Highlife and Palmwine

Run with uplifting music. That’s important.

Today, I’ve just completed the slightly infamous Week 5 Session 3 of C25K, where after a 5 minute walk to warm up you run uninterrupted for 20 minutes. Now that’s nothing for you seasoned runners, but for the tyro the prospect is slightly daunting.

Anyway, with the help of the excellent Get Running (website) app (iTunes app link) (the best of the C25K iPhone apps I’ve tried, though there’s not that much wrong with the others — this one has an English voice for the prompts, which is good for us Britskis), and my new @Running African playlist, I breezed it though it’s fair to say that I was not running fast or very far. Really. This is quite staggering to me, who have always been pretty rubbish at running.

And my listening while I was doing this was the following (song/artist):

Allah Mungode-Roadmaster & Agyemang
Odo Akosomo-Koo Nimo
Yaa Amponsah-Koo Nimo
Dagomba-Koo Nimo
Shauri Yako-Orchestra Super Mazembe
Sore Saol-T.O. Jazz
Sukuma Songa-Sukuma bin Ongaro

All except Super Mazembe and Sukuma are Ghanaian, and Koo Nimo in particular is just a phenomenal guitarist. There’s a lovely flow and life to all this music, and it’s lovely to listen to at any time, when running or even when preparing a long and complex talk on political risk insurance in the financial crisis (guess what I’m up to now…)

Super Mazembe are wonderful, too, and I’d lost the song for years — I used to have the “Guitar Paradise of East Africa” album, which is how I grew to know the music, but lost it and then found it on iTunes.

Oh yes—why palmwine?

Palm-wine music (known as maringa in Sierra Leone) is a West African musical genre. It evolved among the Kru people of Sierra Leone and Liberia, who used Portuguese guitars brought by sailors, combining local melodies and rhythms with Trinidadian calypso. Palm-wine music was named after a drink, palm wine, made from the naturally fermented sap of the oil palm, which was drunk at gatherings where early African guitarists played.

My interest was re-kindled when I took a cab the other day and asked the driver, a large West Indian guy, what it was. He said that he was married to a Ghanaian woman and that he was slowly the language (or one of them), and that the song was a famous one in Ghana all about a man who was walking through the bush when he met a leopard, to whom he gave schnapps (huh?). The refrain seemed to be about giving schnapps to leopards if you meet them in the bush. Which seemed strange, and it did cross my mind that the guy had maybe not learned quite enough Ghanaian people, but then maybe he had and it was just an unusual song. I prefer the latter.

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