Music of Saturday, 7 July 2007


E.T. Mensah’s ghost

This year’s annual chef’s award show was held at Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, Accra on Sunday afternoon of July 1, the Republic Day anniversary which also coincided with the African Union Heads of State Conference held in Accra.

I do not know how many times heads of state conference of this stature has been held in Accra since Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah left the scene.

The historic scene was graced with the presence of an entourage from Zimbabwe . I didn’t see President Mugabe but I was told he was personally around in the museum, of course, countries south of Zimbabwe know what Kwame did enhance their struggle for self-termination. They seemed to seek hearing on their reallocation of arable lands in their country, something which is not well understood by many outsiders. However, they overshadowed the cook art.

But once again, Highlife Masters, a revived big band of highlife music makers who want to restore E. T. Mensah’s tradition stole the show.

The band led by E. T.’s son, Nii Marku, also a trumpet player, includes both old stars and new prodigies. Their sound is as solid as what the young call “remix” – more or less old music pursued to the limits by the electronics.

Apart from the electronic bass guitar which has replaced the old string bass, every instrument is played “live”. There is no “playback” or “fore-recorded” tracks to support the “live” instruments except that their mixers and amplifiers are authentic stereophonic and high fidelity sound equipment

They play all kinds of music from ballroom (in fact, early highlife was ballroom music where only couples dressed in evening wear were allowed into dance halls) to jazz and Latin as E. T. did.

The brasses sound like a real jazz chorus – rhythmic and harmonic, leaving room for interactions between soloists, either voice or instrument. Nii Marku learned arranging from his father’s knees.

They played old hits like All For You, Eyi Mi Eyi Mi, Sekondi Market and Nke Bo Baa Ya.

I am told when Louis Armstrong came to celebrate either Independence Day or Republic Day with us, as soon as he got down from the plane, ET and his Tempos Band bust into All For You.

Unknowing to many that it was a folk song from God knows where, Louis took his trumpet and started blasting as usual. He knew the song. He traced his roots to a fishing village near Anomabu.