tue 04/08/2020

Album: Fra Fra - Funeral Songs | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Fra Fra - Funeral Songs

Album: Fra Fra - Funeral Songs

Wild songs for the dead

The Kologo lute

Rituals of death call for music: to see the spirits of the dead off on their journey to the other side, to express the grief of those left behind or to celebrate the cycle of life and death. Fra Fra are a quartet from the predominantly Muslim northern part of Ghana - a much drier region than more forested areas of the south.They specialise in music that's performed at traditional funerals

Although claims are made for the links between the music of this region and the blues, it feels generally less familiar or connected to field hollers and country blues than the music of Mali. Percussion and a two-string kologo lute with an extra resonator made of plastic, provide accompaniment for impassioned vocals. The songs trade on repetition, as if the unchanging vocal and melodic patterns were elements of magical invovcation. This is raw, unadorned music, which suffers out of context, and without the contextualisation that more copious notes, photographs of the occasions on which the music is perfomed, or a booklet would ensure. There are no translations of the lyrics. Titles such as "You Can't Escape Death" or "We Must Grieve Together" are the only evidence that the songs deal with death ."I Will Follow You For Life Everywhere" is perhaps the most exciting, (though disapponitingly short) track  - with shakers and high-pitched flutes reminiscent of the fife and drum bands of the Mississippi Hills.

These aren't well-manicured studio recordings, or as with so much "world music" today, traditional sounds that have been enhanced with electronic sound or more or less tasteful effects. These are very well-made field recordings: Ian Brennan, who has made his name evoking the sounds of songs from Khmer Rouge survivors and former North Vietnam fighters, specialises in getting the rawest of music to thrive on its minimal aesthetic. This is a very short album, little more than half an hour long, but the music packed within it opens up a unique and fascinating sound universe.

This is raw, unadorned music, which suffers out of context

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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