If you ever thought, “man, you know what would be awesome? For a stage band to pair themselves to a master Ghanian high-life drummer,” then Oscar Sulley’s Music of West Africa is your dream collabo.
I first heard a song off this two-LP set at a Bump Shop party back in the day…pretty sure Leon Michels was spinning it at the time. Sulley was a Ghanian native who eventually moved out to the U.S. in the 1970s, recording throughout the midwest, including at UI-Urbana, which is where this set was taped.
Disc 1 is “traditional folk music” and much of it is very much stripped down percussive rhythms. On Disc 2, Sulley joined forces with the Air Force Band of Mid-America, thus explaining both the massive brass chorus and the fact that there’s some dude on a trap set backing all the African percussionists Sulley brought with him. That drummer is pushed front and center on “Bontuku” though even that track pales a bit next to the greatness that is “Wahala Goes to Galos” with its sweeping arrangement (and electric piano!) In the liners, Sulley himself describes the song as “exciting, funky Ju-ju music.” We won’t argue.