In 2015, Daddy Lumba emerged on the scene, again with a single that shifted the focus of many on to highlife music, a genre pushed to the periphery by the ever towering hiplife/hip-hop and dancehall genres.
That single was ‘Ye Nie Woho Beto Wo’ (‘Yentie Obiaa’). The song dominated radio, parties, weddings, political campaign platforms and many social events. The only place the song wasn’t performed, I guess, was the church. The wildfire status of the song confirmed two things: the power of Daddy Lumba to shift cultures and two, his ability to create hits with little efforts. (He’s been creating hit songs since the 1980s, so it’s nothing new really).
Fame brings its own gifts and curses. Lumba has tasted both (he’s still tasting). In 2015, news emerged that he had been poisoned, an incident he confirmed on ‘Yentie Obiaa’. But, if there’s one assertion that has been slapped on Daddy Lumba, it’s about his ‘Playboy’ nature (interestingly he has a song with same title).
For years, Daddy Lumba has been accused of being a philanderer. It’s easy to see why. Most of his songs are lewdly toned and the accompanying videos have him basking glorious in the company of women. The ridiculousness of such claims was debunked by him on Sese Wo See. Lumba is heard making this statement: ‘Daddy Lumba is often accused of being a womanizer yet, he’s always in the company of his wife’
When Daddy Lumba’s name is mentioned in conversation about Ghanaian highlife music, one very strong rallying point of agreement is revealed: He’s incomparable. Lumba is a Colossus. He is, as the Akan proverb goes, the thumb which can’t be ignored when the highlife knot is being tied.
For decades, Charles Kojo Fosu, the artiste known as Daddy Lumba has been entertaining Ghanaians through great music and performances. His career has birthed over 27 albums, and still counting. The musical journey of the artiste now called DL is as rich and golden as the royal kente woven at Bonwire. His popularity is still off the roof. Even when he ventured into politics, by composing a song for the campaign song for the current NPP government when they were in opposition some 8 years ago, he didn’t court the disdain of Ghanaians, who are often not completely sold on the idea of musicians openly aligning with political parties. Lumba’s reputation wasn’t affected like his other compatriots whose career crashed and burnt.
What makes Lumba are phenom is simple the fact that, he has evolved strongly over time. His musical journey began in the 80s when highlife music was the biggest genre of music in Ghana. He was part of the Lumba Brothers, a duo made up of Nana Acheampong and himself. Their song ‘Ye Ya Aka Akwantuo Mo’ was an instant hit. When the duo broke up, Lumba took a solo path, churning out classic music.
Daddy Lumba is the only pop star we’ve ever had. We must protect him.
When the new wave of ‘burger highlife’, pioneered by the Bus Stop Band (composed of guitarist George Darko, singer Lee Duodo, key boardist Bob Fiscan and bassist BB. Dowuona) in the 1980s took off, Daddy Lumba held the coattail of this new sound and established himself as an indomitable force.
Burger highlife (named after the German city of Hamburg, where many Ghanaian musicians had settled following the slowing down of the Ghanaian economy in the 1970s) fused highlife with disco dance music, employing drum machine and synthesizers of disco music. The lead single from the Bus Stop Band was ‘Ako Te Brofo’ (The Parrot Speaks English), off their album ‘Friends’. The song changed the face of highlife music.
The popularity of American RnB music also impacted the Ghanaian music scene in the 1990s. A new genre was birthed called ‘Contemporary Highlife’. This new wave blended highlife with RnB elements. With many artistes falling off and new ones emerging, Daddy Lumba switched his style to incorporate the new groove. Even when the gospel music craze took off, becoming one of the most commercially viable musical genres in Ghana, guess who was there to take a bit of that apple: Daddy Lumba with his song ‘Mesom Jesus’ (I’ll Worship Jesus). It is interesting to add that, the boom in gospel also saw some musicians becoming ‘born again’ and many thought Lumba has seen God. However, Lumba offered an interesting reason for venturing into gospel music: it was profitable.
Once legendary status is not only defined by the number of hits records or albums released, sold, or longevity. Legendary statuses are measured by how impactful you are to the extent that, not only do others want to be like you, but reflect you in their music.
Looking across the vast musical catalogue of Daddy Lumba, one thing is apparent: his music for every mood of life. No matter the mood one finds themselves in, there’s a Lumba song that captures the moment. Talk about love and songs like ‘Theresa’, ‘Akoma Da Akoma So’, ‘Menko Engya Me’ readily pops up. When it’s a matter about life and it’s uncertainties, Ye Ne Wo See Kwa’, ‘Ye Ku Kura Mu Kwa’, ‘Ahenfo Kyinie’, ‘Adaka Tsea’, ‘Sika Asem ‘Yawa are company keepers. And when you need soundtracks for your shenanigans, ‘Aben Wo Ha’, Wo 3 Ke Ta Bie Mu, Asee Ho, Dr. Panie, Pony, Tokrom among other hits come in handy. (Pony is the only video OM Studios shot without taken credits)
It must be said that, Lumba is one of the few musicians who has crossed over seamlessly across all the phases that have defined highlife music. A fact evidenced by the many hairstyles he has worn over his career (jerry curls, conk, corn rows, punk cut, permed hair etc). Most of his compatriots have tapped out yet he remains a force, selling shows and records till date. The other stalwart in highlife music is Kojo Antwi. The two seem not to be slowing down any moment. What makes Lumba an interesting case is that, when you think you’ve seen or heard the last of him, he comes back strong. His last two big hits, ‘Ye Ne Wo Sre Kwa’ and ‘Yentie Obiaa’ attest to this fact. He goes to breathe a little and come back for the top spot.
Once legendary status is not only defined by the number of hits records or albums released, sold, or longevity. Legendary statuses are measured by how impactful you are to the extent that, not only do others want to be like you, but reflect you in their music. Notably examples include Lumba’s protégé Ofori Amponsah (debuted on a Daddy Lumba record in 1999. He ended up dominating the highlife scene for few years), Kofi Nti, Dada K. D, Papa Shee and to an extent K.K. Fosu.
As Lumba marked his 52 years on earth yesterday and almost four decades as a musician, it is imperative to say that, his status as an icon is evidenced by the music he keeps creating. He can be reflective and unabashed as ever in his compositions, depending on the mood he finds himself. And no matter the subject matter, Lumba shall still sell, dominate radio with the song(s) and still keep his crown as the BOSS. Yes, you may think he should be minded by his age and stop making certain kinds of music or videos. That request would amount to taking away the aura of Daddy Lumba. That would lead to his death, musically.
Daddy Lumba is a gift to the world. He’s a gift to Ghana music. He’s an icon. His imprints and place on Ghanaian music is as bold and formidable as ever. And I wonder, why no University has honoured him with a doctorate for his immense contribution to the genre of highlife in Ghana and across Europe.
Daddy Lumba is the only pop star we’ve ever had. We must protect him.
Photos used courtesy @AccraWeDey