Bokoor Beats: Vintage Afro-beat, Afro-rock and Electric Highlife From Ghana (Otrabanda Records OTBO8, 2007)
British musician and music scholar John Collins’ affinity for Ghanian music began in 1971 when he formed the Bokoor ("Coolness") Band, which played a mixture of African and Western styles. Their recordings and appearances throughout Ghana and neighboring regions were a success until Ghana’s inept military government brought on economic problems that contributed to the group’s 1979 breakup. Three years later, Collins opened the Bokoor Studio, where an extensive amount of amount of highlife, gospel, traditional, fusion and reggae music was recorded during the ’80s and ’90s.
Bokoor Beats consists mainly of tracks by the Bokoor Band themselves but also features a handful of the artists Collins recorded at his studio. It’s a terrific collection, beginning with the James Brown-like funk of Bokoor’s "Maya Gari" and winding through some bubbling highlife and Afro-rock excursions from rather obscure but scorching bands like Blekete and the Big Beats and Oyikwan Internationals in between choice cuts of Bokoor Band’s own wide-ranging material.
Let’s hope there’s more of this stuff to come; not only is every song a treat, but the whole thing’s a richly representative slice of how Ghana helped shape modern African music and how the input of an Englishman who knew and respected what he was doing helped to get it all out there.