A.B. Crentsil is a heavyweight of Highlife music and the main vocalist of Sweet Talks, one of the most popular Ghanaian bands of the 1970’s. In 1992, musician Charles Amoah and producer Richie Osei Kuffour offered him the opportunity to explore a new popular sound: Bürger Highlife. Little did he know these studio sessions would give birth to the biggest song of his career.
Charles Amoah, who had released his Sweet Vibrations LP in 1984 to great acclaim, extensively toured in Europe with bands such as Black Earth and Saraba, was eager to bring a new sound to Crentsil, an artist he had admired for years. Throughout the 1980’s, Highlife had been changing pretty radically, following the same evolution as Congolese Soukous, Caribbean Zouk and most popular black music genres of that era: Heavy use of drum machines, synths and digital technology was conveniently replacing big bands and expensive analog studios and equipments. Mostly recorded, produced or mixed in Germany, this new breed of electric Highlife dubbed ‘Bürger Highlife’ could be defined as a fusion of Disco, Jazz, Funk and Pop with the popular Highlife beats, rhythms and lyrics.
According to A.B. Crentsil, the name was a reference to the ever present American cultural influence on Ghanaian musicians. Charles Amoah has his own take: “I initially called this particular kind of Highlife ‘Ethno Pop’. Bürger is the German word for citizen, and that’s how Ghanaian musicians living and working in Germany were calling each other”.
The music for both “Obi Baa Wiase'' and “Sika Be Ba” was entirely composed and played by Charles Amoah, using minimal equipment: a DX7 synth, a Korg M1, a Yamaha RX5 drum machine, and an Akai 1000 sampler. A.B. Crentsil provided the lyrics for both tunes on the spot. Obi Ba Wiase’s message is one of gratitude and faith: it says we should appreciate our life way more and follow the example of people who have a lot less but still praise God all day.
Charles remembers fondly Crentsil’s larger than life personality: "A.B. slept a lot, he really loved sleeping. His lack of punctuality was easily dismissed by his wonderful sense of humour and it wasn't uncommon to find musicians rolling with laughter on the studio floor."
Charles also remembers vividly the "Obi Baa Wiase" session: he could feel the magic in the air while working on the soon to be hit, and knew something special was happening. A.B. asked for a break in the middle of the session, which Charles adamantly refused until the song was finished and the magic fully captured.
Success was not immediate, and Charles was first a little concerned by the lack of buzz following the immediate release of the Gyae Me Life Ma Me album. But a few months down the line, the situation took a new turn. "Obi Baa Wiase" was making its way into radio playlists, weddings and festive celebrations. It was covered by local bands, and soon most of Ghana and its European and American diasporas were hooked. It became A.B. Crentsil’s most requested song at live events for the following decades.
As producer Richie Moore wrote on the album back cover : "A perfect integration of two musical geniuses, the result of which are the scintillating tracks of music on this record… so all you party fans go onto the floor and dance the body music".