One hot October afternoon, after a stroll through the Central Market of Tamale, I was walking past the Ghana Commercial Bank when I heard music coming from speakers unlike any music I had heard before in Ghana. I gravitated towards the speakers to find a tape cassette music shop and asked the vendor how I could acquire a copy. The shop owner, Alidu, however could not answer most of those questions. He told me “a woman brought it. It was Frafra music from Bolgatanga, 100 miles away from here, but [he] didn’t hear [understand] it and didn’t know what the instrument was” (Personal Communication, Alidu, 14 October 2008). Beyond this, he did not know who the artist was, but was willing to make me a copy of the tape that I could pick up the following day. I returned the next day to pick up the tape and began listening to it, trying to learn from the music. I did not understand the words, but could hear the passion the singer sang and played with.
This experience began my journey to study the instrument the man was playing; who I would later find out was Ayuune Suley playing a two-string banjo-guitar lute called the kologo. When I began the study, it seemed few had heard of the instrument and only knew of it because of the popular Ghanaian musician King Ayisoba. I had imagined that the instrument must be exclusively in the Upper East Region and not developed into modern recordings or industry, but rather remained localized in villages in the region. What I would discover is that kologo music is actually currently experiencing a renaissance inside Frafra culture and beyond it into the greater Ghanaian and World Music scenes.
Additionally, I have been able to properly analyze and recognize the difference between traditional kologo music and modern kologo music. With regard to modern kologo music, there are three identifiable categories, which all point to slightly different futures. One style of modernization points to popularity in the World music scene, another in the global hip-hop community, and the third remains within the Frafra community. Additionally, I sought out to continue the limited previous research by Paul Oliver and Samuel Charters on the roots of American blues in African music.