24 Mar Pioneers: Amakye Dede
Amakye Dede is referenced as one of the Ghanaian High Life originals and is regarded as a virtuoso of the genre. Dede is also known as ‘Iron Boy’, which is also a track and album title from his ‘Abrantie’ (Ghanaian meaning for Gentlemen) album.
Dede’s professional musical career started in 1973 when he joined the Kumapin Royals as a composer/vocalist. The experience created a solid substratum for Amakye to build and develop his skills and craft. Kumapin Royals had many successful songs during there time, although the three that come to mind and are closest to the Ghanaian hearts are “Ohohoo Batani”, “Wanware Me A” and “Odo Mani Agyina”.
Amakye needed change, he began to seek new opportunities and with his new vision in mind he packed up his bags and headed west, towards Nigeria. A country triple the size of Ghana in terms of land mass and with a population of one hundred and seventy nine million, compared to Ghana’s twenty six million people. The numbers and stats all made sense to Dede, he knew Nigeria had a market and it was there to exploit. It was a smart move from the highlife fanatic. Upon arrival, it didn’t take long for Dede to get his project set up and running. In 1980 he created his own band, “Apollo High Kings” also known as the ” The International Band Of Ghana”.
The nineteen eighty’s saw the “Apollo High Kings” smash the music charts and sales. Amakye Dede name was on the end of everyone’s tongue, especially when it came down to High Life music. The “Apollo High Kings” were building momentum and an ever-increasing fan base. It was Dede’s era, the nineteen eighties and even the nineteen nineties were there for the taking, which saw him capitalise on the popularity of the High Life music scene.
Dede has had a fascinating professional career, known for his hard graft and solid commitment to high life and displaying loyal patriotic qualities. With a catalogue of twenty albums it’s not surprising he is referenced as a pioneer, leader of High Life music and the Ghanaian music scene as a whole. “Abrantee”, “Akonoba”, “Krokro Me”, “Me Fro Wo”, “To Be A Man Na Wah” and “Iron Boy (Abrantie)” were some of his most successful albums.
What fascinates me, apart from his devotion to High Life and his love for Ghana, is the fact that in his later years of creating music he was not afraid to experiment. Towards the end of his career Dede dabbled and experimented by merging high life attributes with Soca and Calypso rhythms. Even combining pop and lovers rock elements, resulting in some nice blends of different genres.
In the later years of Amakye Dede’s life, he relocated to the motherland Ghana. He retreated and settled down in the capital Accra, where he purchased a bar and named it the ‘Abrantie Spot’, after his hit album. The bar focuses on live music, and supports local musicians and artists by giving them a platform to showcase their work.