October 18 - 24, 2007
A MASTER GUITARIST’S DEBUT
By NII LARYEA KORLEY
A DELIGHTFUL surprise from a brilliant and enterprising guitarist. That is the compelling verdict for any fan of guitar-dominated music and even those not posed towards that style after listening to Anthony Akablay’s debut collection of songs, Lin In The Pot, the official launch of which takes place at the Alliance Francaise in Accra on Saturday, October 27.
The 10-track, mainly instrumental album amply shows off Akablay’s skills as a guitarist for all contexts: highlife, reggae, jazz, electric or acoustic, precomposed structures of free improvisation as well as small groups or larger ensembles.
It is also a testament to why he has played with nearly everyone who matters on the Ghanaian scene such as Kojo Antwi, Rex Omar, Jewel Ackah, Amandzeba, Ofori Amponsah and Daddy Lumba.
His melodic lines have seasoned live sessions of some of Africa’s biggest crowd-pullers too including the world-acclaimed Camerounian bassist Richard Bona, Zimbabwean arranger/producer and singer Oliver Mtukudzi and Lokua Kanza, the singer, song writer and composer from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Akablay describes himself as a man constantly searching for new musical knowledge, a trait that has seen him learn at the feet of Agya Koo Nimo, Nat Fredua, Kojo Gyan, Paa Joe, Kofi Electric, King Onyina and other competent guitarists. His exciting choice of tonal textures and deft shifting, illustrated by songs like Oshogbo and Long Time, and the upbeat feel represented by tracks like Akyeke and Pete Pete indicate his seriousness about creating with a wide appeal.
A wide variety of music appealed to Akablay, especially during his secondary school days at St John’s in Sekondi, home of the famous Matthew Chapter Five band and he became a drummer with Rim Akandoh’s band in 1985, the year he completed school.
“I was so absorbed into music that I started taking guitar lessons from Paa Joe who was then with Jewel Ackah’s Buttterfly Six. He recommended me to take his place in the band when he wanted to travel. Jewel agreed and I played with him from 1989 till 1991 when some of us left to form Western Diamonds.”
From their Westline Hotel base at Takoradi, Western Diamonds eventually became the top band in the nation, recording some memorable highlife albums. They traveled regularly around Africa, Europe and America, giving Akablay the opportunity to assess his ability against players on the live circuit from other countries.
The future looked somehow uncertain for Athony Akablay when the Western Diamonds band started to disintegrate in late 2002. He then took to freelancing.
The fusion idea is not only expressed in Akablay’s playing. His backing band, Abiza, comprises players from Ghana, Nigeria, Congo Brazaville, Benin, Gabon and Cameroun. Having traveled quite a bit, he incorporates ideas picked up from places like Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Seychelles. “I did not set out to record “Life In The Pot to suit Ghana alone, I want everyone to like something on the album and feel part of project,” says Akablay.
He is only one of the many bright guitar players on the scene. Among his peers, he admires Alfred Young, Obbos and Osei Owusu and thinks they must also try hard what posterity will remember them by.
“There’s no need getting all the money from the sessions and not recording your own stuff. Nobody will remember you when you are no more. More importantly, you have to let your Africanness reflect in your playing if you are an African player.”
So come October 27, Akablay’s Africanness, as displayed through Life in the Pot, will be unveiled to the world. Trumpeter Mac Tontoh and the Wulomei folkloric group are the guests on the night.
Graphic Showbiz October 18 – 24, 2007 Page: 7