Title: ‘Who Knows Tomorrow?’: The Renaissance Within Frafra Kologo Music

Author: Yoav Guttman
Columbia University: New York, New York

Objectives: The objectives were the following:
i. To begin learning how to play kologo.
ii. To research the Frafra kologo music industry and its musicians.
iii. To learn about traditional kologo music.
iv. To analyze how kologo music is changing due to popularity beyond the Frafra community and its effects on kologo music within the Frafra community.
v. To explore connections between kologo music and the American Blues.

Methodology: In learning how to play kologo. I received lessons from kologo musician Steve-O in Accra. During this time, he also helped me to understand different facets of kologo music. I was able to travel to several Frafra music stores to hear and purchase tapes of kologo recording artists. Additionally, I conducted interviews with numerous musicians. Additional interviews were conducted with people who were in some form related to the industry, whether they were producers or shop owners. I also journeyed to the Upper East Region for a few days to see where the ‘hot-spot’ of kologo music is and the popularity that the music enjoys in that region. I also interviewed a music expert, which led me to textual and audio research in the connection between kologo music, Sahelian music, and the American Blues.

Findings: The data I discovered included analysis of traditional kologo music. Once I was able to do this, could analyze how technology and popularity in the wider Ghanaian music scene has changed the kologo recording industry. Namely, traditional kologo artists are now using electronic beats to back-up there kologo and voice on albums. Additionally, some have expanded to sing in English. Finally, the kologo is being used in hiplife songs to provide a beat, adding a live musical element to a genre where it is devoid. With regard to the connection to the Blues, in singing style and song structure, the American Blues is very much rooted in Sahelian West African music that kologo is a part of.

Conclusion: Frafra kologo music has seen dramatic changes in the past few years. The technology age has reached the community and reshaped the recording industry. Whereas, traditional kologo music would feature the instrument and vocals, modern kologo music can feature people rapping over the kologo, electronic beats, a live band, or use of languages other than Frafra. Future research needs to examine “sister” instrument song traditions and modernizations across West Africa, as well as continuing to survey musicians and the music of the Frafra kologo recording industry.