In September 2017, Isaac Birituro walked into a court yard with a xylophone he had made and was delivering, to be introduced to Sonny Johns. Isaac sat and played the gyil to show off the instrument and on hearing the familiar deep buzz, Sonny ran to find his guitar. Fortuitously, after Sonny had recently moved to playing in an alternative tuning, both the xylophone and guitar we’re tuned to the same key. From this moment on a musical connection was born.
Isaac Birituro is a master gyil (xylophone) player from Saru, Northern Ghana. Son of Edmund Dorwana, nephew of Kakraba Lobi, his heritage is impressive. Sonny Johns is a Grammy, MOBO and Mercury nominated producer/engineer, and guitarist/vocalist in The Rail Abandon. After this instant musical connection, they spent three days in the church in Kalba recording the basis of the album of the same name. Having worked with African legends such as Ali Farke Touré, Fatoumata Diawara, Oumou Sangaré, and Tony Allen, Sonny was well placed to capture Isaac’s musical mastery and produced the album’s unique “Afrolktronica” sound.
The Album Kalba was release in the summer of 2019 to critical acclaim and initial success, continuing with a tour in the UK and Germany along with fellow The Rail Abandon members, Raph Clarkson and Yuval Wetzler, Kalba Birifor Choir singers Helen Domkier and Emmanuel Dery Kuusani and Equatorial Guinean singer Yolanda Eyama.
Over the period of the tour in 2019 the band developed their live performance and tighter, more dramatic rhythmic sound culminating in the recording of a second album, Small Small. In the process of finishing this album IBTRA worked with musicians from the first album, Simon Arthur (percussion), Mark Lockheart (sax), Laura Jurd (trumpet) as well as new collaborations with South African singer Nosihe, Nigerian Afrobeat legend Dele Sosimi and the “Lioness of Africa” Ghana’s very own popstar, Wiyaala.
Since it’s release in July 2022, The second album Small Small has received a warm welcome, being A listed on BBC music, playlisted on XFM’s Xposure playlist as well as numerous plays and radio reviews in Germany. The band are now working with Wiyaala as lead vocalist, along with Emmanuel Dery Kuusani on an 11 date tour of Germany in September 2022 (see ‘Live’ for more details).