Releasing an album into the world is a special moment for any artist but when you’re an artist who grew up in remote northern Ghana with no schooling, spending a life herding cows and goats, building your own instruments and teaching yourself to sing, then there’s a particular sense of occasion and celebration in finding recognition and an audience for that music.
This is the case for Guy One, an utterly unique artist who is writing and performing Frafra music, a style that originates from a small area in the north of Ghana (a more city-styled approach to this music can also be heard in the sounds of King Ayisoba.) Whilst Guy One is already loved and adored locally by now - building up a fervent following in local villages in which no funeral or wedding would take place without his soaring voice and deeply rhythmic playing, before then transforming into an award-winning, TV appearing artist in Ghana - his music is now to find a much wider audience through Max Weissenfeldt’s Philophon label (Jimi Tenor, Hailu Mergia, Alemayehu Eshete) on this Berlin meets Bolgatanga release. #1 is the sounds of a man, a culture, a community and an interaction between all of those as they have grown over decades.
The resulting sounds on the finished album capture a sense of life and vivacity rarely experienced on record; the album opens with the hum of Bolgatanga in the background, Guy One’s mother can be heard rejoicing as her son locks deep into his Kologo rhythm, accentuated by gliding flute and skipping percussion. From then on in it’s a record that bursts to life, as though a portal is being opened into a previously unknown musical world.
Choirs, trumpet, organ, bass, drums, synthesiser, vibraphone, saxophone and piano; the album is as bursting with instrumentation as it is ideas and innovation.