The rhythmic vibrations that pervade this album is expected, likewise the subjects it covers. However, the album is nothing like the many songs that fall within the genre of traditional northern music. The music heard on the album is not driven solely by the kologo, a prominent musical instrument popular among musicians from Bolgatanga, it incorporates afrobeat trappings into its make.
The kologo is a simple traditional musical instrument made of two tiny ropes stringed to a calabash covered with either a goat or sheep skin. It is a revered instrument among traditional musicians from Bolgatanga (Northern Ghana). The reverence and stature of this guitar-like instrument is clearly stated by Stevo Atambire on ‘Kologo’, the opening track of his album: ‘kologo dey before the banjo/kologo dey before the guitar… Kologo music be the root’.
My first introduction to Kologo music was in the 2000s when songs by Atongo Zimba were raging high on mainstream radio. Years on, the emergence of King Ayisoba on the music scene pushed further its visibility and importance. The Kologo is as important in the music from Upper West as the guitar is to country music.
Stevo Atambire’s 19 track album, “Teach Me”, is a well-constructed piece of work that spans the themes of politics, love/admiration, family welfare and independence. ‘Richman you dey teach me how to spend cash everyday/ but the day you no dey/ e go worry me’; Mr. Atambire along with Villy (of Xtreme Volumes) highlight the importance of economic (or political independence).
The moral edification continues on “Make Wild”, a song that touches on an important life lesson: don’t ignore to care for your parents when you become relatively successful. On “Make Wild” (a pidgin phrase that translates as ‘step it up’ or ‘hustle hard’), he stirs the conscience of men who would rather spend on their girlfriends than on their parents, In this lyrics, “mama ein ear close/she no dey hear/mama eyes close she no dey see/mama leg broke she no dey dance’, Mr. Atambire drums home the worthlessness in organizing fabulous funerals to celebrate the life of a parent who died in poverty.
“Teach Me” swings, rhythmically, from mellow, mid-tempo to fast-paced and from acoustic renditions to a full draw on various musical instruments tucked together perfectly. One hears a blend between the taut stringy sound of the kologo and elements of Sahelian music on songs like ‘Atubga’ and ‘Tanga’. The element of liveliness that a live recorded album offers is ever present throughout the 19 tracks.
Mr. Atambire sings in both pidgin English and his native tongue of Frafra on many songs including “Killer Fear Die”, a thought-provoking song that smacks corruption and greed in the face. (The song title is a popular movie inspired Ghanaian phrase. ‘Killer’ means a villain and they usually beg for their lives at the end of the movie). Mr. Atambire blurt out the following trurh: ‘Thief steal ein millions/ ein 1 cedi lost e dey cry”. He ends up asking a legitimate question ‘e no be you be the killer?‘
“Teach Me” scores high on the choice of artistes featured on the album. Their performances were neatly tucked into the whole album. The verses contributed by Wanlov (on ‘Kologo’, ‘Abena’), Yaa Pono (on ‘Fauziah’), Eli (on ‘Carry Me Go’), Villy (on ‘Teach Me’), Gyedu Blay-Ambolley (on ‘Minus Me’) and Medikal AMG (on ‘Do Good’) were concise, allowing Mr. Atambire to enjoy his spotlight. The Gyedu Blay- Ambolley on the horn and guitar driven, grace seeking song “Minus Me” isn’t your smooth singing Uncle Gyedu. This is Gyedu from the ‘Onam Daadze’ era.
The popularity of kologo music within mainstream music scape has waned over time, due to, in part, the absence of King Ayisoba. Not only is Mr. Atambire filling in the gap, he’s advancing the music by incorporating other strands of influences (sound-wise) to enhance its appeal. Unlike King Ayisoba and Atongo Zimba whose heavily accented enunciations make it a little hard to grasp what they say, Mr. Atambire diction is perfect, there’s clarity in his singing. My only reservation about “Teach Me” is that, I couldn’t listen to it all in one sitting. It was a little tedious.
Musically, “Teach Me” is a descent output- from production, themes; features to its kologo inspired melodies. On this album, Stevo Atambire reveals that Kologo music can blend with other musical variants without losing its uniqueness and spiritual attributes.
Album producers: Emmanuel Owusu Bonsu and Percy Yip Tong