Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio


It's hard to imagine West African music without brass, from the ecstatic dance music of Fela Kuti to highlife, the soundtrack to Ghanaian Independence from British rule. This week's journey begins in an unlikely place - a funeral for an important priest in the Volta region of Ghana, three hours inland from the capital, Accra.

The brass band play mournfully in the church, but the moment the coffin is lowered, the funeral turns into the biggest party of the year, celebrating the pastor's return to heaven with a street carnival of drums and trumpets, food and dancing. Following the golden sound of brass through Ghanaian military, church and popular music, we visit a legendary highlife guitarist to hear about why brass matters so much in Africa, we go on parade with the Ghanaian Defence Force Band and we drop in on rapper who lays down lyrics to live brass.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Nigeria, brass rang out both the melody and the rhythm in the music of the legendary Fela Kuti. We immerse ourselves in some storming tunes and learn how brass was truly 'the icing on the afrobeat cake'.

Colin Salmon presents and the programme features the Ghanaian Defence Force Band, E.T. Mensah & The Tempos, the Christ Prince of Peace Brass Band, Yaa Pono, Fela Kuti & Egypt 80, plus Soothsayers.

Release date:

57 minutes

Last on

Wed 29 Jan 2014 22:00