Updated: Oct 6, 2022
Drum by Jacob Robert-Mensah
Omnibus Theatre 6th - 25th of September
Review by Khai Shaw
Gyae Su - Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band
The opening of Drum is for me, one of its standout moments and something that director Sarah Amankwah and sound designer Peter Adjaye should be really proud of. Within a few minutes we are given a soundscape of music that instantly transports you into the beating heart of a proud Ghanian community, even whilst we are aware that we're in a recording booth in the BBC. It's a really accomplished move and one that places the audience squarely into the hearts and minds of our two characters. It really sets the tone from the off! It's this feeling of being transported that reminded me so much Pat Thomas' "Gyae Su." The opening sequence of sweet guitar strings and pulsating drums, followed by the soft tones of Pat Thomas... All make you feel as if you've stepped foot of the plane in Accra right there and then!
Unity - Buju Banton
Both actors in the play perform their roles in the piece brilliantly and Joshua Roberts-Mensah is absolutely magnetic as James Barnor. His self-assuredness, his incredible vocal versatility and his command of the stage are really something to behold, and he drives along the push and pull narrative between his character and Mike Eghan (played by Benjamin Sarpong-Broni) with real flair. All of his retorts and impulses are fuelled by one mission; bringing his knowledge back to Ghana in an attempt to help educate and unify his nation and the whole of Africa. His passion, and fight remind me so much of Buju Banton's "Unity" which I can only describe as a massive call to arms for everyone across the African Diaspora. His vocal inflections matched with the triumphant horns and pacing drums all add up to elevate the urgency of his message; We must stand up and fight together.
Ku Lo Sa - Oxlade
Writer Jacob Roberts-Mensah should be immensely proud of what he has achieved with this being his debut play. There's real care and authenticity within the writing, and a deep and profound knowledge of his community and its struggles. It feels like a love letter to home with a warm overtone, even amongst some uncomfortable conversations during the show. Although the pace does lack in certain areas, it never feels as if it comes undone. Even more impressively, we never feel outsmarted or out of the loop as an audience member. For instance, deep debates about Kwame Nkrumah, the former president of Ghana, don't feel forced or complicated and it instead feels more like a beautiful gateway into the deeply layered history of Ghana and its people. All of this is how I felt about the breakout single "Ku Lo Sa" by Oxlade. His use of Nigerian "Pidgin" across the track, amongst the warm and sweet synths and guitars, serves as a perfect introduction to the next generation of Afrobeats and the real beauty within the genre. You don't need to understand him; you can feel it all within the music, exactly how I feel about Jacob's writing.
Disco Hi-Life - Orlando Julius
As mentioned before, Benjamin Sarpong-Broni gives a very impressive turn as Mike Eghan; a man who is struggling to maintain his cultural identity in a landscape that is forcing him to be something else. As much as we see him being grilled for his current outlook on life by Barnor, we see the residual pride of his nation shine through him, from the music he plays on the show to the knowledge he has of his countries political plights. It's not ideal but he is making it work and Sarpong-Broni does well to play his earnestness through from the start of the play right up until the end. His infections energy and his ability to fuse the old with the new is something that I immediately connected to Orlando Julius' "Disco Hi-Life". I'd never heard a disco/high-life fusion before and the moment I discovered this song my life was changed for the better! The traditional Disco rhythm is a perfect match for the horns and strings that we know so well from Ghanaian High-Life music and it just wants to make you get up and dance, something that Sarpong-Broni and Roberts-Mensah (with the help of the brilliant movement director Naadedei Okine) does extremely well!
Will You Promise - Ebo Taylor
Ojuelegba Remix - Wizkid ft Drake and Skepta
No Condition Is Permanent - Marijata