Words by Martin Sinnock
Good is indeed good – as this album proves
This is an album of powerful instrumental jazz, based on the ancient traditional music of the Dagaare tribe and Guo people of northern Ghana. The musicians are all based in London and are led by Bex Burch who has lived, farmed and studied for three years with the Dagaaba. Burch served an extended apprenticeship making gyil (wooden xylophones) and it is this instrument that leads the Vula Viel ensemble, supported by keyboards, drums, saxophone and vibraphone. The result is a highly rhythmic, almost orgiastic, barrage of brilliantly performed jazz.
The album is grounded in functional local tradition: four of the tracks are based on funeral music while the other three are recreational. It is during Ghanaian funerals that the gyil, made from sacred Iliga wood, finds its principle performance platform. Despite, or perhaps partly because of this, the entire album has a joyous, celebratory and explosive quality. Vula Viel have taken possession of something very special and created an album that sounds new and vital.