Not everyone gets the opportunity to meet a music legend in their lifetime, and the sooner the encounter is, the better the experience, in my case I guess.
As I woke up in the morning of 2016, September 8, all I could think of was meeting one of Ghana’s finest music legend. A legend who’s style concocted with a unique blend of music, commonly known as High-Life.
I am young, and unfortunately, my generation in Ghana did not meet the days of the High-Life trend, although, in recent years, new and upcoming artists have filled the niche with their revised flair of promoting the old genre of Ghanaian music known as High Life.
The excitement of meeting a legend for me blows over the roof, as I’m made aware of the fact that, my celebrity crush will also be present. ‘Oh dear, Oral! What have you done?’, I say to myself in private, in my head!
Oral Ofori, the man behind TheAfricanDream.net is one of my longest and dearest friends. I teasingly call him my ‘Hope-meter’. He is easily searchable online with the hashtag #TheAfricanDreamLLC.
Meeting my celebrity crush and the high-life legend had all the signature of his hands over it as he had arranged an interview with these great Ghanaian personalities and invited me to be part of the production of their interviews.
Oh, and who is my celebrity crush? Well, she’s Ama K Abebr… I’ll leave you to figure the rest out.
As a professional journalist with years of experience in the industry – the host of TheAfricanDream show – putting up an exclusive interview with the hard-to-find-man behind the scintillating music genre we hear and love was a normal procedure for him.
High-Life is High
Ghana’s musical history is filled to the brim with the Highlife genre at its base so talking about it without mentioning Highlife is comparable to a written description of DTrump in which there’s no mention of his Twitter rants.
The story behind Highlife is a long, and winding one, but in short, when you hear High-Life just think of Ghana or ask Google.
“Highlife is a music genre that originated in Ghana at the turn of the 20th century and incorporated the traditional harmonic 9th, as well as melodic and the main rhythmic structures in traditional Akan music, and married them with Western instruments.” – Highlife, Wikipedia.
In my day, Highlife from the past doesn’t tickle the generation of Rihanna-head-cum-Justin-fans. Something with trending musical instruments is what gets the crowd of today on their feet. Throw in a Highlife song from some three decades ago, and your best win is getting one or two millennials tapping the feet.
In contrast, the older generation whom, in their days, had these ‘archaic’ (according to standards of today’s generation) tracks released, will probably be on their feet and requesting a bit of space as their extravagant dance moves require.
Interestingly, as much as I personally am no fan of Highlife music, the opportunity to meet a Legend of it is a one in a thousand experience.
Cocoshe as a Studio (CAAS)
I had already requested two days off work to allow me time to work with TheAfricanDream on this production. With that taken care of the next target was getting to Cocoshe before ten o’clock in the morning. Cocoshe House was the proposed venue to meet. I would be meeting an old friend, inspirator, supporter, founder, and business partner in whom I’ve known for some 7 years of friendship but never met in person.
In fact, it was my first time meeting Oral Ofori. Oral who had returned from ‘Yankee’ (a term used for describing someone living outside Ghana and often in America) with his lovely family.
When I relive every moment of the experience today, my heart wishes a replay in real life.
With my level of eagerness and enthusiasm looking forward to meeting great men, I had little option than to be on time – and by on time, I mean thirty minutes earlier than planned. Oral, who’s highly time conscious, couldn’t help it but drag behind time a bit, not because of his doings, however, but for the real nature of traffic in Accra which caused him delays on the road, the same reason my celebrity crush couldn’t show up at Cocoshe, sadly.
The traffic in Accra was a fitting welcoming gift to Oral from Mother Ghana; Oral who’s stayed outside the country for close to a decade.
I had to repeatedly remind Oral of the change he’ll be facing in his 2 weeks stay in Ghana. He had to get up to speed with how life now is in Accra, including factoring in the road nonsense and traffic. How do you factor in ‘nonsense’? Ask any commuter in Accra, and be prepared to jot some points down!
I am a ‘villager’, so to speak, thus coming close to the Cocoshe tower (Cocoa, Coffee and Shea-Nut Farmers Association), opposite the Silver Star Auto plaza at the Airport Area in Accra was a monumental moment for me, at least my first time.
As I wait for Oral to arrive, the clock on my Android One phone almost came to a halt. I just had to wait for some minutes, which to me, felt like a decade…
As crazy as it might sound, I felt so little, ego-wise, so insignificant to the extent I stretched my hand, hinged to my long arms, to handshake Oral upon the first impression.
He’s thick-tall, handsome, smart, bold and yeah, he looked stunning groom-wise, walking on top of a locally handmade sandal, a clear sign he loves his country.
Wow! TheAfricanDream – as we normally call him – now personified. It took me a bit of time to soak in the fact that the day had finally arrived. I knew ahead of time he will be joining friends and family in Ghana for a short duration. Perhaps I was one of his friends who was honored to know Oral’s plans ahead of time, for his once in a while visit to Ghana.
For the second time, I also met Oral’s half-sister, Keiko, whose office will improvise as a production studio for the lineup of events for the day at Cocoshe.
What an office it happened to be! At the end of the day, it was hard for me to leave behind the cozy, beautiful views, professional and spacious office space we enjoyed our production. It was an honor to have one of the partners of Sibton Communications, Keiko, host us.
As if the time will never come. As Mr. Gyedu Blay-Ambolley walks in, thrown in a slow-motion effect at this moment.
Within the short timeframe – from when he entered through the door until when our palms touch each other whiles I remain firmly standing to welcome the Highlife legend – the question that kept running through my mind was, ‘Does this guy even age?’
I’ve not been a huge fan of Highlife music all my life (don’t be surprised, I was born in the 1990s), however, I’ve always seen Gyedu Blay as one whose inspiration and talent in early Highlife in Ghana is resounding and remarkable.
Gyedu Blay, if I remember clearly based on any memories I have of him, has not changed, at least according to what my eyes saw of him in person. The Gyedu Blay I knew remained the same, with his well-shaven mustache and amazingly soothing baritone voice.
A flat cap, well-balanced as usual, pointing backward, one of Gyedu’s signature grooming was readily visible, as his reflective shades, beautifully tied into the overall combination of his dress code. He’s an African, and what better way to show than to wristband himself with an African-designed regalia-like ornament.
Irrespective of his age (in his 70s), Blay is still abreast with technology and keeps tabs on social media in promoting his music and concerts with the generation of today.
One might easily replicate the legend’s dress code, [yoda] inform you, I tell to that, [/yoda], however the unique, well-known and recognized rap-enabled voice of Gyedu Blay is unrivaled and distinct.
The voice behind some of the memorable acapella in history just happened to be in the same room with me. Was I star struck?, Hell yeah I was, but I was very modest about it, or so I tried, I believe!
What made Ambolley, even cooler is the fact that he has evolved a genre that is exclusive to him since the ‘70’s that he calls ‘Simigwado’.
After minutes of getting the office space production-ready by checked the lighting, testing mike sound, video quality, staging, etc – it was time to get down to business. Ambolley and Oral go back some time as friends based on the mutually cordial nature and the respectful ease with which they chatted.
Based on this I had to allow them the opportunity to get up to speed with any conversation they had. While they caught up, I hit my Google+ feed to ease some pressure. ‘Pressure from what’, you ask?
Well, if for nothing, at least, I’m about to be the cameraman, director of photography and producer of an interview involving Gyedu Blay Ambolley. Indeed, what I did matches up to a just a fraction of what the terms actually represent, however, in my little way, in a simple way, I had to get the production running!
Oral, Mr. #TheAfricanDream does his magic, and an amazing interview is in the making!
As I make sure all systems are in the peak efficiency during the interview, part of my attention is fixated on getting the best of what Gyedu Blay shares, his lifelong experience, and legendary status which over the years have aided in promoting Highlife in the country and beyond. ‘Why pay attention when I will review all the videos eventually’, you wonder?
No! Hearing Blay share his thoughts, in person, the ones off camera, all makes up the experience, and I would have made a big mistake to not have paid attention, there were no bloopers, just some amazing knowledge bombardment from the legendary musician.
Album and more Music
“Ketan”, Gyedu Blay’s upcoming album, was the center of discussions and on which our interview was based. Gyedu Blay, who has been in the music industry for decades, keeps on dropping new albums on top of his already massive collection which adds up to some 30 albums already.
TheAfricanDream was pleased to be part of the few who get to interview Ambolley on his new advances in his career and album.
He told TheAfricanDream.net in an interview at the embassy of Ghana in Washington DC late in 2016 that he was in the US to master “Ketan”, his 30th studio album which was going to continue to display his vintage authenticity.
“It will have something on it for everyone because its eclectic nature will make it appealing to all who listen to it.” said Ambolley of his soon to be released 30th studio album titled “Ketan”.
Ambolley’s US management led by Nathan Pryce, informs that a plan to take Ambolley’s music to a global audience is in the works for 2017. Ambolley insists on extending the African rhythm as did Fela Kuti of Nigeria.
Ambolley who becomes a septuagenarian in 2017 said to TheAfricanDream.net at the embassy that he was really excited to see Ghana celebrate its anniversary that year as a nation when she turns 60 on March 6:
“I hope to perform some of my music live at the embassy for the Ambassador, his staff, dignitaries and guests that will be in attendance”, Ambolley said.
It was a pleasure meeting Oral Ofori and family, and Mr. Gyedu Blay-Ambolley for such a lively and memorable experience.
Many of the memories we had were captured and we share them with all via a Google Photos Album.
TheAfricanDream.net has featured the long years of experience of Gyedu Blay Ambolley in text and video interviews and you can visit TheAfricanDream.net to find out more about.
Enjoy 2017, and we will see you in the next one.
Note: This article was cooked with the help of Oral Ofori of TheAfricanDream.net and Kwamina Eyiah Arthur of AFD-Tech Talk.