In the year 1946, somewhere in the port city of Sekondi-Takoradi in the Western region of Ghana, a baby boy was born. This boy would 27 years later, in the year 1973, record and release his first album titled “Simigwa Do” which was heavily rap-induced. This would make him the pioneer of rap music- because the Guinness Book of World Records credits this feat to American rap group Sugarhill Gang for their song “Rappers Delight” which was recorded some six years after Ambolley’s Simigwa Do, in the year 1979.
42 years after the release of ‘Simigwa Do’, the originator-of-rap argument still standing, Gyedu Blay Ambolley has released his 29th album titled ‘African Soul’.
The launch took place at one of Accra’s favourite venues for ‘alternative’ events, Alliance Francais– same place his last album ‘Different Shades was launched in 2013, and was hosted by spoken word artist Mutombo Da Poet– again, the same host for the launch of ‘Different Shades.’
About an hour after the advertised time of 8 p.m, the house filled with an expectant crowd, the party kicked off. It was opened by highlife artist Kyekyeku and the Tokros band and they had a very decent set, treating patrons to some very smooth highlife music. The most jammed-to being that song with the refrain ‘sooorrr’- which was undoubtedly the act’s most popular song on the night.
The next supporting artist to be introduced by Mutombo Da Poet was Wanlov Da Kubolor who got on stage with his guitar, took a seat, and then went on to unsettle the house with just the first lyric of his opening song “I wish i could kill all Christians”- only for everyone to find out some lyrics after, that it’s an action he would want to take out of his love for Christians. O, the ever-benevolent Kubolor. And so his set began: with the performance of this new song which is likely to be on his upcoming “Red Card: The Minstrel Cycle” album.
Wanlov went on to perform a couple more equally entertaining and unsettling, sometimes provocative songs before bringing his set to an end with the recently released “Never Go Change.” A general feeling of amazement was present in the air throughout Wanlov’s performance and lingered even after he exited stage.
Then came the moment to introduce the nights’ main act. Host Mutombo Da Poet did that so appropriately and then together with the Sekondi Band, the Simigwa Do Man graced the stage wearing a T-shirt embossed with an image of Kwame Nkrumah over a pair of black trousers and shoes, and of course, his trademark beret worn on his head to top it all off.
Ambolley’s performance would last for a little over an hour. He began with playing song from his old albums and had patrons on their feet, dancing from the get-go. Midway through his performance, he invited M.anifest to share the stage with him, much to the excitement of the crowd. The two performed mash ups of their respective songs and it was all so seamless. Perhaps to substantiate his challenged position as the originator of rap music, Ambolley dropped some bars which M.anifest referred to as “O.G. raps.”
M.anifest left the stage after about 20 minutes of performing with Ambolley, and it seemed like the most apt time to officially launch the “African Soul” album. Gyedu Blay Ambolley described the album as one that was essentially for relaxation. Prior to it’s launch, the album was described as one that saw Ambolley mainly expolring his “spiritual and feminine sides,” and this was quite evident in the few songs he performed off the new album. He rounded up the show with some ‘bonus’ songs after the album was officially launched and auctioned by Mutombo Da Poet.
It was not a rap album that was launched at Alliance Francais on the evening of Friday 29th May 2015, but rap was in the building nonetheless: two of the three supporting acts were rap artistes, and besides, the man whose album was being launched is the artiste behind the first ever rap record.