The question never was if Neo-Highlife singer/songwriter SSUE would last long enough on the scene to bring out her own collection of songs, it was rather when and how well such material would be packaged and presented to the public.
Well, here she is now with a skillfully executed six-track EP called Bambaya Fire which makes pleasant listening and adequately proves that Highlife still contains within its domain, songs capable of challenging and enchanting new generations of musicians and listeners.
The young lady obviously belongs to the crop of contemporary artistes who appreciate the need to relook the solid building blocks put in place by earlier maestros and take the music to new levels. That’s why the introductory track, Bome Nkomode, employs the powerful rhythmic vehicle of Yaa Amponsah guitar licks which blend well with some tight well-balanced horn phrases and David Aidoo’s articulate bass lines.
She offers a good display of tone and technique with her vocals on the song and the featured act, Highlife great Pat Thomas’ excellent command of phrasing in the Highlife mode almost lifts the track to the status of a modern classic.
The initial percussion and bass-accompanied hand claps on Baa Sumo Mi bring a danceable feel to the song. It is a romantic track that quickly moves listeners to snap their fingers, tap their feet or simply let themselves go on a dance floor. It generally shows off the backing instrumentalists as a bunch of players who generate tremendous enthusiasm and spirit to help SSUE soar with her vocals.
The liveness of the recording session, as against some quickly-programmed computer sounds, is appropriately felt in Boom Boom Bang Bang, especially through the power and punch of the horn trio comprising Ekow Mbrah Otchere (saxophone), Luis Emmanuel Gyima (trombone) and Joseph Amankwa Twum-Baah (trumpet). Guitarist Apau Samuel Awuku also plays smartly and tastefully on the track.
Songs by the late globally-acclaimed South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, have been subjected to interpretation and reinterpretation over the years. SSUE adds her name to the tall list of admirers with a lilting Highlife version of Market Place. Drummer Emmanuel Addai makes use of his whole set in a way that would have grabbed the great Masekela himself to dance to the track.
SSUE can well be proud that though her big agenda is to give a fresh tang to Highlife, she manages to cook it with a variety of flavours which make it a pleasure to devour. Should I has a slightly mellower tone than the other tracks but it still pulls in the listener to acknowledge the young singer’s sense of arrangement.
SSUE’s musical cosmos is expansive and surely accounts for her neat appropriation of the Bambaya rhythm from the Northern Region of Ghana which she delicately blends with ‘pinches’ from Osibisa’s famous Fire song for her Bambaya Fire track. Percussionist Michael Laryea has room to showcase skills that accentuate the lively rhythm. Keyboardist Godbless Buabin lays an unobtrusive layer of sounds for all to step on and shine brightly.
The Bambaya Fire collection has a good deal of substance that affirms SSUE’s conviction that vast imagination and enough artistic flair are key elements in this game of making catchy music that’s accessible to a wide cross-section of the public.
What’s offered on her Bambaya Fire EP is fun for listening and also fun for dancing. That’s not a bad combination. It is something to have if you like happy, progressive music rendered in the great Highlife tradition!
The EP was recorded at Black Note Studio in Accra, Ghana. It was produced by Lahai Samurai (Sierra Leone) and Mobeatz Bangr (Chicago, USA). It was mixed by Zapp Mallet (Ghana ) and mastered by Kai Blankenberg at Skyline Tonfabrik in Dusseldorf, Germany. Kofi Amoakohene and Henry Holdbrook-Smith were the Executive Producers