20th April ’18. There were a series of Global happenings on this day – Arsene Wenger finally announces he’s leaving Arsenal FC, J. Cole Released K.O.D, Cina Soul also released new video under Universal Music and Avicii passed away, RIP Champ. – And also there was the ‘Connection Concert‘ that took place at Alliance Francaise.
A memorable evening where both the old and the young; highlife, hiphop (hiplife) and afrobeat (the real afrobeat) exploded into one beautiful, pleasurable experience. What was envisaged based off the names on the concert posture truly manifested in reality.
When the OBY (led by legendary Kwame Yeboah) took over the stage, along with Dele Sosimi, you instinctively knew it was going to be a great night. And so it did.
Dele Sosimi, once the music director for Fela Kuti took the stage, serving wonderful renditions of songs by the ace afrobeat king. He performed songs like ‘Expensive Shit’ and ‘Colonial Mentality’. Mr. Sosimi burst out singing in Twi in the course of his performance; a move that got the audience singing along. ‘I’ve not been to Ghana in over 20 years’, he revealed. But, his Twi still sounds fairly good.
When Fela Kuti said music shouldn’t be joked with because it’s a ‘spiritual thing’, I understood what he meant last night during those renditions. The beat dynamics of afrobeat elevates you into a different realm, the horns and bass guitar put you in a trance. By the time the vocals come in, you are floating away.
Dele Sosimi’s set followed that of kologo playing artist, Steve Atambire and others who had serenaded the audience with their genre of music. If you’ve seen Steve in concert, you’d love his kologo playing abilities and life borrowing anecdotes in his songs.
It’s not always that you get to see some of the legends whose music you grew up on live in concert. One of these legends, Pat Thomas, took the audience back into the 70s and 80s. He opened his set with songs from his recent albums, before closing on a high with the classics ‘Sika Yε Mogya’ and ‘Mo ma me nka Bi’.
It was incredible to see many filed out of the pews to join the few on the dancefloor when Kwame Yeboah and his band began playing the beat for ‘Sika Y3 Mogya’. It was as if the audience had been instructed to get to the dancefloor by the count of three.
Pat Thomas, once described as the ‘Golden Voice of Africa’, still has a voice that’s golden. Old age, it appears hasn’t robbed him of its pristineness. And on the night, it was evident.
Pat Thomas was followed by “RedRed”, a group fronted by Mensa. Minutes before his set, he was among the fans wilding out during Uncle Pat Thomas’s set. Backed by a three man band- a keyboardist, drummer and DJ Elo (one half of RedRed) on drum machine and synthesizers, ‘RedRed’ were a delight. He performed songs like the patriotic cum political anthem ‘How Far’, ‘It Works’ and ‘Extra Large’ with Sena Dagadu. They were joined by Wanlov to perform ‘Pass It On’, ‘My Skin’ (a song about colourism and racial bias) and ‘Aha Aha’.
The RedRed set segued into a FOKN Bois performance where Mensa and Wanlov performed songs like ‘Mendoh’ and ‘Fokn Future’. The adrenaline on the night was at an all time high.
Wanlov and one of his proteges, Efo Chameleon took the stage after “RedRed” and the FOKN Bois. Efo Chameleon performed an anti-filth song to the crowds admiration. Wanlov and his guitar performed his irreverent tune ‘Toto’ and afro-futurist song ‘Supa Chompia’. Worlasi took over and did two songs- ‘Too High’ and crowd favorite ‘Nukuta’. His composure on stage was one of self-assurance.
“RedRed” returned to the stage for the second time to empty their catalogue- at least to a degree- with performances of songs suc as ‘Can’t Complain’, ‘Sisimbo’, and ‘Finders Keepers’ with Sena Dagadu.
The last leg of performances had Sena Dagadu inviting Pappy Kojo on stage to perform in her words ‘a new song only three people have heard’. After delivery her two verses of ‘Come Alive’, Pappy Kojo laid his ‘Realer No’ verse rather than the new verse we expected. But, the audience really didn’t care. She also performed her new Sarkodie assisted single, ‘Yo Chale’, where Sena effortlessly rapped Sark’s verse.
Mensa, Sena, Worlasi, Wanlov, Pappy Kojo and Efo Chameleon took to the stage towards the end of the concert to perform ‘Tactics’. This was after renditions of ‘Skolom’ and ‘Ghetto’ by Sena and Mensa respectively. It was ‘madness’ when Pappy introduced ‘Akwaaba’ into the mix, deliberately performing (or it was the fans?) Pataapa’s ‘Olale’ verse. Everybody did the rub hands, move the feet and raise one hand up dance step. You needn’t be told to.
Small Moments Mattered
As the performances enchanted audience, there were moments that stood out for me on the night. First, Kwame Yeboah and his “OBY” (Ohia B3y3 Ya) band were fantastic. They played every note of the songs of the artists they backed with precision. And watching him on stage is like watching a master at his craft. I couldn’t believe he was live recording sections of the guitar riffs he was dishing out, perhaps for future use.
The three man bad that backed “RedRed”, Sena Dagadu and FOKN Bois were amazing as well. The coordination and experience was apparent. A bad band could ruin well conceived set. On the night, their input was compelling.
Back stories to how songs were written and recorded by artists have always excited me. So, hearing Dele Sosimi recount the circumstances that inspired Fela Kuti to record ‘Expensive Shit’ and ‘Colonial Mentality’ was refreshing. The stories, no matter how many times you’ve heard or read them, still sounded funny-especially that of ‘Expensive Shit’. And the crowd loved it.
Worlasi’s exit from the stage after his session was a moment. Instead of following the ‘traditional’ way of bowing out, he hanged up the mic and walked off the stage, like Soulja Boy during the BET Tribute Performance for Michael Jackson in 2012.
The Connection Concert, organized by the Hungarian Embassy and Alliance Francaise to commemorate Hungarian Cultural Week is the second to be staged in Accra. And for the many who trooped to the Allaince Francaise Amphitheatre, they would have memories to share-at least till next year. Memories of not only good music and performances but that, there are Ghanaian artists who can hold their own against some of these renowned acts in the world.
Again, it showed that our legends, who blazed the trail decades ago, still have in them the same enthusiasm they had when they started out. And through such performances, they are not only entertaining people, but, are passing on their works to the next generation, offering us an opportunity to witness why they were heralded as great performers during their hey days.
What can Alliance Francaise do to improve on the quality of sound during events? What about the lightening systems? Despite the efforts of the sound guys to provide excellent sound throughout the four hours, it was evident that, the quality wasn’t the best.