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"In the summer of 2017 Francis Ayamga, drummer in King Ayisoba’s band, gave me a pen-drive filled with music he recorded over the last couple of years in his studio in Bongo, in the North of Ghana. I got curious, listened through all the tracks and discovered a lot of fantastic music from local artists hardly anyone knows. Most of the songs are sung in Frafra, the language of the region. We decided to make a compilation. I made a selection from more than two hundred tracks and in January 2018 I travelled to Bongo to meet the musicians, interview them, make videos and take pictures. We recorded the whole Zenabu women group outside the small studio with one microphone since they did not fit inside. It became a wonderful overview of the local music scene in Bongo, the village King Ayisoba is originally from. In January 2019 I go back to Bongo and we will have a big release party of this album. King Ayisoba is already very busy preparing everything!"
Arnold de Boer, Amsterdam, December 2018.
On the outskirts of Bongo, a village in Ghana’s Upper East region, fifteen minutes drive from the regional capital Bolgatanga, you find a small square building made from stone with a corrugated roof that has two rooms. In one room you find a couch, a table and an electric cooker, in the other you find the Top Link studio run by Francis Ayamga, drummer in the band of Ghana’s superstar King Ayisoba and also a busy studio producer.
Around seven in the morning, when it’s already close to clear daylight, you can hear and see the cars and motorbikes passing by on the main road at around a hundred metre distance. An old lady enters the studio with a broom and a few clean bowls. A small boy is send to the shop to get some plain bread and Francis pushes his motorbike out of the studio.
In the meantime young guys are gathering on the bench outside. Some of them are waiting for a chance to record a track. They have their lyrics ready and they want Francis to make them a beat so they can rap and sing on top of it. The quick mix will be bounced as an MP3 into their phone, ready to share with the world. But they need money to get that done and that is something many of them do not have so they wait until Francis has a bit of spare time and wants to give them a chance. In the meantime they help out with small jobs and listen to the tracks that are blasting from the speakers.
Francis works with local artists but sometimes musicians from Kumasi and Accra make their way to Bongo since the name of the Top Link studio is spreading around. Artists like Ragazeer, Awudu Messenger and I Remember Yesterday are local and they rap and sing in Frafra mixed with a bit of English. Sometimes women come to the studio too, who mostly want to record a gospel album but there are also young girls who like to rap. Kologo players like Atiah Mba and Big Gad drop by after the weekend, after they played weddings and funerals and got their money. Francis makes them a beat and they play kologo and maybe some percussion instrument on top of it, and then add vocals. The MP3s go into their phones but also to the regional FM stations. Next to sharing their hot new tracks on Facebook and WhatsApp it is very important for them to get a local hit on the radio stations so they get invited for the coming weddings and funerals.
Fausty Amoa Mabila’s mother had a women group, they sang at parties and funerals, in her time there was no local church yet. The women groups, like also Sugri Hajia Zenabu, come to places where work needs to be done; construction, rebuilding, flatten out floors or chopping bush and harvesting crops. The women help and they sing during the hard repetitive labour. Sometimes they come and sing in church on Sunday. Girls like Linda Ayupuka get pushed to the front to sing solo and when they have a repertoire money is gathered so she can go and record an album. And that is how Francis’ hard drive gets filled with new local music which is now out for the rest of the wolrd to hear. Please enjoy the Frafra Power!