Some musicians try to save enough cash to afford 1,000 jewel cases to put their album in when it's done. Some want a new amp. Akaya Atule, on the other hand, is tucking away the cash and looking for it in couch cushions for something a bit more ambitious.
"[We want] to record our next album in Ghana," says the radiant and enthusiastic leader of Bolga Zohdoomah, San Diego's most authentic tribute to African culture. "We'd like for it to really have the feel of Africa, to be authentic."
Atule, the daughter of a master drummer, moved to San Diego in the mid-'80s from Ghana, where she grew up in the small village for which her band is named ("Zohdoomah" means "friends of"). So she knows a thing or two about being authentically African.
"Growing up, we used music for everything-weddings, funerals, child birth. Farmers would hire musicians to inspire the workers during harvest," she recalls.
Bolga Zohdoomah doesn't play harvest music. They play "high life"-a fusion of traditional African drums with Western instrumentation, specifically keyboards, electric guitars and bass. High life has been a cultural force in West African countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone since the 1920s.
In the U.S., King Sunny Ade-plus the reissues of records by Nigerian legend Fela Kuti-has helped popularize West African music. In the underground, the tradition is upheld by the revivalist band, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, plus polyrhythmic electronica musicians like Quantic and Mr. Scruff.
"High life music is about fun. It's about forgetting your worries," Atule says. "We can all use a little of that in a busy place like San Diego."
Backed by seven musicians, Atule leads her audiences-including a rather large one at a recent show with Zap Mama-in traditional dances and songs from her village, some of which date back 400 years.
Their current self-titled album features collaborations from local artists such as Al Howard. But their ultimate goal is to collaborate not with a person, but a village of people.
"We need support in order to record in Ghana to tap into the local music community there, and to create the right feeling for the sounds."Bolga Zohdoomah performs at the World Beat Center in Balboa Park for the Peace Corps' 45th Anniversary, 8 p.m. on Feb. 25. $10. 619-230-1190. www.arthurtsrecords.com.