On 6 March 1971, African and African-American musicians join together to celebrate Ghana's 14th anniversary of independence from British rule. After Ike and Tina Turner perform the concert's title song, "Soul to Soul," marked by high energy and the dancing of Tina and the Ikettes, the film shows the airplane ride into Ghana taken by the concert's many artists. As the tour guide explains the nation's history, the mostly African-American performers, including Wilson Pickett, The Staple Singers and Les McCann, explain that they feel like they are coming home to their motherland. On the plane they enjoy impromptu performances, and once they land are thrilled and overwhelmed by the rapturous reception from the locals. Pickett in particular is hailed by the Ghanaian people. The group is brought to a local restaurant, where a Ghanaian professor educates them further about the country's history. He notes that he can stand on a New York City corner and identify each person's specific African ethnicity, so obvious are their individual roots. The performers are treated to several trips and activities meant to illustrate Ghanaian culture. One night, they attend a presentation of indigenous music and dance, watching raptly as the many tribes perform. On the morning of the concert, which takes place in the Black Star Square in Ghana's capital, Accra, the site is blessed with a libation ceremony. That night, the concert begins with Ishmael Adams and the Damas Choir, followed by Pickett's rendition of "In the Midnight Hour." The 100,000-person crowd is thrilled and vocal. On another day, the musicians take a bus tour to the village of Aburi and wander the market, noting the vibrant textiles, jewels and crowds. After chieftain Nana Osae Djan II is carried in on a pallet and brought to a seat on a dais, the locals teach the American performers their music and dance, and the group The Voices of East Harlem play for the chief. Back at the concert, performances by The Voices of East Harlem and Santana with Latin jazz percussionist Willie Bobo electrify the crowd. By the time jazz musicians Les McCann and Eddie Harris play, the sun has set. McCann invites onstage with him Ghanaian musician Amoah Azangeo, a witch doctor and drummer whom McCann calls "a hero" and whose music mixes elements of ballet, basketball and rhythm. The film then follows Azangeo to his home village, where he performs, then later joins in a ritual. In a series of quick scenes,the following Ghanaian rites are shown: African men working in fields, crowds worshipping in church with a choir, the welcoming of a new baby, a wedding ceremony and a funeral. Later, the Americans visit a slave dungeon and are strongly affected and saddened by the sight of the thick brick walls and shackles on the floor. At the concert, The Staple Singers perform several songs, intercut with scenes of them shopping at a market for print batik, watched with amusement by the locals. After Tina Turner sings "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" and "River Deep¿Mountain High," she performs the blues song "I Smell Trouble." Pickett wraps up with "Land of 1000 Dances," and despite the very late hour, the delighted crowd sings along. Some young men are so moved by the music that they climb onto the stage, kick off their shoes and dance into the night.
The Staple Singers
The Voices Of East Harlem
Ghana Arts Council Folkloric Company
Ishmael Adams & The Damas Choir
Tamale Bambaya Group
Accra Nandom Bawa Group
Accra Ga Royal Drummers
Nana Osae Djan Ii
Nat Adderley Jr.
Robert H. Brown
Robert H. Brown
Cathy Carapella, Diamond Time Ltd.
Antoine "fats" Domino
Joe R. Fineman
Walter Herbert Jr.
Peter D. Rosten
Some of the opening cast credits are shown on painted signs held by parade-goers and include occasional spelling mistakes. Ike Turner and Tina Turner are listed in the onscreen cast credits as "Ike and Tina Turner." Robert H. Brown is listed in the credits first as an additional editor and later as an assistant editor. The viewed print was the 2004 DVD re-issue and included many credits for the production crew of the DVD, which was produced by Reelin' in the Years Productions LLC. The exact original release credits have not been determined, and some of the credits listed above were obtained from contemporary reviews and the film's pressbook. An onscreen acknowledgment thanks the Ghana Arts Council, Dr. Oku Ampofo and Saka Acquaye.
The film depicts the 15-hour, all night concert, called "Soul to Soul," cutting back and forth between the concert and the other events planned for the American artists throughout their stay. On March 6, 1971, 100,000 Africans gathered at the Black Star Square in Accra, Ghana to hear American and African rock, soul, gospel and native music as part of Ghana's eight-day 14th Independence Celebration. The anniversary commemorated Ghana's break from British colonial rule in 1957 under the leadership of Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah, making the nation the first in Africa to achieve independence.
As noted in a June 1971 Ebony feature, Hollywood attorney Edward Mosk, his wife Fern and son Tom were in West Africa in 1970 making the film Things Fall Apart when Tom suggested a "West African Woodstock." The following information was gleaned from the booklet accompanying the 2004 DVD reissue: Years earlier, noted poet Maya Angelou had first suggested celebrating Ghana's independence anniversary with a concert featuring African-American artists. However, it was not until the Mosks' involvement in 1970 that the concert became a reality. Ed Mosk engaged producer Richard Bock and secured the Ghanaian government's approval and financing from Warner Bros. After repeated attempts by the Ghana Arts Council to restructure the agreement, however, Warner Bros. left the project in January 1971. Mosk then received funding from Bank of America, and after many more last-minute delays, Mosk was compelled to sign a contract with the Ghana Arts Council that contradicted agreements he had made with Bank of America and distributor Cinerama Releasing Organization. The Ebony article also stated that Atlantic Records partially financed the production in exchange for the rights to release a record based on the concert.
A February 1971 Variety news item stated that Marion Williams would perform at the concert, but she eventually declined involvement. Although Roberta Flack performed two songs during the concert (identified by Filmfacts as "Freedom Song" and "Tryin' Times"), she did not appear in the DVD version that was viewed. According to the DVD booklet, Flack requested that all footage of her be removed from the DVD version. Modern sources add to the cast Kevin Griffin, the lead singer on The Voices of East Harlem song "Run, Shaker Life"; Neil Schon, guitarist for Santana; Michael Shrieve and Greg Rolie of Santana and Ghanaian drummer Obo Addy. The DVD booklet states that Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Booker T. & the M.G.s, Louis Armstrong and Nigerian musician Fela Ransome-Kuti were invited or considered to be part of the concert. Although a modern source states that Maya Angelou and Nelson George were directly involved in the film, their contributions have not been confirmed.
Of the performances, according to the DVD booklet, Carlos Santana's had the most affecting influence, kicking off a wave of Latin-tinged music in Africa. The musician then had several Ghanaian sites named after him. As noted in the LAHExam review, Wilson Pickett was the performer most well-known by the Ghanaian audience.
Los Angeles Times reported on January 5, 1971 that Soul to Soul had won the Ethiopian Film Festival's highest prize, the Golden Lion of Addis Ababa. According to the DVD booklet, the film never recovered its costs, despite a brief re-issue on video in the mid-1980s. In October 1973, Variety noted that Artisan Releasing Corp. had acquired the film for re-release, and Daily Variety stated in March 1985 that Miramax Films had acquired worldwide rights to the film.
DVD extras, not included on the original theatrical version of Soul to Soul, include Ike and Tina Turner performing Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long." In addition there are four tracks of commentaries by the concert's artists and producers.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971