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02.01.2016 Opinion

The Following Songs Transcend 2015 Because...

By Gabriel Myers Hansen
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The real hits of 2015 are straightforward, and can be counted on one hand. As always, it was a memorable year for Ghanaian dance and rhythm, more so for our favourite maternal grandmother --highlife.

Many songs we've loved throughout a year suddenly become stale with the new year. The explanation for this is simple; many of them aren't made out of a musicianship, they are specifically built with commercial intentions, and so are "best before" a particular date (usually the end of the year).

But the following songs transcend 2015 because granted, they possess commercial elements, but come with special features too. These features, which we will discuss in seconds, ensure that the life expectancy of the songs are extended for at least, several months into the new year.

Let's start with Brother Brother, well, for obvious reasons. Brother Brother, which was released back in October, breaks several rules and pushes even more boundaries, not just because it's a good song, but also because it's highlife...and we both know what struggle it can be to be a highlife musician in this decade.

For starters, take a walk in your neighbourhood, in the day or at night (it won't matter). At this point, it's not that you won't hear Brother's how many times per minute. Bisa KDei's songs have filled the a kind of secondary air. And the fact that it's highlife, and not any of the offshoots of hiplife, makes it the more historic.

Over the years, and especially with this generation, highlife music has has constantly fallen short when it comes to realistically competing for first place. I admit that Kwabena Kwabena and Daddy Lumba have put out worthy models in recent years, but not like Mansa, and certainly not like Brother Brother.

Again, being a highlife artist in these times is risky. Releasing Brother Brother was risky. But it has soon proven to be such a worthy risk...the best thing Bisa has done thus far.

Brother Brother is creative, tangible and nostalgic. Many of the songs discussed in this essay might linger till June of this year, but Brother Brother might outlive our projection, because "like play like play", it just might be a classic. Wow!

Choruses do not require to be elaborate. Indeed, the best choruses are simple and short. Shatta Wale has typified this theory over and over; his choruses hardly exceed a few words.

Kakai is witty, funny and to the point. It is sang with a youth, and is appealing in the most unconventional way (to everybody). Our parents might approach it with disdain at first, calling it shallow and lacking words of wisdom...but we both know they'll come around eventually. It's how they've (and indeed all of us) accepted Shatta Wale; gradually and unintentionally. Same situation with Azonto too, and indeed many things that have come out since the phasing out of the black and white TV and Obra.

The song does not discriminate in its appeal; everyone can join in the Kakai frenzy. Just know two things: "hai hai", and "kakai". There isn't a real formula to dance to the song. Everything you do is only have to gesticulate a bit of " kakaism", if you get what I mean --because "kakai" implies scary caricature. Usually, your real face won't suffice, but anything apart from that will. Also, your hands must be up to ear--level and should be shaped like claws. Actually, there's a brief video of Countryman Songo dancing to the song...that's what I mean.

All these are basic prerequisites which everyone meets, so everyone can dance to kakai.

There's another Shatta Wale tune which will endure for a while longer; Baby (Chop Kiss). Here too, the brilliance is in the chorus and beat. It is immediately exciting, and the drum kicks at he end of each bar are unique and worth mention. The chorus is simple:

"Baby, baby baby, oya chop kiss..."
That can be memorised in two seconds and without effort, and then you're good to go.

The things EL is able to do with pidgin English are remarkable. With that as a tool, he's able to access our emotions with flawless effectiveness. He released Koko in November of last year, and it immediately caught on.

Koko, which comes in Agbadza tempo, is the most different thing we've heard EL do. But he has constantly shown that not only is he unafraid about doing different, but also that he can succeed at it. The worst thing you can demand of a musician is that they stick to doing one thing. The evidence that an artist is genius material is how far they can stretch their dynamism and still maintain top spot...and EL has distinguished himself in that sense, lately, with Koko.

The theme of Koko is inspirational, and usually inspiration doesn't top charts here. Yet, Koko is defiant. We are dancing to it just as much as we are to our regular dance music. Maybe it's in how unpretentious and uplifting the lyrics are:

"Wetin no be koko for my God oo?/ Your wahala be koko for my God oo"

Or maybe it's in the rhythm. Whatever it is, it's a correct song, real original music. Everybody can relate to it, which is why I'm certain it will be played at the church picnic too.

In this case too, the trick in dancing is simple. It's all in the steps, fundamentally. Once the steps fall in rhythm, everything else falls in place.

Stonebwoy's Mightylele is a mighty song on many levels. See, there isn't a long story to this song. Once we hear the woman's voice ask for a moment of silence, we know what follows is carnage. Secondly, it's Stonebwoy, so it's definitely one hell of a song.

Through three verses and an infectious chorus, he details various incidents which can be described as "mightylele". I infer that the meaning of "mightylele" is not far from "mighty". Mighty feats are achieved by just living one day at a time. That is such a beautiful message.

The chorus of this song is a call and response. He takes the "difficult " part and leaves us to merely come in with "Mightylele". It's automatic. When it comes to Stonebwoy, we are fast learners. What do you say when you hear:

"Deal with it, deal with it, deal with di tin der"?

Exactly! Very good. What's mighty jolly about this song is that it's slow-paced, but is competing perfectly with songs which require you to gallop endlessly and make you sweat. When it comes on in the office, you can just sway to it (standing or sitting) , and then when it's over, you can go back to work like nothing ever happened. Also, it increases productivity. Trust me, I would father wanted me to be a doctor as a child, and I watch Gray's Anatomy for the psychology.

I strongly believe in his Go Higher too, because it's such a complete song. It's insistent right from the beginning and is constant in emotion all through the song. Maybe it's just a favourite of mine and I may never say anything objective about him as I am a fan, but I dare you to tell me that it isn't a favourite of yours too. Thank you.

Like last year, my this year too be exciting musically, so that we can have more interesting conversations about the sounds of our time. Happy new year!

The writer can be reached @myershansen on twitter and at [email protected] Also on

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