Music of Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Source: George Britton

First Afro-Jazz Festival

The early 1890’s brought about one of the classiest musical genres: jazz. Usually a staple in Paris clubs such as the Duc des Lombards and Le Peit Journal Saint-Michel, this music genre was also noticeably used in major gaming events like the 2011 World Series of Poker sponsored by PartyPoker.

This particular leg of WSOP welcomed players with the Grammy Hall of Fame song “Jordu” by the Clifford Brown and Max Roach Quintet. Thus, participants who attended calmed themselves down as they entered the Rio Convention Center by listening to the laid-back jazz being played.

Going back through its history, Ghanaian drummer named Kofi Ghanaba invented a variation called Afro-Jazz in the early 50’s. According to Ghanaba, “On arrival in the US, I became more aware that the jazz music played by the African-Americans that originated from Africa, so as an African I decided not to play their jazz, but rather to emphasize on its African origins which would place me in a class of my own.”

He decided to add African percussion instruments like conga and a hand drum in his typical drum set. His album called “Africa Speaks and America Listens” was hailed as the record that gave both Europeans and Americans a new type of jazz to listen to.

Decades have passed but Afro-Jazz still lives on not only in Ghana, but even in European countries like France. To pay homage to the late Ghanaba’s major contribution to the jazz industry, the first ever Afro-Jazz Festival was created.

This was held recently, from May 4 to 10, in Accra, Ghana. The event was organized in cooperation with Scratch Studios, Alliance Fran?aise, and the Embassy of France. It featured a brass band parade, master classes in guitar and vocals, and numerous concerts.

The Men Cheers Brass Band led the procession from Nkrumah Circle up to Oxford Street. To cap off the first night of the festival, a concert was held at the Alliance Francaise branch in the city. It featured the 15-piece Dzidudu Band and again, the Men Cheers Band.

The second day of the event solely focused on a guitar master class with Thibault Cauvin. He is hailed as one of France’s guitar maestros. At the young age of six, he first learned how to play the string instrument from his father.

Fourteen years after, Thibault became the first and only guitarist who won 13 different international competitions. His amazing talent brought him to different parts of the world like Hong Kong, Australia, and Brazil.

Renowned jazz singer Bibie Brew held a master class in vocals and performance psychology during the third day of the festival. Born in Ghana as an heiress, the then 25-year-old Bibie left his hometown for Paris.

After a week’s stay in France’s capital city, composer Jean Paul Dreau commissioned her to do vocals for the song “Tout Doucement”. Merely two weeks after the tune’s release, it became a huge hit and has sold over a million copies to date.

The remaining three days of the Afro-Jazz Festival gave way to other international and local jazz artists like Thibault Cauvin, Dela Botri, and Sabine Boyer. Indeed, this event cemented the musical ties between Ghana and France.