[15 June 2011]
Is he funky? The man has flares so big they look like a pair of sarongs strapped to his knees, of course he’s funky. More credit might be due to the songwriter Amponsah Rockson and his band than to Funky Rob, whose contribution is pretty much limited to repeating the titles of the songs in an appropriate funky voice. “Funky Rob. WAY!” he sings in “Funky Rob Way.” “Fun-KY ROB WAY! That was the way!” “Distracting,” said my cohort. A human voice draws attention as salt on a damp cloth draws liquid. But it was Way, they say, who had the idea of being funky in the first place. Rockson and his crew were a highlife band before he came along. So give him that. The guitar and percussion sprout with gorgeous torpor, the horns hunch like cats, the keyboard is on ice. It’s the most laid-back thing ever, and yet the most exciting. Funky Rob Way, originally released in 1977, was their first album together, a rarity now, one of the consequences of an enthusiasm for James Brown funk that whipped through parts of West Africa in the ‘70s. The enthusiasm faded, and so did Way’s career. A massive shame, because the album is brilliant. Slow-burning beautiful. Where is Amponsah Rockson now?