“We were not thinking it would move this way!” says Francis Ayamga when we speak via a crystal clear whatsapp call booked to discuss God Created Everything – the debut album he produced for Fra Fra Gospel artist Linda Ayupuka from his Top Link Studio in the hills of Bongo Sou (about as far north as you can go in Ghana). Slated for release on the 24th June via Mais Um the boutique label out to fuse styles, disregard genres and irritate purists – God Created Everything is a mashup of gospel, disco and savannah sounds, produced with all the D.I.Y vim of Balani Show, Nyege Nyege Tapes and the Awesome Tapes roster. The result of a serendipitous meeting on a festival shuttle bus between Mais Um’s label boss Lewis Robinson and Ayamga (who was performing as a percussionist with King Ayisoba at the time) the eight track album puts the bright soprano voice of Linda Ayupuka front and centre, and in the pocket of polyrhythmic drum loops and sampled flutes to create four to the floor electro fra fra that smuggles gospel themes into the club.
We begin our call with a geography lesson from Francis on why he chose Bongo – 15 hours north of Accra and just over 10 kilometres south of Burkina Faso to open his studio. “Bongo is my hometown, and we never had a studio here before. We have so many talented people here but it’s a long way to go to Accra! So there’s a lot of people who are good but have no access to a studio. So I wanted to help my people.” Financing the build with money he made from a mobile phone repair shop in the regional capital Bolgatanga, Francis kitted out Top Link with speakers, microphones and hard drives and was busy recording the many troubadour kologo players of his locale when Linda paid him a visit
Taking up the story she explains the osmosis of her musical education which came via her mother, also a musician: “who would always carry me to where she was performing,” meaning Linda had long been in demand as a live gospel artist when she approached Francis to record her debut. “After the second track, I realised Linda was different! Different to other gospel artists who are all doing it in the same way and sound similar” says Francis, before continuing, “When I started recording her I thought we were just doing it to introduce Linda as a gospel audience. But then as we went on I began to see how her style is so different, her tempo, her rhythm…” Francis and Linda thus realised they could bring something different to the party: “There is other gospel music” he explains: “But you can’t play it at parties or in the club like Linda’s! – It’s just for funerals.”
Listening to God Created Everything this is evident. From the pitched up call and response of Yine Faamam with its bush taxi ready autotune stylings, to “Annebooy” with it’s kwaito bop perfect for the club, the electro gospel on God Created Everything, which is sung predominantly in Gurenɛ language, lands hard in a variety of settings. Shy but cool on the call Linda says of the album “It is my talent, and I’m doing it for people to know god is great.“ Whilst Francis rejoins: “Linda is like a sister to me.”
The conversation then turns to borders as we discuss shows planned prior to the pandemic in neighbouring Burkina Faso and elsewhere. Discussing the eclecticism of God Created Everything we touch upon pan-Africanism which, Ayamga says, “Has mobilised us and led us to discover each other’s music, traditions and lifestyles and to better know each other.” We go on to chat about the pair’s favorite producers as well as Francis’ vision for Top Link to become a destination studio for visiting artists before we wish each other a pleasant day and ring off, leaving me to Google this remote studio where the alchemy of this unique electro gospel album took place.
Listen to God Created Everything out now on Mais Um Discos