Fresh: Vula Viel – Good Is Good
Bex Burch spent three years living, farming and studying in the village of Guo in Upper West Ghana – Vula Viel means ‘good is good’ in Dagaare, the language of the tribe she stayed with.
Now back in London, Bex has got together with a rich selection of young talent to form this group. The main focus of the music is the Dagaare xylophone known as the gyil, and the group interpret Dagaare sounds in their own way. Added to this is two drummers, synth and sax.
Yes Yaa Yaa (I Beg), Based on Yaa Yaa Kolo, of which my main memory is of playing under the full moon with what felt like hundreds of the Guo community came to play our newly finished gyilli. Yaa Yaa Kolo was played round and round as the dancers danced round and round the xylophones in a frenzy or dust and feet.
Takyen Korakora (Don’t Go There) draws on Dagaare funeral music, a powerful harmony itself helps the dead transition to the ancestor world.
Lobi (Neighbour tribe) Thomas Segkura, was proud to be the only one in Guo who knew neighbouring tribe’s Lobi music. And just as he worked out the songs at home and changed parts to make them his own, Vula Viel have introduced a high-life bell pattern, two bass drums and bass synths laying it down!
Gandayina (the breadwinner has died). Lobi and Dagaare funerals are all about chaos, truth, crying, wailing, facing up to our shadow, falling, going down til one reached the bottom. The songs are played to bring harsh truths to the mourners, “You didn’t look after your husband, now the main breadwinner has died and you will suffer”. Your only response is to dance, wail, be seen for all your failings. At which point, hungover and tired, you realise you are laughing, rebuilding, and have survived.
Zine Dondone Zine Daa (You’re Sitting With An Enemy, You’re Sitting With A Drink) This tune came about when i was playing a solo at an early Vula Viel gig in Hoxton. We were up on a balcony looking down at everyone in a beautiful brick railway arch with bare stone floors. I started on this tune and Dave De Rose caught the bell pattern, George Crowley caught the octave riff and something took off! I started jumping and jumping and the crowd started dancing round and round; magical.
Bewa (Let Them Come) Bewa is the Dagaare dance music, and comes in a few forms, a few dances. The meaning of Bewa is Let them come! By playing Bewa in Guo, we’d call people to come and dance and sing.
Bekone (The Chief’s Family, They Fight Among Themselves) An insult to the chief’s family and how they neglect the people by fighting among themselves. At the funeral I heard this, Men and women wailed and shouted, one woman in particular danced in spirals, desperate. She ripped her clothes and became naked. At first I felt embarrassed for her, that she could be seen by everyone, but as I looked at the chief, standing and watching the wretched woman, I was struck by how this powerful, rich, controlled man could never express himself in such a raw, vulnerable and beautiful way.