Commenting on the gap between records, Bonjo says: “In the twelve years that have passed, I have been spending time with my family in Ghana, but I was still creating things. I still have a lot of things to let off, you know what I mean? At this time in my life I want to work, but I want to enjoy time with my family as well. When I’m enjoying myself, I’m also creating, because when you’re happy it helps you to be more creative, and the greatest happiness is to be with your family.”
Although there are sounds on this album which recall previous African Head Charge classics such as My Life In A Hole In The Ground and Songs Of Praise, it would be wrong to assume that their music is not still evolving. The master percussionist adds: “All the drumming and the chanting, it took a while to do. I’m always meeting drummers, all over Ghana. The Fante, the Akim, the Ga, the Bolgatanga, all the tribes, and they all have their different drums. I try to learn as much as I can, and put it all together. It’s like cooking, when you’re blending all of the elements, like yam, banana, pumpkin, and the end taste, that’s where it matters. That’s how I look at music. Throw a lot of things together, and then you taste it and say, “Yeah man, that tastes good. Yeah man, that sounds good.” That’s what African Head Charge is all about, those different combinations, and then bringing it to Adrian, who helps to make it another thing again.”
Producer Adrian Sherwood concurs: “It’s always a case of getting all the right ingredients sorted for Head Charge, and then having some fun with overdubs and mixing and getting it completely perfect. We always work well together, but I think on this one we have the greatest result."
The group have been active for over four decades, and this album sees other members of the musical entity’s extended family come back to the fray. Multi-instrumentalist Skip McDonald and fellow Tackhead co-conspirator Doug Wimbish contribute to a variety of tracks. Drummer Perry Melius, whose involvement in the project dates back to the early `90s, adds a righteous rhythmic heft to a trio of tunes. In addition there are a number of notable fresh recruits. The horns and reeds of Paul Booth, Richard Roswell, and David Fullwood; Ras Manlenzi and Samuel Bergliter on keys; Vince Black on guitar. There’s additional percussion from Shadu Rock Adu, Mensa Aka, Akanuoe Angela, and Emmanuel Okine, strings from Ivan “Celloman” Hussey, plus the voice of the mighty Ghetto Priest. Very special guest, and one of Ghana’s foremost kologo players, King Ayisoba also provides vocals, and demonstrates his dexterity on the traditional two-stringed lute.
Where previous albums have been a melting pot of global influences, on their new LP African Head Charge have but one place in mind. A Trip To Bolgatanga is a musical journey to Bonjo’s current hometown in north Ghana. A psychedelic travelogue across the landscape featuring their trademark hand percussion and group chanting augmented with rumbling bass, mutated horns, dubbed out effects, wild wah-wah, haunted voodoo dancehall, synthetic swells, disco congas, tumbling layers of electronic effects, blues-inflected woodwind, and funky organ. As with every On-U Sound production, each repeated listen reveals fresh detail, and its power won’t be really understood until heard on a big system, when it’ll reduce all competition to rubble.