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“Black Fire is a collective of precision-discipline creativity of epic cosmic powers: a love supreme”.

  • ReleaseProduct
    Drum Message
    Okyerema Asante
    Catalogue Number
    Release Date
    5 november 2021

    Strut return to the rich archives of Black Fire Records for the Drum Message album by Ghanaian master percussionist Okyerema Asante from 1977.

    After playing a short spell early in his career with Ebo Taylor’s Blue Monks band at Tip Toe’s in Accra, Asante joined the fledgling Hedzoleh Soundz during the early ‘70s at their Napoleon Club residency in the city. After playing Fela’s Shrine, Fela recommended them to Hugh Masekela as an ideal backing band and Hedzoleh joined Masekela on a US tour in December 1973. Sharing the same management company, Charisma, Asante first met Plunky and Oneness Of Juju during an East coast tour with Masekela, starting a relationship with the band that has endured until today. Recorded at Arrest Studios in Washington D.C. in October 1977 and featuring musicians from Oneness alongside Gil Scott Heron cohort Brian Jackson on piano, Drum Message represents an important milestone for Asante: “This album really came from my heart. I wanted to project the African spirit in the music and come out with some unique African jazz. To be able to record it on Black Fire was extra special.” The album also involved some serious physical graft: “The studio was up on the 14th Floor and the elevator was often broken down. I showed up with a van full of African drums and Jimmy Gray from Black Fire and myself had to carry them all the way up there, each day!”

    The resultant album was well worth the sweat. ‘Adowa’ adds jazz arrangements to a traditional Asante rhythm and Oneness classic ‘Follow Me’ is skilfully re-worked (“I used the bass drum in place of the bass guitar so it was all based on rhythms.”). New versions of Asante dancefloor favourite ‘Sabi’ sit alongside the mellow groove of ‘Asante Sana’ (“I wanted something cool like reggae or highlife on that track, a similar vibe. So, I went inbetween.”).

    Drum Message only previously surfaced on a Black Fire CD in 1993. Now receiving its first full international release and its first ever vinyl issue, the album has been fully remastered by The Carvery. Package features unseen photos and a brand new interview with Okyerema Asante tracing the ups and downs of his career in music. Released on CD, 2LP, digital and streaming.

    Digitális számlista

    1. 1 Drum Message 3:25 Vásárlás

      Drum Message

    2. 2 Asante Sana 6:32 Vásárlás

      Asante Sana

    3. 3 Follow Me 5:26 Vásárlás

      Follow Me

    4. 4 Sabi (Album Version) 6:29 Vásárlás

      Sabi (Album Version)

    5. 5 Mother Africa 4:58 Vásárlás

      Mother Africa

    6. 6 Never Fly Away from the Funk 5:00 Vásárlás

      Never Fly Away from the Funk

    7. 7 Play a Sweet Rhythm on Them Drums 6:32 Vásárlás

      Play a Sweet Rhythm on Them Drums

    8. 8 Adowa 3:19 Vásárlás


    9. 9 Sabi (Black Fire Mix) 6:25 Vásárlás

      Sabi (Black Fire Mix)

    10. 10 Kazi's Awakening 6:05 Vásárlás

      Kazi's Awakening

    11. 11 To the Ancestors 12:15 Vásárlás

      To the Ancestors

Stream or Buy Elsewhere

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Official archive of Jimmy Gray's seminal independent label & collective, based in Richmond, VA between 1975 and 1993. Formed by DJ and record producer Jimmy Gray in Richmond, Virginia, and following in the footsteps of other influential black-owned independent labels like Strata-East and Tribe, the foundation of Black Fire coincided with saxophonist James “Plunky” Branch returning to Richmond from New York to form Oneness Of Juju. The band’s ‘African Rhythms’ album in 1975 was the perfect fusion of jazz, deep African polyrhythms and empowering lyrics. Bassist Muzi Branch, a trained artist, created the first of many Black Fire hand-illustrated sleeves for this release.

The album set the tone for a series of landmark releases on the label including Oneness Of Juju’s ‘Space Jungle Luv’ (1976) and debuts from soulman Wayne Davis (1976) and early go-go pioneers Experience Unlimited (1977). Gray continued to use his influence and strong A&R instincts to bring in more key artists – great jazz players like Byard Lancaster and Hamiet Bluiett, Ghanaian master percussionist Okyerema Asante and talented collectives including Southern Energy Ensemble and music / drama troupe Theatre West. Due to personal and cashflow issues, many releases had to be canned and only surfaced subsequently on CD releases during the early ‘90s. Strut Records is working in collaboration with Plunky Branch to make the sounds of Black Fire available once more. Reissues and previously unreleased sessions are taken from the original master tapes.

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