By Nanabanyin Dadson
REX Omar is charting a new course. Well, nothing really new if by new one expects something unusual and dramatic. Basically he is doing two things that are both in the Sankofa vein.
First, Rex Omar is going back to root highlife and then build on from there. Second major thing is that he is leaving the bank of computers and going back to playing real live music.
Not new as both moves by Rex Omar may seem, his new course is bold and significant in ways that would certainly earn the approval of many Ghanaians who, like him, are fed up with what he calls synthetic music.
Rex Omars vision for his own music and Ghanaian music generally is clear. As he writes in the in-lay brochure, of his newest album Who Am I? I believe in the rich musical resource of Africa. Its influence pervades the popular musical culture of the world. International pop music is essentially the result of a synthesization of African rhythms, scales and feeling, with western harmony and musical instruments.
From blues, jazz, rock, funk to reggae and hip-hop, the African root can be traced. I feel proud at the thought that this African contribution to world culture is universally acknowledged.
Yet I think there is so much love that we can share with the world. Many more rhythmic expressions and a good number of musical instruments exist in our traditional music that can further enrich the pop musical expression of the world. This is the reason why I am happy at the popularization of the sound of the kora thanks to Salif Keita, Youssou NDour, Mary Kante and others. They have put countries like Mali, Senegal and Guinea on the map of the World Music category of pop music.
My lament is that my own country is yet to make strides in this direction. Synthetic music is the order of the day in Ghana. The rich percussive African sounds have given way to the cold mechanical sounds of the computer. I do love technological advancement, it can be used to enhance production and sound quality. But when it comes to rendering the sounds of Africa I prefer the real thing. Manually played sounds, captured through state of the art hi-tech equipment, is incomparable.
So deeply is Rex involved in his vision that if one left him, he would go on and on. But Rex knows what he talks about because he can prove it as he did last week when he launched his album at the National Theatre in Accra.
To the select number of patrons who were invited to the launch, this was a good evening of great live music. Such a great feeling it was to see that there are young men and women in Ghana today, who can still play musical instruments and sing to a live audience as they did.
Watch out for a review of Rex Omars Who Am I? in Showbiz next week.