Swedish master percussionist Bengt Berger formed in the eighties the Bitter Funeral Beer Band as a musical vehicle that interpreted funeral traditions of the Lo-Birifor peoples in the North-Western region of Ghana, where life does not end with death but continues in another realm, and the supposedly dead becomes an ancestor. This band released three albums – Praise Drumming (Dragon, 1987), a self-titled album with Don Cherry (ECM, 1989) Live in Frankfurt 82, with Don Cherry and Krishnamurti Sridhar (Country & Eastern, 2007). Now, about forty years later, on Christmas Eve 2022, Berger formed an updated version of the Funeral Beer Band, which concludes this fascinating life-affirming journey. The Beer now is Cool, but most likely still Bitter, and its first album celebrates the first of three days of funeral music.
Berger wrote all the music for The Creation of the Final Ancestor Shrine – the most ceremonial part where we express our sorrow and loss, and it was recorded after some public rehearsals during 2021-2022 at Dieselverkstaden in Nacka on March 2022 and at Kulturhuset in Stockholm on October 2022. The Cool Funeral Beer Band is a 25-musician ensemble, with only Berger and bass clarinetist Christer Bothén from the original lineup of Bitter Funeral Beer Band, but many of the musicians participated in other projects of Berger. This big Band plans to celebrate Ghanaian funeral traditions in the coming years with Day 2 – The Bathing of the Widows, and Day 3 – The Settlement of the Estate.
Berger who has met and recorded the Lo-Birifor peoples adopts their festive perspective about life and resurrection. He offers a vivid and encompassing Afro-European-Indian musical vision that celebrates life on all parts of this planet, in which the mourning ritual celebrates the richness of life itself and a kind of liberation from earthly shackles. The eight percussionists and eleven reeds and brass musicians play with call-and-answer, compassionate, communal dialogs. Berger leads this epic, dramatic musical ritual with commanding authority, and pays respect to Don Cherry in «Dons Horn».
Lars Almqvist (tp), Bengt Berger (kogyil, perc), Christer Bothén (bcl), Robin Cochrane (balaphone, perc), Signe Dahlgren (s), Marque Gilmore (perc), Thomas Gustafsson (s), Dicken Hedrenius (tb, tuba), Peter Janson (b), Martin Jonsson (perc), Sir Thomas Jäderlund (s, bcl), Göran Klinghagen (g), Jonas Knutsson (s), Sten Källman (s), Marianne Nlemwo Lindén (v, perc), Emmanuelle Martin (v), Livet Nord (vio), Lise-Lotte Norelius (perc, elec, glockenspiel), Viktor Reuter (b), Lisen Rylander Löve (s), Max Schultz (g), Mattias Ståhl (marimba, xylophones, glockenspiel), Staffan Svensson (tp), Henrik Wartel (perc), Mats Äleklint (tb, sousaphone, harmonica)