Boomkat Product Review:
Mind-expanding material from the Kalita label who tell the story of "burger highlife", a Ghanaian musical phenomenon that saw the fusion of West African highlife melodies with electro, disco and boogie sounds that emerged in the 1980s.
While the 1970s had seen a rapid growth in the profile of Ghanaian music both at home and abroad, when the country moved into the '80s, it was experiencing turmoil that made an artistic existence impossible. Poverty, dictatorships and curfews made it more enticing for artists to direct their attention towards the lucrative Western industry, and they did so by embracing disco and funk, using synthesizers and drum machines to augment highlife elements with westernized riffs and rhythms. "Borga Revolution!" attempts to map out that era by presenting the burger highlife scene's key recordings from artists like Thomas Frempong and George Darko, and including more cult jams from artists like Uncle Joe's Afri-Beat and Aban.
Musically, this stuff is out on its own - we already know how influential highlife was in the 1980s and beyond (look - Afrobeats ain't happening without this stuff), and hearing it decorated with early analog beatbox rhythms and Yamaha DX7 melodies is a rare joy. There are parallels with Japanese city pop on jaunty opener 'Eshe Wo Kon Ho' from Uncle Joe's Afri-Beat, with its glassy staccato electronics and memorable chanted choruses, while Native Spirit's 'Odo San Bra Fie' screws with an expected disco mode, disrupting Nile Rodgers' Sister Sledge sound with pitch-fucked synths and West African guitar flickers.
Wilson Boateng's two tracks are highlights, particularly 'Mabre Agu', that curves funk guitars thru boxy plastic beats and treats everything with lifted electric piano. But it's Ghanaian hero George Darko who has the most replayable tracks: the 12" version of 'Medo Menuanom' is a disco-funk floor-filler that still sounds heavy decades later, while 'Obi Abayewa' turns down the tempo and winds up the melancholy, tapping into the emo disco mood years before the Scandinavian's got a look in. So good.