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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 June, 2004, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Riches to rags: Ghana mourns music hero
By Kwaku Sakyi-Addo
BBC, Accra

Ghana's music fraternity is in a state of mourning after the death of one of the country's biggest stars.

Kiki Djan in 2001
Kiki had wasted away after years of drug abuse
Keyboard player Kiki Djan, 47, was found dead in a toilet inside a church, with the equivalent of 70 US cents in his pocket.

For a man who made more than $1m before the age of 18, had hung out with Elton John and Mick Jagger, played for Britain's queen and cruised on champagne-drenched luxury ocean-liners to island-hop in the Caribbean, it was a particularly ignominious way to cross life's finish line.

Kiki died of Aids and drugs-related complications.

"Right now, I'm sad. Very sad," said Mac Tontoh, trumpeter and joint-leader of Osibisa, the erstwhile London-based Afro-rock group with whom Kiki first found fame in the early 1970s.

"I'm sad, not because Kiki's dead - he was suffering too much; I saw him every day. I'm sad because he should've died with dignity."

'Too much music'

Tontoh, now in his sixties, is the man who spotted Kiki's keyboards talent in 1971 and signed him on with Osibisa.

And it was he who, together with Kiki's sister, Gugi, found his body and signed him in to the mortuary.

I could make 8,000 over a weekend as a session keyboardist. I was the best in London
Kiki Djan
Kiki came from a middle-class family in Takoradi in the western region of Ghana and dropped out of secondary school at 14.

"There was too much music in me; I couldn't stay in school," he said.

He'd been playing the piano at home since he was three. He joined Osibisa shortly after a tour of London with a local Ghanaian band, Pagadija.

"I remember our first gig with Kiki - this was in Cardiff. The boy was just fantastic! Fantastic!" recalls Tontoh.

"After the show, all the girls charged at him. They were tearing him apart; they all wanted a piece of him. Kiki was running. We had to call the bouncers to protect him," Tontoh said.

"We travelled round the world, flew first class, slept in the best hotels and had the best girls. Man, life was good, too good," Kiki told me in an interview three years ago.

"More than $2m ($3.6m) passed through my hands. I could make 8,000 over a weekend as a session keyboardist. I was the best in London."

Worst day

In 1979, Kiki left Osibisa to pursue a solo career. His single 24 hours in a Disco, featuring a 16-piece orchestra, made the charts in the UK and America.

"Producers told me I could become the next Boney M," Kiki said. That's where his career peaked.

Osibisa
Osibisa were international stars in the 1970s
The fame and fortune went his head, and soon "psychedelic pharmaceuticals" too.

Kiki picked up a narcotic drug habit, which he battled with for the rest of his life.

"The day I tasted cocaine in New York, was the baddest day of my life," he said. "At one point, I had a $5,000 a day habit."

Kiki went in and out of rehabilitation during much of the last six years, after failing to revive his career.

South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela even pitched in, flying him out to a drug rehab centre in South Africa in 2003.

But Kiki went back to the habit upon his return to Ghana.

He became a tattered pauper who begged for coins on street corners, and slept wherever sleep found him.

Sense of humour

"What would you do differently if you had to live life all over again? I asked Kiki in a TV interview two years ago.

"I would take my Mum and fly her all over the world," he responded.

"These days I don't go to see my Mum anymore, because whenever she sees me her temperature rises."

Last month, Kiki told me he had Aids.

"When did you know this?" I asked.

"Seven years ago," he replied in between terrible coughs. He had become so skinny that his shoulder blades were tearing through his shirt.

Obviously, Kiki's drug addiction wasn't his prime worry.

In a sense, he had become fatalistic. In his final years he took the drugs to numb him from the pain that his life had become.

Kiki joked sometimes that after all the women he'd been with, he couldn't believe he had only one child.

He leaves behind a 20-year-old daughter, Vanessa, and takes with him a sense of humour.


Below are a selection of your comments:

I saw and heard Osibisa play at Salford University somewhere between 1976 and 1978 I think. University Administrators had approved the use of the gym for the concert and regretted it after because we danced so much we damaged the wood floor! It was a fantastic concert. I still have the original vinyl single I bought back then. I think it was "Bum to bum" and everyone in Manchester would go to clubs and dance that "bum to bum" dance!!!
Jackie, USA

I was at their show at the University of Ghana somewhere in the early 1970s when Osibisa toured the country. Kiki was really fantastic!
Kodjo Taale, Winneba, Ghana

I have not seen him perform but I like him soooo much, may his soul rest in perfect peace.
Francis, Lewisham, London

Kiki, God bless and accept your soul as you came from him. You've lived a footpath for others to see. For the rest of the African brothers and sisters, learn from the mistakes of Kiki. Ghana we morn his departure.
AKPONI LUCKY BARINEKA, ATLANTA GA, USA

I saw him play at the last performance of Osibisa in Accra, the last homecoming. It was great. God gave us choices when he created us, Kiki lived his life the way he chose to. May he rest in peace.
Yaa Mansa, Manhattan, NY, USA

My heart bleeds ever since I heard of Kiki's death. I thought he had overcome his drug addiction. The last time I heard of him was his trip to a rehabilitation centre in South Africa, my second home. His death is a big loss not only to his immediate family but the music world at large. For me the best tribute to his memory are lessons the rest of us will learn from his tragedy. Money, women and drugs are not what life is all about but rather how people share in your success and achievements. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
Manfred Ashiboe-Mensah, Athens, US

I knew Kiki in Takoradi and after dropping out of Tarkwa secondary school, we who knew him said he was going to be a great organist and a musician...truly, he joined Osibisa and there was no turning back...its very sad that he died and the way he died...may his soul rest in peace.
Banasco Sackey, Harrisburg, PA, USA

I think this is a really sad way to die. But I pray for his soul and hope that other talented musicians will take a hint from this. I saw him play a few times but I was too young to notice a good musician. May God bless his soul.
Dela Setor Smith, Accra-Ghana

The life and death of Kiki the musician is a saga of our troubled world. As a matter of fact, I missed his tour in New York, USA; and I still have a collection of his "Obisidas" Tape. As an African, I was very intrigued with his kind of music which differs greatly from the Ghanaian style of "Highlife" scrolls distinctively popular in West Africa. May his soul rest in peace!
Clem OKONKWO, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Osibisa days were the days I will not forget. People were wild just mentioning the name OSIBISA. Poor Kiki to die that way. God, Let his soul rest in Peace. Amen
Makiunguyo, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania




SEE ALSO:
Accra reclaims hip-hop
04 Nov 03  |  Africa


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