Music Review: Blakk Rasta's Kuchoko Revolution
One author captured it well for us when he stated that “the main aim of our culture is to produce factory workers who think like the herd, behave like the crowd and smother the fire for outright greatness that is the natural birthright of every one of us.” Thus the world struggles to understand those who invent and innovate; those who refuse to stay in line, those who can’t accept the societal pull to fit in and be comfortable with the humdrum of mediocrity. They are labeled as weird. Many describe them as misfits. A lot more tag them as strange. And it ranges through all spheres of life, not forgetting music.
Music is powerful. It is the language for the soul. Life will be unimaginable without permeating music to the soul, without soothing serenades, without an uplifting, enlightening and powerful genre as Reggae. And as an African, music will always not strike a chord within if it does not have the African appeal.
African music is distinct and unique in the sense that we have a cornucopia of instruments, dances, styles and cultural build-ups to spice it up. Most often than not we have musicians from Africa who always cut songs that seek to imitate foreign music styles and culture. We release music without any African appeal.
We sing songs that bring nothing new to the international table because it is a seeming carbon copy of what the originators of that genre are doing. We end up standing in line rather than standing out with our uniquely rich culture. It is more fervid in the Reggae genre. This is what Blakk Rasta seeks to challenge and change.
He believes simply that you cannot surprise or amuse the European or American with cake and ale. You must surprise him with some Hausa Koko, Akple and Fetri Detsi or kuli-kuli. This, he believes, is the number one factor that will give African music and musicians a foothold in the changing fortunes of time. Thus his latest album, KUCHOKO REVOLUTION.
Kuchoko Revolution is an album that further gives fillip to the artist’s belief that we must bring our African culture to be in whatever music form we choose thereby standing uniquely out. We must give it the peppery and smoked fish nuance Africa is noted for.
The album features African instruments like the Kolgo, xylophone, talking drums (dondo), jimbe, Africa Foot percussion, jinbe, cow horns etc. It is sung in five different languages vis a vis English, Dagbani, Hausa, Arabic, Ndebele and Jamaican Patois. It is an album that is revolutionizing the Reggae front. And much more significantly, it was released by VP Records, the largest and most successful Reggae Record Label in the world. I know you are impatient to delve into the music by now.
The album is a 13-tracker all recorded, produced and engineered in Ghana, Africa.
Laa Sharik’Allah: This is Arabic and it means, God is unique. It is sung in Arabic and English. It is a perfect introduction to the potpourri of diverse musical themes on the album. It calls on everyone to come together and Harambee (live harmoniously) no matter how religio-diverse we are just like “birds of a special feather”. Using the Islamic-Arabic statement that there is no other than the Almighty Supreme Being, the track underscores the profound fact that though the name of the Creator may differ in the various religions, it is the same God we pray to. Blakk Rasta sings thus;
Muslims pray to Allahu Akbar.
Harikrishna, Hari Hariya
Christians pray to Jesus the Christ
Gautama Buddha for the Buddhist
Jah Jah Rasta for the Rastaman
I & I, we neva bust no gun….
The song is a mid-tempo one and recorded all live. The live drumming and percussion did it for me right from the start. An Adowa bridge with beautiful traditional flutes nailed the song.
In this period of religious intolerance and terrorist attacks, Laa Sharik’Allah is a perfect ode against this canker. I rate it 8 out of 10.
Gaafara: Our bearded elders say that,” A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” That is how invaluable our mothers are. It behooves therefore on any child who believes he has not lived up to the billing in upholding the promises he made to his mum to render an unqualified apology for his inadequacies towards her. This song sees Blakk Rasta do that in Dagbani. Sang in a sorrowful and melancholic mood, he begs Mum and Dad to forgive him and that, he has failed her in not becoming what she wanted him to become. But, the solace is in him becoming what God proudly wanted him to be. And the word for Sorry in Dagbani (A language spoken in Northern Ghana) is Gaafara. The song has some crazy modulations and bridges that work perfectly.
I rate it 9 out of 10.
Mbagi Bagi: This is another song sung in Dagbani. It means, I am a peaceful person who values his peace and will not compromise it by getting swallowed up in your nonchalant behavior. The song borrows some melody lines from Abubakari Kaba’s Nawo Yare released in the early nineties. I feel some Alpha Blondy Bori Samory shots in there neatly woven to make this song a masterpiece.
I rate it 7 out of 10.
Serwaa Akoto: Blakk Rasta’s stock-in-trade is love. He knows how to arrange words to permeate the soul of the lady he’s addressing. And he did it this time by resurrecting and giving his own rendition to that powerful love song written almost four decades ago by P.K. Yamoah. The personality of an individual is shaped and harnessed by his experiences in life. The constant play of the song by a young Blakk Rasta’s father at home several years ago, rang a bell to remake the song into Kuchoko style Reggae. That coupled with the purity of the lyrics compelled him to re-cut that song to suit our contemporary taste and fashion. In the song, a young man, Yaw Bayere Ba infatuated by a pretty Serwaa’s love pens down a letter to her with highly-captivating and compelling lyrics. He sings;
Serwaa Akoto my African beauty
You are so real, deep and witty
You are the heart wey a beat within me
Your love so bright, the blind even see
Make me take you make we go see me family
You are the one me a go call wifey
You are the nectar, I am the bee
Me a go find you pon the tall tree
If love was a thing truly blind, the blind would a see even better
If love was a thing like gold mine, me a go dig even deeper
This was the first single released from the Kuchoko Revolution album and it still remains the most popular joint. The Kwao and Amponsah guitars in this song could only come from the fingers of a music legend like Zapp Mallet, Blakk Rasta’s longtime trusted-producer.
I rate this joint 8.5 out of 10.
Flower in the shower: “It just started raining, man and the water run down the drain. Me a take a flower straight up to my woman in a di shower. Love you empress everytime,” Blakk Rasta opens the song with an unusual title.
Love is the most powerful force on earth. Love is profoundly represented in literature by a flower. And that is what Blakk Rasta decides to take to his lover who is having a shower. A lovely tune that sets one in a mood for love. One just has to gratify and glorify the great and creative mind of the artiste. The thought of a flower in the shower is mind-blowing, nerve-racking and mood-setting. Features a very good singer, Afriyie of Wutah fame who brings more seduction into the song. The song still adds up to Blakk Rasta’s insignia as a great love singer. The saxophones in this song did it for me. When you listen to this song, anytime it rains, you will remember it with passion.
I rate it 8 out of 10.
My African Queen: Love is sweet. It tastes better than the most expensive wine. And one will just have to gulp it and allow him or herself to get gently intoxicated. That is the theme carried in this powerful tune which features Joseph Mensah aka JM who nails the song perfectly for me. A lady’s love has overtaken him entirely and he likens her brightness to that of a diamond ring. He labels her an ‘African queen.’ He goes further to say she flows like an African spring that flows seductively like the River Nile. A powerful tune in the sense that the listener will join Blakk Rata and his lover to take a swim in the Nile. This was produced by Kaywa and recorded live. The live drums here make a strong statement. The lyrics are captivating. No wonder it is the favorite of many a lover. The horns in this song are so African and remind me of Nayanka Bell’s version of Ernesto Djeje’s Zibote.
I rate it 9.5 out of 10.
Kuchoko: Blakk Rasta describes himself as “the Beast of Reggae music” in this song. This song tends to uplift the attenuated spirit in Africa. It underscores the fact that we were once upon a time a great people with a glorious heritage. “We were more than a marching army of elephants.” And we had Jah Music to goad us on. We had Kuchoko, the greatest of all rhythms. The song features Kwame Bediako, a Ghanaian Reggae act based in the US.
“Arise the great African family. Arise and join this movement, stronger than the harmattan, thunder and lightning. Arise and listen to the spiritual forces of Imhotep, Tutankhamen and Tinkamenen Marching like the crazy but focused battalions in the Kuchoko army.”
Kwame Nkrumah stated that “men with great foresight and knowledge all agree that the future of the world will be determined in Africa.” Kuchoko is the ambrosia to get us there.
This is not my favorite on the album. Something seems missing for me so I rate it 6 out of 10.
Natural African Music: This tune reiterates the fact that the trouble with Africa is simply that of leadership, nothing more, nothing less. Kuchoko-ing Bob Marley’s Natural Mystic, Blakk Rasta tackles the issues he has been hard on on his radio programmes. The song features US-based Ghanaian artiste, Jay Ghartey. That it’s about time our leaders rose to the responsibility and put Africa on the map where it belongs. It’s about time they dropped all the political jokes that have bedeviled African political leadership and make Africa great once more.
A Letter to Shabalala: Blakk Rasta may be many things but he is not one who runs away from issues worth talking about. The xenophobic attacks in South Africa hit the world like a thunderbolt. It left us so morose and sad. That Africa could go thus far was distasteful to the ear and, unpleasant to the eye. This should have received the barrage of criticisms from all literati, musicians and political actors all alike. Blakk Rasta condemns that barbarism in a poetic style and fashion. He takes us into history letting us know why South Africa of all countries should be grateful to all of Africa. He terms it Letter to Shabalala and, when he recites a poem, he leaves no room for criticism. This poem is accompanied by a wonderful video shot in South Africa.
I rate it 10 out of 10.
Kalaa Dam: Next time you find yourself in the Northern part of Ghana, ask for many things that make that part a glorious place. And never forget to ask of the powerful drink called Kalaa Dam which is the Orphan’s Drink.
The song is a powerful bend of Soca and Reggae in a unique style. It will surely rock your dancing feet to dust. It is a crazy piece introduced with a Bob Marley guitar phrase.
I rate this 8 out of 10.
Soca Lady: Blakk Rasta’s sojourn in the Caribbean has been eventful and memorable. Meeting great presidents and great musicians like Eddy Grant, Skinny Fabulous, Machel Montana, Mighty Sparrow, Bunji Garlin etc has truly impacted on him. To cup it up, he carried with him a bag of their Soca music, an improvement on their traditional Calypso and added a touch of Kuchoko rhythm to it to form this ‘delicious’ tune. The track features the great Dudu Mahenga, an Afro-Jazz artiste from Zimbabwe who added to the groove.
Calypso fans will rate this above 10 out of 10.
Maluna: Part of the bag of stuff he picked up from the Caribbean is an imaginary beautiful lady called Maluna. He welcomes her to Africa placing before her feet great African staple foods like Fufu, Tuo-Zaafi, Banku and wonderful dances like Adowa, Abgadza, Damba etc. He poured into this song his hearty experiences all the way from Guyana to Jamaica to Africa. Maluna is a Soca classic.
Dolay: Dolay means ‘a must’ in Hausa. It lives to its bidding as a must dance to Soca joint. It is a unique blend, crazy and dreadful. It comes with a funny video.
It is not my favorite but who cares?
A great album. Every living soul must imbibe the content. Lest I forget, Kuchoko is Blakk Rasta’s coinage for Africanized Reggae music traditionally blended with African instruments, vibes, dances and rhythms. It is creative, original, energetic and refreshing.
It is of less wonder that the KUCHOKO REVOLUTION album is being considered for honors at the 60th Grammy Awards. When this album grabs the award, it would have been the first ever for Reggae for Africa.
All the best…!
NB: The Writer is a Youth-Activist and a Student of Knowledge.