Why do musicians risk it all? Daniel Yeboah, reggae artist and Sodexo employee at Sargent dining hall, says it best himself: “Music is life.” Even though he has worked at Sargent for the past 13 years, Yeboah started out as a musician and plans on always being one. Under the stage name “Atta Ghana Boy,” he is now a member of two different reggae bands, Hydro and Gizzae.
Yeboah, a native of Ghana, picked up his first instrument, the African drums, at age 5. Shortly after, Yeboah began composing his own music, performing vocals and playing the bass guitar. He also taught African elementary school children how to play instruments. Eventually, Yeboah became part of an African band, Super High Kings, and traveled all over the world.
“In '97 we went to Canada … Montreal, Toronto and then we came back to the United States, and we played Dallas, Texas, Chicago, Florida, New York, Atlanta,” Yeboah said.
It was after the concert in Atlanta, Ga., with the Super High Kings that Yeboah risked it all.
“When we finished the show the leader (of the band) said we should come back to Ghana before we get paid, but five of us guys decided not to go back because if we went back, the leader was not going to pay us the money we deserve," Yeboah said. "When the leader becomes leader, he wants to let everybody down. We decided to stay here, you know, and make a different life.”
Yeboah lived in Atlanta for nine months until he was asked to relocate to Chicago in 1998 by people in the reggae music business who knew of his work in Africa. Yeboah recalls this offer as “another big change” in his career. Risking it all was worth it in Yeboah’s case. The promotion paid his rent and provided him with a monthly salary.
“I started getting in contact with Jamaican bands and other musicians," Yeboah said. "I started surviving, you know."
One of the musicians Yeboah met upon arriving to Chicago was a Jamaican artist named Doggi.
“Doggi was a good singer (but) he’s dead. He’s gone now,” Yeboah said. “When I introduced myself to him, I told him I was a musician from Ghana. I said I can talk to some of the few guys I know here. Maybe we can pull some stuff together.”
Yeboah and Doggi, along with a few other reggae artists, formed the band called Hydro, which is still active. Yeboah plays the drums and bass guitar for Hydro. He is also drummer for the award-winning reggae band Gizzae.
Both Hydro and Gizzae perform a musical style called “roots reggae,” which Yeboah said incorporates “the fundamental rhythm of reggae music and more feel.” Yeboah said he enjoys reggae music because reggae “talks more about life, it talks about politics and opens your eyes.” Hydro and Gizzae play original music and covers frequently on the weekends around Chicago and the Midwest area, including Indiana and Missouri.
Monday through Friday, when Yeboah is not at a gig, you can find him near the desserts counter at Sargent. Yeboah concedes that his first love is music, but he is also passionate about serving others.
“I love to serve people … making people happy, providing and seeing the students happy,” Yeboah said.
He is also a fan of Sargent’s food.
“To me, all the desserts are good," Yeboah said. "Everything we provide is good stuff.”
Kofi Poku, Yeboah’s co-worker at Sargent, praised Yeboah’s commitment to being a chef and musician.
“Daniel is a good guy," Poku said. "We come from the same country. ... He is talented. He writes music, plays guitar and plays the drums. He even has his own music studio."
Although Yeboah balances two careers right now, he said he would like to move back to his home country of Ghana in the future and pursue only music.
“Music is always going to be me, you know," Yeboah said. "Music is part of me. You understand me.”
One of the noticeable features of many early outstanding entertainers is their short lifespan. Bob Marley lived for only 36 years; Bobby Darin survived for a year longer; Roy Hamilton managed to make it to 40, while Nat King Cole died at age 45.
Jamaica's child prodigy and the dean of reggae, Delroy Wilson, survived for two years longer than Nat King Cole, while Jamaica's singing sensation duo of the 1960s, The Blues Busters - Phillip James and Lloyd Campbell, died at age 47 and 50, respectively.
What is most interesting, is the fact that, Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown, and the rock and roll king, Elvis Presley, all graced this earth for 42 years.
Tosh, who was born, Winston Hubert McIntosh on October 19, 1944, died on September 11, 1987; Brown on February 1, 1957 and transitioned on July 1, 1999 while Presley spent January 8, 1935 to August 16, 1977 on this earth. All have made enormous contributions to the development of popular music, belying their short lifespans, which leaves one to wonder if, that's the way nature planned it.
Many of these artistes have achieved as much as, or even more than, others who have lived full lives, which leaves one to wonder if nature or destiny had a plan for them.
Darin's death, unlike the others, was predicted from early. With his heart damaged from bouts of rheumatic fever, doctors had predicted his death by age 18, but he optimistically set his targets for age 25. In an interview with Life Magazine, he was quoted as saying, "I'd like to be a legend by the time I'm 25 years old".
LEGEND OF DARRIN
The comment led some to accuse him of being arrogant and conceited, but few understood that Darin felt that he had to achieve greatness quickly. He realised his potential from early and had great ambitions, but was also aware that he had a short time in which to achieve his goals.
So, with grit and determination, he set out on a mission that many would have thought impossible.
Born in New York on May 14, 1936, he showed an interest in music from an early age and became proficient at drums, piano and guitar by his early teens.
When he had his first set of hits in the late 1950s he was a teen idol with much more talent and mature command of his craft than the typical singer of his age. His breakthrough recording was the 1958 rock and roll smasher, Splish Splash, which sold 100,000 copies in less than a month.
He followed up with a similar piece, titled, Queen Of The Hop, before unfolding his classic self-penned 1959 rock ballad, Dream Lover, which climbed to No. 1 and No. 2 on the United Kingdom and United States charts respectively.
Thereafter, Darin became so versatile that he prompted considerable discussion about whether he should be classified as a rock and roll singer, a Vegas hipster cat, an interpreter of popular standards, a balladier or a folk rocker. He was all ot these, yet none of these, because he made a point of not becoming committed to any one style at the exclusion of others.
Darin also had starring roles and an Oscar nomination in the movie world. After one of his heart failures, he slipped into a coma, and died on December 20, 1973.
Bob Marley's achievements in a 36-year lifespan and a two-decade music career is unbelievable and far-reaching, to the extent that he was universally accepted as 'Reggae King'.
His collaboration with noted music producer, Chris Blackwell, created the classic albums Catch A Fire, Burning, Natty Dread, Rastaman Vibration, Exodus, Kaya, Survival and Uprising, between 1973 and '81.
The albums brought hope to the downtrodden and guidance to world leaders. Born in Nine Mile, St Ann, Jamaica in 1945, Marley first came to prominence as a member of the 1960s vocal trio, The Wailers. His lyrics focused mainly on revolutionary issues, though others delved into the romantic.
Marley also found time during his short lifespan to father some 11 children, many of whom followed in his musical footsetps.
Peter Tosh, who along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, comprised the Wailers, went international, after splitting with the group, following the recording of the album Burning. He established the reputation of being Jamaica's most outspoken and uncompromising artiste on matters of injustice and demonstrated this in recordings like Buckingham Palace, Equal Rights And Justice and Get Up, Stand Up.
During a 23-year music career, he copped several No. 1 hits, and was posthumously awarded a Grammy and similarly conferred with the Order of Merit by the Jamaican Government in 2012.
Like Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown died at age 42. He was perhaps, second only to Marley, in terms of international popularity, and earned the title 'The Crown Prince'.
Brown's consistent invasion of international music charts have made him one of the best-known Jamaican artistes of all time. His achievements lead one to ponder on the level of impact he would have created, had he been around for much longer.
KING OF ROCK AND ROLL
Elvis Presley's legend was incomparable. He was dubbed 'King of Rock and Roll', after posting a record 18 No. 1 singles on the US charts, surpassed only by the Beatles (20).
With a plethora of recordings throughout the 1960s up to the early 1970s, Presley became the most recorded artiste of his generation, an achievement which belies how long he lived.
As for Nat King Cole, his multifarious and multitudinous achievements during his short life defies description.
A multilingual singer, an accomplished pianist, a multi-genre performer and an accomplished movie star, are but few of the credentials embodied in this single human frame.
Roy Hamilton lived for only 40 years, yet he was able to record scores of songs in the various genres of pop, soul, rock and roll, Latin and sentimentals. He also tried his hand at boxing and painting, with a reasonable level of success.
Summerfest Productions, promoters of Reggae Sumfest, has confirmed Siccature Alcock - popularly known as Jah Cure, as the grand finale act on International Night 1, Friday, July 26.
Executive producer of Reggae Sumfest, Johnny Gourzong, said choosing Jah Cure as a closing act was a no-brainer. "Jah Cure has the right flavour, expertise, stage performance and a crowd-stopping voice to grace the stage as the final act," he said.
Not at all daunted by the task of being the closing act, Jah Cure is preparing for what might turn out be his best performance yet. He will be following acts such as American hip-hop star Flo Rida, veterans Beres Hammond and Barrington Levy, reggae superstar Tarrus Riley, and relative newcomers Iba Mahr, Droop Lion, urban jazz singer Kiara Dubwah, and Nature.
The soulful Jah Cure, who is widely recognised for hit songs such as Call On Me, Unconditional Love, That Girl and Longing For, last performed on the Sumfest main stage in 2011. Hailing from western Jamaica, he has a large following of fans eagerly awaiting his performance next Friday at Catherine Hall in the Second City.
Unconditional Love, featuring Phyllisia, recently passed the impressive threshold of over five million hits on YouTube.
According to the singer, he is honoured to wind up International Night 1 for such an acclaimed reggae festival and has big plans in store for his fans. "I am closing the Friday night and that is a chance for me to cement my status as one of the leaders of reggae in the 21st century. I am coming to work for the patrons at Sumfest and I have a wonderful set lined up," he said.
Another show-stopper added to the festival on Dancehall Night is I-Wayne, a consummate performer who is a rare treat who will add a touch of fire to the explosive performances on Thursday, July 25. Being very familiar with the Reggae Sumfest platform, the singer is eagerly anticipating he will add a touch of culture to Dancehall Night, with his hits such as Living in Love and Can't Satisfy Her.
Reggae Sumfest toasts to a successful 21 years from July 21-27, 2013. A few of the heavyweights performing on the festival this year are Grammy Award-winning R&B singer Miguel, reggae artistes Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley, Beres Hammond, Barrington Levy, Romain Virgo, Chronixx and Life Seeds singer I-Wayne, who has been added to the Dancehall Night line-up.
The 2013 staging of Reggae Sumfest is sponsored by Digicel, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, Jamaica Tourist Board, The Gleaner Company Ltd, Secrets Resorts, Red Stripe, Pepsi, Ting, Grand Palladium, Half Moon, Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort, Sunset Beach Resort, RIU, and Sandals Resorts International.
For more information on the festival and ticket details, visit www.reggaesumfest.com.
The persistence of VP Records – who now turn their attention to the mighty Fred Locks - in the issuance of its ‘Reggae Legends’ series, is to be heartily welcomed. Whilst this artist might never have reached the dizzy heights of some of his contemporaries from the 1970s golden era of roots reggae, none will have missed the everlasting impact of his ‘Black Star Liner’ release. Fred Locks is so called due to the length of his locks. This growth was sparked by Selassie’s visit to Jamaica in 1966, though his new found faith was rewarded with eviction from the family home!
Zimbabwe in the last two years experienced a flood of reggae and dancehall artistes as promoters rushed to cash in on the popularity of some of these artistes. With the introduction of the United States dollar in Zimbabwe, the foreign artistes found this country an attractive destination to do business.
Foreign artistes who have cashed in on performances in Zimbabwe from the beginning of 2010 include Sizzla Kalonje, Yassus Afari, Sean Paul, Akon, Lutan Fyah, Brick and Lace, Beenie Man, King Sounds, Capleton, Elephant Man, Mavado and lately Zahara to mention only a few.