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Gyedu-Blay Ambolley urges creative revival in Ghanaian music ahead of world tour

This exclusive edition of “Sunday Night” saw Ghana’s highlife legend, Gyedu-Blay Ambolley, at the age of 77, share insights into his career spanning over 50 years and his thoughts on the state of modern Ghanaian music.

The legendary musician highlighted the significant influence of African rhythms on Western music and pointed out the necessity for Ghanaian artists to tap into their rich cultural heritage.

Album cover, “Simigiwa,” Artist- Gyedu-Blay Ambolley and His Creations, Year-1975, Genre-Highlife, Afrofunk

State of Music in Ghana

“Music is not about how good you are. It’s about how well you understand the rhythm,” Ambolley stated as he discussed the importance of cultural roots and authentic rhythms in music.

Ambolley’s journey reflects a commitment to maintaining the heritage and soul of Ghanaian highlife, which has influenced genres worldwide, from jazz to funk.

Ambolley also criticised the current state of music education in Ghana, urging veteran musicians to mentor the next generation and guide them toward preserving the country’s musical traditions.

“The older musicians have failed, the younger musicians,” Ambolley lamented, calling for more hands-on guidance and workshops for aspiring artists,” he said.

“Music these days is sharp, sharp,” Ambolley says, referring to how Ghanaian musicians today use quick and seemingly formulaic productions instead of the past’s more thoughtful and crafted approach

“We’re copying more than being creative,” Ambolley pointed out, expressing concern over the waning originality in contemporary Ghanaian music.

Upcoming Tour and Impact of America

His new album ‘Highlife Jazz’ is a testament to his dedication to merging authentic Ghanaian sounds with universal appeal, a principle he believes upcoming musicians should emulate.

Album cover, “Gyedu-Blay Ambolley and Hi-Life Jazz,” Artist- Gyedu-Blay Ambolley, Year-7th October 2022, Genre-Highlife, Afro-jazz

Ambolley shares news on his upcoming international tour to the United States in August, during which he will perform in sixteen states.

“America is the world’s entertainment centre… so it opened my eyes in so many ways…” Ambolley discusses the impact America has on musicians, especially foreign-born musicians. As the epicentre of music, the United States has the ability to spread one’s music.

The Royalty Dilemma in Ghana

Ambolley also emphasized the importance of proper royalty compensation for artists, shedding light on systemic issues within Ghana’s music industry.

The difference is that this is the time that musicians have to live through royalties… And ours [the system] is not working… they play somebody’s music for 30 minutes, 30 seconds, or one minute, or one minute, 30 seconds, you log it… If you play somebody’s music… you log it.”

As Ambolley’s music continues to resonate with global audiences, his call for a creative renaissance in Ghanaian music reminds us of the transformative power of art that remains true to its roots.

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