It has been a long time since a compilation has intrigued and excited me as much as this one. Soundway Record’s Ghana Special captures the country’s most exciting musical period when funk, soul, rock, highlife and traditional music were fused together, regenerating and transforming the Ghanaian musical legacy.
Compiled by the label’s head honcho Miles Cleret after some ten years of trawling through dusty vinyl, the album brings to light 33 previously globally unreleased tracks and is accompanied by luxurious packaging and a 44-page booklet detailing the social and historical context. The sister album to 2007’s Nigeria Special, the Ghanaian counterpart sheds light on another side to perhaps the country’s greatest musical export, so-called “highlife” music, itself a “bastard” genre. It captures this essence of cultural infusion, varying from upbeat tracks which would not sound amiss on the soundtrack to The Last King of Scotland (Oscar Sulley indeed features on both) to The Ogyatanaa Show Band’s funked-out You Monopolise Me.
The tongue-twisting Kyeremateng Atwede & The Kyeremateng Stars’ I Go Die For You is a stand out track, while The African Brothers International Band’s Wompe Masem is closer to the highlife roots and my personal favourite is City Boys Band’s Nya Asem Hwe.
The collection is an informed and intriguing peek into the “golden age” of West African music whilst simultaneously being incredibly enjoyable and varied. Soundway Records Ghana Special is exactly that: special.