited Bongo and recorded the village, the people and the music. Now King Ayisoba and a handful of other musicians from Ghana are coming to the Netherlands to continue those raves at Welcome to the Village together with Willie Darktrousers, Terrie van The Ex and Oscar Jan Hoogland, among others.
Musicians from Bongo can be seen at Welcome to the Village in Leeuwarden throughout the weekend of 19, 20 and 21 July.
This article is the result of an unpaid collaboration between Front and the Welcome to the Village festival. The festival has received a subsidy for Helderman's trip and for bringing the musicians from Bongo to the Netherlands. Welcome to the Village also invests in wells in the Bongo area.