Alabaster Box, sing what they call ‘Afroppella’, uniquely African sounds mingled with their perfect acappella repertoire. They are an all-male, gospel acappella music quartet whose sound is reminiscent of South Africa’s very own LadySmith Black Mambazo. They are fantastic! For a group that has played to audiences all over the world and toured with world-famous musicians, they were pleasant, extremely humble and positively charming.
We met briefly at a Women’s Day celebration and after numerous attempts to meet again I finally did meet with the Group’s founder and current member Sammy to get some insight into this talented group.
My first question was why the name Alabaster Box? A name that for Christians alludes to an anointing or fragrant offering to the Son of God.
Samuel Narku Dowuona the founder of the group explains the symbolism of the name and the Group’s final decision to use it…’they wanted to create music that touched peoples’ lives.’
|Photo Courtesy of: Alabaster Box|
For a group for whom the music is not a ‘day job’ – how have they managed to juggle the demands of their respective careers while still keeping their local and international audiences happy?
Launched in 1995, Alabaster Box is made up of a journalist; Samuel Narku Dowuona, two entrepreneurs in real estate; brothers Gideon and Michael Allotey and Horst Ayub, a graphic designer.
Sammy explains that the passion that all members of the Group have for their music is what keeps them together and doing what they do. They are often to be found playing at small, intimate functions, for corporate organisations and diplomatic audiences.
There has however been a hiatus in the amount of travelling and touring internationally mainly because all members of the group have been busy with the other, equally important aspects of their lives – study, work and family, and as a result the group has found itself not doing as many performances.
“Now, there will be more” Sammy assures me.
I ask why it seems their popularity overseas far overshadows the local following and he blames this entirely on the fact they spent a great deal of time touring internationally in the initial years – which might explain why local bookings waned locally. “We were never in the country for local concerts” he explains. They also found that local audiences were not particularly impressed with their sound in earlier years – people were convinced that the group used instruments – their unique sound of acappella sounds and sound effects had audiences questioning their legitimacy. “People did not believe that we didn’t use instruments to create our sound”.
Now they are looking more to producing other local acappella groups – and working on releasing their third album. In the coming months there is also some travel in the works, with Nigeria, which was a couple of weeks ago and The Smithsonian Institute later in June; a trip that will be their third.
When I ask whether the notion of doing it full time has ever come up within the group, I get a mixed response. Yes, it has come up and no it has not been agreed on by all members. It would require a huge commitment from the group members and a great deal of courage because they would have to give up their respective careers to commit fully – and that’s not an option at this point in their lives.
For now though, they are still charming audiences when they can fit it into their busy schedules, but are hoping to revive the group more with a concerted focus to bringing more concerts to their fans, and to producing other burgeoning acappella groups in Ghana.