So much has transpired over the past twenty years on the music landscape that it’s amazing. On the heels of the burgher highlife explosion was hiplife with a whole new lifestyle and culture and becoming a source of livelihood for many Ghanaians and indeed foreigners alike. The likes of Native Funk Lords (NFL), Nananom and X Doe were some of the names that resonated after the legendary Reggie Rockstone midwifed the genre which is a fusion of hiphop beats with local language rap and in some cases some local rhythms.
After Reggie’s trailblazing work, Nananom, NFL and the kids who used to hang around Kays Frequency and Nana King’s Studio in Dansoman churned out numerous ditties. Then you had the Fun World at National Theatre where under the eagle eyes of Auntie Korkor, talents like Tic Tac, Buk Bak and Terry Bonchaka earned their stripes. All this was happening while live music tethered on the ropes. This was the era of miming when all you needed was a hit and you could perform to a playback of your hit. Naturally with the liberalized airwaves which meant numerous outlets for music, one hit wonders became the order of the day with the likes of Deeba, T Blaze and others flashing like comets across the galaxy and disappearing in a twinkle. The genre itself underwent various stages when you had the crank, jama and other versions just like we now have azonto, alqaeda and other blends of the genre.
Then of course there has been a fair share of not so savory news about the business. None outdoes the disappearance of hiplife artiste Castro and his partner Janet Bandu in Ada where they had gone to revel with some friends. A year after his disappearance after the couple were last seen in the river Volta in Ada, they have not been found and the Police says it is still investigating the matter. Then of course there were the infamous sex tapes involving the swanky Tema based lass Tiffany’s which made many of the tapes swirling around pale into insignificance.
Over the past two decades, gospel music also didn’t stand still. The likes of Daughters of Glorious Jesus, Tagoe Sisters and Mary Ghansah held sway in the nineties and early part of this century. Since then a whole array of gospel stars have adorned our galaxy. From the effervescent Stella Dugan aka Seal, Yaw Sarfo, Elder Mireku, Cindy Thompson to the lusciously voiced Christiana Love aka Obaapa Christy. The constellation of stars in the gospel arena has also included Rev Joe Beecham, Kwaku Gyasi, Esther, Rev Yawson, Naana Frimpong, Evangelist Diana Asamoah, Grace Ashley, Nicholas Omane Acheampong and Danny Nettey. These days the likes of Sonny Badu Joyce Blessing, Herty Borngreat and Gifty Osei are among the gospel music luminaries.
You now have a situation where there are collaborations between gospel and secular acts like Trigmatic and Herty Borngreat as well as secular acts cutting gospel tunes like the almighty remix of Sarkodie’s Adonai featuring Castro, Kwabena Kwabena’s tune Bue Kwan.
Another remarkable development is the improvement in the quality of the videos of the gospel acts who now produce far better clips than they used to do, standing in front of GBC or the National Theatre and doing one camera productions. These days, you have some snazzy productions by gospel acts and managers like Frimprince and Kwesi Ernest are pushing the envelope by releasing some captivating clips. Along the line, Kumasi has become the citadel of gospel music production just as Dansoman was once the Mecca of hiplife.
Reggae dancehall roars
The developments on the scene indicate a strong reggae dancehall resurgence. Since the days of Ampadu and Pat Thomas who released pseudo reggae songs in the early seventies, the genre has seen a lot of transformations. From the heavily reggae based highlife tunes to the gospel reggaes of the nineties till date, the genre has developed to the extent that Sammy Nukpesie Quist and Ekow Alabi Savage of Roots Anabo fame, the first African group to perform at Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica will be proud of the happenings.
Since those days, reggae in Ghana has transformed immensely with local acts collaborating extensively with the best from around the world. After General Marcus released his debut album in Jamaica in the nineties, the likes of Knii Lante have done the same and even cracked the charts in Jamaica, peaking at number 25 with his collaboration with Queen Africa, “Baby Take Good Care”. The likes of Samini, Shatta Wale, Kojo Kombolo and Black Prophet have all done recordings in Jamaica with top Jamaican acts.
It’s little wonder that with Stonebwoy’s success at the BET pundits are of the view that due to the international appeal of the English language, Ghanaian reggae dancehall acts have the potential of breaking the myth that our music cannot go international. The groundswell which is mounting with the likes of Konkarah, Ras Kuuku, Lutha, Jah Amba, Sean Taylor, Papa Wastik and the rest riding on the back of earlier efforts by Blakk Rasta, Iwan and others gives one hope that indeed, there is some truth in that assertion that dancehall will give Ghana our first Grammy award. The fact that most of the top four ladies on the scene today – Efya, Kakie, Becca and MzVee, two of them, Kakie and MzVee are reggae dancehall biased speaks volumes about the impact of the genre.
Talking about awards, another interesting development over the past twenty years is the Ghana Music Awards now known as Vodafone Ghana Music Awards which has assumed an interesting position in the music industry in Ghana as the key determinant of artistes’ ratings. There are a number of awards that have come and gone though some still remain and a number of them stand out to varying degrees.
The Legends and Legacy (L.A.L) Ball appeared on the landscape half a decade ago and is turning out to be a much anticipated event. Prior to that the Ghana Music Video Awards had also appeared causing much excitement with both artistes and fans alike as fans wanted to know who won what and how many awards their favorites had garnered. The Musicians Union of Ghana has also introduced its own Music Honors Awards which is a scheme voted for by musicians exclusively with no public vote. The awards form part of the annual Ghana Music Week festival. And there are awards for gospel and reggae genres with the Bass Awards catering for the reggae crew.
Then on the international scene, Kora, MOBO and lately the MAMAs and BET are among the much sought after awards. A few days ago, Stonebwoy Burniton stirred huge controversy by winning the BET awards. While BHIM natives felt he deserved it and had worked hard enough for the awards others particularly Yemi Alade of Nigeria felt otherwise.
It’s worth noting that the last two decades have demonstrated the staying power of some artistes like Okyeame Kwame who metamorphosed from being one half of the hiplife powerhouse Akyeame to becoming an award winning solo artiste, Samini Dagarti who rebranded from Batman to Samini and the most dramatic of them all, Shatta Wale who rebranded from Bandana to Shatta Wale. The longevity of the big three Kojo Antwi, Daddy Lumba and Amakye Dede is also evident.
However as to whether the Sarkodies, Gurus, E.Ls, Stonebwoys, Efyas and Edems will be here when we look back in twenty years’ time, only time will tell.