Flanked by spirited backing vocalists and curvaceous gyration specialists, Congolese maestro Kanda Bongo Man’s exquisite falsetto towers perfectly over his band, permeating all corners of the elegant Banquet Hall of Ghana’s State House this fine evening.
Before him have been sterling live performances from fast-rising chanteuse eShun, and fellow African powerhouses Charles K. Fosu (Daddy Lumba), and Take Away man AKA Blay.
A seasoned performer who’s widely considered a revolutionary of soukous music, Bongo Man, 62, steers the élite gathering with superior style and aura. It is astounding, yet not unexpected of this particular stage –The Vodafone African Legends Night. It is mounted by only top-tier acts from the continent.
Not every song Bongo Man performs tonight is as familiar as “Kwassa Kwassa”, which has also served as his nickname for something like two decades, but it doesn’t matter, because his charisma and stagecraft are delightful beyond measure. Delicious guitar interludes and enchanting choreography pepper each one of those extensive songs.
Bongo Man may have performed a song too many – this is the general sentiment across the room. “A concise one-hour act would surely have been more magical”, says a dark bald man with an ample grey beard to his plump Afro-haired Plus 1. But who can blame Kanda? He is author of nearly 20 albums. He can go a whole day if he wants. Plus, he’s an African legend: it is impossible to “overstay his welcome”.
Perhaps even more anticipated on the night than Kanda himself, Abrantie Amakye Dede proves an iconic crowning to the already thrilling evening, maximizing the most, this neat home-court advantage. He’s not nicknamed the “Iron Boy” for nothing. When he chants “seeeerious”, it is not child’s play. His craft is evergreen, and the adored graty cadence of his voice, still whole. While he has not released new material in several years, he’s a god of classics, and the emotional practicality in his lyric and melody make them beloved sing-alongs.
Primarily navigating love, money, and the journey that is this life, these masterpieces as the great Mmaa Pe Sokoo medley, Su Fre Wo Nyame, Se Se Odo, Sika Ne Berimah all invoke excited hip sway, famously amongst former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, and Communications Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful among a host of key dignitaries who grace the perfectly-organized night.
The 2017 Vodafone African Legends Night was put together by the Global Media Alliance, with legendary broadcaster Kwame Sefa Kayi (Peace FM) performing MC duties. Other notable African performers to mount the enviable stage in the past have included Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Hugh Masekela, Femi Kuti, Freddy Meiway, Gyedu Blay Ambulley, Akosua Agyapong, Kpanlogo man Amandzeba Nat Brew, Nana Tuffuor, saxophonist Steve Bedi, and Ben Brako.