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High Life music in Canada: Introducing Nii Okine Robertson

29 January 2008 at 02:34 | 1797 views

Nii Okine Robertson is from Ghana in West Africa. Now based in Montreal, he talks to Afri-Can magazine on his background, musical influences, and the kind of music he loves to play. Here is Nii:

Afri-Can Magazine: Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Nii Okine Roberrtson:I was born in Accra, Ghana but spent most of my Elementary school years in Kumasi.

AM:When, how and why did you decide to become a musician?

Nii: I grew up around well established musicians such as Fela Kuti, Hugh Masekela, Nana Ampadu, etc. and admired their ways and convictions. They made me love music from the start.

When I went to Secondary school in Takoradi, I had friends who were playing in the school’s band and they taught me how to play some of these instruments. Later, I started writing Lyrics for some of them and from time to time did studio work for people.

When I came to Canada, I played bass and drums for a few bands whilst I was in college and whilst I was working for GE Hydro as an NC Machinist. I formed my own band called “Busanga” in 1987.

Later the members as well as some people who came to our shows encouraged me to record these lyrics and also to take the lead singing role. I believe it is at this point that I became serious with my music career.

AM:What is your style of music and who are the musicians that have influenced you?

Nii: My style is Highlife music, which is a typical Ghanaian rhythm with heavy emphasis on drums, guitar and Bass. I also write and perform reggae.

I was mostly influenced by Koo Nimo, Nana Ampadu, Wolomei, E. T. Mensah, Ramblers, Kofi Ghanaba, Dr. K. Gyasi, Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh. Also James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight.

AM: Have you produced any albums? What are they and how can they be purchased?

Nii: Yes, I have seven albums all prepared and ready to come out. I have just brought out the first one titled “HIGHLIFE TIME”

I am currently looking for a label that will be interested to take it and market it.

Meanwhile it could be bought in all the HMV music stores, in the Achanbeau stores, in most African stores or online from, Highlifetime, or

AM: How is the music scene in Montreal and the rest of Canada with regards to your career?

Nii: It is very slow; I don’t think musicians are well organized or have the information resources to make things the way we want them, compared to the USA.

AM: Have you performed outside Canada? If yes, where? If no, why not?

Nii: Yes, in the USA, England and of course Ghana. I would like a manager or a booker who can give me the international exposure I need because when people hear this album, they have nothing but good reviews. I also believe that I could really put on a show as described by Bill Harrington of who came to record my show at the Festival Nuits D’Afrique here in Montreal in July, 2006.

AM: What are your achievements so far?

Nii: I have played quiet extensively here in Canada, I have just produced and released the first album. I am also organizing the youth in the community who show interest in music because I believe I can influence them a bit to be serious with school.

AM: What are the challenges or difficulties you have faced so far and how are you dealing with them?

Nii: I believe the difficulty is mainly scarcity of funds to organize myself in order to move forward.
I also need more exposure via the media, that is TV, radio and magazines like yours.
I also need a management team who believe in the project to move it forward.

Photo: Nii Okine Robertson.

Editor’s note: Afri-Can magazine is a sister publication of the Patriotic Vanguard.