In 1987, singer K. Adusei, and a soon-to-be household name record producer, Frimpong Manso, met in an Accra music studio where some of the greatest Highlife musicians rose to stardom. Together, they created one of Ghana’s most versatile Highlife albums: Boafo Ne Nyame, a nostalgic record merging the sounds of the traditional pre-colonial musical style with the new swing of funk, pop, reggae, and synth influences sweeping the African continent. Highlife was so-named because it was once reserved for Ghana’s elite during colonial times, with guests at exclusive jazz clubs expected to wear formal dress to enjoy the Afro-Western tunes. It was reclaimed by the masses after Ghana’s 1957 independence from colonial rule in the “guitar band style,” where traditional string instruments like seprewa were substituted with guitar to create unique Ghanaian sounds. On Boafo Ne Nyame, K. Adusei embodies that sound with a witty and melancholic ode to three of Highlife listeners’s favorite topics: faith, family, and money.
The title track “Boafo ne Nyame,” meaning “God is a Helper,” is a slow reggae-funk-gospel ballad asking God to intervene in destructive human behaviors. In his conversational singing style, Adusei cries “As quickly as money falls into my hands, it burns away, so I’m begging God to extinguish this fire that follows me.” The cheerful beat of the drums, synthesizers, and guitar strings are a humorous parallel to the desperation of his lyrics. “Asem Da Ye So” (“Our Problems Are On Us”) is a fast-paced dance jam with deep funk and soul roots—heard in the guitar riffs—intermixed with disco themes and high-toned melodic backing vocals. The opening two-toned dum-dum of the drum followed by the melodic two-finger picking of the electric guitar is guaranteed to have filled many an Afro-and-bell-bottomed dance floor in its day. At eight minutes, it is the longest and most upbeat track on the album.
In one of the bonus tracks “Abusua” (“Family”), Adusei brings back the funk and soul with a dash of pop. Asiedu sings, “The more money you have, the more family seems to come out of the woodwork.” That is the beauty of Highlife: funky rhythms and comedic lyrics hold a mirror up to society to reflect and do better.