“Work Hard” solidifies King Ayisoba’s reputation as both a shamanic performer and a restless sonic experimenter. The album is a wild mashup of Ayisoba’s frenetic kologo sound and musical deep dives from an exciting roster of Ghanaian producers and contributors. Curated and partially mixed by Zea, from post-punk legends The Ex.
How does modern pop music reflect its surroundings? Given so many artists often find themselves in in-between states, decamped in airport lounges on their way to somewhere else, the idea of one record successfully capturing the magic of two places separated by thousands of miles, may sound like a contradiction in terms. But this is what happened with Work Hard, the new album from King Ayisoba.
Work Hard has a different focus than Ayisoba’s previous releases. This was partly due to the disruptions and adjustments that Covid brought in its wake, which in turn necessitated a more homegrown strategy. The bulk of the recording and mixing was done at Top Link, Francis Ayamga’s hilltop studio in Bongo, a town in the Upper East Region of Ghana bordering Burkina Faso. Francis has become an in-demand producer, due mainly to his previous work with Ayisoba, a relationship that also packed in a European tour as part of the King’s band, playing the djembe and bembe drums.
The record’s core playfulness, brilliantly captured by Ayamga, could be a spirit conjured up whilst playing live back in 2019, when Zea and Oscar Jan Hoogland toured with King Ayisoba, Ayuune Sule, Atamina, Prince Buju and others, “in a big bus driving through the country: a West African Magical Mystery Tour”. De Boer: “Ayisoba said he’d like to ‘chop’ some of my beats with the band. We tried it, then he and Francis started working on things. Sometimes beats went first, sometimes the other way round, but always around the groove of the band. Ayisoba believed he’d show that the [local] tradition was more powerful.”
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