Hamed Kane - Akassa
I was sorry to hear that Senegalese Drummer & Singer Hamed Kane has passed away following a short illness at the age of 66, following a phone call from Mo Khan who broke the very sad news.
I was introduced to Hamed by Thom McCarthy back in 1998, and in the Offbeat studio he created the first ever album of Bayefall Music entitled Akassa - on the Offbeat Scotland label with World Music distribution through Sterns Music.
The experience of producing this album, despite very limited verbal communication because of language issues, was memorable.
Starting out with one classic Neumann U87 microphone, on loan from Jon Turner of Palladium Studios, we recorded onto a single 8 track AdAT Recorder whilst running Cubase on an Atari 1040 computer using midi sync in the Offbeat Studio.
Hamed's English improved radically over the period that we worked together and eventually I was told the story behind the making of the music.
Hamed had built his own khin drums in a set of three, Bass Khin, Rhythm Khin and Solo Khin. The lyrics for the songs were written by NDigel, Hamed's spiritual master and leader of the Serere tribe, who are called Bayefall because of their Sufi faith. Hamed explained that when they converted to Islam, the Serere only agreed on the grounds that they could keep and maintain their unique African culture and music.
Hamed put Ndigel's lyrics to music and this album would be the first ever recording of Bayefall music as a result, which I only found out after the event. Hamed showed me a mind map of the album he had illustrated and this is what we referred to when language became a problem.
Putting the album together was a bizarre experience. Hamed laid down the bass khin drum part for all eight songs on the album, while singing the Lead Vocal at the same time.
At this stage it sounded very disjointed to me and wasn't making any musical sense.
When he added the second Rhythm Drum part it began to fuse together a little more. Finally, he added the solo drum and suddenly all the parts melded together beautifully, making perfect harmonic sense and it was revealed that the foundation of the tracks was solid and rhythmically intricate.
He then added a shaker which added some spice to the high end of the mix before adding his vocal harmonies. All played effortlessly, without the need for a click track to keep himself in time.
At that stage Hamed asked me if i would play some keyboards on some of the songs to add some colour, which I was very reticent to do, not being either Sufi, or African, but he insisted I have a go. I explained that because the vocals had been played by him in acapella style, without any musical reference at all apart from the tuning of the drums, it was unlikely that the standard tuning of the synths would be compatible with the tracks, I was fairly sure they would drift out of tune in parts.
To my amazement all the musical parts, including the tuning of the drums which were adjusted by Hamed's ear, were in concert pitch and never drifted at any points throughout the arrangements.
After adding some drone type keyboard effects to the tracks in an effort to be as unobtrusive as possible, Hamed asked me to play Bass and Guitars on a few of the songs. He seemed unconcerned about my cultural concerns so I did my best to blend in with the existing drum and vocal parts and to keep my own influences out of the picture.
Once the album was completed, Hamed was delighted with the results and it was distributed and CD's sold in decent quantities as the second release on the Offbeat Scotland label following some good reviews and radio play and the album was quickly re-pressed to keep up with the demand. As soon as the album hit the shops we performed several gigs and radio sessions including a BBC World Service broadcast to Africa. The album was also featured on many World Music stations throughout Europe although it wasn't particularly highlighted that a white Scottish guy was playing on the album. I admit it was quite gratifying to hear the positive critical feedback
"Thrillingly authentic" - Songlines Magazine.
"Majestic Sengalese Trance Music" - Straight No Chaser
Being a Nomad, Hamed disappeared as quickly as he had arrived and wasn't seen again for several months. He turned up at the studio again as though he had never been away, with his customary joyfully expressed Ja Je Fe Te greeting. I told him I was a little perturbed that the promotion of the album had been effectively on hold following his disappearance, but I eventually had to accept that Hamed's perception of time wasn't quite in sync with my own Western commercial record label concerns.
At that point in time, while I was recording two tracks for our band The Harmonics with Kirsty McKinna and Dave Haswell, Hamed gatecrashed the session asking if he could put his lyrics into the tracks. He pulled out his songbook and began singing into recordings he had barely heard before and were impressed how well it all blended together on songs later entitled Talibe and Never Too Late which also featured Keith More on Lead guitar.
Hamed predictably disappeared again and it was over 20 years later that I received a Facebook message Ja Je fe Te out of the blue and then a telephone call from him in which he said he had settled down and was operating a farm in Senegal. Still drumming and meditating. Just recently I noticed he had stopped commenting on my posts and wondered where on earth he was.
That phone call from Mo was a shock and it's slowly sinking in that I'll never get that special chance to go to Senegal to take him up on his offer of hosting us for a visit to West Africa.
There's no doubt that Akassa was a really special album to be involved in and is a suitable legacy for this very special human being and master drummer.
It will be made available digitally as an Offbeat re-release in the near future.