High Vibes 2010
High Vibes 2010 featured over 180 leading African artists. Most like King Mensah (Togo), Tony Allen (Nigeria) and Ambolley (Ghana) have enjoyed long distinguished careers but audiences were pleasantly surprised by sensational newcomers such as Kae Sun, Ogorsor, Kwame Yeboah and Degg J Force 3. Throughout the festival, appreciative audiences applauded high quality live music, reinforcing High Vibes trademark for ‘taking great music to the people!’

Other festival performers were Manu Gallo (Ivory Coast), Kezitah (Togo), Awa Sissao (Burkina Faso), and Reggie Rockstone, Yaa Pono, Wulomei, Kwame Yebaoh and Dzidudu Band, Efya, Ofie Kodjoe, Kae Sun and Band, Trigmatic, Agorsor, and Warriors, all from Ghana.

Opening Night
The festival opened at Rockstone’s Office on Wednesday 10 November. The venue was filled to capacity with sponsors, guests, and several leading Hip Life artists. They were welcomed by a drinks cocktail and an acoustic performance by Kae Sun. The producers and sponsors present said a few words, followed by the screening of excerpts from two recent Ghanaian music films: Singing 4 Freedom, on the history of High Life and Coz Ov of Moni, dubbed the ‘first pidgen musical’ featuring MOBO nominees, M3nsa and Wanlov the Kubolor. It is likely that the two, back from a Paris music residency supported by French Embassy and CultureFrance will make a welcome return to High Vibes next year.

The evening’s main attraction was the exploration of the fascinating history of Hip Life, illustrated by live presentations from some of its passionate artists. Reggie Rockstone, the originator of the genre raised the curtain talking about how HipLife started and treated the audience to some of his popular songs. He then introduced the event’s special guest, Ambolley. His Simigwa Rap, predated Hip Life by several decades. Ambolley argued that High Vibes should also be about, ‘setting the records straight.” His first rap song was recorded in 1973, before the world’s first official rap song ‘Rappers Delight’ by New York’s Sugar Hill Gang. That  was recorded in 1979.

The stage then literally exploded with the rappers, many still plying their talent on Accra’s Hip Life underground ‘stepping up to the mic.’ There was Trigmatic, Kay Ara, Macho Rapper and Yaa Pono. They all received rapturous applause for their dexterous raps and incisive social observations. The MC, Paa K Holdbrooke - Smith narrated the story of HipLife, contextualizing the contribution of both artists and producers, and the reception of HipLife on radio.

The evening also brought together influential players in Hiplife and media personalities. Artistically, it illustrated one of Hip Life’s most valued assets, the ability of rappers to improvise lyrics and provide instant social commentaries. DJ Black from JOY FM put the artists to the test by playing classic tracks and challenging them to improvise or ‘freestyle’. The finale was an open mic session that brought the evening to a thrilling and joyous conclusion.

African Acoustic Divas Dinner Night, African Regent’s Hotel, Thursday 11 Nov 7.30 pm  – 10.30
The sold out event kicked off with speeches from the producers and sponsors and a short address by Ms. Bisi Adeleye Fayemi, Executive Director of African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF). She paid homage to High Vibes and pledged AWDF’s support for the festival. Mr. Bernard Botte, First Counsellor of the French Embassy also spoke about the importance of the festival to cultural development within the West Africa region. Wofa Yaw of the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture also spoke briefly, endorsing High Vibes and wishing it all the best for the future. The audience was then treated to sterling performances by all the artists: Ofie Kodjoe (Ghana), Kezitah (Togo) Efya (Ghana) and Manou Gallo (Ivory Coast). The finale saw a surprise performance by the famous South African singer, Yvonne Chaka Chaka. She called all the artists to the stage for a rendition of ‘Natural Woman’, the soul ballad made popular by Aretha Franklin. 

The audience was thrilled to see Jimmy Cliff in their midst. The Reggae Superstar was on a short visit to Accra and was glad to be there. He commended High Vibes for carrying the torch for live music and hinted that his fans in Ghana will love to see him perform. We also hinted that November could not be a bad time.

Frenchy Vibes at Boomerang Nite Club
The late night disco on 11 November attracted young people from Francophone West Africa, especially Guineans, many of whom had come to see their very own, Degg J Force 3. As the DJ’s played the latest records, the dance floor got busy with some incredible dancers, bringing back memories of the great Francophone nights at Boomerang and the vibrancy of Francophone culture in Accra. Degg J Force 3 gave a highly entertaining performance, living up to their reputation as one of the most exciting acts in West Africa today.

Jazzy Vibe at + 233 Jazz Bar and Grill, Friday 12 November
This open air event added a distinctly High Vibes flavor to Ghana’s Jazz scene. It kicked off with a lively performance by Agorsor with their energetic blend of African music styles and Jazz influences. Nyornuwofia, lead singer and exceptional performer was supported by a band assured of its African musical roots and Jazz influences. Kae Sun, Ghanaian born Canadian star followed, delivering his songs with vitality and gusto. He emerged as one of the most gifted songwriters of the festival.

Ambolley combined his Simigwa songs with newly worked Jazz standards. He received well  deserved applause for his witty version of ‘Lady’, Fela Kuti’s Afro Beat classic. Kwame Yeboah’s powerful presentation of his Dzidudu sound was the discovery of the night. Famous for his work with Osibisa and Craig Davids, this soul and Afro rock artist is not known for Jazz but he surprised everybody with his  stomping compositions and energetic live show.

Musical Explosion at Holy Gardens, Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Saturday 13 November
Billed as High Vibes Musical Explosion in the heart of Accra, it turned out to be one of the highlights of this year’s festival, drawing the biggest crowd. Days before the event, thousands of posters were distributed and festival billboards went up in the sprawling lorry park which was gradually transformed into a concert venue. Loud hailers and leafleteers were also deployed to publicize the performers coming to ‘Circle’ from across West Africa.

The performing artists were: Wulomei, the Hilife pioneers, Ambolley, Warriors, King Mensah, Degg J Force 3, Awa Sissao, Kezita, Yaa Pono and Kae Sun.

Closing of 2nd edition of High Vibes at Alliance Francaise
The festival came to an end with a cocktail reception during which the producers thanked the tireless production crew. Ambolley thanked the festival on behalf of all the artists. There were other short messages of support from Valerie Lesbros from the French Embassy in Ghana and Philippe Ayivor from Coca Cola. These messages were delivered again on the main stage.

The concert kicked off with a warm welcome by Jean Michel Garcia, Director of Alliance Francaise, followed by great performances by Tony Allen and Degg J Force 3, a fitting ending to a successful second edition of High Vibes.