In previous releases, Feld’s soundscape compositions from five European countries explored how animal, church, and festival bells shape social time. Now Musical Bells of Accra, Ghana turns to bells as musical instruments. The three featured groups highlight the vibrant world of music styles in Accra today. But what’s unique here is the presence of jazz in the mix, whether it is the traces of swing parts you hear in bells jamming with car horns, or the straight-up tribute to John Coltrane and the 1970’s avant-garde played on African as well as Western instruments.
In Accra, capital city of Ghana, the former “Gold Coast,” one commonly hears musicians instruct that “the bell is the keeper of the time” in traditional drum and dance ensembles. But bells do much more than keep ensemble time. Listen here as bells of different sizes, pitches, and timbres make time multiple. Interacting with voices, wind, string, percussion and reed instruments-—including car horns and jazz saxophone—bells ring the vibrant time of traditional, modern, Pan African diasporic styles now resounding in Accra.
Musical Bells of Accra, Ghana features three never-recorded ensembles working out bell time on six extended tracks:
Trotro Drivers Union Por Por Group: Por Por music links two great 20th Century inventions, the motor car and jazz music. Played by professional bus drivers on bells and the squeeze bulb circular brass car horns brought to Ghana by Indian traders, por por (pronounced paaw paaw) started as a way to scare animals away on forest roads at night as drivers pumped punctured tires. The music grew into a style equally resembling African animal horn ensembles and riffing jazz horn sections.
Accra Trane Station: Nii Noi Nortey and Nii Otoo Annan weave bells together with wind, reed, string and percussion sounds of Africa and the Diaspora. Nortey is inventor of the “afrifone” a family of West African instruments modified with saxophone mouthpieces. Annan is inventor of the “African Percussion Kit,” a wild mixture of jazz cymbals and African drums and bells. The ATS tracks preview a forthcoming tribute CD to the African legacy of John Coltrane.
Powerful Bells: An impromptu medley for bells and voices by seasoned performers associated with the Powerful Drum Shop at Accra’s National Arts Center.
AUDIO SAMPLES >