1981 – 1986 Bitter Funeral Beer Band

Posted January 1, 1981

Upon my return from Ghana i taught a lot being a missioner for the 12/8 gangokui bell pattern from the Ewe people that I thought might save the world and tried to apply some of what I learned in various musical groupings, among them Archimedes Badkar that recorded an early and quite good version of Darkpen, an arrangement of the Lo-Birifor funeral xylophone music that I had studied with Kakraba Lobi but after some time a bigger group grew out of that to specifically create music around the drumming (mostly Ewe) and funeral music from the north of Ghana. In 1981 we premiered the Bitter Funeral Beer Band at Fasching during Stockholm Jazz Festival:

Drummers Bosse Skoglund and Thomas Mera Gartz, Sigge Krantz on bass and guitar, Mattias Hellden on cello, Thord Bengtsson on guitar and violin, Anita Livstrand vocal and ko-gyil, Kalle Eriksson and Tommy Adolfsson on trumpet plus Jörgen Adolfsson, Ulf Wallander, Björn Hellström, Christer Bothén and Kjell Westling on reeds joined me on the ko-gyil in that first edition of the band where everybody also played percussion on some traditional drumming pieces.

We released our first album (left) on ECM in 82 and toured europe in the fall, playing at the German Jazz festival in Frankfurt. Don Cherry took part on the ECM album as well as the concert in Frankfurt that was recorded by Hessischer Rundfunk for radio and TV.  In the Frankfurt concert we were also joined by sarod great K. Sridhar. Photos by Paul Deker:

Country & Eastern released the concert on cd in the fall of 2007. Live in Frankfurt 82 was nominated for a swedish Grammy.

Most of the concert can be seen at YouTube, here is the first part:

June 25, 2018: The Italian label Black Sweat Records has released “Live in Frankfurt 82” on vinyl! 
This is how they present the album:
“First of all, Bengt Berger – a pioneer of the Swedish underground of the 70’s and historical member of bands such as the Archimedes Badkar and Arbete Och Fritid – is a versatile drummer-percussionist and well-educated ethno-musicologist with several research sojourns in India and Ghana. Deeply influenced by Hindustani, Carnatic and West Africa music, he founded in 1980 the Bitter Funeral Beer Band, an ensemble of 12 elements, basing his ideas on the traditional funeral music of the people of Lo-Birifor, in the northern region of Ghana.
The marriage between this afro polyrhythmic roots, with the spiritual jazz of the eternal Don Cherry and the indian sarod of K. Sridhar is in the direction to a pan-internationalism of profound spirituality, which blends different geographical traditions in a single contemplative gaze. It is the convergence towards a music without boundaries, where every instrumental voice shines and is well fermented and integrated. Music is unity.”
They have also put the album for you to listen on Bandcamp

Our second LP on the swedish Dragon label, Praise Drumming was recorded at Rainbow Studios in Oslo. Today (October 2, 2017) it has been released CD by Dragon Records,

By January 1984 Thomas Gustafsson and Lise-Lotte Norelius and Thomas Huhn had joined the band and we played the Jazz Yatra in Bombay, here are some photos:

The same spring we did a televised concert at Berwaldhallen in Stockholm:

and in the summer we toured in Europe and our Nürnberg concert was televised:

There are four videos from that concert that was later released by Country & Eastern in digital format as Live in Nürnberg 84:

Bitter Funeral Beer Band was really something we all can feel proud about. Here are finally a few links to reviews:
1982 All Music: “one of the very finest items ever released by ECM”
2007 Just Outside:  “one of my all-time favorites”
2011 Tyran Grillo, ECM-reviews: “One of ECM’s absolute finest”

and a beautiful podcast episode about the Bitter Funeral Beer album.Andy tells us about the impact of the album on his life:

all records with 1981 – 1986 Bitter Funeral Beer Band