Updated: Jan 26
Five of Ghana’s contemporary live musicians discussed the future of country’s iconic Highlife sound and gave exclusive performances on the final series of Highlife Music Deconstructed (HMD) Series.
In the first of five posts, we give you a bit of background of each of the artists. They include producer Kwame Yeboah, BiQo and Nee Mantse of Lala Sessions, Kyekyeku of the Opong Super Stars band, and Nyornuwofia Agorsor of the Agorsor Band.
We kick off with BiQo aka Stephen Sackitey Biko Okletey - named after South African anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko. He is an afro-soul artist with a passion for Highlife music.
Born in Mamprobi, the 26-year-old grew up listening to iconic musicians such as Bob Marley and Tracy Chapman from his dad’s record collection. He also listened to traditional Ga songs his mum would tune into on radio stations like Obonu FM. “I love the stories, their vocal technique particularly the women on the track,” he said.
Click here to watch the interview
BiQo is a vocalist, guitarist and is currently learning the saxophone. His musical influences include Alhaji K Frimpong, Uhuru Dance Band, and Kojo Antwi. More recently, he has become enamoured by Pat Thomas and Ebo Taylor’s work.
BiQo describes his sound as afro-soul because it features a mix of scatting, ad-libbing and lyrics performed in Ga and Twi. But he is keen not to limit himself and says his sound draws on many musical influences, making it afro-eclectic.
BiQo entered into professionally in 2015 after representing Ghana at the MTN Project Fame West Africa music competition in Nigeria. He has since carved a name for himself performing at The Republic and The Shop Accra. Outside Ghana, he played at Montreux Jazz Club in Switzerland in 2016 and at the Newark Under The Stars event in the USA. He has worked with producers and musicians like Kwame Yeboah, Kojo Antwi and Kobi Onyame.
His song ‘Ma Fi Wo’ was named Highlife Song of the Year by radio station YFM in 2020 and three of his songs ‘For You’, ‘Don’t Cage The Bird’, ‘Pot of Beans’ were used for the Shirley Frimpong-Manso (Sparrow Production) films ‘Perfect Picture – Ten Years Later’ and ‘Potato Potahto’ on Netflix. In total he has two EPs and several singles.
In 2018, he formed a band with bass guitarist Nee Mantse, percussionist Victor and guitarist Leslie. In 2019, he and Nee Mantse co-founded Lala Sessions – a platform to preserve and promote Ghana’s original music to Ghana’s younger generation.
You can follow him on IG @biqomusic