Cult Classic: Rim Kwaku Obeng-Rim Arrives.

For collectors of Afro-funk and disco, many albums remain tantalisingly out of reach. This includes Ghanian drummer Rim Kwaku Obeng’s legionary lost debut album Rim Arrives. It was released in 1977, four years after a perilous time for Rim Kwaku Obeng. 

He found himself stranded in London, without money, documents or friends. Soon, Rim found himself homeless, and spent six long and lonely months sleeping rough. It was only through a chance meeting with Joan Armatrading that Rim got his life back on track. This was the start of Rim Kwaku Obeng’s comeback.

By 1977, he found himself in San Francisco. Disco was at the peak of its popularity, Everyone was jumping on the disco bandwagon. Rim Kwaku Obeng was no different. When he entered the studio, Rim was determined to record an album that would fill dance-floors from Lagos to Los Angeles. He succeeded in doing so, However, it was long after 1977, that songs like Brushing Means Making Love, Gas Line and Believe In Yourself filled dance-floors.

Sadly when Rim Arrives was released, it failed to find the audience it deserved. It was only much later, that DJs spinning rare disco came across copies of Rim Arrives. They were the lucky ones. Very few copies of Rim Arrives still exist and those that do, change hands for up to £200. The story behind Rim Arrives is one of what might been. It was recorded by a truly talented and gifted musician Rim Kwaku Obeng. 

He started life as Samuel K. Mfojo, in Begoro, Ghana.However, when his career in music began, he adopted the name Rim Kwaku Obeng. Music however, was in Rim’s blood.

Both his father and uncle were master drummers. It was no surprise when young Rim followed in their footsteps. Rim was a quick learner. By the time he was eighteen, he was a master drummer. There was no higher position. Or so it seemed.

Soon, Rim became the personal drummer to the Ashanti chief in his community. This was a position Rim held for the next eight years. He held this position until he was twenty-six, Then he heard the comedy group the Accra Trio.

They were playing a type of music that was new to Rim. It excited and inspired him. So much so, that Rim asked if he could tour with them. Given Rim’s position in the community, they agreed. It was to everybody’s benefit. He was after all, the Ashanti chief’s personal drummer.

This was the start of Rim’s professional career. It began with Rim touring with the Accra Trio. Then he was approached by Duke Oketa, the leader of one of the top Highlife bands in Ghana, the Uhuru Dance Band.

Over the next five years, Rim toured Britain, America and even Russia with the Uhuru Dance Band. During that period, he honed and perfected his playing style, Rim also became firm friends with Duke Oketa as the Uhuru Dance Band toured, All the time, their music continued to evolve. That was the case for five years, until Rim was called up and had to spend time in the armed forces.

Once Rim’s time in the armed forces was over, he was reunited with his old friend, Duke Oketa. He told Rim he was going to Los Angeles for a recording session. What’s more, he wanted Rim to accompany him. This was no surprise.

Rim and Duke travelled far and wide for five years. By then  they had become firm friends. So when Duke Oketa headed to Los Angeles for a session, Rim went too.

By then, the Uhuru Dance Band could do no wrong. Every song they recorded, had the potential to be a hit. So, for their next session, Duke Oketa decided to head to Los Angeles, and one of the city’s top studios.

Once there, Duke booked a studio for a new recording. Duke, however, didn’t do things by halves. He booked one of L.A.’s top studios, A&M Studios. However, Duke wasn’t done yet. For his session, he hired a huge string section. They made their way to the A&M Studios expecting everything to be ready. It wasn’t. 

There were no charts awaiting the string section. Duke had no option but to postpone the session for a week. Luckily, Duke knew a man who could have the charts ready within a week. That was his drummer and friend, Rim Kwaku Obeng. He got to work preparing the charts. Within a week they were completed. Duke was so pleased that he paid Rim $700. While all this was playing out, one Quincy Jones was watching on.

He just happened to be spending some time at A&M Studios. When Quincy Jones saw how Rim handled the situation with the charts, he was impressed, Preparing the charts within a week was a big ask. However, Rim managed it. So, Quincy Jones asked Rim to join him. Unfortunately for Rim. Duke got involved, and threatened to sue Quincy Jones if Rim left his employ. Despite ruining the opportunity of a lifetime, Rim stayed loyal to Duke. That was a big mistake.

After the L.A. escapade, Duke invited Rim to accompany him to London. Duke told Rim they were going to record with “a band called Traffic” and Joan Armatrading, who was then, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter. For Rim, this must have seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

When Duke and Rim arrived in London, they booked into a hotel. Everything it seemed, was going well. However, that was until Rim’s second morning in London. Rim discovered that Duke had checked out of the hotel taking with him Rim’s passport, documents, money and luggage. While the hotel staff were sympathetic at his plight, this left Rim with a huge problem, how did he get home? The answer was, he couldn’t. 

With no money, passport or documents, Rim was stranded. What’s more, he had nowhere to live. In the space of little over twenty-four hours, Rim found himself homeless. For the next six long and lonely months. Rim spent them sleeping rough. He was down, out and destitute. It was as if his world had ended. Over the next six months, Rim experienced hell on earth. It was only after a chance meeting with Joan Armatrading that Rim turned his life around. 

One day, Rim saw that Joan Armatrading was playing in Ronnie Scott’s jazz club. He recognised and remembered the name. Here was the young singer-songwriter that he was meant to work with when he arrived in London. So, he returned to Ronnie Scott’s the night Joan was playing. He couldn’t get in, given his dishevelled state. So, Rim tried plan B.

Rim found a phone box and tried to phone home, call collect. No luck. Eddie Lee who he was phoning wasn’t around. With things going from bad to worse, and Rim exhausted, he fell asleep in the phone box. That was until someone wanted to use the phone. Then Rim was on the move again. He was out of luck. Or was he?

Surrounded by hotels, Rim decided to try and find a hotel where he could either phone home, or spend the night. Then fate intervened, The hotel he decided to try was the one where he spent his first night in London. When the receptionist who had asked him to leave, saw the state of Rim she was worried. Rim told her what had happened, and slowly, she began to realise that he was a well known musician. So she allowed Rim to phone Eddie Lee.

Having got through to Eddie Lee, his old friend paid for a room in the hotel for three weeks. Eddie Lee also got in touch with Joan Armatrading

When she heard what had happened to Rim, and what he’d been through, Joan promised to help him. 

No longer was London the lonely, scary place it had been for the past six months. During that period, Rim had survived by the skin of his teeth. It had been a terrifying time, Now life was looking up, and could only get better for Rim. Joan took Rim home, got him fed and cleaned him, and the next day, bought him new clothes. Soon, he was rehearsing with Joan’s band. Thanks to Joan Armatrading the next chapter in Rim’s life was about to begin.

By 1977, Rim Kwaku Obeng had gone from sleeping rough on the streets of London, to Los Angeles. He had struggled to raise the money to cross the Atlantic. Eventually, he had saved enough, that he could say goodbye to London. 

When he arrived in L.A., Rim was able to stay with a friend while he found his feet. Soon, he was working with a group of expat African musicians. Some weren’t even professional. However, before long, Rim turned them into a crack band who were able to seamlessly, combine Western and African music. This fusion of musical influences, would feature on Rim’s debut album.

For his debut album, Rim Arrives. Rim had written seven tracks, He took the band he had honed, and augmented them with some top L.A. session players. 

When the recording sessions for Rim Arrives began, Rim took his place in the rhythm section, where he played drums. That wasn’t all. He played piano, bells, clavinet, congas, piano, shaker and timbales. Joining Rim in the rhythm section were basists Baba Tunde, Max Bennett and Phillip Scott; and guitarists Arthur Adams, Jimmy Garrett and Kevin Way. Kwesi Topsy played congas, Fifi Essel shakers and Thomas Hensley piano. The horn section featured trombonist Steve Johnson; trumpeters Robert Hicks and Steve Kurash; and saxophonists Frank Mayes, Stanley Hood and Dennis Dreith who also played the flute. Anita Berry  and Shirley Washington added backing vocals. Akua Sewaa switched between lead and backing vocals. Producing Rim Arrives were Rim and Kwaku Lynn. Together with a crack band of African and American musicians, they recorded what could’ve, and should’ve been an album of dance-floor fillers.

Especially with 1977, being the year disco’s popularity peaked. Everyone and anyone were releasing disco records. This included the biggest names in music, actors and stars whose career had hit the buffers. However, back in 1977 Rim was one of the rising stars of Afro-funk and disco. Rim Arrives, his debut album, many felt would lunch his career. 

That didn’t happen. Instead, Rim Arrives failed to find an audience until much later. when DJs spinning rare disco came across copies of Rim Arrives. They were the lucky ones. Very few copies of Rim Arrives still exist. That’s until the recent release of Rim Arrives by BBE Africa. At last, this hidden gem can be heard by everyone. Here’s what’s in-store for them.

Gas Line opens Rim Arrives. Straight away, drums pound, horns sound and percussion plays. Stabs of horns are joined by what sounds like a party in the studio. By then, the rhythm section are laying down the funkiest of grooves. Meanwhile, Akua Sewaa takes charge of the lead vocal. It’s sultry and soulful. Backing vocals and blasts of horns reply to her call. All the time, the rhythm section and percussion are creating an irresistible, funky and dance-floor friendly backdrop. Add to this Akua Sewaa’s sassy,soulful vocal and belatedly, Rim has arrived.

As backing vocalists sing “Believe In Yourself,” a bass line bounds across the arrangement. Thunderous drums and stabs of blazing horns add an element of drama, while percussion punctuates the arrangement. The backing vocalists add a soulful sound to this anthemic dance track. It has everything you could want in a dance track. Funky? You bet? Soulful? Definitely. What more can anyone one with a track where African and Western influences combine seamlessly.

There’s a change of direction on Sunkwa (Life First). It has a much more traditional sound. Having said that, Western influences haven’t been negated. After almost cha-chaing into life, the Afro-beat influence takes over. A piano and guitar accompany Rim’s vocal. Then the horn and rhythm section combine with myriad of percussion. Rim unleashes a vampish vocal, as his band kick loose. It’s a joy to behold.

Backing vocalists add a jazz-tinged vocal as Funky Drummer deigns to show its funky delights. The drums are loud and proud. They’re accompanied by the rhythm section and guitars. Soon, musical genres are melting into one. As the vocal becomes soulful, elements of Afro-funk and disco can be heard. Soon, the track takes on a hypnotic quality, as Rim’s band lock down the groove. Playing a starring role are the backing vocalist, rhythm section and blistering guitar solo. The horns deserve an honourable mention, as five minutes of fabulously funky music shares its secrets.

Afro-disco with a funky twist. That describes Brushing Means Making Love. The backing vocalists get the party started, adding a soulful accompaniment to the pounding, dramatic and funky rhythm section. Stabs of horns punctuate the arrangement. So is percussion. Meanwhile, another sensual, sultry vocal is added. Harmonies accompany it, as elements of classic disco and Euro disco provide inspiration for Rim. By then, it’s apparent that Rim and his band are determined to the listener to 127 disco heaven.

Just the drums and percussion accompany the backing vocalists as Nothing Is Free unfolds. Soon, the bass and growling horns are dropped in. By the time the lead vocal enters, the arrangement is just the rhythm section and percussion. Backing vocalists respond to the vocal, as the arrangement builds. Horns blaze and growl, drums roll and a searing guitar solo is unleashed. It soars above the arrangement, as the band stretch their legs, before the track reaches a dramatic, and sassy crescendo.

Closing Rim Arrives is Spend Your Money. It follows a familiar formula to Nothing Is Free. Just drums and percussion accompany the backing vocalists. Then the arrangement bursts into life. Horns sound, guitars chime and chirp while the backing vocalists sings: “Spend Your Money, miser.” It’s impossible not to be won over by this track. Hooks haven’t been rationed during this good time, dance track. It has an anthemic quality. That’s not all. Like so much of Rim Arrives, Spend Your Money has a timeless sound. It has survived the test of time, and is guaranteed to fill floors and get parties started.

 Rim Arrives was released in 1977, and like so many albums released during the seventies, they failed to find an audience first time around. It was only later, when a new generation of DJs were looking for rare disco to spin, that they came across copies of Rim Arrives. They were the lucky ones.

Given Rim Arrives wasn’t a commercial success, very few copies were sold. Later, in the seventies, a shortage of vinyl in parts of Africa, including Ghana, led to many albums being recycled. Doubtless, this included copies of Rim Arrives. That’s why nowadays, trying to find a copy of Rim Arrives in good condition, is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Even if an original copy of this cult classic turns up, clued up record dealers will be asking anything up to £200. No wonder as it’s essential listening for anyone whose interested in either Afro-funk, disco, funk or soul. The music on Rim Arrives is funky, soulful, dance-floor friendly and timeless. Rim Arrives is also guaranteed to fill dance-floors and get any party started.

Cult Classic: Rim Kwaku Obeng-Rim Arrives.





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