On November 12, 2011 while visiting Ghana, I was delighted to attend a free tribute concert at Citizen Kofi in Osu dedicated to the memory of Hi-Life Music Legend Mac Tontoh- formerly of globally recognized mega Hi-Life bands Uhuru & Osibisa. Legends such as Ebo Taylor, Pat Thomas, Jewel Ackah, Ben Brako, Gyedu Blay Ambolley along with future legends such as the daughter of Pat Thomas, Nana Yaa played their hits backed by the talented band & musical direction of Kwame Yeboah & his band Ohia Be Ye Ya (direct translation:Poverty will be painful) to remember, honor & celebrate the life of Mac Tontoh & his great contribution to world music & putting the music of Ghana on the global map.
As a young girl who grew up with the sounds of these legends of Hi-Life music blasting from speakers from Ghana to New York, I never imagined that I would see all these legends on one stage, in Ghana & for free on my mother’s birthday -the person who single handily introduced me to all these great historical musical legends- whose original vinyl records I inherited when she moved back to Ghana. All I could say was Wow! What a great treat of beautiful music from Hi-Life living legends honoring/remembering their brother & fellow legend, Mac Tontoh, who will never be forgotten! I was even more delighted that as I went to take a picture with Pat Thomas, he did a double take & told me how much I look like his daughter & that she was about to perform on stage so I should check out my sister. Well, I am not sure how much we really look alike; however she was just as beautiful as the soulful voice that came through her, so the compliment from her father was well received. I was still on a natural high the day after this concert because I danced my butt off & felt that extra special Osibi fire in my sa, which Mac Tontoh spoke of in my 2008 documentary “Black Star Rising” ! After a couple of seemingly rough unproductive weeks in Ghana, I was energized & in good spirits wanting more. This was truly a beautiful welcome home reminding me why I love my nation & why this black queen will always be empowered by the black star mogya (blood) that runs through me.
The production was a job well done by the organizers, but we need a lot more of this in Ghana in accessibility for all to celebrate, teach & learn about our cultural history through our past & living legends. Thank goodness for social media outlets like Facebook because otherwise I would have completely missed this once in a lifetime experience since there was little talk about it amongst Ghanaians in general & in Ghanaian media. That same night there was a Daddy Lumba concert honoring his global contribution to Ghanaian musical culture with all the extra dignitary VIP status along with the heavy price tag that the average Ghanaian couldn’t afford, yet to my surprise somehow a large portion of the audience at the FREE tribute concert to Mac Tontoh were White people & non-Ghanaian tourists, students & business people- Things that make you go HMMM!
As much as I & many Ghanaians globally love Daddy Lumba, his global contribution to the spread & preservation of Hi-Life music does not surpass or even come close to that of Mac Tontoh & Osibisa to be any more worthy of warranting the recognition & attendance of two former presidents or any more worthy than Mac Tontoh of commanding a large amount of local media coverage recognizing a night dedicated in his honor . It just makes me think how much we really care about our historical global legacy & why is it that we only seem to respect & see its worth after it is taken away from us, celebrated & deemed worthy globally by others outside of us? It had to take Disney to retell & bastardize the story of the Ashanti Empire in “The Sword In The Stone” in order for Ghanaian media outlets, animators & creatives to think to promote, educate, share & pass down the story of Okomfo Anokye to our children so that our legacy will never be forgotten in its pure form by us for us.
I can’t bypass the irony of completely overlooking the man & band who were hands down the reason why the world truly took to Hi-Life music & the power of fashionable Ghanaian musical culture in celebration of the ultimate bleached faced do-rag wearing borga,Daddy Lumba, by the pay to play Ghanaian media & two former presidents who seem to be in some sort of odd love triangle just to agitate & disrespect the sitting president whom they all seem to collectively want to see be a one term president for their own separate interests. The day after both the Mac Tontoh & Daddy Lumba tribute concerts, all you heard about in Ghanaian media was the Daddy Lumba concert & the shenanigans of Ex-President Jerry Rawlings approvingly overseeing his controversial wife Nana Konadu dance with former nemesis & Ex-President John Kufuor. It seems everything in Ghana has political motivations even the honoring of our legends. It seems like Ghanaian media is more in the business of adverts., sponsorships & playing politics than actually holding up the integrity of true journalism in seeking out stories that are meaningful & worthwhile for Ghana as a nation instead of just who pays them to cover their stories.
Daddy Lumba is definitely a worthwhile story & worthy recipient of the accolades bestowed upon him, but just imagine if there was a tribute concert in honor of John Lennon of the Beatles the same night as a tribute concert to Coldplay & former Prime Minsters Blair & Gordon where all over the press about cutting a rug together at the Coldplay concert with no acknowledgement of John Lennon’s tribute the same night. The Beatles told the world “Here Comes the Sun” as they entered the world scene in a globally celebrated British Invasion the same way Osibisa brought the world a “Sunshine Day” as they entered the world scene with their globally celebrated authentic Ghanaian musical invasion. Cold Play like Lumba are the new generation & new faces of their national culture of music globally, yet we can never overlook the fact that without The Beatles & Osibisa there may not be a Coldplay & Lumba attaining vast global audiences & their contributions are no where near to walking in the shoes or overlooking the legacies of The Beatles & Osibisa even to be able to say that the baton has been passed on to them to run with so to me to have little recognition of Mac Tontoh’s tribute by his nation seemed disrespectful to me particularly on the part of the media.
I was happy to be at the politics free tribute to Mac Tontoh, a night that I will never forget & will one day tell my children about because the legacy of Mac Tontoh & Osibisa is forever. It never seems to fail, just when I am over the unique madness of Ghana/Africa & ready to get out of dodge, I am surprised with the goodness & greatness that always makes me want to stay longer! My ♥ /hate relationship with my Black Star Nation continues as I remain thankful & grateful for all its roses along with its thorns! Forward Ever , Backward Never!
“Come with me on this happy trip back to the promise land ,all will be happy & gay…You’ve been kept down for much too long…Stand Up Please, Say I am free… Don’t Forget You Are Always Welcomed home…WELCOME HOME!!!”
“We must perform like Ghanaian, and for that matter Africans. My advise is that whatever we do, should be African /Ghanaian oriented and that is what will win the trophy for us in the industry,” Mac Tontoh -REST IN POWER!