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The Ogyatanaa Show Band

African Fire Yerefrefre

The Ogyatanaa or Burning Fire Show Band was one of the more esteemed of the funky highlife groups that rocked the Ghanaian music scene during the 1970s. The band was formed in 1971 by diplomat-turned-composer, musical arranger, organist, vocalist and record producer Kwadwo Donkoh (a former member of the Uhuru Dance Band), with guitarist and bandleader Nana Ofori-Atta (AKA Ahomansia Wura) and other members that later left the group. The Ogyatanaa Show Band made a rapid impact, scoring second place in the National Dance Bands competition after being together for less than a year, thanks to their superlative arrangement of the oft-versioned highlife classic, “Yaa Amponsah,” a tale of a mythical woman which became a popular single when issued on Donkoh’s Agoro record label. After issuing a number of other popular singles, the band’s debut album African Fire – Yerefrefre was finally released in 1975, the line-up now composed of Donkoh and Nana Ofori with drummer and assistant bandleader Ocloo Jackson, bassist Kobina Gardiner, keyboardist Ofori Frimpong and vocalists/percussionists Kwaku Dua and Pa Oweridu, plus Nakai Nettley on additional percussion.

This outstanding LP begins with the unprecedented extended highlife medley of over twenty minutes duration entitled “Yerefrefre” which revisits highlife gems of the past; for instance, noteworthy material by giants such as E.T. Mensah, C.K. Mann, Nana Ampadu, E.K. Nyame, King Onyina, Jerry Hansen, King Bruce and Dr. K. Gyasi are all referenced, with E.T’s anthem “All For You” and The Black Beats’ “Lai Momo” getting special attention. “Mmobrowa” (or “The Downtrodden”) was another popular single issued prior to the album’s recording and listening to the slowly unfolding groove of the rendition included here, it’s again easy to understand the song and group’s enduring popularity in its homeland. Similarly, “Yaa Amponsah” and the religious praise song “Agya Nyame” are total highlife killers encompassed in rousing melodies and complex propulsive rhythms.

Happy End

Happy End

    Following the abortive appearance of Japanese psychedelic band Apryl Fool, who imploded after producing an album and an EP for Columbia Japan in 1969, bassist/keyboardist/singer and main creative force Haroumi Hosono and drummer Takashi “Rei” Matsumoto formed Happy End with guitarist Shigeru Suzuki and guitarist/singer Eiichi Ohtaki. The new group’s self-titled debut, released in 1970 on URC, the pioneering independent label founded by guitarist Hayakawa Yoshio (initially as the affiliated imprint of mail order company, Underground Record Club), evidenced more cohesion than the Apryl Fool LP; instead of the lengthy, excessive freak jams of the earlier set, Happy End’s track list took the form of more easily digestible slices of Japanese psychedelia, the understated drumming perhaps referencing Matsumoto’s veneration of The Beatles. Of course, with song titles that translated as “Unflyable Sky” and “Enemy Remember Thanatos!” the music was certainly adventurous. The group would continue for the next few years, before Hosono began to concentrate on solo work, as well as various side projects, which would culminate in the formation of Yellow Magic Orchestra.

    Matsuo Ohno

    Roots Of Electronic Sound

    Futuristic synthesizer specialist and sound designer Matsuo Ohno was responsible for the sound design of a broad range of film, television and radio soundtracks, most famously the animation series Astro Boy, which he began working on in 1963, together with his assistant, Takehisa Kosugi. Ohno was born in the heavily-populated Kanda district of central Tokyo in 1930 and was heavily affected by the repeated bombing raids on the city enacted in World War II, which took place during his formative years. After the War, deeply motivated by philosophy and Surrealism, he was largely unaffected by popular music, other than the electronic abstractions of Karlheinz Stockhausen; the left-wing filmmaker Fumio Kamei was another early influence. Ohno began immersing himself in the realm of sound effects while working with the Bungaku-za modernist theatre troupe and he performed a similar function at NHK, Japan’s national broadcasting corporation, but became so frustrated by the rigidity of the restrictions imposed on him there that he quit his prestigious post at the broadcaster, although his skills were such that he remained in high demand as a freelancer, which allowed him to refine his sound effects techniques with evolving analogue synthesizers. The five suites of tracks that make up the album Roots of Electronic Sound album were recorded between 1963 and 1966; initially released on the ALM label in 1975, it is comprised of brief tape experiments, the cover artwork fittingly representing Astro Boy, from which many of the audio interludes are taken.


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