Zingliwu is the powerful debut album of Ishmael Annobil, the Ghanaian surrealist poet, filmmaker, journalist, and percussionist. It exemplifies hard instrumental funk in a digital age, and donates something potent to the brighter alleyways of Hip Hop. There are also electro-dance servings like 'Raw Fire' and 'Black Snow' that Ishmael composed expressly for his feature film, Salamander.
Crucially, Zingliwu takes advantage of the autonomy the digital idiom offers, to push the boundaries of musical sound. You’d find it hard to differentiate these songs from their analogue contemporaries, unless clearly stated (by way of overt Techno ‘synth-licks’). This is because of Ishmael's knack for mining any digital medium for what he calls "the old alchemy", be it in film, photography or music. He calls the outcome 'neo-analogue' or ‘manmade nature’.
Standing slightly apart in this audacious album is 'Sil.Bia De Moderna (an Ode to Women)' for its use of Ghanaian Highlife and Apostolic beats. It is led by a sweet conga/bass pact, suffused with caressing synths, flirtatious piano, and a warm electric guitar lick that sings of an Exodus of sorts; not to mention the typically offbeat shakers that cause the listener to want to hop. An ode to Ishmael's friend and filmmaking collaborator, Silvia Biagioni (Sil.Bia), this song has evolved into an ode to all women, mostly because of its eloquence. It is, indeed, an infectious songs befitting womanhood.
Each song in this album has a particular provenance and message. For instance, ‘Chastity’ came out of a need to trace a bass line the composer remembered from the 70s. In the process, it became a metaphor for the efficacy of moral uprightness. 'Lotus' is a direct attack on drug abuse, and 'March of the Optimists' celebrates self-belief and optimism in a cynical age.
Like Sil.Bia De Moderna, a few other tracks are dedicated to people who typify that optimism; namely, ‘The Poet’ for Atukwei Okai, Ishmael's poetry mentor; ‘Funked to Pulp’ for Simon Rycroft, fellow composer, sound man, member of New Zealand group Rhombus, and Ishmael’s filmmaking collaborator; ‘Raw Fire’ for actress Lydia Hourihan, whose depiction of moral and mental desolation in Ishmael's film Salamander is legendary; and ‘Zingliwu’ for Nana Yaa Annobil, Ishmael's photographer daughter, whose early love for Hip Hop inspired him to compose Zingliwu (Yaa's nickname) as a symbol of Christian and Islamic unity. Uniquely, this title song was made only with the available loops in Garageband, as if to say, unity does not have to be hard...it is just a matter of rearrangement.
Mastered by Misound's Marco Iavarone, Zingliwu is by all standards a collector’s item. It should be part of the libraries of every funk connoisseur and funketeer. It should also serve as an important milestone in our transition to new music.
COPYRIGHT/TECHNICAL DETAILS: All compositions by Ishmael Annobil. Mastered by Marco Iavarone (Misound)
I have been hooked on the alchemy of funk since the age of four, when I first saw Talensi minstrels perform, in the eastern Ghanaian town of Anyinam. I had looked on in awe, as the magic troupe flexed its muscles: the virtuoso drumming; the tingling hum of gonje fiddle; the punch of kologo and gimbri lutes; the jab and spin of iron whistle; the recitative singing; the decisive sizzle of shakers; the mythic ululation...while an Hausa magician drew a razor-sharp sword across his tongue and eyeballs to make hissing noises. Pure poetry. Funk.
As a ‘bandless’ percussionist hemmed in by London’s low threshold for private sound, the digital medium comes as a blessing. But, I invariably turn off the metronome of this ‘manmade nature’, in order to tease out the old alchemy...to let rip.
I thank MARCO IAVARONE for mastering this album so sensitively; GLEN JOHN-BAPTISTE and PETER ALBERT for their warm friendship and feedback; Looperman.com, and the following members whose free loops made it into some of the songs on this album: JONAHLYRICALWINE, DEXTDEE, MINOR2GO, STOCK and SLAPJOHNSON.