Fra Fra – Funeral Songs

Album Review | Glitterbeat | Review by Allan Wilkinson

Glitterbeat’s Hidden Musics series has already unearthed field recordings of Vietnamese indigenous music, the music of the Pygmies, survivors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and more recently the mesmerizing music of Pakistan, courtesy of Ustad Saami. Producer Ian Brennan once again captures something unique here with the sixth in the series, this time the funeral music of Ghana. The Fra Fra quartet is captured in seven celebratory chant-like songs, recorded for the most part in procession and in all cases outdoors, a little like the funereal marching bands of New Orleans, but with comparatively more austere instrumentation. Through ‘Small’, an aptly named musician who appears on the cover, we hear the sound of the two-stringed Kologo guitar, which provides much of the rhythmic sound, together with a small ensemble of percussive rattles and bone mouth flutes. The focus throughout though, is on the clear and assured voices that bring these songs to life, songs with presumably clear and unambiguous messages, judging by the such titles as “You Can’t Escape Death”, “We Must Grieve Together” and “Naked (You Enter and Leave This World With Nothing”.