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Traveling from Accra to Bamako by Sound


Last year, on a bus from Abidjan to Bamako, I fell asleep on the morning of our second travel day. The sun was coming up and coupe-decale was still squeezing its way through tired speakers.

I woke up at noon and the coupe decale had been replaced by Coumba Sidibe, a matriarchal Wassoulou singer from Mali. I figured we were listening to the radio. Turns out it was a tape. The pratike, the driver’s mate, had matched the soundtrack to the landscape.

When you travel from the green humid coast to the red scrubby interior of West Africa, the sounds change as much as the scenery (see this). For the past year and a half, I have been collecting these sounds. What I’m working on now is a collection of tracks that will take you on this voyage.

The trip starts in Accra, and specifically the Newtown neighborhood that is most familiar to me. The first track is one I posted previously, a chopped up remix of 2 recordings taken from 2 different minibuses of a poppy gospel highlife song that was on the radio last year.

Mavis Blown Apart Ghana Minibus by lionsinthetiles

The second track is pinned down by a commercial jingle for a brand of pasta called Gino. This commercial airs on ViaSat 1, the shiniest TV channel in Ghana. In crowded Newtown, where sounds overlap and collide constantly, the gino jingle regularly sails through my window. This commercial has been on TV for over a year now. Other bits of sound in this track include an iphone recording of a bar blasting tunes through blown out speakers and some beatwork that I put together.

Gino really does care by lionsinthetiles

Both of these are unmastered and unmixed. The second one has a low, low volume until I work on it some more. The idea is to have the tracks flow into each other, making a fluid transition from coast to Sahel. The closing tracks will put you in Mali. I will post pieces of this project as it comes together.

I don’t really know what I’m doing most of the time, but this is a fun way to explore a place. If you want to collaborate on this, get in touch on the contact page.

Here is some bonus hiplife for you, circa 2005

02 Track 02 – Hiplife Sammy’s Mix by lionsinthetiles

Next post from Abidjan. More posts to come about my all too short time in Ghana. I will also link to the How to Draw Camels post on Medicine on the Move and Ghana’s female aviators (see previous post if you are confused) once it goes live. For now, check out this piece I recently wrote about shadowing a community health worker from Project Muso in Bamako – yet another organization that deserves to have their profile raised for their innovative approach to public health.

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{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Brendan van Son December 14, 2011, 11:41 am

    Great stuff as usual Phil… I can’t wait to get over there and experience the music for myself.

  • Erica December 17, 2011, 2:07 am

    Eee! I love these atmospheric pieces. There is always music I associate with a place that just grabs the attitude. This is so awesome.

  • Kyle December 22, 2011, 5:54 am

    Love the Gino jingle idea. Lord knows it is everywhere in Ghana. You capture the sonic palette of that place really well.

  • Robert (@ Kenya Safari) January 17, 2012, 9:52 am

    The fusion of songs from coast to the sahel is great and seamless. The blend is very smooth. Great work Phil.

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