This summer sees the return of the unique collaboration between Ghanain xylophonist Isaac Birituro and British singer-songwriter Sonny Johns, AKA The Rail Abandon. Having created something of a buzz back in 2019 with their debut album Kalba – gaining support along the way from Gilles Peterson, Cerys Matthews and Tom Ravenscroft to name but a few – after something of a hiatus, the duo teased us earlier this spring with the Lapaz EP in preparation for their new LP, entitled Small Small, due in July.


Senye, the first single to be taken from the album, features multi-award winning Ghanain vocalist Wiyaala. Despite its uplifting feel, the meaning of the song (sung in the native language of Birifor) is somewhat darker, albeit ultimately positive and healing. In the typical Birifor culture, when your best friend of the opposite sex loses a partner, it is required of you to be present to provoke them to grieve more. It is believed that the more the widow/widower grieves at the funeral, the more easily they can get over the pain of their loss. So asking them a simple question of the whereabouts of their partner quickly provokes them to grieve more and by that you are assisting them to recover and showing your true friendship in their difficult moment. In short, this song seeks to assist any person grieving a spouse to get over their pain through the help of their friends.

Small Small is a very Ghanaian saying, a direct translation to English, which is used in a wide variety of contexts to mean ‘bit by bit,’ ‘one step at a time’ or ‘slow and steady’. Sonny was first introduced to the phrase on his first trip to Ghana in 2016, when he met Isaac in Kalba, and the phrase popped up over and over ever since. There didn’t seem to be a word or phrase more appropriate as a name for this album, as Sonny explains:

“Any second album is a difficult process – how do you make something that follows on from the first but is different enough? It’s particularly difficult when your first album was made under the unique conditions of having never played together, in unusual surroundings. It is also difficult when you live on different continents from each other. To add to those difficulties, we had to make a record in the middle of a pandemic.

Fortunately, just before the world was locked down, we’d written and recorded the basis of the album over three days while on tour in Germany in October 2019. Then we went about adding our own musicians to the recordings in Ghana and the UK respectively, bringing everyone together via the internet instead of physically. Everyone involved had been hit dramatically during this period, some physically, some financially, all emotionally.

The rise of the BLM movement during this period also made a big impact on a project designed to unite people, bring equality and encourage mutual respect. The death of Tony Allen also hit us hard early in this period too – Tony (also of maternal Ghanaian heritage) was a person who united West African and European musics and cultures seamlessly and was instrumental in bringing together (indirectly) the music of Isaac Birituro & The Rail Abandon.

So, we finished this album over the intense year of 2020 influenced by the difficulties that we, and the world, have been through. The album is about loss, frustration and struggle, but it’s also about the light at the end of the tunnel; about overcoming difficulties to find a brighter future and no matter what separates us, whether that be language, culture, continents or boarders, when we listen to each other and learn from each other, there’s really not much that separates us. So from everyone involved, here’s to a brighter future.”

Radio Play & Reactions

BBC 6Music Playlist (A-list); and played by Lauren Laverne & Gemma Cairney on the BBC 6Music Breakfast Show (While You Were Sleeping exclusive play); Jamz Supernova (BBC 6Music); Guy Garvey (BBC 6Music); Craig Charles (BBC 6Music); Tom Ravenscroft (BBC 6Music, New Music Fix); Deb Grant (BBC 6Music); Gideon Coe (BBC 6Music); Huey Morgan (BBC 6Music); Chris Hawkins (BBC 6Music); Steve Lamacq (BBC 6Music); Mary Anne Hobbs (BBC 6Music); Annie Mac (BBC 6Music); Tash LC (BBC 6Music New Music Fix); Radcliffe & Maconie (BBC 6Music); Amy Lame (BBC 6Music); Ruth Fisher (Jazz FM, UK); John Kennedy (Radio X, UK); Toshio Matsuura (Inter FM / Worldwide FM, Japan); Debbie Golt (Resonance FM); DJ Ritu (Resonance FM); John Warr (Totally Radio, UK), Global Riddims Radio; Marcus Agerman Ross (Planet Yes! Totally Wired Radio) & many more….

“Wah Wah 45s bringing us that heat. I love them as a label.” Jamz Supernova (BBC 6Music)

“A bit of new music I’m really digging right now.. It’s groovy isn’t it!?” Craig Charles (BBC 6Music)

“Love that!” Gemma Cairney (BBC 6Music)

“Perfection… Absolutely loving that.” – Annie Mac (BBC 6Music)

“This is brand new from my favorite UK indie labels, Wah Wah 45s brilliant label. I think I mentioned last time I played this that Isaac Birituro & The Rail Abandon was one of the last gigs I went to before lockdown at a little venue by the river in East London… And now they’re back with a new track featuring Wiyaala.” Deb Grant (BBC 6Music)

“Pure Joy!” Tash LC (BBC 6Music)

“Funky :)” Mad Mats (Local Talk, Sweden)

“Fab!” DJ Ritu (Resonance FM)

“Niiice!” Tony Nwachuku (CD-R / Attica Blues, London, UK)

“Good groove.” Toshio Matsuura (Ex-UFO / Inter FM / Worldwide FM, Tokyo, Japan)

“This one is an afrobanger!” Emanative (Jazzman / Brownswood Records, UK)

“Uplifting summer music !” Michael Ruetten (Soul Searching Radio, Germany)

“Killer! I just had Wiyaala live in Leeds guesting with ONIPA. Lioness of Africa. Supporting on the radio and in clubs/bars.” DJ Lubi (The Wardrobe / Hifi Club / Totally Wired Radio, Leeds)

“Lovely!” Mr Beatnick (NTS Radio / Mythstery Records, UK)

“Yes, love this big time…..” Dr Bob Jones (Soul legend, Totally Wired Radio, UK)

“Amazing tune – huge sound!” Dusty (Jazz & Milk, Germany)

“It really is an absolute banger! Jesus LORD!” Delia Tesileanu (Soho Radio, UK)

“Cool track!” DJ Angola (No.8, XL, Space, Ibiza)

“Cool one. Like the upbeat vibe and vocal arangement. They have released a good selection of tracks but this i my favourite from this band to date. Will be featured on the show.” John Warr (Afrobease, Totally Radio, Brighton, UK)

“Love it!” Maken (Polish National Radio, Czworka, Poland)

“This is such a great track. A wicked groove and the vocals are amazing. Just one of those tracks that just bring you joy.” Bob Hill (Totally Wired Radio, UK)

“Love this rhythm.” Veronique Prebon (Radio Krim, France)

“Joyful, SUMMER VIBES.” Steve KIW (1BTN, Brighton, UK)

“Pure blast!!! On air!!” Olgierd (Sofa Surfing, Poland)

“Summer groove!” Olivier Cavaller (De La Bonne Musique, France)

“Nice upbeat afro business..big for the dancefloors in the summer!” Raj Selli (Solar Radio, UK)

“Pure fire. Thank you!! Excited to play this on my KEXP radio shows and in the clubs. Wicked tune. Thank you!!” Kid Hops (KEXP 90.3FM, USA)

“Top sound.” Roberta Reach Out (Totally Wired Radio, UK)

“Just a piece of sunshine!” Mr Lob (Melbourne, Australia)

“Brilliant :)” Chris Knight (Astrojazz, Edinburgh, UK)

“Floor filler, great.” Amar Kabouche (Fauve Radio, Hong Kong)

“Fire!” Dobromir Marzov (The ’45 RPM’ radio show on Radio Varna (part of the Bulgarian National Radio), Bulgaria)

“Lively single.” Alex Ruder (KEXP 90.3fm, Seattle USA)

“Ethereal and beautiful.” Paul Knight (Reform Radio, UK)

“Love the energy of this! Awesome.” Peter McLennan (Base FM, New Zealand)

“Perfectly rough but sweet.” Jamie Renton (Chilli Fried, UK)

“Great piece.” Robert Lochmann (Radio X, Frankfurt; Radio D59B, Belgrade, Berlin)

“Great as always.” DJ Lamp (Coalition, Brighton, UK)

“Makes me smile!” David Bassin (Freefall Radio, USA)

“Great track. Nice energy.” DJ Expression (Whatshotradio, UK)

“Deep sounds and message. Forceful performance.” Derek Rath (KPFK, LA, USA)

“Ibibio mets Angelique and Wiyaala wins. A fabulous track, bags of energy.” Drummie Dave (UK)

“That really is a very fine tune.” Dan Wesker (Detektor FM, UK)

“Superb! Really a great tune – full support.” Sven Thomschke (Radio Z 95.8FM, Germany)

“Love the vibes!” Nick The Greek (Totally Wired Radio, UK)

“Brilliant song!” Enrique Domenech (Freeform, Spain)

“Ace!” Jon Freer (Freer Sounds, UK)

“Good one!!!” Markus Milz (Further In Fusion, Radio Corax, Germany)

“Typically brilliant for the Afro-boogie dance floor.” Gerry Hectic (Futuristica Music, UK)

“Love.” Amrisha Prashar (Radar Radio, UK)



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