Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ghana-Nigeria Jan. 2010

People don't like to travel on New Years day. That's why I managed to score a cheap last minute ticket to Ghana and left NYC in the early afternoon of January 1st on a direct flight to Accra.
I arrived in the early morning of January 2nd. My friend Ken had already plugged a large "Records Wanted" advert in the biggest, national newspaper for that day and I hit the ground running. Only minutes after depositing my luggage at the hotel, Ken and I were already sitting in a taxi, speeding towards the first piles of records.

After a few days in Accra, we left for Kumasi, Ghana's second largest city in the Ashanti region from where we had received a lot of calls. On our way back, we stopped for a visit at Kwaho Bepong, a beautiful small town located on a plateau, not far from the Volta river. We had received a serious call from there and scored a large collection of incredibly well preserved afrobeat, funk and some seriously deep highlife. Not only on LP but also on 45. Finding good 45s is very rare and always a cause for celebration. We went to a small village in the bush and bought a fresh caught grasscutter (also called cane rat) which we had prepared for us on the spot over and open fire. Later, on a nightly scroll along the Volta river, a large praying mantis landed on my hand, traditionally a sign for good luck!

We stopped in Accra for only another 2 days and then chartered a car to bring us to Takoradi, a coastal town in the West the niece of legendary musician CK Mann had called us and set up a meeting with her uncle. On our way back, we stopped by Cape Coast, picked up some more vinyl and back in Accra met with another living legend: Pat Thomas who as I had hoped for gave us some clues about the whereabouts of the members of the mythical funk band Marijata. The subject Marijata shall remain on hold for now until sometime later this year.

On January 17th I took a plane to Lagos where I met with my friend Damian and together we went on a journey to Enugu where Damian had located a warehouse full of records. He had sent me pictures of the place and I couldn't wait to get there. The region prepared for local elections and the atmosphere was tense. Kidnappings were at an all time high and there were a lot of rumors about armed robbers randomly stopping buses on the highway, robbing people and taking hostages. We had no trouble reaching our destination and on the evening of the first day, when I was sitting outside the hotel, enjoying the evening sun and a couple of Star beers, some military type guys came up to me and told me they were concerned about my safety and would therefore set up a road block directly outside the hotel...

Just like I had seen in Damian's pictures, the warehouse was filled with records. Literally. The entire place was flooded about one to two meters high with mostly 45s, some LPs and even old 8-track tapes. No shelves, not even boxes, just records. You will have to check out the pictures below and you will understand.

We hired three helpers who cleaned out a narrow path alongside one wall by piling records into boxes and dragging them outside for us to sort through them. The warehouse belonged to a record label and distributor and about 95% of all the vinyl consisted of the label's own releases, for the most part highlife and folklore. We made sure to leave a good stack of every single release in the big shelf that stood in the middle of the mess and then just threw the rest of all these undesirable 45s onto a huge pile in front of the building. After half a day, the path was cleared down to the floor and we were able to dig ourselves through the rest of the place, from one end to the other.

The result wasn't huge but I walked away with a good stack of killer 45s including a whole bunch of stuff that I had never seen before, mostly Nigerian releases but surprisingly enough also some Ghanaian stuff.

Once we were done with this place, we took a bus back to Lagos where I spent the remainder of my stay checking up on various local record dealers. Then I took a plane back to Accra from where Ken and I followed up on various leads all over Southern Ghana.

Constantly being on the move made the time pass very fast and before I knew it, the month was over. My plane back to NYC left on January 31st and now I'm busy cleaning myself through piles and piles of fresh African vinyl. One thing is for sure: This wasn't my last trip to Africa for this year!

Click on images for a larger view:

I had brought 10.000 of these posters and we bombarded city after city with them.


CK Mann at his house in Takoradi.


Beautiful stretch of road right alongside the beach between Takoradi and Cape Coast.


A storm is brewing over Cape Coast.


Just before it started pouring down on us...


Driving up the mountains towards Kwaho Bepong.


Fresh grasscuter...


After all the hair is removed, the animal is cut into portions.


BBQ!


Almost ready... my mouth is watering just looking at the picture.


Good luck!


My friend Ken. I wouldn't have managed without him. Sometimes we had over 100 calls a day.


The difference between record shopping and record digging...


My head was about to explode.


Mining for records with Damian.

43 comments:

Victor Eijkhout said...

Those last couple of pictures are just crazy. Can't wait to hear what you found in there!

And that grasscutter? To each their own I guess....

stephen said...

outstanding, man. those posters are super cool too. got any of the 10K left available?

Brian said...

That grasscuter looks pretty gnarly Frank. What does it taste like?

Frank said...

haha... I guess it looks a bit rough for those unfamiliar with bush meat. It's my favorite. Tastes a bit like rabbit but the meat is much juicier. The taste also varies a bit with the local vegetation consumed by the animal. My favorite is the grasscutter stew served at the Maquis de Pili Pili in Cotonou where they cook them in red palm oil with potato leaves and small, crunchy crabs that are eaten with the shell.

Brian said...

Wow, that stew sounds delicious. I guess the pic just reminded me of a giant rat, but the cooked meat itself looks quite good. Awesome pics.

funkentelechology said...

That warehouse of records, those last few pictures, is absolutely amazing. Amazing stuff all around, I love it!

Matt Alldian said...

Do you have any of those posters left?

Frank said...

Sorry... no posters left.
We went through all of them!

Anonymous said...

Hot holy Schnikes, man!! God bless, those warehouse pics almost stopped my heart.

Dave Quam said...

awesome picture

Emci said...

Frank, many Thanks , this is a 'another beautiful mix super

GreGreG said...

Keep Some Release for me, because I'm coming soon !!!

Frank said...

GreGreG: Where are you planning to go? If you want to buy Ghanaian or Nigerian Funk/Afrobeat records, you should come to Brooklyn. I'm keeping some excuisitely sorted sales boxes. It's always a pleasure to welcome visiting collectors from all over the world.

MoonLight Reckordz said...

Wow. Those last couple pics of "record digging" are incredible. I kinda had to catch my breath after that!

jayjsmooth said...

You are the man!

faud said...

I'm not the first but yes ! !!!! those pics are amazing man ! ! !!! you lucky bastard is what my mind could think but I know that it's just like an award for what you've done and what you're doin' . .. .
I really hope we will be able to meet one day !! ! Also photographer i'm working on lesmainsnoires.blogspot.com . ..
.. so yes keep on doin' Franck !! ! and keep sharing all that ! !!!!

Best Regards.


faud.

Anonymous said...

Hi Frank,

Thanks for sharing your african crate diggin' experiences with us!
It's really nice to have an inside view of the African real life....
Nice photos also.
Besides, when's The Psychedelic Aliens record coming out?
Danke,

Pau (pauamigo@yahoo.es)

Frank said...

The Psychedelic Aliens record should be out this summer. We've been really busy with the Lagos Disco Inferno double album (street date March 15th) but in the meantime I've also found the third Aliens 45 which is equally as good as their other material. According to band leader Ricky Telfer (who supplied some incredible band photos), I now have all records ever to be released by this band.

Anonymous said...

That some crazy ish right there!!

How many of those records did you snag and how many did you leave behind?

Frank said...

I took a couple hundred copies. Mostly 45s. What I left behind must have been several tens of thousands.

Frank h said...

Wow, I'm really amazed by your story and pictures, thanks so much for sharing all this with us. Crazy pictures, those last ones.. And good news about the Psychedelic Aliens, I'm a huge fan. Any chance you could distribute one to China?

Keep up the great work!

Vive la vie,

Frank H

Frank said...

Not sure about distribution to China but you should be able to order from Amazon or other mail order services which ship internationally.

Chano said...

Hey Frank,

ich bin erst vor kurzem auf deinen blog gestoßen und kann nur sagen, ich bin fastziniert von den Geschichten den Bildern und natürlich der super killer music!

Außerdem bekommt man durch die von dir geschilderten Erlebnisse einen authentischen Einblick in das Leben in West Afrika. Wenn alle Berichterstattungen über den schwarzen Kontinent so währen, hätte die Welt sicher ein besseres Bild von Afrika. Klar, die politische Situation ist oftmals unsicher aber ich denke die positiven Erlebnisse überwiegen ganz klar bei dir. Und gefährlich kann es auch überall sonst auf der Welt sein, wenn man nicht an die Situation anpasst und eine gewisse Vorsicht walten lässt.

"Moreover, by the experiences described by you they get an authentic idea of life in west Africa. If all reportings above the black continent where made in such a way, the world would certainly have a better picture of Africa. Sure, the political situation is often unsafe, but I think the positive experiences you made predominate quite clearly. And dangerously it can also be everywhere in the world if you doesn't adapt to the situation and play it safe."

Ich wünsch dir weiterhin viel Erfolg auf der Suche nach bisher unbekannten Sounds!

Aber mal was anderes, gibt es für Danger: super heavy afro funk 45s, heavy nigerian nastyness und unknown 45s by the african bors. auch ne tracklist?

Ich mein ich will ja auch wissen von wem diese musik stammt.

Beste Grüße,

keep going,

peace

Chano

Frank said...

Hi Chano,

Sorry but for various reasons, I won't post any track lists for these last few mixes...

fortherecord said...

Frank - I am a small-time personal vinyl collector and fellow blogger - www.electricjive.blogspot.com - I will be working in Accra for five days from 13th March - if I had three or four hours spare to dig - could you point me in a good direction? recordforthe@gmail.com - thanks plenty - Chris

Frank said...

Hey Chris,

there isn't really any sort of record shop in Accra. Whenever I go there, I run large advertisments in the local press, plug pre-recorded radio jingles, cover the city with thousands of posters and with the help of 2-3 friends, I usually find some stuff after one or two days.

There's a store in a little building outside the main post office that sells tourist-quality drums, T-shirts etc. The owner also sells records but doesn't display them openly, you will have to ask. He won't sell you anything good for under $50 but that's also the reason why he sometimes still has some decent stuff.

Records were always tough to find and in recent years, more and more people have been going to Ghana to find vinyl. It takes a lot of work to still come up with something...

Have fun!

Frank

Anonymous said...

Please come to London on your European tour!

kazeem said...

Massive respect and love for you Frank with all the work you put in mining for records. Looking forward to attending one of your parties in the very near future. 1 Love, and the bush meat - yum yum!! - Kazeem

Lautaro said...

wow amazing

bos said...

Huhu, well that's record digging ;) Maybe wear a helmet !

Anonymous said...

Hi Frank,

you didn't mention anything about hassles at the Lagos airport. Did you manage to take records with you without a problem or you had to send everything through a courrier service?

Frank said...

I sent most of my Nigerian finds directly to NYC as air cargo. From Lagos I took a plane back to Accra. Once I left Accra for NYC, the usual luggage restrictions translated to around 260 LPs and ca. 200 45 that I was able to take with me as luggage. Everything else had to be shipped separately.

I never have any hassle at the Lagos airport, a friend of a friend works security there...

Boebis said...

impressive pictures! I m surprised to see how complicated it is to find great music.

TontonJovo said...

Hey Frank. Is that the famous agouty you were eating there? My African friends almost start crying when they think of how they miss that kind of meat...

Frank said...

Hey Tonton,
yes, grasscutter and agouti are the same thing. Agouti is Beninoise, probably Fon? Grasscutter is the word being used in English speaking countries like Ghana or Sierra Leone.

Are your agouti-hungry friends here in the states?

You can find an almost identical animal here in Louisiana: The Nutria: A long time ago, this animal was farmed here for its fur but when some specimen escaped, they quickly multiplied in the Louisiana wetlands and became a nuisance. They are responsible for a lot of damage to the natural vegetation, endangering the ecosystem and making the land more vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding. The state of Louisiana even pays a ransom of $4 for each nutria tail as evidence that the animal has been killed.

There were efforts to promote the hunting and the consumption of nutria to the local population that never really caught on. A friend of mine even remembers a popular chef once preparing a nutria for a local TV show.

Anonymous said...

I HAVE HAD DREAMS LIKE THIS! THAT LOOKS SO FUN!

reservatory said...

The record stash photos are astounding! What a lucky guy!!

Eegah!! and Tabonga! said...

As an avid record collector, these pictures are both sad and exhilirating, I just have two questions? WTF!? and why was this stash of records seemingly abandoned, and why was it necessary to wear respirators? Too much mold, too much funk??

Frank said...

What you see is maybe 10% of what was there... this was a warehouse that a label/distributer flooded with dead stock and old stock from their stores. Once the CD was introduced to the West African market, vinyl became worthless in the eyes of most and in many cases, remaining records were burned or dumped in landfills.

Respirators always are a necessity in places like these. Inhaling tropical mold and insect excrement can lead to very nasty respiratory infections as I had found out on previous occasions.

Eegah!! and Tabonga! said...

Wow! Thanx!!

Anonymous said...

One word:



SHELVING

Frank said...

haha... yeah, you're right, shelving would have made this a much easier experience... but then again, easier isn't always better.

Frank

Anonymous said...

My goodness,the food looks awesome.