Listening Session with John Collins & Colter Harper

‘Listening Back: Accra, the 1980s, and the Bokoor Studio Sound Archives’

event details

when: Thursday, 11.07.2024 at 6:00pm
where: FCA-Ghana, W.E.B. DuBois Centre for Pan-African Cultures
1st Circular Road, Cantonments-Accra

From 1981 to the mid-1990s, producer, musician, and music scholar John Collins operated Bokoor Studios out of his home in Taifa, Greater Accra. After purchasing a TASCAM Portastudio machine, an entry-level multi-track recording machine, Collins developed various techniques to produce sessions by local highlife, gospel, reggae, pop, traditional, and cultural groups. In 2019, ethnomusicologist and musician Colter Harper, digitised 244 surviving master tapes and began working closely with Collins to gather information related to the varied artists he recorded as well as his approach as a producer.

This event brings together researchers, musicians, artists, and curators for an open conversation about this collection of commercial recordings created during a pivotal time in Ghana’s political and cultural history. In Ghana, the 1980s were a time of political uncertainties, economic instability, and exodus. This sound archive provides both a record of the varied bands that existed in Accra during that time and offers opportunities to elicit memories, stories, and affinities to reflect on where the nation stands 40 years later.

There will be live performances by the Genesis Gospel Singers and Nii Noi Nortey.

Colter Harper is an ethnomusicologist and musician currently serving as an Assistant Teaching Professor in University at Buffalo’s Department of Music. His research centers on musical practice, performance, place, labor, and notions of community. In Jazz in the Hill: Nightlife and Narratives of a Pittsburgh Neighborhood (University Press of Mississippi, 2024), Harper looks to jazz clubs in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood from 1920 to 1970 as case studies of shifting notions of vice, blight, and labor and their impacts on African American communities. As a guitarist, Harper has led and composed for his own groups, playing music that draws from Atlantic traditions of improvisation and cyclical expression. From 2007 to 2013, Colter joined the multi-platinum selling, world music influenced rock band Rusted Root as a guitarist and percussionist. Harper is actively involved with developing undergraduate curriculum in music production and popular music studies and was a Fulbright Scholar in the University of Ghana’s Department of Music from 2018-2020.