Palm Wine Instrumentals

by Who Is John Smith



About the music:

Palm wine guitar music is a style of music from West Africa. Ghana, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone are some of the countries famous for the palm wine sound. Some of the music is based on adapting the music of indigenous harp instruments, like seprewa, to guitar. The style of guitar finger picking is highly rhythmic, and favors the use of only the thumb and forefinger to pick the strings. This style of picking makes the parts played more equal in volume, and this adds to the poly-rhythmic feeling of the music. Often palm wine guitar music played by only one guitarist may sound like it’s being played by at least two guitarists.

About the album:

As the name of the album suggests, this is an all-instrumental album. As such it is a somewhat rare thing, as generally vocals are a key element of the style. However, the music is beautiful with or without words, and we feel it’s worth exploring new permutations in palm wine style.

We hope you enjoy the album. “Shiny,” “Chasing Frogs,” “Free Chocolate at Bauhaus,” “Black Beauty Blossoms,” “Summer of 2014,” and “Found Her Lost Barrettes” are new original tunes. In tracks 7-16 some tracks appear twice, and this is because there are two different version, one with hand drums and one with rumba box. “After the Big Bang,” “Stage and Story,” “It Takes So Much Energy To Hate,” & “Go To Fly” are based on songs by Koo Nimo. “BTW,” “Sun Clouds,” “Happy Birthday,” and “Tree Life” are original tunes which also appeared, with vocals, on the first Who Is John Smith album “Go To Fly.”

About the band:

Drummer Yaw Amponsah is the son of the legendary Ghanaian musician and palm wine guitarist Koo Nimo (AKA Daniel Amponsah). Yaw is proud to continue his father’s musical legacy. He is a master drummer who is familiar with many styles of West African drumming, and is a specialist in Asante drumming styles such as Adowa, Fontomfon, and Kete. He is the leader of the Ghanaian drumming group Anokye Agofomma.

Guitarist James Whetzel was introduced to palm wine guitar music by the great Nigerian musician I.K. Dairo, and then studied palm wine music in depth with Koo Nimo. James is a multi-instrumentalist, DJ, and producer of hip hop beats, electronic music, and ambient music. He performs solo and in the groups Das Dhoom, DJ Baba James, Mean Deep and Yas/Whetzel.

Special guest percussionist Greg Campbell is known for being a great Seattle based jazz drum kit player. He has performed in innumerable groups in Seattle in many different styles of music. We are very grateful to have such an excellent drummer playing the simple—but very important—bell, shaker, and rattle parts on this album! Greg has learned Asante drumming and palm wine rhythms from Yaw Amponsah and performs with him in the group Anokye Agofomma.


released July 17, 2017

Recorded live at Egg Studios by Conrad Uno on July 21st, 2016
Mixed by Conrad Uno
Mastered by Emch at Subatomic Sound
Produced by Who Is John Smith

Yaw Amponsah: hand drums and prempremsoa aka rumba box
James Whetzel: guitar

With special guest, Greg Campbell: bells, rattles and shakers.


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Olin Place Seattle, Washington

Olin Place is a record label founded by James Whetzel in 1999.

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