In the early 80’s to the 90’s I grew up listening to a certain brand and genre of music in Ghana and around the rest of Africa, and you realize the originality, style and authenticity of the music from various musicians.
I will narrow my thoughts to just Ghana considering the angle I am taking and not talk about African music in general.
Music from our own where the likes of Nana Kwame Ampadu, J A Adofo, Dr Paa Bobo, Agyaaku, AB Crentsil, George Darko, Lee Dodou, Pozo Hayes, Tagoe Sisters, Amakye Dede, Ampofo Adjei, Jewel Ackah, Pat Thomas, Smart Nkansah, George Jaraah, Rex Omar, Nat Brew (Amandzeba), Akosua Agyapong, Rev Yawson, Helena Rabbles, Paapa Yankson, Joe Taylor, Mac Tontoh, Osisbisa, Stella Dugan, Thomas K Frimpong, Alex Kunadu, Adomaku Nyamekye, Paa Solo, Sibo Brothers, Nana Acheampong, Daddy Lumba, Felix Owusu, Samuel Owusu, Gyadu Blay Ambulley, Diana Akinwumi, Asaabea Cropper,Onipanua,Kojo Antwi, CK Man,Felix Bell, KK Kabobo, Randy Nunoo, Lady Talata just to mention a few, were the pillars of the Highlife brand music throughout the country and beyond with Bands to compliment it.
The originality of these musicians and their distinct voices set them apart from the rest. Song writing and serving under senior musicians was the school for young musicians who wanted to learn the trade and master it. Many came but they still survive their craft and made it work.
As a young man growing and watching my mum sing with the Police Band in the 80’s I appreciated what our old musicians penned down to entertain the public. I remember my God Father Techie Menson who was a pivotal person in the institutionalization of the Police Band in the 60’s Knew his Music like the back of his hands. He played many instruments and was a master of his craft.
Many were the compositions he made including “Papa superintendent” which was later used by Papa Yankson in his song. He said music was not for those who do not have ‘head’. It’s a serious business and it can affect lives positively or negatively.
Good music was a must for Musicians to create that maturity and competition therefore dropping below the line was not an option. There were not much Radio and TV stations hence making it difficult for Music to be heard unlike today. You need to tour the whole of the country to get your music out there.
So if your music and quality was not Good enough, sorry you will not get airplay. Mastering of the Music was Key, which made many musicians Master their craft with the best engineers and institutions like the Sony music, Philip records, Bodos Tiger, Halwani’s and many others.
Bands were a requirement for all musicians and you could not go to an event with your Vinyl or Record to say you doing Playback. Looking back to the days of old had many bands Like The Dominos, Adishi3 Band, Apollo High kings, Western diamonds, Happy Stars, Megastar Band, Marriot International, Black Beret, Pink 5, Powerful Mercury, Butterfly 6 and many more were there to compliment our Musicians and to also entertain. One musician who has not released an album in more than 20years but still benefitting from his craft because of the investment he did or put in his song, lyrics, composition, and craft is Amakye Dede.
Fast Forward and We have a generation of the ’Fast Food’ era. We are just seeking the Fame from 1 single and play a couple of shows, Write music in seconds and create that beat to go with it. Make some money, get some recognition from the public especially from the ladies. But we don’t learn what is called ‘Music’. Less musicians nowadays knows nothing from their left to Right Musically to even know their Notes, Harmonies, Pitch, rhythm, Vocal dexterity and dynamics etc.
Vocal clarity and originality is alien to most musicians because the lyrics of the ‘commercial’ song is more important than how to train his or her voice to make his craft a profession. Your Voice is your instrument if you don’t know how to play any other musical instruments; therefore you need to spend time in training it and making it the best tool to carve your craft around it.
Many of us still listen to the good old days (music) and we say these artistes are the best we ever had and their songs are evergreen. Its because they spent sleepless nights in putting their acts together, Playing different tours from one region to the other and this made them broaden their scope of what the entire country listen to and loves to hear.
I have too much to say from my experience but will not bore you with all my sentiments but to draw to your attention to the fact that we are losing many of our heroes and mentors in music while there is No one to take over from them.
We ve already lost many music legends in the like of Dr Paa Bobo, Paapa Yankson, Onipanua, and many others. While we are struggling to keep the like of Jewel ackah, AB Crentsil, CK Man, Nana Aboagye Dacosta, Bessa simmons, Nana Tuffour, Dada KD and many more who are getting old and not active as before. Age has taken a toll on them and we will not have them in a certain period to come but their music will still play on for ages.
What History is our generation going to write for the unborn generation to come and meet and study or to listen to? Why can’t we write songs to last for generations to come? If you can’t write your songs……find a composer to do so for you, go to an engineer or music producer who can interpret your vision for you.
Not to say we don’t have good musicians now or good producers, there is! But how deep are we going with our craft? What legacy are we leaving for the next generation? is our music and music production going to survive the next generation or the old folks will still override us in terms of lyrics, quality, entertaining and thought provoking music? Are we going to unearth other highlife talent to continue the Journey or it will someday die off and what will be left will be memories of the old?
Do we have talented voices like the likes of Jewel, CK Man, Paapa, Lee, Pat Thomas, Kofi Bentsil, Armah Pino etc to fill in the gaps when the curtains draw? There are so many questions that bothers my mind and I wish the music industry will take a look back and revise.
The Ghanaian Music has a lot of experience to offer but its up to us to tap in the knowledge of the living than to lose it and have nothing left.
MY 10 GHC PIECE OF MUSIC KNOWLEDGE.
Written By: Nabil ‘Quame’ Alhassan