Somewhere in 2004, Ghanaians became aware of a certain Sony Achiba, a rapper based in Kumasi.
Sony Achiba earned a notable presence within the hip life space for two reasons. First, his abortive attempt to create a sub-genre under the big umbrella called hip life. He emerged on the scene with a sound he named ‘Hip-Dia’, a fusion between hip life and Indian musical elements. Second, his appearance coincided with a new wave of influence from Kumasi, heralded by some notable rappers and producers.
His contributions has resulted in his music becoming a staple for DJs who curate old school hip life tunes.
His well-known song is ‘Nipa Boniayefour’, a fusion of hiplife and Indian musical elements. As stated, Sony Achiba’s rise coincided with a new wave of music from Kumasi. Armed with a new crop of producers lead by Max Morris ‘Babyface’ Twumasi and top ranked artists like Lord Kenya, Akyeame, Komfo Kwadei, Kontihene.
These Kumasi based artists were indeed working their way into national spotlight around the turn of the year 2000 and 2001 (except Akyeame). One of them was Sonny Achiba, a non-gifted rapper who believed he could rap. An innovator who thought he could not introduce a style of rap. However, he scored some big hits during his tenure as a musician.
One of his popular songs is ‘Domera Wo Yare’ produced by Morris Babyface. Carrying a catchy, recognizable beat-a blend of hip-hop, RnB and highlife influences- the dancer-turned-rapper narrated a story about finding his way to fame. The song was found on the A-Side of his album, Indian Ocean Vol. 1.
On the first verse, he talked about teaching Reggie (Rockstone), Slim Buster and Azigiza (former dance champions) how to dance. He further claimed his ‘students’ they abandoned him after chalking success (to be taken as a jocular).
Economic despair led him to seeking greener pastures in America but ended up on a Jamaican plantation. In hindsight, Achiba’s lyrics on the subject of immigration and colonialism (his journey to America ending up on a Jamaican sugarcane plantation) ties in today with the dreadful news of Africans and Arabs fleeing war and famine areas in search of good life in Europe, and the sad news of human trafficking and slavery. (Did you catch the Mallam Issa “I’ll consult” and Coach Ernst Middendorp references?)
On the second verse, he alluded to how his self-belief led to his own success despite the initial overlook from televised music/entertainment shows like Gold Blast, Agoro and National Theatre.
‘Domera Wo Yare’ exposed Achiba as an artist in training. His rhymes were sometimes off beat and songwriting flaccid as hell. However, one can’t overlook the beauty of that Morris Babyface crafted drums,snare,RnB flavoured beat. The beat switch that accompanied the interlude after the second verse still rings in my head.
There were many who considered Sonny Achiba a prop in the hip life scene. His ‘Hip-Dia’ wave died with his short career. His biggest record, ‘Nipa Boniayefour’ examplified how hip life and Ghana music in general,has largely been this huge receptacle of various musical influences like salsa, RnB, Soul, Reggae and Rumba music.
Long before the Indian Government built for us our Presidential Residence,Sonny Achiba had been a worthy musical emissary.
Give the man his props!