E.K. Nyame

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b. December 1927, Kwahu, Ghana, d. 19 January, 1977, Accra, Ghana. Along with E.T. Mensah, Nyame was one of the godfathers of modern Ghanaian highlife music. His particular contribution was the bringing…
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b. December 1927, Kwahu, Ghana, d. 19 January, 1977, Accra, Ghana. Along with E.T. Mensah, Nyame was one of the godfathers of modern Ghanaian highlife music. His particular contribution was the bringing together of rural ‘palm wine’ music typically performed by a vocalist accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, and played on street corners and in bars, and ‘concert parties’ - a peculiarly Ghanaian mixture of drama and music performed by touring troupes in villages across the country. Nyame’s fusion of the two arts would be updated by bands like the African Brothers in the 60s and 70s. The music of the early concert parties was essentially western ballroom music: foxtrots, quicksteps and ragtimes learnt from British Army marching bands and records played by European settlers. Nyame africanized the concert party by using palm wine-based music and rejecting English language lyrics and speech in favour of indigenous Ghanaian languages. A self-taught guitarist, Nyame joined his first band, Appiah Adjekum’s Band, in 1948. In 1951 he left to form his own group, the Akan Trio, where he first combined palm wine music and the concert party. The innovation was an almost immediate success, and was adopted by countless other highlife bands. During the 50s Nyame recorded over 400 78 rpm discs for West African Decca, Queenaphone and HMV Records and through them built up a reputation throughout west Africa. He became President Nkrumah’s favourite musician and accompanied him on many state visits (many of Nyame’s songs and plays had supported Nkrumah and the independence movement during the final years of British colonial rule). When he died in 1977 Nyame’s body was laid out on a golden bed and he was given a state funeral attended by an estimated 10, 000 people. Sadly, none of his many records have to date been issued outside of Africa.