A mix I put together for the 'Paa Joe & The Lion' feature documentary that I have been lucky enough to work on. Paa Joe is the greatest living Ghanaian Fantasy Coffin-maker hence the ghost, bones, gospel and general dreadness of this mix. This was to support the raising of the final money required to finish the film which was thankfully successful!
The musical and cultural stew that is New Orleans has always amazed and inspired me since the first time I saw the Bond film ‘Live And Let Die’ and has only grown with the funk and jazz reissues of recent years and the brilliant HBO series ‘Treme’ set in the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina. So I had to begin this mix with a ‘Second Line’ brass track, on this occasion ‘Just A Closer Walk With Thee’’ by the Treme Brass Band. The slow haunting dirge of the band introduces the beginning of the ‘funeral’ and it’s journey through the mix and metaphorically to it’s grave. There are a lot of similarities between Ghanaian funerals and New Orleans ‘jazz funerals’ in the way that they unfold so it seems appropriate as well as a great piece of music.
The next key track is ‘Ancestors’ by the Californian polymath Gonjasufi..a brooding lofi call to his ancestors to ‘take my hand’ and to guide him through his trials. Deep electronics seem to fit well with blues and Gonjasufi’s scarred voice has plenty of it.
Part of the coffin carriers role in a Ghanaian funeral is to confuse the malevolent spirits that ‘attack’ the body as it is taken to it’s final resting place. They do this by spinning the coffin wildly and making bucket loads of noise so Dr John’s ‘Croker Courtbullion’ from his masterpiece of New Orleans psychedelia ‘Gris Gris’ fits the bill nicely as well as lifting the tempo before segueing into Rodrigo y Gabriela’s fierce ‘Diablo Rojo’.
I’m not a believer myself but I have a deep love for devotional music be it gospel, qawwali, roots reggae or soul in any form. Ghanaians are believers so the penultimate song on the mix is the man who brought gospel to the masses and invented what we now know as ‘Soul music’: the great Sam Cooke with his positive near acapella version of the traditional ‘We’ll Make A Way’.
The joy and challenge of creating this mix was having to deal with a subject that I have hardly ever explored in a musical context. It would appear, however, that I own plenty of records that deal with death, redemption and the divine so perhaps they were all waiting for this moment...maybe.