C.K. Mann & His Carousel 7 – Funky Highlife
Trawling through the Urban Essence promos mailbox can, at times, be a tedious task. While we’re blessed with receiving a lot of exciting new music that’s fresh off the press, one sometimes feels bombarded by the deluge of uninteresting, formulaic and imitatory sounds that come hand-in-hand with it.
But every now and then, you stumble across something that’s a little bit different, something that makes your ears prick up in refreshment. And when the Funky Highlife from C.K. Mann & His Carousel 7 landed in our inbox the other day, that’s exactly what happened.
The first of a new series of re-releases from London-based-globally-faced world music label Mr Bongo, Funky Highlife is a collection of tracks dating back to the ‘70s from one of the foremost purveyors of the timeless Ghanaian style of Highlife – C.K. Mann.
For those unfamiliar, Highlife is the jazzy, funk-infused sound that originated in Ghana in the early 20th Century, later developing into a global phenomenon in the ‘60s when US funk and soul records made their way onto the shores of the Gold Coast and found themselves assimilated into the local styles. Highlife put Ghana on the musical map in much the same way as Afrobeat did for neighbouring Nigeria.
As one of Ghana’s most highly lauded guitarists, C.K. Mann collaborated with numerous luminaries of the Highlife scene, like Moses Kweku Oppong in the Kakaikus Guitar Band, Pat Thomas and Kofi Yankwon, which lead to him later being dubbed the ‘King of Highlife’.
The most notable track on the album is without doubt the epic and fantastical 13-minute jam, Asafo Beesuon Medley; an effortless melange of laidback African drums, flirting accordions, cheerful guitar riffs, and the glorious vocal musings of Mann that kick off the record in magnificent style.
The Beebi a odo wo medley continues in blissfully sun-kissed fashion, its organ and big band backing track gelling seamlessly with Mann’s crooning, exhibiting that most classically appealing feature of Highlife music; the ability to be so powerfully emotive despite remaining so nonchalantly easygoing.
While the original LP was centered mainly around these two tracks, this newly re-issued CD features an additional eight songs, all in the same vein as their original predecessors, making for a thoroughly enjoyable and extended listening experience.
With much of the genre’s back catalogue obscured by the often extremely limited number of pressings in their native setting, Mr Bongo has with this album launched a major restoration project that aims to bring these and other wonderfully undiscovered African sounds into the 21st Century. And if the rest of the series is anything like this magnificent first offering, we’ve a lot to look forward to.