Sitting behind a desk on a cool Sunday evening, it became extremely important to begin this review as close to perfect, as I could. I had met with Kofi and Nyornuwofia Agorsor a few hours ago, at their home in Accra. Despite the time spent at the space which could be best described, as an art hub; dripping with coloured canvases, chipped wood and important conversations, I was now meeting them, through the idea of their music and the effort of their production.
HUGADEM means THE ABSOLUTE IS MARRIED TO ME.
On the 8 track HUGADEM album, released quietly on music trading platforms in December 2018 under AGORSOR RECORDS, the AGORSOR BAND brings to your ears the true spirit of Afro World Music. Taking pieces of where they come from, fusing these pieces on a clean line of live instruments and delivering a series of stories that are told with the voice of Nyornuwofia.
One will be quick to judge the album, composed by Kofi and Nyornuwofia Agorsor, and it’s content, as “Traditional Music”, considering it’s instrumentalization and natural breeze of the African countryside that one walks through, as he/she begins to get lost in the nature of the music.
However, my interaction with Kofi and Nyornuwofia earlier equipped me with the insight to properly identify the music. With members of the band like Kofi Agorsor, Emmanuel “Chico” Napour, Julius Quaye and Dzimesah “Yoga” Boku providing the spirit of Nyornuwofia’s vocal storytelling with the souls of the Xylophone, Conga, Gome, Flute and Gonje, a full body of art is created and the air of composition presents different identities, that bring an individual face, sound and mannerism to each track.
From the first track, the instruments and vocals appear like a typical African family, where it’s a taboo for parents to show favouritism to any ward; carefully carrying the responsibility for each child to maintain his/her individual identity and stand in the spotlight at the most appropriate time, while remembering to give way for the next sibling soon enough. On “Am not talking to you” for instance, the flute stands alone for a while, as it brings peace to a defiantly told story. Giving the spotlight to this particular instrument provides an oasis on this eight-minute opener to an eight-track album. This is then lifted by injecting the xylophone and percussions to create the right curve- an intersection that gives enough room to ponder on what has been sung by Nyornuwofia and prepare for what is to be said next.
The Xylophone sounds like the eldest member of this family, for most of the album. On tracks like “HUGADEM” it is heard setting the tone for the song’s melodic pattern before the vocalist infuses her story. The percussions are middle children that help diversify the sound on each track; always composed differently, like a painter’s attempt to create dapple images with the same colour pallets. This may be a silent way of telling us that the Agorsor band and its debut album was born on a foundation of visual art. The penchant to create and recreate different emotions, stories and images with the same basic composites is awoken throughout the album. This begins to sound like a walk through any of the AGORSOR exhibitions, like the recent one at Brazil House during the 2018 Chale Wote Street Art Festival.
The lack of hurry is also felt, as lyrics are spaced out long enough for you to ruminate their value and instruments run long enough for the listener to catch the soul. This leaves us with long tracks, in a world where most musicians limit themselves to three minutes and a few seconds. The AGORSOR band brings to life, the belief that music must take you on a journey, which characteristically takes time and must not be rushed. The track titles On HUGADEM are also consistent with whole sentences. “I do not know what they need”, “Why do we give away”, “Just a little sleep” and other titles, carry on the ideology that nothing on this project is a rush. The band gives you a foresight of the stories to be told, yet still manages to surprise you with the manner in which they are told.
On the album, Nyornuwofia provides a voice for the different tribes of Africa, as she tells their stories in a beautiful Kaleidoscope of languages. This to the untrained ear usually comes out as one language. On “No More” which is a few seconds shy of six minutes, the vocalist unifies the languages of the GAs, Ewes, Ashantis, and other tribes in her story. This creates the seemingly complete spirit of her motherland, as the different languages come together like varied shades of paint to create a pied beautiful, as she sings about the gloomy history and effects of colonization. As the song fades away, we experience four other stories, they are ushered into “Seventeen Days” by the xylophone.
By the sixtieth second of this track, we all eagerly join Nyornuwofia under the baobab tree. We are now hungry to find out why she has been instructed to stay put for seventeen days. This eagerness is quickly transformed to excitement, as Nyornuwofia’s vocal modulation and the live instruments come together to quickly lift your countenance. The natural feel beneath the baobab tree enters you, as you begin to sway gently. The AGORSOR band are the gentle midnight breeze that has now transformed you to a branch on this tree, before quickly sending you on another journey.
On “Two Minutes” the band weighs the human conundrum of repeatedly falling in the same trouble. Now the listener joins Nyornuwofia, as an observant little girl. The purity of her voice carries the story as she meekly questions why we repeat mistakes. The track is prepared in a manner that encourages self-evaluation. By the end of this particular journey, I was left wondering why I find myself repeating mistakes -a flaw I had just noticed after the AGORSORs pointed me in the direction.
One track takes six and a half minutes to ask the question, “Why do we give away”. It’s hard to tell if this and other tracks like it on the album are an act of passive resistance or active resistance. The strong messages and colourful instrumentalisation, help create this conundrum. However isolating the lyrics, it is clear that the vocalist is unhappy about colonization, our attitude to it and the mentality that it came with. This mood has been set, by her dissatisfaction with the African school system. Which in her observation, breeds servitude.
Even though she speaks English (The language that we inherited with colonialism) she avoids trying to sound UnAfrican; retaining her thick West African accent and constantly reminding us where she hails from, by bellowing the local languages that existed long before the first slave ship reached our shores.
Listen to the album HERE
by Emmanuel Oscar Ugoh