Captain Yaba / YabaFunkRoots
cdRoots Home Page
More music from Ghana
Search for music
Need Help?

cd cover
Captain Yaba
Yaba Funk Roots

In his short musical career Captain Yaba captivated listeners with his two-string gourd guitar grooves, and especially with the track Yaba Funk. He makes his instrument, the koliko (aka molo or xalam) sound like the root of all funk.

Captain Yaba was a Fra Fra from the northern Ghana town of Bolgatanga where the country and the culture have more in common with Sahelian neighbours than the central and coastal regions where highlife rules.

Yaba Funk Roots is a reissue of the 1996 album Tinanure, produced by Francis Fuster, the celebrated Sierra Leonean percussionist. Unfortunately Yaba died soon after that CDís release. This RetroAfric reissue has been augmented with five tracks from the original Ghana sessions, which retain the vital edge of griot funk at which Yaba excelled. Call them premix, call them de-mix, these tracks bring added delight to a type of African music which is rarely heard in the West.

'James Brown's funky music meets highlife music in Captain Yaba. The young Ghanaian musician is a maestro of the two-stringed molo, an instrument made from skin covered gourd with a long girrafe-like neck. Captain Yaba who teamed with Francis Fuster the Sierra Leonian master percussionist, has produced a new sound that is both powerful, spiritual and highly danceable. From the opening tune to the last one, the molo sets the tone and the drums follow in flawless harmony. Moreover, the Captain's roughly hewed voice is captivating; it makes Tinanure easily the most innovative pop album to come from Ghana in almost a decade.' - Opiyo Oloya, RootsWorld

Captain Yaba: Yaba Funk Roots (Retro Afric RETRO19CD) Interesting re-release of 1996 CD by griot from Northern Ghana, playing sinewy 2-string koliko in the company of a meaty band from the coast. If you like jazz-funk, this is some kind of prototype. But far better are the initial pre-production tracks, released here for the first time - rough, urgent and spare, the late Captain shines with a passion swamped on the finished product. - fRoots

From the sleeve notes by John Collins:
Ghana in the late 1960s. In 1972, when he was still a small child, he began playing the local two-stringed lute or banjo known as the 'koliko'.

He came to Accra, the capital of Ghana, in the mid 1980s as a member of a northern cultural group invited by Mac Tonto of Osibisa fame, and took on the stage name Captain Yaba. He subsequently settled in Accra, staying with some of his relatives in the Mamobi district. He teamed up to play in various Accra venues with Joseph Kobam, who taught the northern Ghanaian xylophone at the University of Ghana at Legon.

In 1987, Captain Yaba joined up with the Afro-Jazz Combo of Jimmy Beckley that was based at Jimmy's Jazz Club in Tesano, Accra. As a member of this group for over 10 years he played at many of Accra's top hotels such as the Shangri-La, Golden Tulip, Novotel and Labadi Beach Hotel.

Captain Yaba made his first recording in 1989 for the Ghanaian-Lebanese producer Faisal Helwani at the Black Note Studio in Kanda, Accra. That cassette-only release was followed by another album, Tinanure (released on both CD and cassette) recorded at the ARC Studios in Tema and produced by the celebrated Sierra Leonean musician Francis Fuster whose band, Ninkribi, backed Captain Yaba. This RetroAfric release is a reissue of that album, which has been augmented with five tracks from the original Ghana sessions at ARC studio, which retain the vital edge of griot funk.

In the mid 1990s Captain Yaba toured the UK and France for six months with Ninkribi. When he returned to Ghana, he continued to play with Jimmy's Jazz Combo, but he fell sick in 2000. After a protracted illness he died of tuberculosis at Korle Bu Hospital in Accra in April 2001. He was only in his early thirties.

The koliko lute which Captain Yaba plays is found all over the Sahel region of West Africa from Mali and Senegal in the West to northern Nigeria in the East (it is also called xalam and molo). It has between two and four strings and is made of a calabash body with an animal skin cover. It is widely believed that the early slaves from Senegal took this instrument to the Caribbean in the 17th century where it was called the banjar. When it later arrived in North America, a fifth string was added, a metal body replaced the gourd and it became the African-American banjo.

cd coverAmongst the Fra Fra people of northern Ghana (and in the neighbouring areas of southern Burkina Faso) the instrument is often accompanied by someone playing a northern form of maracas with beads inside a calabash (instead of outside like the southern Ghanaian and Nigerian types).

This music is played by itinerant musicians who, like the griots/jalis of the Sahel countries, move around from place to place telling histories, moral stories and satirical songs. They also praise chiefs and dignatories, and play at funerals and weddings and at bars where the local millet beer called 'pito' is drunk. John Collins.

Your orders are placed on a secure server, so your information is safe and private.

Please note!
Most CDs have been imported from Europe or Asia. They are not all shrink-wrapped, and I am not going to con you by wrapping them here just to make you think they have been sterilized in America. We guarantee that the CDs and the contents are all brand new and in perfect condition. Whenever I can, I use recycled shipping materials. They may not look as pretty on the outside, but they save money and keep the trash dumps a little bit emptier.