Atongo Zimba -Savannah Breeze

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Enlarge Cover HiP 003

Savannah Breeze CD
by Atongo Zimba


All the Tracks


  1. Bédi Bédi (Stop - Stop) (A. Zimba, D. Yowell) 5:11
    You see people handling their problems in a wrong way - and tell them "stop!" but they don't stop until something happens to stop them - only - the problems are not solved
  2. Gidi Gidi (Careless) (A. Zimba, D. Yowell) 4:38
    I saw a beautiful girl - but she's too rough. When I say hey! - she says hey hey!! What a pity - such a beautiful girl.
  3. Balanoré (Hypocrites) (A. Zimba, D. Yowell) 5:24
    You can't change a hypocrite - so let him be - maybe one day he'll get wise enough to change himself.
  4. No Beer in Heaven (Trad./A. Zimba/arr. D. Yowell) 4:36 No Beer in Heaven in RealPlayer
    Is an old traditional polka folk song whose simple message is given an African twist. Make sure you drink all the beer you can before you die
  5. Bangbalabo (Boys and Girls) (A. Zimba, D. Yowell) 4:47
    Boys and girls are dancing and get excited all over
  6. Zo Ndorizo (About Friends) (A. Zimba, D. Yowell) 5:34
    Be careful when choosing friends, some pretend to be a friend just so they can put you down
  7. Ti Baha (Stop Fighting) (A. Zimba, D. Yowell) 4:59
    Stop fighting when the children are around - let them be children
  8. Azoroga (Take It Easy) (A. Zimba, D. Yowell) 4:47
    Is a dance song. You think you can't dance - but you're just too stiff - take it easy and relax your body and then you'll be a good dancer.
  9. Sana Menga (Handsome Visitor) (A. Zimba, D. Yowell) 4:10
    Some visitors bring happiness - when people come who do not - you remember the ones who did.
  10. Mangaré Zahame (I Had a Dream) (A. Zimba, D. Yowell) 5:11 Mangaré Zahame in RealPlayer
    Don't let your mother down - give her respect as she's the one who brought you into this world.
  11. Tuawa (Dancing) (A. Zimba, D. Yowell) 5:10
    Hey girl, let's go dancing tonight!
  12. Onikpa Shwarp Remix (Big Man's Shop/Small Boy's Suffering) (J. Collins, A. Zimba, D. Yowell) 7:26
    The choir sings in Ga: Big men; Atongo raps in Frafra - asking himself - why the small boy must always be oppressed by the big man.

All compositions and arrangements by Atongo Zimba/David Yowell, except:
(4) Traditional, arranged by A. Zimba and D. Yowell
(12) The original track was composed by John Collins with assistance of Cliff Eck and the Bunzus Band - and first recorded at the EMI studio in Lagos with Fela Kuti as one of co-producers. It was first performed at Fela's African Shrine. The Remix arranged by Atongo Zimba/ David Yowell is based on a track of John Collins' Bokoor Band, recorded in 1978 at Ghana Films Studio.
All tracks published by Hippo World Music. Translation: Fortunat Heuss - Hippo Records HIP003 ® + © 2004 Hippo Records



Recorded, & Mixed at Sultan Sound, London, by Dave Yowell
Additional Backing Vocals recorded by Uncle Panji at Pidgen Music Studio, Accra, Ghana
Mastered by: David Cathro at Lighthouse Mastering, London
Executive Producer: Rob Bierings
Co-Producer: Fortunat Heuss
Art Design: MoArt


Molo, Fanti Flute and Lead Vocals: Atongo Zimba
Bass: Sultan Makendé
Percussion: Asabre Quaye
Additional Percussion: Sultan Makendé & Atongo Zimba
Drums: Ndugu Kidogo
Guitars: Alfred Bannerman & Sultan Makendé
Fender Rhodes Piano, and Hammond Organ: Daoudi Roberto Lewoy
Trumpet: Claude Deppa
Saxes: Ray Carless, Dave Chambers
Backing Vocals: Dani Pompeo, Tina Mensah, Fusena Haruna, Abena Eucheria
(4) Steel Pans: Bravo Bravo
(9) Accordeon: Daoudi Roberto Lewoy
(12) Harmonica and basic composition: John Collins, recorded with the Bokoor Band, 1978


Singer and songwriter

Atongo Zimba: Live in Europe!Atongo Zimba was born in the savannahs of northern Ghana in 1967. His grandfather taught him how to build and play the koliko or molo, a two-stringed calabash lute and the first songs he learned were rooted firmly in tradition, dealing with everyday life in the countryside of northern Ghana's Bolgatanga region.
Being a child of his time, he was also exposed to African popular music on the radio and like many of his contemporaries, he was enthralled by the sounds of Fela Kuti's afrobeat.

It was to have a seminal influence on his musical development and Afrobeat inspired him so much, he decided to leave his hometown and explore the musical idioms of the surrounding regions.
Atongo started busking on street corners, at markets and funerals throughout Ghana for a few pennies. People used to mock him and tell him to go and look for a job, but the young troubadour was determined to play his music.

After traveling through several West African countries, his wanderings brought him to Fela Kuti's Shrine in Lagos, Nigeria. He was playing at a nearby market, when some of Fela's disciples noticed him and brought him to the master himself. Atongo was well regarded in the community, and for the next year and a half, he was the opening act at the Shrine shows, for which he was paid one dollar. After that, Atongo went back to Ghana, going along the coast before settling in the capital Accra.
Atongo began playing at various places all around the capital and he was the opening act for great African musicians such as Osibisa at PANAFEST (Pan African Festival of Arts and Culture),

Manu Dibango, Hugh Masekela, Francis Fuster and Angelique Kidjo, to mention just a few.
Atongo recorded his first album "Allah Mongode" with Swiss drummer Gabriel Schildknecht and in 1994, he went on tour through Switzerland. Upon returning to Ghana, he worked with the National Road Safety Programme on educational tours, jammed in local jazz venues with a number of groups that included Jimmy Beckley's Afro-Jazz Combo. His growing reputation landed him other gigs either working on stage, or as a studio musician with such artists as the reggae singer Rocky Dawuni and in collaborations with John Collins, the world renowned musicologist. His distinctive voice was also increasingly heard on radio and TV commercials, which gained him nationwide fame.

Eager to try his luck abroad, he again headed for Europe where he toured in Spain and Germany, and in 2002 he made a series of recordings in the Netherlands with his old friend Rob Bierings. In 2003, Atongo moved to London, hoping for a lucky break. At first he made a living busking in the underground and Covent Garden. A year later in 2004, he recorded the album you have in your hands and since then he has steadily gained more recognition.

Atongo recently finished a long stint as one of the musicians in the UK production of Kwame Kwei-Armah's award-winning theatre play "Elmina's Kitchen". Atongos' most recent musical forays have included a solo gig at the 2005 Womad festival, and performing with The Shrine Synchro System, having caught the attention of DJ Rita Ray. He has also had favorable exposure on BBC's "Africa On Your Street."

The songs on Savannah Breeze are sung in a variety of languages, Atongo's native language of Frafra, Pidgin English and in other West African languages of Hausa, Twi and Ga. The lyrics remain true to the roots of his savannah upbringing, dealing with simple everyday themes. The musical production however marks out Savannah Breeze as modern Afro-fusion. Producer and arranger Sultan Makendé (aka Dave Yowell), who co-produced the legendary Captain Yaba album in the late 1990s, came up with a funky modern African sound which fused modern electronic instruments with the acoustic roots of the African Sahel. Savannah Breeze builds on the musical ideas and grooves he pioneered together with Francis Fuster.

Working with musicians steeped in jazz, funk and African music, Savannah Breeze moves effortlessly through a variety of grooves available to the contemporary musician - funk here, jazz there, a searing griot solo. Atongos' own repertoire has also been informed by his countless encounters with musicians from a variety of traditions. His cover version of the polka classic "No Beer In Heaven" is a major hit in Ghana! Atongo Zimba loves to play music and it shows. And indeed, what catches your ear throughout, is that distinctive voice, alternately praising, and cajoling, poking fun, criticizing, and caressing.

Fortunat Heuss with Scott Rollins

Thanks to
From the President of Hippo Records

Habiba, Lydia - for backing the backing vocals Alex Bapura - for having been a drumming companion through many years
John Collins - for allowing the use of the original material of track 12 " Onikpa Shwarp"
Uncle Pangee - for his studio work back home on backing vocals
Ljubo Majstorivic - for fitting electronics perfectly into the molo
Michelle Banks - for bringing Atongo to the UK
Roland Jones - for great support in the UK Charles Easmon and Fred E. Kwafo of the Afro Caribbean Music Circuit, London - for their introduction to the British music scene
Fortunat Heuss - for conceptual support
Rita Ray - for her support

In 1990 I had the distinct pleasure of attending the huge PANAFEST ® event that was being held in the Trade Fair grounds in Accra, Ghana, close to the renowned Labadi Beach.
Literally hundreds of bands and musicians were showing off their creative talent and I was having the time of my life.

In the midst of all, my ear was caught by the power of a voice that was both raw and sharp as a knife. Thoroughly intrigued, I headed for the main stage to see whose voice it was. Standing there in front of me, was a young man wielding a homemade two-stringed calabash lute. I was so impressed by this troubadour, that I immediately approached him after his performance. He introduced himself as Atongo Zimba, a Frafra man from Bolgatanga in the savannah grasslands of northern Ghana.

It marked the beginning of a longstanding friendship in which I have been privileged to watch Atongo's musical talents grow from strength to strength. Now 15 years on, I have the honor of presenting this unique album to an international audience.

Atongo, I wish you all the best on your musical journey through the world.

Rob Bierings - Hippo Records


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