March 29, 2023

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Ghana Music Legends Die With Their Glory & Feats

Legendary status is not easily attained; it takes longevity, effort, expertise dedication and get that tag and often, when one gets such a status, it is only fitting that the fellow is duly celebrated.

Unfortunately in Ghana, almost all our legends in music, who dedicated half of their lifetime to the elevation of Ghanaian music, passed on without getting the due veneration.

What is more disheartening is the fact that, when these music luminaries die, all the, work, history and achievements are buried with them too. Such a sad situation for Ghanaian music and the arts in general!

There’s Nothing To Show

A couple of years ago, I attended music conference in South Africa, a gathering that initiated the Music In Africa platform, a portal that was created to aggregate and project African music, the purveyors of the music and the positive elements of the music.

As part of the conference, attendees visited one of the music museums in Johannesburg and it was a beautiful sight to behold.

There were portraits of all the legends of African music and their works put on exhibition at the Conference but unfortunately, there was none of any Ghanaian musician.

I kept looking and found African genres of music and straight I went to the Highlife section, with so much glee and anticipation that I would finally get something on a Ghanaian.

Yes, I did find something on a Ghanaian, the history that; the likes of Ramblers Band, E.T. Mensah and co. pioneered the genre, which later found its way to Nigeria, thanks to the likes of Fela.

Interestingly, 80 percent of the commentary on Highlife was fixated on Nigeria and it was not surprising that my Nigerian counterpart argued strongly with me on the origin of Highlife.

His conviction was buoyed by what is on display at the international museum.

No History, No Celebration

Ghana has undoubtedly produced great musicians, many of whom have passed on to eternal glory; unfortunately, there are no records of their works, recognition and achievements.

There are no records of how Highlife started, no archives on the achievements of King Bruce, E.T Mensah, GhanaBa, Mac Tontoh, Osibisa, Alhaji K.Frimpong, Thomas Frimpong, Paa Bobo, Paapa Yankson, Awurama Badu and many others.

There are no files on our instruments, our traditional instruments and all the hardworking personalities who played the instruments, handled production and made these legends sound good on the records.

There’s absolutely no history! It’s sad that when a legend dies, the media flounders without success, just to get some history to share in disseminating the news of the demise.

It comes as no surprise that, these high-flying young Ghanaian musicians have all lost their way musically, feverishly trying to copy the style of Nigerians in order to make it.

Almost all these young artistes have no inkling on the intricacies of Highlife and the existence of the likes of Ghanaba, E.T Mensah, Mac Tontoh, Awurama Badu and the rest; so, they are totally lost on the history and the influence.

Where Is The Music or Arts Museum?

We have a National Museum that has nothing to do with the Arts, a reflection of a country that generally looks down on the arts and especially, our music! The US, where show business is given such premium, there are music museums splattered in every state.

There’s the National Music Museum – San Diego, which is recognized as “A Landmark of American Music” and houses more than 15,000 instruments from around the world.

There’s also the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum that tells the great stories about the biggest names in Rock and Roll. It has seven floors of exhibits and four theatres.

In South Africa, there’s the Adler Music Museum and the International Library of African Music, fondly known as ILAM, established in 1964, which is a researching, publishing and teaching center for African traditional music.

From its inception, the vision of the Museum was to project African music and uphold the traditional styles by recording, documenting and preserving this history. This is done through research, publication, education and community outreach.

Other internationally acclaimed musicians who have projected their brand and their respective countries via the music have museums to their name – documenting their history and celebrating them.

Bob Marley has the Bob Marley Museum in Jamaica, which celebrates the legend and also serves as a tourist attraction that fetches revenue for the country.

The music group ABBA, which catapulted the name of their brand and that of their country, Sweden into the limelight – have a museum, “ABBA- The Museum” in Stockholm, Sweden – built in their name, chronicling their history, accolades and achievements.

The legendary Beatles from UK have the Beatles Museum established in Liverpool.

There’s No Hall of Fame in Our Arts Sector The ‘Hall of Fame’ is just an institution within any field of endeavor that celebrates the achievement of persons in that field, personalities who have
contributed immensely to the development of the field.

Such an establishment, which exists in most countries, is missing in Ghana, so, the likes of Ephraim Amu, Ama Ata Aidoo, Ablade Glover, Agya Koo Nimo, Efua Sutherland are not properly celebrated and archived.

The ‘Hall of Fame’ can also just be a list, a celebrated list of achievers in every field. For example, The Musicians Union of Ghana can easily have a ‘Music Hall of Fame’, which would comprise a list of top achievers in Ghanaian music.

The Ghana Actors Guild can do the same for actors, FIPAG for producers who invest in the business. The ‘Theatre Hall Of Fame’ would also recognise writers, stage actors and directors who have contributed immensely to the growth of Ghanaian theatre.

The Creative Arts Council or the National Commission on Culture could also institute a ‘Hall of Fame’ to celebrate personalities who have projected the arts and culture to inestimable heights.

With all the astute brains we have had manage our industry and those who are now overseeing affairs, one wonders how such a concept has not been established.

Alhaji Sidiku Buari, a former Head of MUSIGA is calling for one. Good call, but it’s quite a wonder why he didn’t make any attempt to commence the process, especially when he was in power.

The creation of such a concept would also quell the incessant calls for state burial whenever a creative person dies.

When properly implemented and executed, many of our legends would be duly celebrated without going through the stress of seeking for state burial.

FOCAP to The Rescue

The Federation of Concerned Art Professionals, a pressure group created with the aim of revamping the Ghanaian creative arts industry, has put down a road map on how the industry can establish the ‘Hall of Fame’ concept.

It also has an outline on the criteria that can be used in picking personalities to be celebrated.

Already, the group has had preliminary discussions with the Dubois Centre, the National Theatre, the National Commission on Culture and other major stakeholders in that regard.

Tentatively, the group has scheduled early next year to launch the blue print for the creation of the ‘Hall of Fame’ concept.

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