fra fra: Funeral Songs (Glitterbeat/digital outlets)

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fra fra: Funeral Songs (Glitterbeat/digital outlets)

If memory serves, when the late writer Paul Oliver (who died in 2017 at 90) released an album to coincide with his seminal book The Story of the Blues in the late Sixties, the first track was a song of praise by people known as the Frafra tribe from Northern Ghana.

In it you could hear some of the elements more familiar from songs by Willie McTell, Leadbelly and other early bluesmen.

This trio out of the region have apparently been performing at ceremonies there for decades and here, in their local language, perform emotionally raw songs with the barest of backing (vocals, shaker, two-string guitar and flute, all sparingly deployed).

Recorded in situ by Ian Brennan for the Glitterbeat label, these field recordings are but a Middle Passage removed from field hollers and rural blues in America's South and although the English titles may have little to do with the songs' lyrical content (You Can't Escape Death; Helpless, Death Has Taken Everyone, the 21 second Goodbye and We Must Grieve Together are here) you get the picture.

These are songs of yearning, mourning, celebration of life and the passage into the great wherever.

Interesting, but more for ethnomusicologists than casual listeners. It was the Oliver connection and the Glitterbeat label (Tamikrest, 75 Dollar Bill etc) which drew Elsewhere here.

You can hear this album on Spotify here.


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