SK Kakraba – ‘Yonye’ LP [Sun Ark]

Many times I’ve unsuccessfully tried to deconstruct music tastes. It always comes down to simple gut feeling, but it doesn’t stop me occasionally attempting to work out what elements of a recording appeal to me, and is there any consistency behind it.

Whenever there’s new music on the decks – not just another release from our buy-on-site labels and artists, but genuinely new music to our ears – there’s this weird shifting line of combined elements that exists for whether or not we’ll get wrapped up in it. There’s certainly a question mark over freshness – have we heard this sound before – that mixes with the creation element of how much of what’s going on we understand. But these are only two factors in the melting pot, and I only mention them now as here’s a record that we’re still trying to work out.

Our latest hype ting is the Yonye LP; seven track single plate album from SK Kakraba released on Sun Ark Records last week. Kakraba is a master xylophonist and instrument maker from Ghana, now residing in America. More specifically, he is a master of the Gyil, primary instrument of the Lobi people of Northern Africa and the traditional music that Kakraba puts forward on Yonye.

Which brings us back to why I’ve been puzzling trends in my favourite music off the back of this. Plenty of African music plates have come passed, as have xylophonists and solo traditional recordings. But not since Takamba! from Ali Ag Amoumine have we been grabbed by something so powerful in this vein.

And while the two plates are totally different sounds, there are a few elements that do crossover. Yonye possesses the rough electrified vibe of raw live recording that we love – though to be honest I’m not even sure it is electrified. In his instrument creation it seems that Kakraba has created the acoustical equivalent of a peaking amp that lets you know the artist is giving it their all.The buzzing and unusual levels of offbeat patterns give it such a real feeling that is too rarely missed on many records of this depth. Considering it’s a solo instrument performance there still seems to be so much going on at a decent pace too.

Check out a performance below, then grab a copy of Yonye and throw it on loud. Incredible record.

via Sun Ark Records

S.K. Kakraba Lobi is a Master Xylophonist from Ghana, the son of Master Xlophonist Kakraba Lobi. S.K. is a Master of the Gyil, which means that he is both an instrument maker and a virtuoso performer. The Gyil is the Ghanaian Xylophone, and the primary instrument of the Lobi, Sisala, and Dagara people of Northern Ghana. It is constructed of 14 wooden slats suspended over calabash gourds that have been fitted with resonators. S.K. was an instructor of the gyil at the International Centre for African Music and Dance at the University of Ghana, but has recently moved to Los Angeles, CA.

“YONYE” is a collection of solo recordings made shortly after S.K.’s relocation to America. In his words:
“The songs on this album are Lobi traditional music from Ghana, but they are recorded here in California. The album is called Yonye because I have traveled and seen different life, different things. The music is traditional songs, reacting to what I have seen here.”