Drivers Union Group

Por Por: Honk Horn Music of Ghana
(Smithsonian Folkways)

The prospect of hearing 72 minutes of wildly cacophonous squeeze-bulb horns may be too much for even the most patient listener. And as is often the case with world music albums with a field-recording slant, the story tends to be more interesting than the actual recorded document. Indeed, the tale behind The La Drivers Union Por Por (pronounced paaw paaw) Group, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of Ghana's independence from Britain with Por Por: Honk Horn Music of Ghana, is interesting — "honk horn" music originated in the '30s to scare off wildlife from broken-down country road vehicles, as well as to encourage folks to pump up flat tires with more enthusiasm. But in the case of Por Por, the music succeeds because the chaos of folks laying on the horn is melded into 11 seamless, rhythmic creative music compositions that follow a similar formula. An a cappella rallying cry opens the album, followed by tribal percussion and a call-and-response chorus before a horn blitzkrieg, sounds of pumping tires, and wrenches pounding on wheel rims fall into a harmonious patchwork. It's something you might hear at your local conceptual art gig, but better, because Por Por embodies more than 70 years of West African ritualistic tradition birthed from colonial oppression.

 
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