Sunday, April 09, 2006

Gyedu-Blay Ambolley and the Roots of Hiplife

One of the first questions I would ask anyone in Ghana that I interviewed was, "When did you first hear someone rap in a local language?" If I could take all the footage I shot and make one massive montage of people giving their three-word answer, it would last at least five minutes.

Gyedu Blay-Ambolley.

Reggie Rockstone is almost universally recognized as the first really rap in a clear adaptation of hip-hop aesthetics. He was the first to do something referred to by the indignenized moniker, hiplife. But, the first Ghanaian musician to "rap"-- to speak quickly using rhyme, metaphor, and other poetic and/or verbal devices-- was Gyedu-Blay Ambolley (according to the people with whom I spoke).

So, it follows that we check out what is arguably the first use of rap in Ghana on a record (that I know of at least). The song is called "Highlife". It's essentially Burger highlife (a sort of disco-infused higlife which emerged in the late-1970s), with its four-on-the-floor groove, synths, and English lyrics. This recording comes from the consistently impressive Cut Your Coat LP (1985).

This excellent site offers more info on Ambolley and Ambolley's own site is homebase proper for sure...enjoy.

I traded records with a guy in Accra, that's where I got this record. I gave him a stack of vinyl, which included Nas' Illmatic, The Listening by Little Brother, and the "Blue Flowers" 12", and he gave me this and a few other highlife, juju, and afro-beat LPs. His name is Nii and he's a really great guy. If you want to trade records/DJ equipment with a guy in Ghana, contact me and I'll link you up.

Your site is by far revolutionary! Please keep it going.
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