Dr. K. Gyasi was born into a musical family, in 1929, and raised in Patasi, Ghana, a town south of Kumasi. By 1950 he was living in Accra, and polishing his skills playing guitar with Appiah Adjekum’s band. Two years later, in 1952, Gyasi made his first recordings, at a mobile recording studio in Nsawam-a town about twenty miles north of Accra-that was probably operated by Philips (Decca had already built a permanent studio in Accra in 1948). By 1963, Gyasi was already popular enough that President Nkrumah invited him, along with several other musicians, to accompany his official delegation on a trip through the Soviet Bloc and North Africa. Almost forty years later, Dr. K. Gyasi still remembers fondly the golden years of the early 1960s, when his guitar-band, the Noble Kings, opened legendary nightspots like Accra’s Tip Toe Nite club, and played every weekend for packed dance floors in Accra and Kumasi.
Throughout the late 1960s and the 1970s the Noble Kings became one of Ghana’s most popular guitar-bands. Dr. K. Gyasi was the first bandleader to introduce both the electric organ-he was inspired by Geraldo Pino’s Heartbeats-and a horn section to guitar-band highlife. By the mid-1970s, Gyasi was touring Ghana with both the Noble Kings and his own theatrical group, entertaining villagers throughout the country with ‘highlife operas’. In 1977, he released one of the best records of the era, his classic ‘Sikyi highlife’, a masterpiece of minor-key highlife. The political instability and military coups of the late 1970s, however, brought the glory days of guitar-band highlife and the Noble Kings to an end. With repeated curfews, police roadblocks and political pressure, the dancehalls stopped programming live music, and the open-air concert parties lost their audience. Dr. K. Gyasi currently lives in Kumasi, and his many recordings remain classics of guitar-band highlife.
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