Takashi: New fusions

Takashi (Ga for hustler) is a highlife and Afro-fusion group, organized by guitarist

Cliff ‘Asante and vocalist/percussionist Kojo Essah who is, as he puts it, “a banker by day and a musician by night.” This 10-piece band combines western guitar and trumpet with the traditional atenteben bamboo flute and wooden gyil xylophone, and with African percussion from the Ga ‘kpanlogo’, Akan ‘fontomfrom’ and Malian ‘djembe’ traditions. The group’s bass line is provided by the giant gome frame drum popular among the Ga people of Accra. The aim of Takashi is to provide creative and progressive Africanbased
music to local and international fans. Takashi is also an NGO that doubles as an African research center and music consultancy.

The City Boys

The City Boys is a highlife guitar band formed in the 1970s that combines highlife music and concert party, or a local popular theatrical group that stages vernacular comic plays and highlife operas. Concert parties were initially imitations of American vaudeville and British music hall, complete with blackface minstrels, ragtime music and tap-dancing, all the rage with urban Ghanaian elites around 1900.
However, in the 1930s performers like Bob Johnson and theAxim Trio indigenized this art-form when they took it into the villages – with E.K Nyame’s Akan Trio, before making this comic theatre “fully Ghanaian” in the early 1950s. The concert parties and guitar bands of the late 1940s (Axim Trio and the groups of E.K. Nyame, Bob Ansah, Bob Cole, Kwaa Mensah, etc.) actively supported the nationalist struggle and after independence President Nkrumah supported creation of many new concert parties and highlife bands. By the mid-1970s there were more than 70 of these guitar bands cum concert parties operating in the country. Indeed, City Boys is one of the last active touring concert parties. City Boys was formed by J.A. Ampofo, popularly known as ‘Black Chinese’ in the early 1970s. The group is from Kumasi and has released many record albums. Over the years it has toured all over Ghana and has made several trips abroad. City Boys also experimented with highlife versions of reggae in the mid-1970s, long before other groups, such as Alpha Blondy
and Lucky Dube, emerged on the scene.

Ellis ‘Salaam’ Lamptey and Cultural Imani: Ga cultural group

Singer/guitarist Ellis “Salaam” was born in Accra in 1955 and got his ftrst musical training in Ga cultural groups like Cultural Voodoo and Sammy Brown’s Agbafoi, which combined traditional Ga instruments with West African finger-picking guitar. Salaam then moved on to play withE.T. Mensah’s famous Tempos highlife dance band and other dance bands such as The Barristers and El Beats. In 1980 he formed the Cultural Imani acoustic group that consisted of guitar, gome bass drum and percussion. In August 1981 the band recorded at Bokoor Studio and some of the songs were released on the’ Guitar and Gun’ compilation highlife album by Cherry Red Records of the UK (re-released on CD in 2003 by Stems African  Records of London). In the 1990s Salaam teamed up with his manager, Kobena Andah, and expanded the Cultural Imani band to include bass guitar and horns. In 1992 the group recorded the ‘Djenba’ (the Ga word for character) at the Accra studio of Nana Danso (Director of the Pan African Orchestra), which was fmanced by the German Development Agency. Salaam’s group is currently working on its second release entitled ‘Weku Shia’ (Family House).

Nii Ashitey & Wulomei: Ga ‘cultural group’

Wulomei was founded in 1973 by  Nii Ashitey with the encouragement of

the dramatist, Saka Acquaye. Ashitey, who had previously been a percussionist for The Tempos, Tubman Stars and Worker’s Brigade highlife bands, but decided to
create a more “rootsy” sound to, as he once put it, “bring something out for
the youth to progress and to forget foreign music and do their own thing”.
Except for an amplified guitar, played with the West African finger picking
style, Wulomei’s instruments are indigenous, with atenteben bamboo flutes
and a lot of traditional local percussion that includes the giantgome framedrums,
which provide a deep percussive “bass-line”.
Wulomei plays old Ga and Liberian sea shanties, gome songs, and the kolomashie and kpanlogo recreational songs of Accra and Akan highlifes. To portray the band’s indigenous orientation, Wulomei’s performers wear the white or yellow cloth and frilly hats of the Wulomei or traditional priests and priestesses of the Ga people of Accra.
In 1974 Wulomei released its debut record, ‘Walatu Walasa’ followed by, Wulomei in Drum Conference’ released on the Phonogram label. During the 1970s and 80s, Wulomei made a number of successful tours to Europe and the United States.
Following Wulomei’s initial success, there was a proliferation of so-called “Ga cultural groups” such as Blemabii, Dzadzeloi, Abladei, Agbafoi, and Ashiedu Keteke. Two members of Wulomei also created their own groups.
Wulomei’s gome drum player, ‘Big Boy’ Nii Adu, formed theBukom Ensemble and  Wulomei’s lead female singer,NaaAmanua, formed the SukuTroupe. Nii Ashitey has retired and the second generation Wulomei is run by his son, Nii Tei Ashitey, and daughter, Naa Asheley.

Osibisa: Afro-rock

Mac Tontoh, together with his saxophonist brother, Teddy Osei, and drummer Sol Amarfio, were founding members of the London-based Isibis3 band, which pioneered
rock in the early 1970s. The band has had a large number of hits in Europe
and the USA, and has toured all over the world.
Mac Tontoh began his career in th 1950s with the Broadway Dance Band and Teddy Osei ‘s highlife band, The Comets. After Teddy decided to go to London in 1962, Mac joined the Uhuru (Swahili for Freedom) highlife big band. In 1969 Mac joined Teddy’s London-based group, Cat’s Paw. Itwas out of this group that Osibisa was created in 1969. The name is derived from the old Fanti name for highlife – osibisaaba. Osibisa released its first single record in 1970 – ‘Music for Gong-Gong’, followed by a string of hit singles and albums like’ Osibisa’, ‘Heads’, ‘Happy Children’, ‘Welcome’, and ‘Black Magic Night’. Many of Osibisa’s singles such as ‘Sunshine Day’, ‘Dance the Body Music’ and ‘The Coffee Song’ made it into the British Top Ten. The band included West Indian, Nigerian and Ghanaian musicians such as Kiki Gyan, Koji Ayivor, Emmanuel Rentzos and Potato.
Besides trumpet for Osibisa, Mac Tontoh also played flugelhorn, traditional percussion and the Lobi xylophone that he learned from musicians who had settled in his village in Ashanti.
In the 1990s Mac Tontoh returned to Ghana, where he became an executive member ofMUSIGA, and in 2001, a Commissioner with the National Commission on Culture. He currently manages and plays trumpetlflugelhorn in a band called Osibisa Kete, which includes a huge battery of local percussion.
They have performed internationally and were featured at a recent Edinburgh Festival. Mac is also carrying out the ‘Mac and His Kids Project’ to teach African music in schools.

Ephraim Amu: Ghanaian patriot and father of Ghanaian art music

Undoubtedly Ghana’s greatest exponent of the religious choral music (singing band) and nationalistic anthems was Ephraim Amu. He was born in Peki in the Volta Region in 1899 and is consideredto be the father of the country’s ‘art-music tradition’ .Amu composed an
enormous number of hymns and patriotic songs in Ewe and Akan from the 1920s on. One, entitled “Yen Ara Asase Ni’ (This Land is Ours) has become, in effect, Ghana’s second national anthem. In 1933 he published his book, 25African Songs (Sheldon Press).
In 1927 he joined the staff of the Akropong Presbyterian Training College and his endeavor to “Africanize” the Church (by wearing traditional cloth on the pulpit) led to his dismissal from the Teachers Training College in 1932. This actually opened the way to a long academic career. He taught music at Achimota College for many years, where he introduced the idea of so-called Tribal Nights at the end-of-term, when students had to get out of their school uniforms and wear their indigenous clothes and play indegenous
music and dance.
In the 1950s Amu went on to teach at the university music departments in Kumasi, Winneba and Legon. At Legon he was a member of the African Music Society that promoted both traditional music and that of the guitar highlife bands of E.K. Nyame and Kwabena Onyina. From 1962 Amu became a Research Fellow at the Institute of African Studies at Legon and made many field trips, recording traditional music on reel-to-reel tape. He, along with Professor Nketia, AUa Annan Mensah and others, contributed to the important collection of 600 hours of recordings of Ghanaian ethnic and popular music, folk-tales and dramas, now housed at the Institute of African Studies- Legon.
From 1965 Dr. Amu became the Head of the School of Performing Arts.
He retired in 1971 and continued, in Peki, to compose piano pieces, run a choral group and give advice to those entering the music field. He died in 1995. His daughter, Misonu, continues his university work and is based atthe Institute of African Studies.Amu is  remembered as a composer, nationalist, a ‘creative musicologist’ and an avid collector and developer oftraditional Ghanaian instruments, such as the atenteben bamboo flutes. This remarkable legacy is reflected in the fact that Dr. Amu was given a State
Burial and his picture is the first of a contemporary musician ever to appear
on a Ghanaian currency note.

Local Dimension: Acoustic highlife

Local Dimension was started in 1997 by students and faculty members from the Music and Dance Departments of the University of Ghana. The group is led by Aaron Bebe Sukura on seprewa harp-lute, xylophone, and mbira thumb-piano,and John Collins on guitar and harmonica. For several years the band also featured the late great T.O. Jazz (of  Ampoumah’s Guitar Band); his place is now taken by T.O. Jazz’s longtime percussionist and principal singer, Kojo Menu. The seven-piece acoustic group plays a range of West African
popular music styles such as guitar-band highlife, palmwine music, Afrobeat, Congo Jazz, Dagari-highlife Fusions and songs in the traditional Adowa and Agbadza styles. In 2002 the band toured Germany, Switzerland and France and in 2003 Local Dimension released a CD (recorded at Pidgen Studios, Accra) entitled N’Yong on the French Disques Arion label.

Orlando Julius: Nigerian highlife and Afro-beat

Orlando Julius, a Nigerian saxophonist and horn player from Osun State, began his musical career in 1959, when he joinedEddie Okonta’s Top Aces highlife dance band in lbadan. During that time, he played with Louis Armstrong on the great American jazz trumpeter’s second trip to Africa in 1960.
In 1963 Orlando formed his own Modern Aces highlife dance band in lbadan tourism.
and made his first hit record, entitled ‘Jaguar Nana’ and released it on the Phillips label. His music was a fusion of high life andjazz and in 1966, when soul music became popular in Nigeria, he released his album’ Super Afro-Soul’.
As a result of this soul influence, Orlando changed the name of the band to the Afro-Sounders in 1967 and, like fellow Nigerians, F ela Anikulakpo-Kuti and Segun Bucknor, Orlando was a pioneer of what later became called Afro-beat, In 1974 Orlando traveled and lived in the United States for a while where, together with Nigerian and Ghanaian musicians, ~tanley and Frankie Todd, Glen Warren and Okyerema Asante) he formed the Omaja and Ashiko bands. While in the United States, he also worked with Hugh Masekela, Lamont Dozier, The Crusaders, Isaac Hayes, Gil Scott Heron and Gladys Knight. He returned to Nigeria to form theNigerian All Stars band and later moved to Ghana, where he currently resides.

J. H. Kwabena Nketia: The guru of African ethno-musicology

Professor Nketia was born in Mampong  Ashanti in 1921. He attended the Presbyterian
Training College at Akropong from 1937- 41, and then spent three years in London at
the School for Oriental and African Studies and Trinity College of Music. He did further
studies in the U.S. at the Julliard School of Music, Columbia College and Northwestern
He joined the staff of the University of Ghana in 1952 and made extensive field trips to collect traditional music on a portable recording machine. He was also a member of the African music society that encouraged the music of local highlife guitar bands such as Onyina and E.K. Nyame. He has over 200 publications to his credit including the “Music of Africa” , a pioneering ethno-musicologica1 work that has been translated into numerous
languages. He is, what he calls, a ‘creative ethnomusicologist’ and has composed 80 pieces of Ghanaian art-music for piano, flute piano and atenteben bamboo flute. In 1966 he became Director of the Institute of African Studies until he was awarded an Emeritus Professorship from UCLA, where he taught from 1969-1982. He also was the Andrew Mellon Professor Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh, where he taught from 1981-1991.
In the mid 1990s he returned to Ghana to establish the International Centre for African Music and Dance in the School of Performing Arts at Legon.
His awards include the Ghana Grand Medal, the International Music Council Prize, the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award and the Dutch Prince Claus Award.

George Darko

George Darko was born 1951 at Akropong, the son of a Paramount Chief. He began learning guitar in 1957 at the Presbyterian School, Akropong.
His father wanted him to become a lawyer so he left home and stayed with his uncle, Nana Boafo. He joined Gaby Nick Valdo ‘s Avengers band in 1969 when he was only 18 years of age, and moved on to become guitarist for the Soul Believers, the Blue Monks, and for the army band, the Fourth Dimension, which entertained troops in the Middle East.
He then formed the Golden Stool Band and they left Ghana for Germany in the late 1970s. In Hamburg he went solo and in 1982 composed the song ‘Akoo Te Brofo ‘ that catapulted him and his Bus Stop Band (singer Lee Duodu, keyboardist Bob Fiscian) to fame. His style of disco-highlife became known as ‘burgher highlife’ since it was created in Hamburg, where
many Ghanaians had resettled. His style became immensely popular in Ghana and was copied by many highlife musicians, such as The Lumba Brothers, Rex Gyamji, and Sloopy Mike Gyamji. In 1988 he returned to settle in his hometown and was made a chief in 1991 with the stool (throne) name of Nana Yaw Ampem Darko.