The veteran Ghana-born musician Lord Eric was in fine form at a special one-off performance in London last week.
Accompanied by his band Sugumugu Sunday, he delivered a lively mix of afro-beat and highlife sounds, plus two rocking Algerian numbers, compliments of lead guitarist Mourade Abade.
The event, titled Dream Speakers 2017, was a double celebration, marking both Ghana’s 60 years of independence and the 60th anniversary of Theatro Technis, where the performance took place.
Lord Eric set up Sugumugu Sunday in the 1970s out of a group of musicians who played with the legendary Nigerian percussionist Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers band.
“We were involved in the first Notting Hill Carnival in 1966 and realised the powerful role music could play in community cohesion,” he told World Today Press.
“When Sugumugu Sunday was formed, apart from playing together as a band, one of our main aims was to spread the word about African culture and music through workshops.”
Theatro Technis, a Cypriot theatre company, gave it free rehearsal and performing space and soon Sugumugu Sunday was working with London schools and youth groups.
“The educational authorities thought we were doing valuable work and helped us expand our activities. Soon we were traveling around the country.”
Its family shows, in which children and parents were encouraged to participate, were particularly popular.
Like its contemporaries, Osibisa, Sugumugu Sunday combines African, jazz, and rock rhythms, creating an uplifting and supremely relaxed sound – ‘sugumugu’ means ‘happiness always’. Its current repertoire includes Aba Jowo (Come and Dance), Sewa Sewa Awura and Chicken, all original numbers which are soon to be featured on CD.
The band are seasoned musicians and songwriters and composers in their own right, and also include Kofi-Adu Oheneba on drums, Robert Goldsmith on tenor sax, Boni Wanda, on bass guitar and vocalist Awurabena Zvezdana. Percussionist Lord Eric doubles up as an entertaining frontman, closing performances with his humorous story-songs How the Night Came, and the Tale of the Lion and the Goat.
Why the name Dream Speakers? ‘The group all come from distant parts – Algeria, Ghana, Kenya, UK and Serbia – but we all possess the same dream of a better world,” explains Lord Eric. “We want to speak through our music.”
Lord Eric grew up in Ghana, specifically Winneba and Accra, and was interested in music making from an early age, even making his own instruments. He studied music in London and became involved in the musical counter-culture of the 1960s, in which Ginger Johnson played such an influential role.
He never looked back and now in his seventies remains committed to playing his African beats to as many people as possible.