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Kakraba Lobi: Song of Legaa

Ghana’s Kakraba Lobi is a master of the West African instrument known as the gyil, a mallet instrument made from 14 wood slats and an ancestor of the marimba. It’s one of those musical tools whose lineage–extending into jazz and other corners of the world’s music–is much more far-reaching than its obscurity warrants, and it makes for fascinating listening as the centerpiece of a beautiful album, Song of Legaa. The gyil is often woven into ensemble situations, but here the instrument is amplified and played as lead, supported by percussionists Valerie Dee Naranjo and Barry Olsen.

Other instruments include the ganga, a funeral drum, and the kakarama, an ancient mouth bow that may have led to the jaw harp and the berimbau. Improvisation figures heavily into the musical structures of this music, as does a potent and raw sense of real-time cultural heritage, too rarely heard in an age of crossover dreaming.

Originally Published