Strut’s mammoth trawl into the archives of Jimmy Gray’s trailblazing Black Fire label continues apace. This time round its Ghanaian percussionist Okyerema Asante and his drum-fuelled 1977 outing – Drum Message – that gets to see the light again: and well worth resurrecting it is too. Easing in with the laid-back groove of Asante Sana it`s immediately apparent that you’re in good hands: a lazy, hazy break, sweet and uplifting vocal chants, boogiefied bumping bass – all present and correct, and rolling. There are African jazz funk flavours galore. The percussion fills underlay the horns, and all is well with the world. A little gem of a track to pull the listener gently into the album, or to entice the dancers out onto the floor – this one will work anywhere its played.
Sabi raises the tempo, the percussion firing beneath some lovely key work from Brian Jackson. The horns then take over and suddenly it’s all systems go, full-on dance-floor madness. There’s a couple of mixes to choose from: the Black Fire mix perhaps taming the vibe just a little, but remaining urgent, commanding, unstoppable. The vocals throughout advising you to ‘get down…get down…get down’ – It`s difficult not to, for sure.
Follow Me kicks off with brass, not a million miles away from a classic Stone Alliance joint, and its another floor-burner: ‘follow me in melody…follow me in harmony’ is the request – again with heavy, heavy drums – an irresistible force meeting no resistance. Featuring musicians from Oneness of Juju this is captivating stuff that sounds box-fresh today, firing on all cylinders, a polyrhythmic pile-driver.
There’s plenty to get your teeth into elsewhere on this LP. Play A Sweet Rhythm On Them Drums introduces a fiddle to the fray, for a barnstorming romp, while To The Ancestors runs to twelve minutes of solo percussion and sax, taking things out there, under the stars, free and unbeholden to anything but the music. Deep diving into the past and coming up with the future: avant garde in 1977, avant garde in 2021. With Mother Africa the ensemble move sweetly back into a groove, and you’re left with a wide-ranging esoteric collection that will find favour with Fela fans and Ebo Taylor acolytes alike.
Quinton Scott and the Strut crew have been doing this for so long, and so lovingly, that you’re always going to find something essential, something that sets your earbuds alight. Black Fire: feed the flame people.
Okyerema Asante`s Drum Message is reissued today on Strut.