Lee Duodu was like a commander leading troops through uncharted territories as his sturdy voice, cruising on a mix of danceable highlife and funk beats created in German recording studios, confronted listeners in the early 1980s. Like his colleagues in the Bus Stop Band then, Lee was somehow hopeful that the style they had formulated would arouse some interest back home. Luckily, the music caught on and was even branded ‘Burger highlife’ by fans. Lee will be part of the line-up when the music is celebrated again on a big scale at the National Theatre in Accra on Saturday, March 8. He will share the stage with Ben Brako, George Darko, Charles Amoah, Bob Fiscian, McGod and Pat Thomas at the show dubbed Made in Germany II. "We did not give any name to the music," Lee told Graphic Entertainment in a telephone interview from his Berlin base. "We were aware that African music was not strongly represented on the world scene then. Manu Dibango, the big African star then, was not so hot anymore and Toure Kunda from Senegal was just beginning to rise. We wanted to fill the void then, so all of us in the band put ideas together for an easily digestible cross-over style.” George Darko was leader and guitarist for the Bus Stop band, which unfortunately disbanded soon after the groundbreaking Koo Te Brofo release. Lee went on to form Kantata, which also put out notable songs like Akpeteshie, Odo Beba, It's High Time, Saworoma and Let's Save Africa . Lee was a potent force on the local scene before settling in Germany. Bands he played with here included Medican Lantics, Police Band, Bisa Goma and Zantoda. Lee would not say whether there was bad blood between him and Darko as was being bandied around in music circles but was emphatic that he would do all the favourite Kantata pieces at the National Theatre next Saturday. "I have not been home for eight years and it will be nice getting back there to put some sun into the bones and also to do some of the Kantata stuff which I like very much. As of now, I know I’m not performing with Goorge Darko but I won't mind doing a song or two with him if the audience want that." Lee, McGod and Fiscian were expected to arrive in Accra from Germany Friday night February 22. Made in Germany II is being produced by World Rhythms in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut. It is being supported by Lufthansa and the National Theatre of Ghana with GTV, Citi FM, Channel R, Weekly Fylla and ghanamusic.com as media partners.
For those who feared that the advent of hiplife would see the demise of highlife, fear no more. If what the stars showed at the Burger Highlife concert at the National Theatre last Saturday was anything to go by, then highlife is a firmly-rooted part of our music as our local dishes are part of our culture.Vintage performance enhanced by good singing, exciting stage performance, as well as wonderful support from the Systhm Band left fans asking for more and relunctant to leave when the show came to an end.The audience wanted a treat of 1980s and early 1990s music and they got their fill at the concert which had the dynamic Fritz Baffour as the Master of Ceremony.It seemed until Mc God took his turn at the show, most people had forgotten that he unofficially owes the copyright to the term “Wo Ye Bue, Wo Ye Kenken,” a phrase from one of his mid-1980s songs dedicated to mothers, fathers, and all other hardworking people whose contribution was keeping Ghana’s economic engine running.The event, organised by the Goethe Institut, was intended to celebrate music made in Germany but in the end, what the artistes dished out had nothing German about it. Rather, it was pure magic as they took fans down memory lane.The only link to Germany was that at the time they released their albums, all the musicians, except Ben Brako, were based in Germany. Again, their businesslike approach and timeliness in presentation are not qualities often seen at made-in Ghana programmes.The show opened with a masterly performance from keyboardist Bob Fiscian and ended with George Darko in an almost three-hour thrilling show that saw Ben Brako, McGod, Charles Amoah and Lee Duodu also taking turns to bring back fond memories to the audience. Each artiste did four of his best songs and tune after tune, the musicians proved why highlife cannot be ‘killed.’Ben Brako has launched a sort of comeback with appearances at a number of shows in Ghana recently and he managed to keep those who wanted to dance on their feet with a song from his latest album and more from his well-loved Baya album.Pat Thomas did all-time favourites like Sika Ye Mogya and Bisa while Mc God re-ingnited the CAN 2008 frenzy when he dedicated Highlife Agogo to Junior Agogo for his goal-scoring exploits for the Black Stars during the soccer tournament. Some fans even dared to do the famous kangoroo dance. Charles Amoah’s Eye Odo Asem and So Medo Hwe were his best on the night and his amazing footwork was on full show as he did some choreographed moves with the Dance Factory dancers. If there was any award to be given for best artiste for the night, it would have easily gone to Lee Duodu for his very catchy repertoire. His songs had the desired effect on the audience, who ordinarily would not be been seen dancing in public, could no longer hold back and got up to boogie. Lee led the audience on as he insisted that Burger Highlife was not a sit and listen music, but rather a celebratory stuff. The audience obliged and danced probably because the gentleman still sounded as fresh as he did in the early 1980s and had not been seen or heard of in public for a while.After that enthralling show from Lee Duodu, master guitarist George Darko was expected to draw the curtain with an even more uplifting performance but he seemed rather lethargic. His decision to end the show with Ayesha, a song from his unreleased new album rather than the evergreen Ako Te Brofo was a big let-down.It was not only the artistes and the way they performed which was entertaining. The Systhm Band proved they were in a class of their own and they made the show so enjoyable. In this era where many live band shows fail to live up to expectation, the Systhm Band with competent players like bassist Emmanuel ‘Shabo’ Koomson and guitarist Akablay made such a complicated job look so easy. The puzzle was solved when it was eventually announced that the great Zapp Mallet was the brain behind the band.The background dancers from Dance Factory were agile and added extra colour to the show. In the end, the organisers, performers and audience shared a common opinion: the second Burger highlife celebration had been worth everybody’s while. All that quality entertainment should have definitely cost more than the Gh¢5.00 entry fee.By Rosalind Amoh