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Ghana schooled Fela Kuti in highlife; Latin music came from Africa – Rex Omar

Ghanaian highlife musician, Rex Owusu Marfo, known in showbiz as Rex Omar has stated that Nigerian music legend Fela Kuti was an ardent student of Ghanaian highlife music which made him travel to learn and perform in Ghana.

He said there is no doubt about the origin of highlife music which later impacted Fela to introduce his own version of the Ghanaian genre with creativity.

Rex Omar, with more than 34 years of professional career experience in music, told Natalia Andoh on Class 91.3FM’s Touch of Class on Friday, 1 November 2019 that: “Highlife started from Ghana. Actually, Fela came to Ghana to learn highlife”

He said Fela used to play at the Napoleon Centre in Osu and “he left with highlife with him and then he went to create his own brand of highlife which he called afrobeat”.

The Chairman of the Ghana Music Rights Organisation (GHAMRO) and former member of highlife group Nakorex – formed together with fellow highlife artistes Nat Brew and Akosua Agyapong – acknowledged that: “Fela was a musician with musical background, so, he could put jazz influences into highlife and created his own brand”.

Rex Omar, who recently released a classic tune titled ‘Bright Sunny Day’ which features Okyeame Kwame, said he liked Fela and listened to him a lot prior to his musical career in addition to reggae and traditional folklore, so, he did not have a specific musician as a mentor to follow the person’s style but blended a wide group of people “as I wanted to be myself”.

Rex Omar released a salsa-themed song titled ‘Buen Amor’ in early 2019. The song’s title translates from Spanish as “great love” and was sung in the Ghanaian Twi language.

Asked by the host the relationship between his traditional highlife tunes and the release of a song with Latin undertones, Rex Omar said: “All these salsa [and others] that we call Latin music, they all came from Africa”.

In his opinion, “There is nothing like Latin music, they took it from Africa, so, it is still in us but highlife is the root of all kinds of genres of music”.

Rex Omar will be marking his 35-year milestone in music with some projects and a release of his autobiography in 2020.


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