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George Darko was above his peers as a guitarist –Zapp Mallet
George Darko was above his peers as a guitarist
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George Darko was above his peers as a guitarist –Zapp Mallet

WELL-known recording engineer, music producer and guitarist, Zapp Mallet, has described George Darko who passed away on Wednesday, March 20, as a guitarist who was above his peers because he efficiently handled many different styles of music.

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“When it came to the ‘Yaa Amponsah’ and other approaches to Highlife, he played nicely. He was also wonderful with Blues, Jazz and other genres. His playing on recordings was remarkable. 

“At a certain time, his solos were things every guitarist worth his salt should know. If you played for a band and you didn’t know George Darko’s solos, then you were not a valuable part of your band,” Mallet stated.

Many know George Darko as the man who helped bring a new lease of life to Ghanaian popular music with his ‘funkified’ strain of Highlife that came to be known as Burger Highlife. The groundbreaking song, ‘Akoo te Brofo’ from his Friends album (1983) was recorded with his Bus Stop band. 

The band then comprised George Darko (guitar), Amo Jagger (drums) Bob Fiscian (keyboards), Lee Duodu (vocals), Kwame Sometimer (bass), Stephan Mills (saxophone) and Lee Duodu (vocals).

“George Darko was a prolific guitarist, composer, arranger, producer and performer. His contribution to Highlife can’t be forgotten. His efforts helped grow Highlife,” the President of the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), Bessa Simons, said in a tribute to George Darko who has died at the age of 73.

Born at Akropong Akuapem in the Eastern Region. His interest in music started from his days at Okuapeman Secondary School where he learnt to play the guitar. When he left Okuapeman in 1969, he decided to become a professional musician and had the chance to play with bands such as Reborn Avengers, Soul Believers and the 4th Dimension. 

He left Ghana in 1977 to seek greener pastures in Germany where together with some other Ghanaian musicians, they formed the Sikadwa (Golden Stool) Band which later evolved into Fire Connexion. He broke from Fire Connexion and formed his band, Bus Stop, to play his interpretation of Highlife. 

Germany-based Ghanaian singer/drummer, Ekow Alabi Savage, said he would forever be grateful to George Darko for allowing him to play the Western drum set with a band for the first time in 1980 in Europe.

“I was a singer and percussionist. The Sikadwa Band had a gig but the drummer was not available. George Darko came and convinced me that I could play the drum set so we rehearsed for two days and the gig came off well. I regard George Darko as a revolutionary who helped reposition Highlife.”

After Bus Stop came Darko’s Fontom F Band in 1985 made up of Ralph Karikari (bass), Atta Boison (drums), Bob Fiscian (keyboards), George Darko (guitar) and Stephan Mills (saxophone). 

The era after that saw the veteran guitarist play with different musicians under the tags of George Darko and Friends, George Darko and Band and the Ghana Empire Band. 

Young guitarist, Prince Hakeem Matthews, who is the reigning Ghana Music Awards Instrumentalist of the Year, said he was aware of George Darko’s music and admired his playing, though he never met him in person. 

“He had a Blues kind of feel which I loved. He influenced my playing,” said Prince Hakeem.

George Darko instituted the Okuapeman Jazz Festival in August 2013 but it fizzled out after the first edition at the Palm Hill Hotel at Akropong Akuapem due to lack of sponsorship.

The world has benefited immensely from the creativity of musicians who borrowed ideas from other places, fused them with recognisable home flavours and came up with their palatable brews. 

George Darko was one such person and we’ll forever remember him as we keep listening to songs such as Akoo te Brofo, Naomi, Odo Colour, Prempremsiwa, Moni Palava, Adikanfo, African Girl and more.  

 

 

 

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