Kiki Gyan was a multi-instrumentalist, tremendous songwriter, as well as a record producer, so it’s not surprising that the Ghanaian was ‘hailed as Africa’s answer to Stevie Wonder’. At the age of 15 Gyan started out as the keyboardist in the UK band Osibisa in 1972, a group that had success with their Afro-rock sound releasing songs like ‘Sunshine Day’ and ‘Dance the Body Music’, becoming a millionaire by the age of 18 before pursuing a solo career. Despite being a relatively unknown artist today, Kiki Gyan was partying with Mick Jagger and being introduced to the likes of Marvin Gaye during his time with Osibisa. The child prodigy grew up around an excess of drugs during his successful period and eventually became consumed by his addictions, returning to Ghana and eventually dying through AIDs related complications in 2004, seemingly forgotten by the music industry.
However, in 2012 Soundway Records released the compilation 24 Hours in a Disco 1978-82, with a selection of his best work as both a solo performer and as a frontman in his own group, K.G. Band. With the modern world of streaming and accessibility to music his discography has been made available for rediscovery, so thankfully these songs can be played all over again by a new audience. The album’s artwork alone is gorgeous and vibrantly retro with its swaggerific photo of Kiki Gyan, trippy style, and groovy colours; the record’s front and back covers just scream disco-fuelled fun.
There may only be seven tracks on this album, but the instrumentation is interesting and varied, so you never want to cut his songs off despite them mostly falling between 7 and 11 minutes in length. His most well-known hit, and the title track, features a 16-piece orchestra and embraces lavish disco strings. The lyrics justify spending a 24 hour stint in a disco because it ‘ain’t my fault, I was caught in the groove’, something anyone can relate to, sometimes you just get so caught up in the music that you completely lose track of the time and never want to leave. The percussion work is impressive (there’s a lot going on), yet somehow the instrumental craziness and musical flare never seems messy but instead fluid and organic, the song encourages you to fully lose yourself in the music and dance.
Kiki Gyan clearly knows how to make a disco dancing belter; the horn sections are gloriously loud and similar to Earth, Wind, and Fire’s style, there’s some craaaaaazy percussion work going on, and serious amounts of groovy sounds bursting from every orifice of these songs. Songs like ‘Disco Train’ tick all of the boxes; Gyan creates such a catchy hook with his keys, supported by ethereal vocals and sexy horns, which makes it impossible to dislike any of his tunes. Kiki Gyan sounds like he could’ve released these songs anytime in the last 50 years, so journey into the back catalogue of the Ghanaian groove master and hear a true genius at work, because this guy knows how to make you move.