Mabiisi is Art Melody and Stevo Atambire, an African hip-hop duo that first met in Accra, Ghana. The name means “brothers from a same mother” in the Frafra language and conveys the bond between these two acclaimed hip-hop artists who look to their heritage for inspiration for their music, which blends traditional country instrumentation with urban lyrical styles.
Their debut LP from last year rightfully earned much praise, and now there’s a new remix album in which top African DJs reinterpret each track.
“Mabiisi’s debut album has made its way into some of the most inspiring and respected radio shows and playlists around the world: the raw energy of the kologo and both Art Melody and Stevo Atambire’s powerful vocals have paved the way for shows and international tours in Europe and Africa. It only made sense to take the sound further and let a group of talented producers re-interpret the duo’s opus, and intersect it with their own sounds and aesthetics.
The result is a very creative and diverse set of remixes, a large half of them particularly suited for peak hour dance floor action, others more appropriate for – dare I say it – meditation!”
‘This is Kologo Power!,’ another winning compilation from sahelsounds, takes us to Bolgatanga, Ghana. Here the instrument of choice is the kologo, a type of lute from Northern Ghana that’s most popular in Bolgatanga. The instrument is small – two strings played on a thin neck – yet it holds a sort of tension that’s capable of a fierceness and blueness comparable to the banjo.
You can read more about the album via sahelsounds – the compilation still holds up almost a year after its release.
From the Bandcamp bio:
“A BOLGATANGA GHANA COMPILATION’. This compilation is an African initiative. King Ayisoba once told Makkum Records: ‘I want to make the world love kologo music like Bob Marley made the world love reggae music.’ Most of the tracks on this album were recorded in studios in Ghana. Some are sung in Frafra, others in pidgin English. Some are with a live band and some feature just solo kologo and voice. But all the songs represent a force and unveil a very strong musical power. The connection between kologo music and (delta) blues has been made more than once and that resemblance is not written on ice; the personal and the social messages, the strong rhythms, the push that this instrument -with only two strings spanned over a goatskin on a calabash- can give to people to make sure they don’t ignore the dance floor, all that makes it worth the effort of putting together at least one kologo compilation.”
Accra rapper Worlasi‘s “One Life” is a calm, introverted, and beautiful 7-minute track that’s part rap and part hymn. Six Strings’ acoustic guitar plucks to a train-like drum, shuffling along as the Ghana rapper looks at the world moving around him and wondering out loud what it all means in a melodic, auto-tuned voice similar to Kanye West’s own moody lament, 808s & Heartbreak.
From Beehype: “‘One Life’ is probably the most extraordinary and multifaceted video to have emerged out of Ghanian music scene this year yet…what stands out most are Worlasi’s melancholic, auto-tuned, and multi-layered verses contrasted with the heartening part of Sena Dagadu. She literally pops up in the fifth minute of the video (directed by Abstrakte Films), and she changes the mood entirely.”
“You only got one life to live / If you happen to have a good one, be grateful”
Emmanuel Owusu Bonsu (Wanlov the Kubolor) and Mensa Ansah (M3NSA) are FOKN Bois, a Ghanaian hip-hop duo now based in Budapest, Hungary, that specializes in socially conscious and satirical raps about Ghanaian and international African culture. One of Ghana’s more internationally well-known groups, FOKN Bois has performed at Glastonbury and has shared the stage with Snoop Dogg, Femi Kuti, The Gorillaz and more.
You can compare them to other hip-hop duos such as Outkast, Flight of the Concords, and Run The Jewels, but Bonsu and Ansah insist that these comparisons are misguided. Instead, the music is self-described “Gospel Porn,” as if the music is some form of enlightened debauchery through sensual hymns and rhythms.
The duo just released its third album, FOKN Ode to Ghana, which is a remix of Hobo Truffles’ instrumental hip-hop album, Ode To Ghana. The original Hobo Truffles album mostly samples older Highlife music, the Ghanaian jazz-dance style that reached its peak across West Africa between the ’50s and ’70s. Highlife is recently seeing a retro-induced comeback among young artists, including Wanlov and M3NSA, who both rap over the original dancehall beats with 2016 storytelling.
The album was made with help from Yoyo Tinz, a Ghanaian hip-hop collective documenting and promoting the country’s growing scene.