If you’d achieved just a tenth of what Ghana’s Alhaji Sidiku Buari has in his lifetime, you’d consider yourself supremely accomplished.
Originally a national athlete, winning silver and gold medals in the Senegal All Africa Games and West African Games in 1963 and a bronze in the All African in Congo Brazzaville in 1965, Buari then moved to America on a music scholarship at The York Institute, obtained as a result of his athletic achievements.
As a keen all-round sportsman, he soon became enthused by baseball, training with the York team and occasionally playing in matches. When one of York’s music teachers, Irvin Mechanic, heard him singing inspirational team-builder songs and chants for his side – in the Ga language- he suggested putting a rhythm section behind the songs, recording them, and seeing what the American record buying public thought of them.
It won’t surprise you to hear that said Americans loved the demos- so, in 1975, Buari visited the RCA Victor studios and recorded his first album – the first of fifteen. ‘Karam Bani’ was a decidedly New York affair, with a stellar session cast including Bernard Purdie on drums and Salsoul’s bassman, Gordon Edwards. But perhaps most significantly for Buari’s musical future, it was equally about the production sound: enter Steve Jerome, engineering warrior for countless H & L and Sugar Hill sessions (including the stone classic Rapper’s Delight), Cameo, BT Express, and others too numerous to mention.
A switch to Polydor two years later produced an equally accomplished NYC album Disco Soccer, also to be re-released by BBE in the near future.
It soon became clear that West African music was a natural bedfellow with NYC mixing desks, as long as the desks were in the right hands, and Alhaji, always looking to the future didn’t fail to notice this basic fact.
Returning to Ghana from America in the late 70s, full of inspiration and expectations for future transatlantic music projects, Alahji threw himself headlong into fresh composition and arranging experiments, recording a total of 15 albums in all.
But more significantly, both for Alaji’s future destiny and that of Ghana’s bourgeoning entertainment industry generally, as a signal of empathy for a good friend’s misfortunes in life, he found himself making Ghana’s first commercial music video, Ayololo, in 1984: the first of many to follow.
He established the `Sid Theatre’ to show his movies (this was pre-YouTube, remember!), and the famous Funky Town Night Club to play his music and to stage numerous charity events. Also he formed a dance band -The SB Express – which later became The Buari Ensemble, spawning future talents such as highlife/reggae star K. K. Kabobo and keyboard session maestro Kofi Adu.
In 1990 Buari was appointed to the board of the Musicians’ Union of Ghana, later becoming its President from 1999 until 2007. In 2019, he was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Pan-African Republic Honorary Award Society for ‘meritorious contribution to the development of music and movie industries in Ghana’.