The Kussum Beatby The Sweet Talks
Afro-beat, like its distant American cousin go-go, focuses on groove to the point of obsession. Chord progressions are minimal and sometimes don't exist at all; instead, the groove is typically built on a repetitive (but dense and complex) rhythmic pattern and decorated by a brief and repeated melodic theme. Sweet Talks, one of Ghana's most popular bands in the 1970s, took the sound of Afro-beat and combined it with elements of disco and funk to create something a bit less raw and explicitly local, though the result was still deeply and undeniably West African. This, their second album (originally issued on LP in 1974) is only 28 minutes long, but feels epic somehow: tracks like the jazzy "Eyi Su Ngaangaa" and the whimsical "Oburumankoma" manage to blend discursively jazzy solos, call-and-response vocals, tight harmonies, and many-layered percussion parts into compositions that use their harmonic stasis to suggest the feeling of traveling very fast over vast open spaces; the image that comes to mind is of chasing a huge herd of gazelles by helicopter over the plains. The individual musicians in this very large band are frequently virtuosic; there are sharply composed keyboard solos, brilliantly inventive trumpet solos, and percussion parts so tightly and complexly woven that it can be hard to pick them apart. Some listeners are bound to find this stuff overly repetitious, but if you're in the right mood it can be seriously trance-inducing.
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