Eugene “Kyekyeku” Ampadu could rightfully be called the inheritor of the Ghanaian palm-wine guitar highlife tradition, since he apprenticed directly with the legendary Koo Nimo. While he continues to draw directly on the palm-wine sound for his compositions, Kyekyeku is also very much an artist of the 21st century: He splits his time between France and Ghana, performing internationally and recording with his group, made up of some of Accra’s rising instrumental talents, known collectively as Five Days No Light Off. Given Ghana’s current energy crisis, the band name is mostly a bitter joke, but also a way of saying “a blessed miracle.” Kyekyeku’s music reflects his internationalism as well: he draws on Afrobeat rhythms, but also incorporates elements of flamenco, Malian guitar rock, Indian and Middle Eastern instruments. The song themes on Kyekyeku’s forthcoming album #Sor include neocolonialism, pan-Africanism, traditional African spirituality and morality.
A great example is the title track, “Sor,” which we have the pleasure of premiering today. The song has a fast, driving rhythm, built around a hypnotic riff from Kyekyeku’s finger-picked acoustic guitar, and punctuated by horns, percussion and drum set accents. But there is also a South Indian ghatam drum on the track, a clay pot that adds mellow bass tones throughout. The song’s message is simple: Denounce wrongdoing wherever you see it! We see nothing wrong with Kyekyeku’s boldness, and we look forward to the release of the full album June 15. For more from Kyekyeku, check out his previous album Higher Life on Palmwine and check out his feature in our program “Ghana: Celebration Sounds.”