Tag Archives: Ghana

Artist Profiles: Rocky Dawuni

Rocky Dawuni

Rocky Dawuni was born January 22, 1969 in Ghana. He burst onto the African reggae scene in the early 1990s as the lead singer of the Ghanaian reggae group Local Crisis at the Pan African Music Festival held in Accra. In their debut performance, Dawuni’s mesmerizing stage presence and powerful songs secured the group hero status.

Although Dawuni soon developed a following in his beloved native Ghana, he decided to leave for the United States and pursue his musical horizons. Over the next few years, Rocky spent time writing and recording, while being exposed to the many diverse forms of music abroad as well as under-studying the music business itself.

In 1996, Rocky Dawuni released his debut recording The Movement, one of the most anticipated reggae albums in West Africa. The artists’ introspective journey into social and spiritual consciousness garnered rave reviews in the Ghanaian press and spawned two hit singles, with both “Sugar” and “What Goes Around” obtaining massive Ghanaian airplay.

In the U.S., The Movement received critical acclaim and glowing praise. Mesa/Bluemoon Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records, licensed “What Goes Around” and its video for release throughout the U.S. on Strictly Underground: Reggae’s Next Generation, propelling the video to climb to #3 on the Reggae Video Charts in January 1997 and introducing Rocky’s music to U.S. reggae radio.

In spring 1998, Aquarian Records / Who Dun It Records released Rocky’s second recording, Crusade, written, arranged and produced by Rocky Dawuni. The album is a sprawling philosophical journey into rhythm and soul with songs of pain, spirituality, love, revolution and redemption. From the nyabinghi tinged tropical jam, “Sweet Bright Day,” which Dawuni describes as “an invocation of the perfect day when all elements fall into place in our lives,” to a hauntingly powerful piece entitled, “Conqueror,” which highlights a traditional African kora player, Crusade is Dawuni’s musical and spiritual war promoting love, justice and righteousness. “It’s about hope in the human spirit and allowing God to empower us to attain the unattainable.”

Crusade’s first single, “In Ghana,” achieved international hit status on both radio and TV with the tune’s arresting video. Inspired by Ghana’s 40th Anniversary Celebrations, Dawuni describes the song “as a celebration of 40 years of independence…as the first black African country to attain independence, it’s a personal ode to the individual’s continuing search for freedom.” Putumayo World Music subsequently licensed “In Ghana” for their Reggae Around the World compilation CD that also includes tracks from Lucky Dube, Burning Spear and Majek Fashek. “In Ghana” was recently voted “Reggae Song of the Year” at the Ghana Music Awards 2000.

The July 1998 release of Crusade was, and continues to be, enormously successful, with tremendous media coverage throughout the African continent. In the spring of 1999, Rocky began a summer festival tour of the U.S., which culminated with a knockout live performance at the Vermont Reggae Festival to a capacity crowd of 35,000. Rocky also put in extraordinary performances at the UCLA Jazz/Reggae Festival and Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, establishing himself as one of the premier live reggae artists. Crusade firmly established Rocky Dawuni as a crucial addition to the Roots Reggae revitalization.

Rocky Dawuni, appeared live in concert at the La Pleasure Beach in Accra on Ghana’s Independence Day, March 6th, 2001. Under the auspices of Aquarian Productions and Ghana Tourist Development Co Ltd., the first annual “Rockys Dawuni’s Independence Splash” was a smash hit by all standards with an estimated crowd of over 20,000. Rocky opened the show with the ever popular “Inside Your Head” with the crowd singing along to every word. The stage was a virtual war-zone with fans fighting with security personnel to get to Rocky during his two-hour plus set.

“Rocky Dawuni’s Independence Splash” ended with a stunning rendition of Rocky’s “In Ghana,” which has become the unofficial national anthem of the country. As the sun set, Ghanaians and foreigners alike sang in unison to celebrate Ghana’s 44th year of independence from colonial rule.

“Rocky Dawuni’s Independence Splash” was planned to become an annual event to celebrate the anniversary of Africa’s first independent nation and serve as a festival to showcase music from Africa and the Diaspora.

In November of 2004 Stevie Wonder made a surprise appearance onstage at Rocky Dawuni’s concert performance at Zanzibar in Santa Monica, California. Wonder wailed on harmonica and dug into the crowd-inspired call & response vocal gymnastics on Dawuni’s Afro groove track, “Wake the Town,” from his album Book of Changes.

Rocky Dawuni

Rocky was featured on the highly successful Instant Karma: Amnesty International Campaign To Save Darfur Deluxe Edition release (Warner Bros Records) which features covers of John Lennon songs by global stars including Black Eyed Peas, U2, Christina Aguilera, Green Day, Ben Harper and Jack Johnson. In addition, Dawuni’s afrobeat “Wake the Town”was featured on video giant EA’s FIFA 2008 video game which has been released world-wide to millions of consoles.

In June 2007 Rocky and supermodel Elle MacPherson completed a June 13 -15 humanitarian tour of Ghana as spokespersons for (RED) and the Global Fund to announce the grant of 6.4 million dollars to provide HIV / AIDS treatment. (RED) was founded by U2 front man Bono and Bobby Shriver to harness the power of some of the world’s most iconic brands in the fight against HIV / AIDS.

Discography:

The Movement (1996)
Crusade (Aquarian Records, 1998)
Awakening (Aquarian Records, 2001)
Book of Changes (Aquarian Records, 2005)
Hymns for the Rebel Soul (Aquarian Records, 2010)
Branches of The Same Tree (Cumbancha, 2015)

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Artist Profiles: Obo Addy

Obo Addy

Obo Addy was born January 15, 1936. He was a prominent member of the first generation of African musicians to bring their traditional and popular music to Europe and the United States of America. This versatile magician of the drums embodied the past, present and future of Ghana’s musical culture. He celebrated past traditions while embracing new ideas and foreign influences. Internationally, Obo Addy’s contribution can be measured by the fact that he was one of the key originators of the seminal musical movement now known as “Worldbeat.”

His musical background was a combination of the rigorous standards of ritual music he learned from his father, a Wonche Priest (A Wonche Priest of the Ga culture is a traditional spiritual healer, herbalist, community adviser and conflict mediator. His skills include complete mastery of music and dance as used in rituals he performs for the community.), with the flashy international pop music he performed as a young professional with big bands in Accra, Ghana. After moving away from performing Western standards on the nightclub circuit, Obo Addy joined the National Arts Council of Ghana, becoming a master in the traditional music and dance of the many cultures in Ghana. He later moved to the United States where he created two colorful performing ensembles, each expressing one of the two closely-related sides of his musical personality: traditional and popular.

Okropong, meaning “eagle” in Obo Addy’s native Ga language, performed traditional Ghanaian music using a variety of hand and stick drums, talking drums, bells and shakers. While the musicians built layers of driving rhythms and singing, the dancers, clad in colorful West African garments, engaged in an energetic physical “conversation” with the drummers and the audience. Occasionally, Obo Addy complemented the drummers by playing the Dzili or Giri (a marimba-type instrument) in a manner which demonstrated the strong connection between traditional African music and jazz improvisation.

Bringing the jazz connection into the fore was Obo Addy’s second ensemble Kukrudu (Ga for earthquake’). This eight piece ensemble of African and American musicians performed a rich synthesis of musical styles on Ghanaian percussion and Western instruments including saxophone, trombone, guitar, electric bass and drum kit.

Not only was he a percussionist of consummate skill, but Obo Addy was a singer and vocal arranger of unique character whose harmonic ideas and expressive vocal tone demonstrate for audiences the very real connections between West African and African-American singing styles. The musical compositions performed by both Okropong and Kukrudu were are frequently preceded by stirring polyphonic vocal introductions which displayed these characteristics.

Obo Addy – Photo by Tom Pich

In addition to his performing activities, Obo Addy gave instrumental and dance residencies at academic institutions and was the founder and artistic director of the annual Homowo Festival of African Arts in Portland, Oregon. This festival showed American audiences how the music and dance performed by Okropong fits into its broader cultural context. Obo created a strong residency program titled “Rhythm Explosion” aimed at high school age students and not only showed the evolution of traditional to contemporary music but builts in several lecture-demonstrations for music students.

Since his international debut at the 1972 Munich Olympic games, Obo Addy toured extensively in Europe, the United States, the Middle East and Australia, throughout the seventies with his brothers in Oboade, and since 1980 with Kukrudu and Okropong.

In 1992 Obo Addy was commissioned by the innovative classical music ensemble, the Kronos Quartet, to compose “Wawshishijay” for their chart-topping album Pieces of Africa.

In 1996, Obo Addy was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship Award by the National Endowment for the Arts. This is the highest honor a traditional artist can receive in the United States. Obo was the first African born artist to ever receive the award.

Obo Addy died September 13, 2012.

Discography:

Kukrudu (Cascade Recording Studios, 1981)
Obo (Avocet, 1984)
Okropong – Traditional Music Of Ghana ‎(EarthBeat!, 1990)
The Rhythm Of Which A Chief Walks Gracefully ‎(EarthBeat!, 1994)
Let Me Play My Drums (Burnside, 1997)
Wonche Bi (Alula Records, 2001)
AfieyeOkropong (Alula Records, 2003)

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Artist Profiles: Kusun Ensemble

Kusun Ensemble

The Kusun Ensemble is an extraordinary group of musicians and dancers based in Ghana, West Africa. Founded by Nii Tettey Tetteh, the group includes past members of The National Ballet and The Pan African Orchestra.

Although rooted in traditional music, the ensemble has developed a new brand of music and dance they have dubbed “Nokoko.” They have created innovative rhythms and dances by fusing bass and lead guitar, electrifying jazz and African rhythms, and traditional Ghanaian instruments.

The band is now considered one of Ghana’s most innovative and powerful music and dance ensembles. By blending the authentic sounds of traditional instruments with the exuberance of highlife music and the complexity of African jazz, they are developing a unique Ga sound and bringing the tropical passion of West African music and dance to the world stage.

The Kusun Ensemble toured the U.S.A in 2002, packing theaters and wowing festival audiences in the Eastern United States. They have performed throughout Ghana and toured Australia in 2000. Many of the members have also been teaching drumming and dance at the Kusun Study Center in Nungua, Accra. This center was built by Nii Tettey Tetteh to promote the traditional arts of Ghana, to teach both local people and international students about Ghanaian music and culture.

Discography:

Nokoko (Kusun Productions)

More at www.ghanadrumschool.com/kusun-ensemble.html

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Artist Profiles: Mustapha Tettey Addy

Mustapha Tettey Addy

Mustapha Tettey Addy was born in 1942 in a small village near Ghana’s capital Accra. The Addy family was known for their impressive ritual drummers and so Mustapha learned to play the drum from early childhood. He first performed outside of Ghana in 1964, when he toured several eastern European countries. Since then he has been a frequent traveler to Western Europe, specially to Germany. He also toured in the UK and the United States with various groups (e.g. Ehimomo) and led many workshops, especially at Die Werkstatt in Dusseldorf.

In 1982 Addy started to collect and arrange the Obonu drum music which has its main roots in the Ashanti region. He became a student of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana and also traveled through all regions of Ghana where he researched the music and the language of the different tribes. In 1986 Addy started a new group called The Drummers which later became the Obonu Drummers.

In 1988 Mustapha Tettey Addy opened a cultural center in Kokrobitey near Accra. At the same time he founded the Academy of African Music and Arts LTD (AAMAL). This center tries to retain traditional forms of music, arts, dance and craftsmanship. The AAMAL is a school for artists, musicians and teachers, but it also promotes young talents and supports the Pan-African cultural exchange.

Discography:

Master Drummer From Ghana (Lyrichord Discs, 1972)
Les Percussions Du Ghana (Arion, 1980)
African Ritual Music ‎(Insel Hombroich, 1984)
Solo Drumming ‎(Insel Hombroich, 1984)
Come & Drum ‎(WeltWunder, 1994)
Secret Rhythms ‎(WeltWunder, 1997)
Come and Dance ‎(Weltwunder, 2003)
Smart Boys, with Obonu Drummers ‎(Weltwunder, 2005)

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Artist Profiles: Blay Ambolley

Blay Ambolley

Gyedu-Blay Ambolley, affectionately known as the “Simigwa Do Man,” was born in 1947 in the port city of Sekondi-Takoradi, in the Western Region of Ghana. This versatile multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and producer exploded on the music scene in 1964 with a jazzy highlife sound called Simigwa-do.

Ambolley’s early years of musical interest date back to the age of eight, when he began playing with his father’s flute until he was able to teach himself how to play. His formal musical training came at the age of fourteen under the apprenticeship of “Uncle Bonku,” who taught him how to play the guitar. The young music enthusiast continued to learn the rudiments of music from the late Sammy Lartey and Ebo Taylor.

Ambolley spent a great part of his day listening to records of musicians living in the United States. He contributes his free style of singing to mentors such as James Brown, Ray Charles and Sam Cook. During the 1960s, the young aspiring musician was excitingly impressed with the music he heard on the popular radio show, “Voice of America Jazz Hour.” The sixties show featured jazz giants Jimmy Smith, Max Roach, the late Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Eckstine… all became a part of Ambolley’s early music experience.

Gyedu-Blay Ambolley’s professional performances started in the 1960s in Ghana with Tricky Johnson Sextet in 1964. He participated in many other bands, such as Railway Dance Band (1965-67), Houghas Extro-Ordinaire (1968), The Meridians (1970), Uhuru Dance Band (1972-73), and Ghana Broadcasting Band (1974). In 1974 he became band leader of several bands, including Apagya Show Band (1974), Super Complex Sounds (1975-78), Zantoda Mark III (1959-80), The Steneboofs (1987-88), and Gyedu-Blay Ambolley and His Afrikan Hi-Life Band (1994).

Ambolley’s name has become synonymous with Simigwa music and dance since his first hit single released in 1972. The band leader’s talent was not limited to Ghana, Ambolley was invited to London where he performed to standing room only crowds. Having experienced success in his own country, as well as London, it was time for the ambitious musician to test his musical abilities elsewhere. In 1988, Ambolley left Ghana and arrived in New York (USA). Since his arrival, Ambolley was able to prove his worth by performing from the East to the West Coast, at places like the historical Apollo Theatre in Harlem (New York), The House of Blues in Los Angeles (California), and popular night clubs and festivals across the country.

Returning to Ghana in 1997, Ambolley was honored with a standing ovation from President JJ. Rawlings and the First Lady, at Ghana’s Awards Nile 1997. Ambolley has numerous albums to his credit and has received numerous musical awards. His stage works and music have embraced audiences around the world. According to Ambolley, there is but “One People, One Nation, One Destiny.”

Partial Discography:

Simigwa (Essiebons, 1975)
Ambolley (Warner, 1982)
Apple ‎(Sunrise Records, 1986)
Gyedu-Blay Ambolley ‎(Simigwa Records, 1989)
Bend Down Low Party Time! ‎(Simigwa Records, 1989)
Son Of Ghana ‎(Simigwa Records, 1996)
The Sekondi Man ‎(Simigwa Records, 1997)
Afrikan Jaazz: A New Sound In Town ‎(Simigwa Records, 2001)
Sekunde ‎(Hippo Records, 2015)
Ketan (Agogo Records, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Bernard Woma

Bernard Woma

Bernard Woma plays the xylophone from northern Ghana called the gyil. Like the bala from Guinea and Mali, the gyil has gourd resonators that have a buzzing sound achieved with spider web sacks covering small holes. The group consists of two gyile, a small lizard-skin drum and often a dancer.

The Bernard Woma Trio plays at blistering speed on the gyil. Yet Bernard always keeps the energy positive, and he’s got a welcoming presence.

The music is primarily the traditional repertoire of the Dagara people, as well as original compositions by Bernard. The repertory includes Bewaa, recreational music which literally translates “you come.” Bewaa music is played at social events where community members come together. Such events can include but are not limited to: the installment of a chief, harvest festivals, marriage ceremonies, and naming ceremonies. Bewaa is also commonly played at pito bars where family and friends gather together to share in the local brew (pito), song, and dance.

Discography:

Live at the Pito Bar (Avant, 1998)
Zie Mwea: Natural Conditions (Mandara Music, 2001)
Bernard Woma in Concert (Jumbie Records, 2003)

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Artist Profiles: Guy One

Guy One

Ghanaian musician Guy One built up a fervent following in local villages amongst the Frafra people in northern Ghana, in which no funeral or wedding would take place without his soaring voice and deeply rhythmic playing. He plays the kologo, a plucked lute.

While traveling through Ghana, Max Weissenfeldt, owner of the German Philophon label bought a copy of a CD by Guy One. Weissenfeldt loved the music and was determined to locate the artist. Weissenfeldt took a bus to Bolgatanga and asked where he could find Guy One. Ten minutes later they were shaking hands. Hours later, the pair drove to a funeral. The village members gathered between the mud huts as Guy One quietly picked up his Kologo. As he started with his eulogizing voice, the village members immediately formed a huge circle around him. Witnessing this intense and potent interaction between music and community and life and death, Weissenfeldt knew he needed to get Guy One to Berlin and into a studio.

In 2013, Guy One left Ghana for the first ever time and made it to Berlin where he participated in various recording sessions.Several other sessions followed until One completed an album titled #1.

Discography:

#1 (Philophon, 2018)

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Acclaimed Ghanaian Artist Rocky Dawuni Releases Shine A Light Music Video

Rocky Dawuni

Ghanaian reggae and afro-roots singer Rocky Dawuni has released a new music video titled Shine A Light, where he New Orleans influences with reggae and samba.

The music video supports the Whole Planet Foundation that endeavors towards poverty alleviation through microcredit loans in communities around the world.

“Shine A Light” appears in Dawuni’s album Branches of the Same Tree (Cumbancha).

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Master Drummers of Dagbon, V. 1 Reissued for Digital Distribution

Alhaji Ibrahim Abdulai & the Master Drummers of Dagbon - Master Drummers of Dagbon, V. 1
Alhaji Ibrahim Abdulai & the Master Drummers of Dagbon – Master Drummers of Dagbon, V. 1

Rounder Records has reissued the album Master Drummers of Dagbon, V. 1 by Alhaji Ibrahim Abdulai & the Master Drummers of Dagbon. The reissue is part of Rounder’s back catalog world music albums released for digital distribution.

Musicologist and author John Miller Chernoff, who made these recordings in Northern Ghana, writes, “There are heavy spiritual repercussions when masters of drumming express themselves in a tradition of artistic genius. The singing of the drums resembles the breathing of the wind, and when the sound of the drumming dies, it moves away like exhaled breath. The bass drums vibrate inside the earth.”

Buy Master Drummers of Dagbon, V. 1

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Artist Profiles: Aaron Bebe Sukura

Aaron Bebe Sukura
Aaron Bebe Sukura

Aaron Bebe Sukura is a Ghanaian multi-instrumentalist (harp-lute, thumb-piano, bamboo flute, guitar, xylophone). He recorded Nyong, a solo album devoted to acoustic Highlife from Ghana with a unique mixture of Jamaican, Manding and Ghanaian influences.

Aaron Bebe Sukura sings about love, wisdom, and the fight against corruption. He made his recording with Local Dimension, a group based at the University of Ghana at Legon. The originator of the project was John Collins, producer of several records in Nigeria and Ghana, the author of a book about Fela Kuti, and a specialist in African urban music.

http://aaronbebe.com

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