“No matter how hard your single jammed last year or how tenaciously your auto-tune anthems clung to the Billboard charts… if you can’t ascend that stage and leave it sufficiently scorched, you’re not taking my ticket money…” – Eli Tetteh, “Rhymes & Rip Offs“, DUST Magazine (March 2011)
Hiplife is moving away from the days of “Yo! Mic check one two! DJ! Play the next track! Track three! Track three…! ” Many artists are still complacent though, relying on people knowing their songs at live performances. Why not give the people a little bit more though?
The performers I respect the most are those who are able to mount a stage and get you moving to the songs you don’t know. It’s a rare gift but – besides having amazing music – a large part of it is to do with showmanship, and it requires a little bit more than what may have worked for you during Records Night at your old boarding school. If you pull it off though? Even those who don’t know you or your music will be scrambling out of your concert to buy it.
My father says Ghanaian music changed completely after Geraldino Pino and his band came to town. Pino was a Sierra Leonean musician who was playing around the same time as Fela Kuti. I was once told that he invented the afrobeat sound that Fela would later perfect, but Dele Sosimi corrected my misconception. Pino did, at the very least though, influence Fela on his journey to become (in my eyes) Africa’s greatest ever musician.
Dad tells me that Pino played his first ever Ghanaian shows in Kumasi. Few really knew who he was initially. However, his band were so good that, by the time he got to Accra, hype had preceded him and tickets were completely sold out.
His Accra performances lived up to the hype and, afterwards, secondary schools across the country lined up to form school bands trying to emulate Pino’s James-Brown-Meets-African sound. The way Dad tells it, those performances changed the face of music in Ghana.
This Saturday, Blitz the Ambassador will be playing Alliance Francaise. Right here in Accra. I’m pretty sure it’s for only five cedis too [CORRECTION: turns out it's GHc8... still pretty damn cheap though]. Friends of mine who have seem them play abroad tell me that Blitz and his boys are incredible live performers. His album (which I have already raved about on this blog) struck an amazing balance between hiphop and classic Ghanaian highlife. It already sounds live and so it should be quite an experience hearing his band, the Embassy Ensemble, playing it gani-gani.
Accra is already experiencing a bit of a live music resurrection so I am not expecting a revolution. It would however be cool if kids are inspired by Blitz’s particular blend of hiphop and highlife to experiment more with older, less-synthesized highlife. I’m not saying that everyone should start sounding old school. There are several ways to flip it though. Kweku Anansi and DJ Juls are two of my favourite Ghanaian producers and both make amazing beats that sound both fresh and classic.
Blitz will be joined onstage by Afro neo-soul sirens, Les Nubians (who also feature on his album), the Grammy Award nominated duo best known here for ‘Makeda‘ and their remake of Sade’s ‘Sweetest Taboo‘ (featuring the Roots), as well as ‘Temperature Rising‘ (which featured Talib Kweli). Topping it all off are Blitz’ old friends (back from when he was called Bazaar), VIP. The boys from Nima have been killing it since their recent return to the music scene. I saw them perform ‘I Think I Like Am‘ on Big Brother and their energy was crazy.
All that. For only eight cedis. Chale, Saturday night at Alliance may be one for the history books.
See you there.