When Obiba Sly Collins intoned that highlife music will not die, many may have taken it as a comment just made in passing. But with this latest single ‘Ka’ every lover of highlife music will discover to his utmost happiness that Sly Collins is not giving up on this authentic music genre he is so much in love with and determined to promote.
To even make it more palatable, the music successfully fits the authentic afrobeat rhythm into it to show that afrobeat comes from the roots of our music, highlife music to be exact.
Obiba Sly Collins
This time, the song, a duet between him and Agbeshie, the fast rising Ewe rapper doing his bit is a testimony to Sly’s love for the music that has over the decades been associated with the West African coast. But while highlife plays so much emphasis on the use of guitar, afrobeat is somehow silent on the guitar playing a loud part in the music.
Singing in Twi and some lines in English, one can see that Sly meant every word he said when he insisted that highlife music will never die. In his attempt to prove this, he has stuck to his roots, singing and comfortably stepping into the footsteps of the pioneers who made the music to be identified with the country.
Obiba Sly Collins (3rd left) being honoured at a ceremony
Though many of them have long gone, the path they created is still there beckoning the up and coming to step in. Fortunately, Sly is very comfortable with stepping into the footsteps that have been left by the creators some of whom have long gone but their music still remind us of them. Listening to this four minute plus song, one gets so engrossed in the melody that the time spent savouring the music seemed like just a minute as all elements have been called to play to make this song a true highlife song, it never got boring at any point in time. It reminds one of the not too distant past when a lot of highlife musicians were on the scene creating and playing the music.
Those were the golden era of the music when the pioneers were still around hence one can say there are bits and pieces of the instrumentation of Alhaji K. Frimpong and other highlife greats some of whom have passed on.
Obiba Sly Collins (2nd left)
Despite all that one can see that the music is alive and doing well especially when veteran musicians like Sly Collins decided to play and sing it!
The accompaniment of Agbeshie makes it compelling for every aficionado to spend time to listen to this piece which has elements of modern highlife making it compulsory listening because it transports you to the era when there was music as played by musicians, not the present day rap and afropop music which is more of computerized offering with many singers who can hardly sing on key.
But fortunately, the advent of the digital age has failed to push highlife into the doldrums, creating a new vista and winning over new converts to the music which has stubbornly refused to bow down to the modern day pretenders and singers called musicians.
Composed with a lot of passion and a throwback to those days as the horn lines are purely simply from the cookhouse of music and as has always been the lyrical direction of music from its origins, it is filled with words of wisdom as Sly tells the youth to stick to the truth, work hard and ‘take am easy – o’ as he sings in his favourite tenor to the admiration of those who love the authentic music of the West African coast. He however insists that the rhythm is blend with afro beat so he would rather it is named Afrohilife On this track, the second single from his upcoming album, he advises that we take a positive attitude to face the future as whatever we do, good or bad, will reflect on whatever we are doing now.
The ‘Yaa Amposah’ guitar works which has always played a great role in defining highlife is given a new flavor as Agbeshie rapping in music also stressed on the theme but in Ewe and stressing whatever Sly has said in Twi.
With the theme of standing for the truth, Sly also commended controversial Member of Parliament Kennedy Agyapong who has never minced words when criticizing other politicians including the president of the republic. As far as the musician is concerned, each and every individual must stand for and speak the truth and damn the consequences.
The effigy of Agyapong and Anas Aremeyaw Anas on the sleeve of the single goes on to say that truth and honesty is what Ghana needs to move out of the despondent state in which it has found itself today.
By this single, one can say that Obiba Sly Collins is gradually taking over the mantle as the new kid on the block as far as highlife music is concerned as many of today’s musicians have chosen the easier way out by following pop music including the so-called afro-pop and diluted afrobeat which is nowhere near what the originator Fela Anikulapo-Kuti recorded for posterity.
This single, ‘Ka’, the second single from his upcoming album simply put, is a collector’s item already.