NANA QUAME. This name should not sound strange to the ears of those who have followed Ghana music, especially highlife music (contemporary) for more than a decade. He is/was among the few whose music helped spearhead highlife into its 4th evolutionary phase (the genre moved from traditional, classical, burger to what is called contemporary highlife)
The chubby looking, smooth voiced Nana Quame had built an impressive discography since bursting on the music scene at the turn of the year 2000. His first entry (as far as I remember) came at the back of Akyeame’s classic tune M’asan Aba, where Nana Quame delivered a memorable opener and also helped with the hook. He was also featured by Tic Tac (on Philomena) and Kojo Antwi (Tom and Jerry).
Nana Quame subsequently released his debut album under Family Spirit, the label of Kojo Antwi. The success of the album led to the release of three other albums. His most rewarding piece of work was his second album, Odo Shock. Released in 2000, the success of the album earned him major tours and performances in the UK. His good run saw him win the Best Male Vocalist of the Year award at the 2003 edition of the Ghana Music Awards.
One of the endearing attributes of Nana is his voice. The emotion-filled, quivering voice transmit an infectious feeling that overwhelms and grips the listener. Also, his style of music-a cross between R&B and highlife influences- is well put together. With many hits to his credits- from Atiaa Donko, Saa Girl Wae, Julie, Odo Shock, Eno Abena to Anigye- Nana Quame kept his name alive within the highlife music sphere.
The rich catalogue of Nana Quame is not complete without the mention of one of his best tunes. This particular song was released at a time when he was flying high-when he was playing gigs across the UK. He teamed up with another excellent songwriter and crooner, Kwaisey P and together crafted Twe Ma Me.
Twe Ma Me (Love Me), produced by the legendary Zapp Mallet, saw the two artistes crooning about the beauty of love and relationships. Kwaisey P, surrounding his vocals with a touch of auto-tune relayed why he loved his man from the standpoint of a woman whiles Nana Quame did it from the angle of a guy.
Zapp Mallet ensured he weaved magic on the song courtesy the flawless production works. The keyboard, drums, guitar riffs on the song were clearly and uniformly laid. The song arrangements and delivery by the two artistes was well put together. The harmonious charm carried by the song seduces you to indulge in some feet stomping or head bopping or both.
Although Nana Quame had earned his stripes within the music scene per his previous works, Twe Ma Me would definitely sit high when his best songs are being discussed.
SLIM BUSTER – M’ASAN ABA
Long before T-Pain came around and popularized the voice adulterating or altering technology known as Auto-tune, there was Slim Buster. The dancer-turned singer –he won the 1986 National Dance competition- was the first Ghanaian highlife musician I heard use the voice adding mechanism. This was in 2000 on his first major hit song M’asan Aba off his second album with the same title as lead single. His first album, released in 1998 was poorly received.
M’asan Aba broke through the music scene based on two reasons 1) Slim Buster was smart enough to craft his song by borrowing and incorporating hiphop influence on the beat and 2) he drafted Tic Tac, one of the wavy rappers on the scene at that time on the song. These two factors resonated with the youth around that era who were embracing the new hiplife culture.
Slim Buster’s ‘M’asan Aba bothered on the theme of love-a man begging his girlfriend/wife to take him back after realizing his mistakes. A theme which also seemed to have resonated with the Ghanaian populace. Whiles the song received traction across the few but major radios across the country, the video was also receiving spin on the few TV stations around especially Metro TV.
I first saw the video for M’asan Aba on Metro TV’s Advertising Cycle and because it was a good video (going by that era) and being a hit song, it was one of the most popular Ghanaian music video that was shown frequently on that TV Market show. The video was shot by ace music video director, Abraham Ohene-Djan.
The video concept did not mirror the lyrics of the song. Most times, the easy way out would be to film a simple love-gone-wrong-Ohene-Djan chose to have both Slim Buster, his backing dancers and Tic Tac in an open place, in a fire circle, dishing out their well-choreographed dance moves.
What made the video memorable was not the dance moves. It was not the seeming camaraderie that was evident between Slim Buster and Tic Tac. It was the all-white garbs worn by all those featured in the video and yes, the fires against the dark night. And OM Studios also made sure they added some gloss over the video aside the good directorial works.
THROW BACK THURSDAY: FREDDY MEIWAY –ZOBLAZO
I don’t remember the year Ivoirian superstar Freddy Meiway’s classic single Zoblazo hit the Ghanaian music market. What I do remember, however is that, Zoblazo was a party starter and a people’s favourite tune. It was a song found on every DJs playlist and the reason was very obvious: it was so irresistible to ignore. Zoblazo instantly made Meiway a household name in Ghana. Meiway has since then performed in Ghana on numerous occasions, as guest acts of other big named Ghanaian artistes including Amakye Dede and Kojo Antwi.
According to music website discogs.com, Meiway’s opus Zoblazo was released in 1991. The song was the lead single of his debut album with the same name. The album (cassette) contained songs such as Vis A Vis, 200% Zoblazo, Ma Sarah, Essika. The success of the song led to the Grand-Bassam native, Meiway release various remixes of the song under various percentages- Zoblazo 200% and Zoblazo 1000%. What made Zoblazo such a smash hit was its up-tempo and electrifying rhythms, traces of Nzema words in the lyrics as well as the simple one line chorus. Everyone got caught in the Zoblazo vibe.
The video for Zoblazo seemed more like a homage to the Ivoirian Navy considering the location (beach), costume (naval uniform) and concept of the video (party hour for officers after a day’s job). The video began with the navy band waking up their compatriots via drumrolls and a horn section of the song before the organist came in to complete the soundtrack.
Drumrolls and trumpets playing the Zoblazo tune woke the ‘Naval’ officers. The officers, in their all white uniform filed out of their ship onto a parade ground for a drill. Freddy Meiway, who played the ship Captain, is seen washing his face and subsequently making an announcement from his ship to the officers (introducing the Zoblazo song). There was a parade by officers which ‘Captain’ Meiway inspected a guard of honour.
One of the memorable things about this video is the costume of the dancers. Their all white, shiny and silky costume can’t be forgotten. Again the choreography and the many ‘wind your waist’ dance moves was were executed. One thing I never understand watching the video again is the flying guitar *scratches head*
Many decades down the line since its release, Zoblazo not only evokes a nostalgic feeling but also sounds extremely evergreen. The rhythms, the chorus and delivery still sounds fresh and alive. The magic of Zoblazo lies in the fact that it still commands many to the dance floor even today.
THROW BACK THURSDAY- BUK BAK – AKWASI BRONI
The musical catalogue of Buk Bak is huge and impressive. The award winning duo comprised of Prince Bright (Bright Sparkles) and Ronnie Coaches (who unfortunately is late). The group, which initially began with three members-Bright, Ronnie and Shoetan- was by the time they released their second album in 2000, without Shoetan (Papa Shoto).
Awensem (Proverbs) was released under then Abib Records and spurned many hits including Chingilingi, Bonwire Kente, Krokrohinko, Komi Ke Kena among others. In all, Awensem had 10 songs-5 on each side of the cassette.
If Komi Ke Kena (which was their breakthrough album) put Buk Bak on the musical notice board, it was Akwasi Broni, in my estimation which exposed their knowledge and appreciation of Ghanaian history and tradition.
Akwasi Broni touched on anti-colonialism, history, blackness and self-belief. It also spoke against cultural appropriation; the actions of the colonialists and their attempt at weaning us off our cultural ethos. Akwasi Broni was telling or encouraging us (Ghanaians or Africans) to hold on to what defined us- our traditions.
The video was shot by King Luu and JoeJo Quagrine with a village background. The village setting is appropriate as it is considered the hub of culture and tradition. The video also borrowed from the famous Ashanti mythology of how the Golden Stool descended from heaven courtesy Okomfo Anokye.
In the video, Bright and Ronnie led a group of warriors (defenders of tradition) to chase out a white colonialists whose disparaging acts were deemed an affront to the people of the village. The order for the warriors to hunt, capture or kill this white colonialist came from the village king, considered as the custodian of tradition. However, the order to kill was overruled by the queen mother, who, requested them to bring him alive.
The video had some interesting scenes including one where the colonialist was offered an excellent welcome- a home, food and servants whilst living amongst the people. A depiction of that famous Ghanaian hospitality.
Another scene tackled the issue of cultural appropriation. The colonialist, who was draped in rich kente cloth and sandals (ahwenema) was caught and all these important items stripped off him. The import of that scene is to safeguard the traditions that define us as people since a loss of cultural identity is inimical to our survival and who we are.
Watch video below
THROW BACK THURSDAY- SESE WOSE video by Daddy Lumba
Daddy Lumba (Charles Kwadwo Fosu) has stayed relevant in the highlife circuits for more than two decades and like the proverbial tree nearer a river, he keeps churning out hits after hits till date. Currently, his new song ‘Yentie obiaa’ is undoubtedly the most popular song in Ghana.
Last Monday, I chanced on this video by Daddy ‘DL’ Lumba which I consider as one of the best, if not the best, video ever shot for the ‘Aben Wo Ha’ crooner (watch video after post)
The video ‘Sese Wose’ is shot mostly in black and white, at a location reminiscent of a old bunker or an abandoned warehouse. It features five ladies of different racial persuasions- Caucasian, Asian, African, giving the video a racial diversity appeal.
The musician and the dancers seem genuinely happy, dancing, playing around with no care. They seem to be having more fun than ever.
Another beauty of the video is the director’s approach to shooting capturing scenes which may otherwise been considered a ‘waste’. For instance, he captured the expressionless faces of the dancers. An ‘unaware moment’ to best described it. Also, we saw a camera man busily working passing through.
The video reminds me of Michael Jackson’s awesome Liberian Girl video which was shot by legendary filmmaker Steve Spielberg, a video which was pieced together with behind the scenes shots.
DASEBRE GYAMENA – ODO VIDEO
Dasebre Gyamena’s brand of music is soulful, lyrically rich, infectious in composition and organic-classics in its own right. He was or still is one of the favourite highlife crooners around. His songwriting skills is excellent-his ability to infuse very rich proverbs in his music is a talent not many of his contemporaries are able to weave.
One of my favourite songs from the musical catalogue of Dasebre Dwamena happens to be Odo, taken from his album by the same name. The song, which translate as Love, doubles as one of his most popular songs. As could be deduced from the title, Dasebre is heard exalting his girlfriend’s qualities and reasons why he wants her as a wife.
This beautiful highlife tune with a usual theme came with a video that was daring, different and controversial per the demeanor of Dasebre Dwamena who is known for his conservative videos and songs.
The Odo video was daring because the plot of the video broke traditional conventions. Different from the usual videos associated with him and controversial for depicting certain actions considered ‘taboo’ in our very conservative society.
The video, shot in a short film fashion starred actors Nana Ama McBrown, Omar Sherrif Captan and Majid Michel. Omar and Nana Ama were the protagonist (lovers) and Majid played the brother who kept antagonizing the efforts of Omar at wooing his sister; something most guys do as their way of protecting their sisters from jack-asses.
The ‘taboos’ this video depicted include long and deep kisses between the two lovers and ass grabbing. This was at a time when the Ghanaian society was trying to guard itself against the infiltration of ‘negative’ foreign culture into ‘our society’ and saving the Ghanaian youths from moral corruption. The rest-taking trips to the beach, driving around town, getting snacks and ultimately ending up in a marriage-is all too familiar.
As to be expected, tongues wagged on about the unapologetic display of ‘excessive’ kissing and that which should be ‘reserved for the bedroom’ .The rumour was that, Nana Ama lost her boyfriend at that time courtesy her actions in the video. Omar Captan found God and is now a pastor.
For Dasebre, who carried a calm and respectful demeanor as well as cautious in his lyrics-they were plain and devoid of any sexual tones- to put out such a ‘corrupting’ video was bold, clearly stating the need for artistes to be daring and not too predictable. A good step in my opinion.
MBRE BI BEBA –OBRAFOUR
In 2004, Obrafour’s record label teamed up with Last Two to put out Execution Diary; a compilation album which was produced by legendary record producer Hammer. The album was to shine the spotlight on new, young, hungry and talented artistes. Most of these artistes were members of the Last Two ‘academy’; where they have spent months and years honing their rap skills. The album also featured and boosted the profiles of some of the known rappers.
The Execution Diary spurned many hit songs including Kpekpele (4×4), Ayeeko (Okra), Opabeni (Okyeame Kwame) and Kwakwa (Kwaw Kesse). As Mantse ‘The Signature‘ aptly put ‘the real cream of the album are the young and daring’, a reference to the underground rappers.
One of the songs that got rotation on radio was the KG & PM’s track ‘Mbre bi beba’. The song featured Obrafour, Baza (now Blitz The Ambassador), Eugene (Choirmaster formerly of Praye) with K.K. Fosu on the hook.
Obrafour, Baza (Blitz) and Eugene are still pursuing music. K.K. Fosu is trying to resuscitate his career. KG is in the UK pursuing other interests. PM has traded the mic for the turntables. He’s a DJ on Rainbow Radio, UK.
The Mbre Bi Beba video caught my attention and watching it this week noticed some few things. The video was shot by O.M Studios under the directorship of legendary videographer Abraham Ohene-Djan.
The video showed KG in a boxing bout with an opponent whom he knocked out cold. The referee who was officiating the boxing was Eugene. If not for the video, many wouldn’t have known that the artiste who sang as a member of the group Praye (continues to sing) under the moniker ‘Choirmaster’ was once upon a time a rapper.
Another highlight was the stars that featured in the video. These were the ‘celebrities’ of that era. The likes of KOD, Bush K, Abrewa Nana and Hammer himself in that thick afro.
And it’s exciting to see that, the majority of the artistes featured on this song are still doing music with those who made cameos are still in today’s showbiz-either radio, TV or both.
Watch the video here