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African rhythms have me in awe: Katrine Suwalski

 

At the +233 Jazz Bar & Grill in Accra on Saturday, August 20, Danish saxophonist Katrine Suwalski played her horn with enthusiasm as flutist Dela Botri and his Hewale Sounds and Okyerema Kwamena Pra grooved beside her.

The song being performed was a Suwalski composition with Adowa influences, which she presented after presenting works with Kpatsa and Agbadza rhythms from Greater Accra and the Volta areas, respectively.


Suwalski introduced Botri and Okyerema Pra as two major inspirational forces in her quest to understand and embrace Ghanaian traditional rhythms and said it was a big day for her to play with the two musicians at the same time. She was obviously thrilled with the excellent interpretations of her songs on the night.


"I don't know why, but African rhythms really appeal to my soul and emotions. In addition to the joy and sorrow there, I believe it is the danceable rhythms.
The tenor saxophone and musician said, "For me as a Jazz musician, including more African rhythms into my playing is a natural step to take since the Jazz that I like to develop and play thrives on that sort of African input."


Suwalski believed it was time to generally study rhythms after completing her music education at a conservatory in her own country because jazz artists all over the world are frequently under pressure to have a good sense of rhythm and to work closely with their rhythm sections. So in 1994, she traveled to Cape Coast, Ghana.

studying the music of Ghana
Suwalski claims that her desire to visit Ghana coincided with a Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) project that provided financial assistance to young Danes who desired to travel abroad in order to explore new things and also share some of their knowledge with local youth.

As a result, Okyerema Pra, who was her first student when she started teaching saxophone in Cape Coast, introduced her to Ghana's traditional music and rhythms.

She also picked up some dance and drumming skills. Fortunately for her, Okyerema Pra spent a year in Denmark following her time in Cape Coast.

Suwalski joined the band he started there, continuing her excursion into Ghanaian music for a while.

She had another opportunity to collaborate with a Ghanaian musician and get more knowledge about Ghanaian music when she met drummer Ayi Solomon in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark.

Since the late 1980s, Solomon, a member of the band Classique Vibes, has resided in Denmark and performed there.
He plays a significant role in Danish music. Because Denmark is a small country, Solomon plays a significant role in our scene, according to Suwalski.


I've had the good fortune to work with him for approximately 25 years, so I'm always exposed to Ghanaian noises.

It wasn't until 2015 that Katrine returned to Ghana with her Another World Quartet, which featured Solomon on percussion.
They performed at the Piano Bar in Teshie, +233 in North Ridge, and the Republic Bar in Osu. Her first encounter with Dela Botri occurred there.
"He attended our earlier events, but it was at the Piano Bar that he arrived and presented himself with his flute.

Our musical ideas clicked right away after he joined us and began playing with us, according to Katrine, who has since collaborated with him on two albums and two singles.

Additionally, they have performed together in Denmark and Scotland.
She praised Botri and expressed her happiness at having met him and working with him. She claimed that their teamwork had been fruitful since Botri constantly encouraged everyone he worked with to attempt new things.

One of the novel things they recently did was assisting Ghanaian musician Epixode in the production of a jazz rendition of his popular Atia song.

The young artist had has Highlife, Folk, and Reggae versions of his tune, and the jazz interpretation adds a new, energizing dimension.


 

A 2016 documentary titled Music Across Borders on Suwalski's particular combination of jazz and West African influences and her collaboration with Ghanaian musicians was produced by Dr. Gameli Tordzro, a Ghanaian multi-arts expert located in Scotland.

Concert Tours
Ameton Meets Another World was a tour that visited Denmark a year or so after the film's debut.

Ameton, which included the singer Tina 'Elivava' Mensah, Botri, and Okyerema Pra, performed with Suwalski's Another World Quartet in events all around Denmark.

The French-based Burkinabe musician Simon Winse, who plays flute and the N'Goni, a traditional string instrument found throughout French West Africa, and the Danish saxophonist have collaborated on projects in Burkina Faso.

At the 2018 Jazz at Ouaga Festival, they perform.

Together with Solomon, they two, form the BonNoir Trio, which earlier this year performed in school concerts in Paris, France.

Before the year is out, they will perform at additional Danish schools, and hopefully soon after that, they will perform in Ghana and Burkina Faso.

"Ghana has taught me a lot and inspired me so much. My playing and composing skills have both gotten better as a result.

But I believe it works both ways; we inspire one other, and it is always beneficial to seek out new ideas. My travels and meetings with artists from various parts of West Africa have also been amazing.

She most likely had no idea where the fresh musical concepts she set out to find in Ghana in 1994 would lead her.

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