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Vintage Highlife and Afrobeat on 'Bokoor Beats'
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Vintage Highlife and Afrobeat on 'Bokoor Beats'


In Ghana, the 1970s were a time of political repression, high inflation and funky pop music. Among the musicians working the clubs in the capital, Accra, was a young British emigre named John Collins. Collins played guitar and harmonica, and sang and composed with local bands. Later on, he became an important music producer in Ghana, where he still lives today. Collins compiles some of his favorite songs from his early days on a new C.D. called "Bokoor Beats."

Banning Eyre has a review.

(Soundbite of music)

BANNING EYRE: Bokoor means coolness. And when John Collins co-founded the Bokoor Band in Ghana in 1971, they covered Hendrix, Santana and James Brown. But when they hit stride a few years later, the Bokoor Band had folded those influences into original songs. They joined Ghana's sunny highlife and funky, politically edged Afrobeat from neighboring Nigeria, and even the Latin-tinged soukous sound shimmying out of the Congo.

(Soundbite of music)

EYRE: Put all that together and throw in a harmonica lead, and that's coolness.

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EYRE: This sound, Afrobeat, was forged and immortalized 30 years ago by the late Fela Kuti. You could think of it as an Africanized hybrid of American funk and jazz. No surprise that John Collins and his Ghanaian contemporaries went crazy for the sound. Collins' Bokoor Band contributes eight of the 12 tracks on "Bokoor Beats," but it's their Afrobeat numbers that really cut to the bone.

(Soundbite of music)

EYRE: American music - especially R&B, rap and hip-hop - continues to exert massive influence on African pop. If you turn on the radio in Accra today, you're likely to hear the contemporary hiplife sound, like this hit by Reggie Rockstone.

(Soundbite of song, "Yeah Yeh ku Yeah")

EYRE: Hiplife certainly has its appeal. But the music on the "Bokoor Beats" C.D. feels deeper. The pride and confidence of independence, which Ghana won in 1957, still dominates. These bands are certainly plugged into the world, but their sound forcefully puts Africa in the mix. Especially on guitar-oriented highlife tracks like "Atiadele" by Mangwana Stars.

(Soundbite of song "Atiadele")

EYRE: There's no turning back the clock on music, any more than on history itself. But thank God for retrospective CDs like "Bokoor Beats." This is a brand of nostalgia that's easy to share even if you didn't live it the first time.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: Banning Eyre is senior editor at He reviewed "Bokoor Beats," vintage Afrobeat, Afrorock and electric highlife from Ghana. You can hear more tracks from the CD and discover more African music at

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