The Soul of African Music Lies in Our Traditional Instruments Says Atongo

The soul of African music, says Atongo Zimba, lies in our traditional musical instruments. Atongo Zimba, is a master of the Koloko, a two stringed Calabash lute played in the savannas of northern Ghana. His music, a fusion of the traditional and the modern, is rooted in this tradition. Meet a successful musician whose passion it is to preserve African musical instruments!

Atongo Zimba was born on the savannas of northern Ghana in 1967. His grandfather taught him how to build and play the koliko or molo, and the first songs he learned were rooted firmly in tradition, dealing with everyday life in the countryside of northern Ghana’s Bolgatanga region.

Being a child of his time, he was also exposed to African popular music on the radio and like many of his contemporaries; he was enthralled by the sounds of Fela Kuti’s afrobeat. It was to have a seminal influence on his musical development and Afrobeat inspired him so much, he decided to leave his hometown and explore the musical idioms of the surrounding regions.

Avisi Asaw of Radio Netherland Worldwide caught up with him in Mali to explore the untold success story of Atongo Zimba. Avisi’s interview with Atongo is embedded in this post.

Producer and arranger Sultan Makendé (aka Dave Yowell), who co-produced the legendary Captain Yaba album in the late 1990s, came up with a funky modern African sound which fused modern electronic instruments with the acoustic roots of the African Sahel.

Savannah Breeze builds on the musical ideas and grooves he pioneered together with Francis Fuster. Working with musicians steeped in jazz, funk and African music, Savannah Breeze moves effortlessly through a variety of grooves available to the contemporary musician – funk here, jazz there, a searing griot solo.

Atongos’s own repertoire has also been informed by his countless encounters with musicians from a variety of traditions. His cover version of the polka classic “No Beer In Heaven” is a major hit in Ghana! Atongo Zimba loves to play music and it shows.

And indeed, what catches your ear throughout, is that distinctive voice, alternately praising, and cajoling, poking fun, criticizing, and caressing.

by Alex Ampadu OwareAudio files supported by Radio Netherlands Worldwide link up between African in the Diaspora and Africans in Africa.