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Oct 30: Bassekou Koyate & Ngoni Ba and Teddy Osei of Osi

PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 12:42 pm
by Charlie
Back in 1975, long before anybody thought of introducing the term ‘world music’ to pigeonhole records made by musicians from outside the UK, US and Jamaica, a London-based group led by Ghanaian saxophonist Teddy Osei and called Osibisa had a worldwide hit with a dance tune titled ‘Sunshine Day’. The pop DJs of the day misprounounced the group’s name as ‘Ossy-beesa’ and it was many years before I realised it should be ‘Oh-see-bissa’. I confess that I did not pay much attention at the time, however their name was pronounced, put off partly by the all-too-simple lyric and partly by the album sleeve graphics of Roger Dean, forever associated with his work for the dreaded progressive rock group, Yes.

As time has passed, the group’s achievement has become more remarkable. The rhythm track of the record is impeccable, tribute to the production skills of Tony Visconti as well as to the dexterity of the musicians. As Teddy Osei recalls in this programme, their album made the UK top ten and the group played around the world for many years. Originally convened in Tunisia, the hit-making line-up included musicians from Ghana, Nigeria and the Caribbean.

The nature of Radio Ping Pong is that the guest can use the programme as platform for whatever purpose they choose, and Teddy grabbed the chance to play a few of his own productions of other Ghanaian singers. When I gently grumbled about the relentless snare drum that seemed to overwhelm any chance of polyrhythms making themselves felt, he passed the blame to younger recording engineers who liked to make that drum louder. In between, I delved back into the archives for Ghanaian productions free of such technological intrusions.

I had originally hoped that it might be possible for Teddy to sit in the studio with me to witness the band of Bassekou Kouyate playing four songs from their new album I Speak Fula. But logistics determined that Bassekou had finished and gone off to rehearse for the BBC-TV show Later With Jools by the time Teddy arrived, and so the first time Teddy will hear the context of his appearance will be when he listens to the broadcast.

I have lost count of how many times I have seen and heard Bassekou and Ngoni Ba play, and this band of mostly related musicians from Mali never ceases to amaze with the intricate precision of its arrangements. Compared to the last time I saw the line-up, Bassekou’s brother Andra is no longer part of the touring outfit (although he is featured as lead vocalist on track 5 of the album) and his nephew Omar Barou Kouyate has come on board to play a slightly larger ngoni than the one Bassekou plays. It is a surprise to realise that Barou (and not Bassekou) is the deft soloist in the middle of ‘Torin Torin’. In contrast to western guitarists who like to make it seem so difficult to squeeze notes from their instruments, Omar sits back as casual as can be, hardly troubling to watch his dazzling fingers as if they are doing everything without requiring any effort from him at all.

World on 3 is broadcast at 23.15 every Friday night on Radio 3, and I will be back next week with a programme featuring highlights recorded at this year’s WOMEX trade fair in Copenhagen, an event at which I was not present.


1 - Franco et TPOK Jazz - Missile - Francophonic, Vol 2 - Zaire - Sterns - STCD3047

2 - CéU - Cangote - Vagarosa - Brazil - Six Degrees - 657 036 1160-2

3 - Buika with Chucho Valdes - El Ultimo Trago - El Ultimo Trago - Spain - Warner

4 - Blue Asia - Gudinpuu - Sketches of Myahk - Japan - Vivid Sound - VSCD 9692

- live session

5 - Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba - Torin Torin - In session - Mali

6 - Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba - Musow - In session - Mali

- Radio Ping Pong with Teddy Osei (choices maked *)

7 - Osibisa - Sunshine Day - Very best of Osibisa - Ghana/UK - Flying Elephant - GSTOCD001

*8 - Paapa Yankson - Wiadzi Mu Nsem - Wiadzi Mu Nsem - Ghana - Flying Elephant - FE 7796

9 - African Brothers - Me Nyame Wo Pennye Ho - African Brothers Dance Band (International) - Ghana - Afribros - PAB 001

*10 - Highlife Allstars - Pete-Pete - Classic Highlife - Ghana - AIM - Aim 1053 CD

11 - E T Mensah - Nkebo Baaya - All For You - Ghana - RetroAfric - RETRO1XCD

*12 - Joe Osei - Mwe Do Wo - Eye Me De - Ghana - Flying Elephant - CDFEE7804

13 - City Boys Band - Nya Asem Hwe - Ghana Special - Ghana - Soundway - SNDWCD016

*14 - Osibisa - Boyengya - Osee Yee - Ghana - Flying Elephant - DSTOCD002

- live session

15 - Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba - I Speak Fula - In session - Mali

16 - Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba - Saro - In session - Mali

17 - Oi Va Voi - Dusty Road - Travelling the Face of the Globe - UK - Oi Va Voi - Oi Va Voi CD 2

18 - Nneka - Kangpe - No Longer at Ease - Nigeria/Germany - Yo Mama's - YPS 88697334582

19 - Mercedes Sosa - Calle Angosta - Escondido en mi Pais - Argentina - Polydor - 533031-2

PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 1:55 pm
by Paul Sherratt
I think I'll put the coffee on ...

PostPosted: Fri Oct 30, 2009 7:51 pm
by liz molony
ready for a great night with your guests Charlie!!

PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 11:30 am
by Alan

PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2009 2:18 pm
by Outerglobe Debbie Golt
I'm looking forward to listening to this one particularly - Teddy is a really interesting interviewee - if anyone would like an MP3 of his summer interview on African Essence, let me know. PM not here

Ghariokwu Lemi who is the visual voice of many many Fela Kuti albums said he was directly inspired by Roger Dean - from the first Osibisa album cover he designed which reached everywhere.

I love the way Charlie puts artists together playing them tracks - or having them play tracks to each other - to see what they think - where the cross references are - walking that delicious live radio tightrope....

PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 2:58 pm
by Martin_Edney
Charlie wondered during this show how it was that Nneka's new album is riding high in the charts.

I think the answer is because of her big hit single "Heartbeat"

which has been pushed on BBC Radio 1 by people such as Ras Kwame, as well as DJ Edu on 1Xtra. Both of these have featured extended interviews with Nneka, and Ras Kwame also had Nneka in for a Maida Vale session, which was excellent.

I guess winning Best African Act at the 2009 Mobo Awards can't have done her any harm either!