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WAHDIG153 | 2022-06-03  
This summer sees the return of the unique collaboration between Ghanain xylophonist Isaac Birituro and British singer-songwriter Sonny Johns, AKA The Rail Abandon. Having created something of a buzz back in 2019 with their debut albumKalba- gaining support along the way from Gilles Peterson, Cerys Matthews and Tom Ravenscroft to name but a few - after something of a hiatus, the duo teased us earlier this spring with theLapaz EPin preparation for their new LP, entitledSmall Small, due in July.
Senye, the first single to be taken from the album, features multi-award winning Ghanain vocalist Wiyaala. Despite its uplifting feel, the meaning of the song (sung in the native language of Birifor) is somewhat darker, albeit ultimately positive and healing. In the typical Birifor culture, when your best friend of the opposite sex loses a partner, it is required of you to be present to provoke them to grieve more. It is believed that the more the widow/widower grieves at the funeral, the more easily they can get over the pain of their loss. So asking them a simple question of the whereabouts of their partner quickly provokes them to grieve more and by that you are assisting them to recover and showing your true friendship in their difficult moment. In short, this song seeks to assist any person grieving a spouse to get over their pain through the help of their friends.
Small Smallis a very Ghanaian saying, a direct translation to English, which is used in a wide variety of contexts to mean 'bit by bit,' 'one step at a time' or 'slow and steady'. Sonny was first introduced to the phrase on his first trip to Ghana in 2016, when he met Isaac in Kalba, and the phrase popped up over and over ever since. There didn't seem to be a word or phrase more appropriate as a name for this album, as Sonny explains:
"Any second album is a difficult process – how do you make something that follows on from the first but is different enough? It's particularly difficult when your first album was made under the unique conditions of having never played together, in unusual surroundings. It is also difficult when you live on different continents from each other. To add to those difficulties, we had to make a record in the middle of a pandemic.
Fortunately, just before the world was locked down, we'd written and recorded the basis of the album over three days while on tour in Germany in October 2019. Then we went about adding our own musicians to the recordings in Ghana and the UK respectively, bringing everyone together via the internet instead of physically. Everyone involved had been hit dramatically during this period, some physically, some financially, all emotionally.
The rise of the BLM movement during this period also made a big impact on a project designed to unite people, bring equality and encourage mutual respect. The death of Tony Allen also hit us hard early in this period too - Tony (also of maternal Ghanaian heritage) was a person who united West African and European musics and cultures seamlessly and was instrumental in bringing together (indirectly) the music of Isaac Birituro & The Rail Abandon.
So, we finished this album over the intense year of 2020 influenced by the difficulties that we, and the world, have been through. The album is about loss, frustration and struggle, but it's also about the light at the end of the tunnel; about overcoming difficulties to find a brighter future and no matter what separates us, whether that be language, culture, continents or boarders, when we listen to each other and learn from each other, there's really not much that separates us. So from everyone involved, here's to a brighter future."

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