July 26, 2014
by Tjeerd van Erve
Somehow I ended up on the right side of inequality. As I’m enjoying my well-deserved holiday break sitting on this Italian beach tells me as much. Surrounded by the more prosperous side of middle, (if not high) class Italy, somehow, I feel kind of lost. Perhaps this luxury and wealth is somewhat unknown to me. It doesn’t fit the working class image I’ve so proudly developed for myself. Especially not when you consider the Africans strolling across this beach, selling sunglasses, fake brand bags, bracelets and common beach paraphernalia any truly prepared parent brings along. I wonder if bartering fake wood-carved African statues on an Italian beach was the dream they envisioned as they stepped on a boat to Europe.
These questions are the price of inequality; the sheer luck of being born Dutch meant I would never have to risk my life on an overencumbered boat to a land of prosperity, while running from wicked leaders, corruption and an economy wrenched apart by Western companies, import rules and export waste. A situation best described as “hopeless”.
As I slowly bronze my prosperous self, the soundtrack to these contemplations is Wicked Leaders by King Ayisoba, Amsterdam-based Makkum Records latest release. A game changer of an album, if you consider how it mixes traditional Ghanian instruments with a punk aesthetic that’s unheard of. At the very least, unheard of by me.
It surely is a game changer in my own life: never before have I listened to any afrobeat record this often with such great joy (in disregard to a love for Paul Simon’s Graceland during my salad days).Never before have I felt so connected to an African artist the way I feel to this young Ghanian storyteller. Not that I understand a word of Fra Fra or Twi, yet every word he shouts makes sense. He sings about Ghana, politics and taking business in your own hands. Or at least that’s what I fancy this rough kologo-based rock to be about, the assertiveness and strength of being at peace with the earth and not taking the shit our world leaders have to offer us for granted. A thought supported by a handful of songs sang in English. Take title track Wicked Leaders for example, which addresses an energy that impacts you regardless of the inequality you own up to. The blissful kologo punk flow of King Ayisoba is something you can move to.
Which brings me back to my holiday beach. Wicked Leaders reconciles the two colliding worlds of the African salesmen and the bronzing riches. Parts of the record were actually recorded in The Netherlands: more specifically by Mr. Zea Arnold de Boer at Mr. Corno Space Siren Zwetsloot’s Next To Joop Studio. An album that appeases Ghana to the Western world to the same extent as these surrounding must have influenced Ayisoba’s inherent artistry, making Wicked Leaders a remarkable entity on its own.