A veteran Highlife musician and producer, Pat Thomas, is calling for increased efforts from stakeholders in the music industry to safeguard the legacy of Ghana’s Highlife music for upcoming generations.
While the genre has survived generations and various trends, and has been able to maintain its unique identity, according to him, it also faces a potential distinction in the face of a number of contemporary influences, such as the emergence of new genres that seem to be stealing Highlife artistes’ focus.
“Highlife has this unique defining elements like the use of percussions, including xylophone, maracas, bass drum, and these make the genre so distinct. We can’t just fuse anything into it because that thing is trendy.
“Let us uphold these elements to keep our Highlife music genre alive so that generations to come would get to appreciate the beauty of the genre still in its truest form.
“We are the only ones who can preserve our Highlife music which is Ghana’s only bedrock music genre for posterity. There are so many undefined genres coming up and most of our young acts seem to be fusing that and Highlife and giving it a different name, a situation that has the potency of killing it if we don’t make deliberate efforts at keeping Highlife music’s defining element distinct, we would end up losing its steam in no time,” he told Daily Graphic.
The Sika Y3 Mogya hitmaker who has maintained his relevance in a very competitive industry for close to 50 years, says consistency is the magic and could be the gamechanger for young artistes who are striving to make a mark in the industry.
He asserts that majority of young acts are still finding it tough to establish themselves in the market because they are unable to pinpoint and commit to a specific musical genre they want to pursue and instead jump on whatever is popular. This makes it challenging for them to stay relevant.
In order to stay relevant in the rapidly expanding and very competitive market, he advised up-and-coming acts to choose the genre that best showcases their strengths and to work hard to carve a niche for themselves.
“I never for once swayed from the defining elements of Highlife music and that has made me who I am today. I dare say if I had shifted focus or had been inconsistent, I may not have chalked up this milestone.
“I have been exposed to new cultures, I have encountered many people, different genres but I made the decision to promote and stick to the genre I was passionate about and that consistency has been the magic spice.
“ If you are looking at staying relevant in this industry that is competitive and always has new stuff popping up that can sway you off your focus, you have to remain resolute and stick to what you believe in”, he stated.
The Pat Thomas legacy
Pat Thomas wants to go down in history as more than just a musician and producer of timeless tunes; he wants to be remembered as an icon who helped to preserve Ghana’s Highlife music.
The septuagenarian maintains that over the years, he has worked hard to ensure Highlife is well-represented across all musical genres and to give it international exposure.
“Maybe, when I’m gone, I want to be remembered as one of the industry figures who preserved and promoted Ghana’s foundational musical style, Highlife, to the general public. In addition to
having timeless music, I also want to be remembered as a supporter of Highlife”, he added.
Known as the Golden Voice of Africa, Pat Thomas, born Nana Kwabena Amo Mensah in Agona in the Ashanti Region, is a globally recognised Ghanaian vocalist and songwriter famed for his work with the Highlife bands of Ebo Taylor, Marijata and Sweet Beans. He played with the Kwashibu Area band during his last global tour a few years ago.
Some of the songs he has to his credit include Oba, Mewo Akoma, Odo Adaada, Stay There and Asawa Do. He featured on Sarkodie’s Bra and recently on R Hustle’s Guy Guy.
Pat Thomas Highlife Night
A legacy project to idolise the veteran musician was launched on Saturday, August 5, 2023 through a concert dubbed Pat Thomas Highlife Night held in honour of the veteran musician who is in his 70s, at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC).
Music lovers flocked to the AICC to honour the iconic Highlife musician, filling the venue to capacity.
In addition to honouring the seasoned artiste, the concert’s primary goal was to generate money for the Pat Thomas Music Foundation’s legacy project which is a music school in Agona,
Ashanti Region, to nurture young acts who have interest in music.
Patrons of the night included dignitaries such as President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, former President John Agyekum Kufuor, former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings and a presidential aspirant, Alan Kyeremanten, of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP).