This summer sees the return of the unique cross-continental collaboration between Ghanain xylophonist Isaac Birituro and his band of live international musicians, 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 – and after something of a hiatus, the duo teased us earlier this spring with the Lapaz EP in preparation for their new LP, Small Small.


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’. Vocalist and musician Sonny Johns, from The Rail Abandon, was first introduced to the phrase on his initial trip to Ghana in 2016, when he met Isaac in Kalba, and the phrase has popped up over and over ever since.

“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 3 days while on tour in Germany, October 2019. Then Isaac and the Rail Abandon went about adding their 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 Small Small 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 borders, when we listen to each other and learn from each other, there’s really not much that can keep us apart. So from everyone involved, here’s to a brighter future.” Sonny Johns from The Rail Abandon.

The Rail Abandon is a play on the name Rail band – the short title of The Super Rail Band of the Buffet Hotel de la Gare, Bamako – a band from Bamako, Mali including such greats as Salif Keita and the more importantly the guitarist Dejimady Tounkara. Inspired by his playing the group were given the moniker The Rail Abandon as a way to release music without a face, specific name or singer. The line up is different depending on the music. Due to a joint love of African musics from across the continent, the core at the moment is Sonny Johns on vocals and guitar, Raph Clarkson on trombone and keyboards, and Israeli musician Yuval Wetlzer on drums and percussion, but it can incorporate any, all, none or more than these people.

As well as the core group, the album also features a number of special guests, including Ghanaian powerhouse vocalist Wiyaala; UK based Afrobeat Ambassador Dele Sosimi; the incredible Queen Ayesha and South African singer Nosihe.

Radio Play & Reactions

Radio play from Craig Charles / Gideon Coe (BBC 6Music, UK) – Doniyan feat. Queen Ayesha; Ashley Beedle (Worldwide FM, UK) – Ta Soo Maa Yele; Quinton Scott (Strut Records, Worldwide FM, UK) – Ta Soo Maa Yele; Simon Harrison (Basic Soul Radio, UK)  – Doniyan feat. Queen Ayesha; Bob Hill (Totally Wired Radio, UK)  – Doniyan feat. Queen Ayesha; Oldenburg Eins Radio, Germany – Fun Tony, Senye & Sivukile; Planet Fruit, Germany; Radio Eins, Germany – Sivukile & Ta Soo Maa Yele; Byte FM, Germany – Dondomo & Fun Tony; SR2 Voyages, Germany; Radio Tide, Hamburg, Germany – Fun Tony & Ta Soo Maa Yele

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

“This album oozes creativity, positivity and joie de vivre.” Greedy For Best Music, Germany

“Vibes!” Rob Da Bank (Sunday Best / Bestival / Worldwide FM / Radio 1, UK)

“Great music great album!!! Thanks.” DJ Simbad (Worldwide FM, UK)

“Stunning record.” Tina Edwards (Worldwide FM / Jazz FM, UK)

“Great record; I can think of one tune in particular that could use a remix!” DJ Angola (Space Ibiza NYC, USA)

“This is a cool project, love the combination of vocal styles.” Tony Nwachuku (CD-R / Attica Blues, UK)

“Great to hear their instantly recognisable sound now backed with so much new vibey instrumentation and exciting collaborations. Love the new guest feature from Wiyaala! That would be an absolutely wild festival show. Wicked fusion of west african styles too on Fun Tony. WW45s family coming together! Love the textures and melodies on Ta Soo Maa Yele, and Sivukile is insanely beautiful.” Village Cuts (Soho Radio / Various, UK)

“Its the total arrangements I really like here. Either Fun Tony which is probably the strongest and for me the most pertinent with its reference to Tony Allen (major loss), to the more pysche ethereal nature of Konkomo which I also love. Great tunes inbetween.” John Warr (Totally Radio / Radio Reverb, UK)

“Again how can I choose a favourite! I have played both the teaser singles sent – with Wiyaala and Dele Sosimi in my shows with such pleasure. The whole album is brilliant . It has a ‘we have arrived’ feel after the wonder of the first one. I like the female presence.” Debbie Golt (Resonance FM, UK)

“Sounding lovely!” Tamar Osborn (Soho Radio / Collocutor, On The Corner Records)

“Really groovy release!” Maken (Polish National Radio, Poland)

“Really like the mix of retro afrobeat sound with up-tempo modern kick. Favourite track is: Senye feat. Wiyaala.” Lady Jane (Mr. Bongo, UK)

“Loving it.” Sarah Evans (Various, UK)

“Loving this!!!” Junior (Record Breakin’, USA)

“Love Kontomo, Doniyan and Dele Sosimi tracks .. will be playing on my show on Solar!” Raj Selli (Solar Radio, UK)

“Good music never ending! one favourite of 2022.” Tiago Santos (Radio Oxigenio, Portugal)

“Very nice.” DJ Bobafatt (First Word / Soho Radio, UK)

“Deep album in between modernity and tradition. Absolutely amazing by the diversity and the melody. The spiritual is here.” Amar Kabouche (Fauve Radio, Hong Kong)

“Yesssss, Sorry I can’t be any more articulate than yesssssssss, but absolutely yessssssssss.” Bob Hill (Totally Wired Radio, UK)

“So lovely!” Olivier Cavaller (De La Bonne Musique, France)

“Love this lp!!” Simon Harrison (Basic Soul, UK)

“Fantastically original music.” Leo Jaheire (Various, Ireland)

“Absolute wonderful album!” Davod Hanke (Renegades Of Jazz, Germany)

“FINESSE, HIGH LIFE, AND MORE!!” Jean Marc Baehler (Radio Television Suisse Romande Couleur3, Switzerland

“Amazing album! with great collaborations!!Congrats!” Enrique Domenech (Freeform Podcasts, Spain)

“Love it!” Sista Selecta (2Bob Radio, Australia)

“Look forward to hearing Dom play this at Where Love Lives 🙂 will sound ace out.” Steve KIW (1BTN, UK)

“Just great. Hope to see them again soon.” Robert Lochmann (Radio X, Germany)

“Small, Small is now Big, BIG – why would that not be so after such great singles previously released from this album by Isaac Birituro and The Rail Abandon? It’s just so rare that there’s 10 tracks that are coherently brilliant in their own world that you could pick anyone of them and not fall in love with it. Full props to both band and label for what must surely be album of the year – AND this is the difficult second album!!! Brilliant.” Gerry Hectic (Futuristica Music, UK)

“Real great album! Sounds plurial with a real identity!” Julien Abels (Radio Campis Tours, France)

“Excellent!!!!” Gordon Wedderburn (GW Jazz, UK)

“Wonderful, joyous, rhythmic delights!” Peter McLennan (Base FM, New Zealand)

“Brilliant LP. Packed full of goodbess ready for the summer. Loving Dondomo. That trumpet is killer.” DJ Expression (What’s Hot Radio, UK)

“Great release.” Livio Pinna (Form Resonance, Hamburg, Germany)

“Perfect.” Rado Tomek (NuSpirit Club, Slovakia)

“Lovely stuff peeps…warm and beautiful vibes! radio play coming up…” Cal Gibson (Various, UK)

“Pure gold!” Dob Marzov (Radio Varna, Bulgaria)

“A journey through musical goodness!” Aja Allsop (Ketch-A-Vibe Radio, UK)

“Great album!” Marcio Martinez (BBE / Last Day On Earth, Brazil)

“What a beauty! Summer vibes indeed! 10/10” Ed Deep South Sounds (Fusion FM, UK)

“Fantastic record.” Alex Ruder (KEXP, Seattle, USA)

“What’s not to love?” Dan Wesker (Detektor FM, UK)

“Boss!” Nick The Greek (Totally Wired Radio, UK)

“FIRE!” Jimster (1 Station FM, UK)

“A really fine album overall, one of my favourites from the year to date. Having already heard some tracks my top pick of those I’ve not yet heard is the highlife swagger of Doniyan, graced by Queen Ayesha’s exciting, urgent vocal perfomance. Very nice, ideal for both radio & playing out. Taking the whole album into consideration I think I’d choose Senye for similar reasons.” Drummie Dave (Various, UK)



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