February 2006

Palm Wine
Presented by Music Africa
February 17, 2006Now LoungeToronto
A Lovely Warm Buzz
by Andy Frank with photos by John Leeson
Palm Wine is a sweet, mellow, and potent beverage created from the sap of a West African palm tree. It stands to reason that the delicious music associated with the label would exhibit similar qualities, especially when presented by some Juno Award-winning Ghanaian musicians and friends.

What made the concert even more appealing was the giddy, semi-exhausted condition the players were in thanks to a strenuous series of rehearsals in which many of them took part for African Guitar Summit II (February 18 & 19 at Glen Gould Theatre). Combining this relaxed state of being with the intimacy of Now Lounge resulted in a party that could easily have taken place in the cool shade under a few giant palms — except the only wine being served on this night was Jackson Triggs Merlot.

The Palm Wine music was sung in the Ghanaian dialects of Twi and Fanti, and, we were informed, contained lyrical themes surrounding the celebration of life, from births to funerals, and just a hint of love. “Love, with a small ‘l’ ” said charismatic singer Theo Boakye, “love, as a part of life”. The lyrics also served to communicate proverbs and lessons.

Naturally, however, to the majority of the audience, the words merely enhanced the fantastic music being delivered by the classy, blue-dashiki clad elder statesman of the stage, guitarist Pa Joe; percussions by the dynamic Kofi Ackah (on a Senegalese Talking Drum, a small congo-like instrument which is alternately beaten with one field-hockey-stick-shaped drumstick, and five rhythmic fingers) and Frederick Osagie on Ukus (a large, stomach-shaped Nigerian maraca); all driven by electric bassist Ebenezer Agyekum and topped off with the classic voice of Theo Boakye.

Among the highlights were two songs which featured extended Egyptian Tabla solos by Boakye; one of the original African Guitar Summit CD contributions featuring the smooth, Mark Knoffler-like sound of Pa Joe; and two numbers by a surprise guest singer, a performer who was also featured at African Guitar Summit II, Muna Mingole — the Blue Flame of Cameroon. She set the house on fire early in the second set with her welcome high-energy performance that included “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. Perfectly timed, her appearance charged up the audience and the band after a long break, and led to a powerful closing.

All in all, Palm Wine delivered a lovely, warm buzz to close a cold Toronto week in the middle of (sigh..) February.

Theo Boakye
The Musicians
Theo Boakye | Vocals, Tabla, clips
Kofi Ackah | talking drum of Senegal
Pa Jo | Guitar
Ebenezer Agyekum | bass
Frederick Osagie | Ukus
Muna Mingole | guest vocals
We welcome your comments and feedback
• • • • • •
Andy Frank
• •
John Leeson
The Live Music Report

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