Highlife music has evolved over the years since its inception and development in the entertainment space.
The emergence of the genre could be traced back to the early 20th century when European influx introduced the indigenous population to hymns, shanties and marches.
During the time, it was believed that the Ashanti (Asante) people organised an uprising which resulted in the war of the Golden Stool, thus the new seed of identity was sown and gave birth to the genre.
Notes and rhythms of highlife were a blend of traditional Akan melodies, instruments and harmony that encompassed a variety of artistic expressions to depict the country’s traumatic history and political turmoil.
This was propelled by legendary singers, the likes of Nana Ampadu, Osibisa and lately Abrantie Amakye Dede, Rex Omar and Daddy Lumba took it to different height to rock the industry.
Today, many youngsters who fell in love with hip hop, hip life, reggae, dancehall and afro beat had relegated the art to the background, describing it as history.
The Times Weekend (TW) had a rare opportunity on Wednesday to speak with one of the best selling highlife artiste, Bisa Kdei, and reacting to the topic indicated that highlife genre was refined and does not lose its recognition.
He explained that the genre has a rich lyrical content with unique story line that endure and stand the test of time.
“Highlife is not old, it is worth noting that our airwaves keep playing Amakye Dede and Daddy Lumba’s track because the genre is timeless and has a comic and other tragic-comedy elements which involved the daily life activities of people,” Bisa Kdei said.
The multi -award winning singer noted that there was no new genre in the country, saying, all the genres competing with highlife was having an element of history, and maintained that the genre was the pride of originality of the nation, hence would not trade it for any foreign genre.
He observed that the art was characterised by moral lessons and called on writers, parents and music lovers to expose themselves and their wards to the genre.
Citing an example, he said Nana Ampadu’s track ‘Aware bone’ at face value described difficulties of marriage, but was an idiomatic and symbolic expression that gave a colloquial account of the ‘marriage’ between mother Ghana and Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, who was the head of state between 1972 and 1978.
‘Mansa’ hit maker Bisa Kdei, stated that the idiomatic use of the genre was a perfect example of its status as a tool for all to benefit from, adding that it would withstand other genres and pull it to the ground when the industry begin to understand that the “genre is all that we have and need to survive”.
TW: Welcome, who is Bisa Kdei?
Bisa: My real name is Ronald Kwaku Dei Appiah, I hail from Larteh Akwapem in the Eastern Region and had my basic education at Christian Valley International School. I furthered it at Accra Technical Training College (ATTC) where I did architecture.
At age 15 years, I launched a movement called “Boys In Serious Action”, it is from this group that I got my stage name ‘BISA’
TW: Fantastic, how do you blend your job of an Architect with music?
Bisa: They are all art; I actually architect the lyrics I produce since shows don’t allow me to practice the architect work.
TW: Why did you choose highlife genre?
Bisa: Because it is the reverend genre that has its roots from the country. I got to love it, when I heard my dad singing highlife songs.
TW: When did you become a professional musician?
Bisa: I have always been professional lyrically, but I went main stream when I sang a movie sound track ‘Azonto Ghost’.
TW: Have you signed to any record label?
Bisa: I have my own record label called Black Legendary Music (BLM).
TW: Will you sign a young artiste onto your label?
Bisa: Yes! Sister Afia was on it, we are also working on other artistes.
TW: So is it opened for any talented artiste to join, if yes, what procedure should they follow?
Bisa: There are numbers available online for any talented artiste to call, but pretty soon, we will be launching it officially. I will inform you when the date is due.
TW: Tell me about your favourite performance venue?
Bisa: It was in Canada but I cannot remember the type of show it was.
TW: How many albums do you have?
Bisa: Three albums: my maiden album was released in 2013, titled ‘Thanks giving’, later I released ‘Breakthrough’ in 2015 and ‘highlife Konnect’ in 2018.
TW: I listened to your new track which is currently receiving massive airplay, what’s about the track?
Bisa: Yeah, the track, ‘Meka’, which literally means ‘I will say’. I released it a couple of weeks ago and featured the sensational artiste ‘Fameye’ to convey a message of a person who is reciting love poetry to his lover. The concept is that the loved one does not want the man to voice his feelings out to her but the man insisted to speak his feelings. So nothing will stop him from voicing the enchanted rhythm of hymns by singing his heart to the world, hence the title ‘Meka’.
TW: Wow! This is indeed a story, how do you get your inspiration to write?
Bisa: I produce my tracks, so when I produce the beat, the inspiration just comes to me.
TW: What has been your greatest challenge in the industry?
Bisa: I take every obstacle as part of the work.
TW: What legacy would you leave for posterity?
Bisa: I want to be remembered as one of the pillars of highlife music in contemporary Ghana.
TW: Any advice for young and upcoming artiste?
Bisa: My advice is that they should never give up and stay focused, “Slow motion is better than no motion”.
TW: Any final words to fans?
Bisa: YES! To my fans, they should keep on supporting me and the brand because I have a lot of stuff in the pipeline.
TW: It has been a wonderful time with you.
Bisa: The pleasure is mine!