Ghana. A proud kingdom that became a British colony, it’s flourished in the decades since independence. It’s the home of highlife, the musical style that spread all across Anglophone West Africa before taking a turn for the global. And highlife, sweetly blended with reggae and soul, is the root of Time for Peace (release: February 2nd , 2015), the new album by Selasee & Fafa Family.
“I heard a lot of highlife growing up,” recalls Selasee, who was born in Accra, Ghana’s capital. “But I listened to a lot of big band music, too. Jazz, pop, anything that felt good. Plenty of Bob Marley, too, and African reggae stars like Lucky Dube and Alpha Blondy. Reggae was huge.”
So it’s perfectly natural that the roots reggae vibe is strong on Time for Peace. The vibe only grew stronger thanks to producer Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett, the longtime bass player and musical director for the legendary Wailers. “Family Man was great,” Selasee says. “He came up with a great horn line for Time For Peace. He brought so much drive to the title track. “
Together, Barrett and Selasee & Fafa Family have created one of the catchiest reggae album title track in years, connecting the musical dots that join the Caribbean, West Africa and the US. “Glory Days” brims with harmonies straight out of soul and gospel. “Baby Sister,” moves deep into a reggae groove. And “Mama Africa” and “Which One” look back to the music of Selasee’s homeland.
Every song resonates with human experiences; each one has very conscious lyrics. “I wanted something that had real feelings,” Selasee explains. “That’s why it’s taken four years since my last album. I didn’t want to record just anything. I needed something with real meaning. Every song represents a different experience. ‘Which One’ is about relationships and choices, for example. You date people, but eventually you have to make up your mind about who you really want to be with, and all the difficulties that go with it. It’s something everyone goes through.”
The title track is a collaboration between Selasee and producer Barrett. “Family Man came up with the bassline and the tune, and I wrote the words,” Selasee remembers. “I was really lucky – we had reggae singer Anthony B in the studio. He started humming a few words, and that triggered the chorus. He ended up singing the third verse.”
And with the conflicts in the Middle East, East Africa, and Eastern Europe, the sentiment behind the song could hardly be more apt. “You hear about all the tribulations going on in th e world,” Selasee says sadly, “and you have to think that we owe it to ourselves to have some peace, to give ourselves some time. The chorus, it’s like a mantra to live by.”
It’s all powered along by Selasee’s rich, soulful voice that was formed – like so many other great singers – performing gospel music in church.
“I started out on the gospel scene,” Selasee recounts. “I put together a group called Heart to Heart. We played all over Ghana, as well as Togo, Benin, and Nigeria. But I also had another band that played secular music, Afro-poppish music.” The band, Heart to Heart, was invited to the US, performing in Minneapolis, where they cut an album before returning to Ghana, where Selasee was finishing his degree in music.
“They invited me back to America the next year,” he remembers. “I did a solo acoustic performance and decided to stay and build my music up here.”
His solo debut, Run, appeared in 2005. The title cut took first place in the World Music section of the International Song Writers’ Competition, and, along with “Makuma,” another song from the disc, was featured in video games. 2009 brought African Gate, and now, with his band FaFa Family, Selasee is back with Time for Peace.
“My calling in life has always been as a musician,” Selasee says. “Even growing up, I saw how music could have a positive or a negative impact. I chose to focus on the positive. I’ve got a wonderful band that’s been together since 2001. I live in Boulder, Colorado, in a beautiful place surrounded by mountains. I have my young daughter. How could I not be happy?”
Selasee has found his Time for Peace with a celebration of the physical release of the album on February 2nd 2015.