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Opinions of Sunday, 18 February 2018

Columnist: Rami Baitie

Another late: Ebony

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post on this blog that mentioned the passing of Hugh Masekela. Soon after that Ebony Reigns, one of our own, also passed away.

I must confess, until December 2017 I was not acquainted with her music. All I knew about her was what I read. That there was this young chick, a singer, who seemed to spend more time stripping than singing. I admit that I did not take the stories seriously. She was hardly the first Ghanaian singer to court controversy with her style of clothing, or the lack thereof. And the pictures I saw were not exactly earth-shattering.

So I knew of some young lady called Ebony, she sang, she rapped, she danced, and she exposed. All this from a distance. And then I began to shake a leg or two to Sponsor over Christmas 2017....and I was hooked. Simple commercial melody, intriguing lyrics (!), and a deep voice that made me think I was listening to a man. I heard a couple more tracks that I was told were by the same person. Wow, it's a female!

As I have mentioned on this blog before, I find most new hip-life noisy and unintelligible, and quite frankly, the same. But this new deep voice was different. She appropriated a languid style of singing, really laid back, but at the same time adopting an intense scrutiny of the lyrics she was throwing at us. The songs I heard were unmistakably modern, and yet there was an element of hi-life past, an almost unobtrusive nod to the vocal stylings of yester-year. And that's a compliment in case you didn't realise it.

The furore concerning her state of undress? As an admiring man I am tempted to say, hey, if you've got it, flaunt it. But I cannot say that, because if my wife or daughter or sister, dressed the way Ebony did I would not be happy. After her death I saw numerous pictures of her from last year, and boy oh boy, did she have a body. The kind of body that made men of all ages drool unashamedly. And she was beautiful too, to add insult to injury. Truly, Ohemaa.

Was it her looks that made her music so appealing? I wonder....beautiful women have been known to paralyse men's brains you know. I am walking evidence of this phenomenon. But no, I begun to enjoy her music before I begun drooling. I guess looking at a physically attractive woman just enhances her talent, and she had talent coming out of her ears.

The tragedy of the circumstances of her death, as well as the ghoulish alacrity with which Ghanaian social media spread pictures of the accident and its aftermath, were truly heart-rending. I saw a couple of pictures on a platform I belong to and I deleted them immediately. Apparently there were worse pictures. And I suspect the family members in the video of her last few hours may be traumatised for life.

There have been all sorts of spiritual innuendo and conspiracy theories about her death. In this social media age of fake news I suppose it's almost a compliment when you get all this attention.

I heard a lovely story after her death from a cripple who is a beggar on the street in Accra. He said she once gave him GHC100 when a car she was in stopped beside him. I don't know if you give alms; I do, and I know that I have never given GHC100. That's generous. But this beggar's story was more focused on the fact that she chatted with him. Obviously he knew who she was and he appreciated her for taking time to speak with him. He says he didn't sleep for two days after she died.

I never got to play a track by Ebony on my radio show. Now I'm not sure that I want to. I never met her, I never saw a performance on stage, and I was a latecomer to her music. And yet her passing away has affected me in a way that I could never have imagined. Her voice, her music, her talent, her beauty, her youth....I have no idea why this stranger has burned herself into my consciousness so profoundly.

"Live fast, die young, and have a good-looking corpse!" This is a famous quote from a 1949 movie that has entered folklore over the years. There have been too many people who have inadvertently made it their motto. Was Ebony in a hurry? Is that why she released her songs so quickly?

Did you know the soul singer Dennis Edwards passed away on February 1st this year? He was part of the Soul/R&B group The Temptations, and was a vocalist on hits like Papa Was A Rollin' Stone and Cloud 9. He left and rejoined the group a couple of times, and released solo albums. And it was his major hit from those solo albums, Don't Look Any Further (with Siedah Garrett), that he will probably be best known for. We still play it at jams these days as an established oldie. Smooth.....and THAT bass line.

He was a classic soul singer, had a very fulfilling career in spite of several ups and downs, and will always be remembered by music aficionados. He died 2 days before his 76th birthday.

Did you also know that Asonaba Kwaku Darko, popularly known as Super OD passed away on 13th February? He had been ill for awhile. The man made me smile whenever I saw him, even before he uttered a word. I admired him because he did what he did very well indeed. I shall never forget his trademark slapping of his bald pate. I used to wonder whether it was painful or not, so harsh was the sound of his palms against his scalp. He was 84 years old.

Ebony, Priscilla Opoku Kwarteng, was 20 years old.