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Ghanaian Jazz icon George Lee - whose career spans for over 50 years - is set to receive the coveted Special Recognition Award at the 2008 Channel O Music Video Awards ceremony on Thursday 9 October 2008 in Johannesburg at Carnival City.
The highly esteemed Special Recognition award is designed by Africa’s leading music channel, Channel O, to acknowledge the contribution an individual has made to the African music industry.
Born, Kwame Narh Kojo Larnyoh, George Lee began his long career in the international music industry at the tender age of 18, when as a band leader, he was selected to take his band on tour with Louis Armstrong during the jazz trumpeter/singer’s famed visit to Ghana in 1956.
The ‘A’ side of the debut single Sea Shells was adopted as the theme tune of the popular long running BBC TV arts programme Ebony soon after its UK release.
George – a singer-songwriter/producer/arranger/mentor and multi-instrumentalist - was one of the artists selected by the then President Kwame Nkrumah, to attend Ghana’s prestigious arts and culture school for six months before being sent to the World Fair in Berlin as Ghana’s cultural emissaries.
As a horns arranger and session musician, George Lee often worked with the legendary Bob Marley in London and America. Just check out the tenor sax solo on Natty Dread and you will hear George’s horn loud and clear!
George recalls fond memories of that time, “The vibe on the Bob Marley sessions was always real, he had a way of generating energy in the studio, jumping and dancing the minute the music began, inspiring all the musicians with his enthusiasm so we would give our best,” says George.
His songs have been recorded by artists in many parts of the world including American Johnny Nash, South African Chris McGregor in France; and a range of singers from Ghanaians in Germany, to Nigerians in London, Americans in Canada and Mozambicans in South Africa.
An interesting fact known by few is that South African guitar superstar Jimmy Dludlu is a protégé of George Lee’s and as a teenager he spent 18 months living under George’s roof and mentorship in Swaziland!
Noteworthy highlights in his successful career include leading a tribute by over a hundred cross cultural drummers at the 1994 inauguration of President Nelson Mandela in Pretoria as well as performing at the World Festival of Sacred Music in Cape Town, during the Dalai Lama’s visit in 1999, to mention a few.
Alongside his illustrious music career, George has also ventured into the world of film when he appeared as a performer/songwriter and producer in the Hollywood blockbuster A Good Man in Africa starring Sean Connery.
George maintains close links with the community, particularly Alexandra Township in Gauteng where he ran free weekly workshops training and developing a group of student musicians over six years.
In May 2007 George was diagnosed with ALS, a terminal motor neuron disease also known as Lou Gehrigs, an illness which totally destroys the body but leaves the mind fully focussed and sharp until the inevitable end - for which there is no treatment and no cure.
On awarding George Lee the Channel O Music Video Awards Special Recognition Award, Channel O believes that as Africans we need to celebrate artists and musicians that have done well in their careers and have somehow become role models in the eyes of young musicians worldwide and that is why the channel would like to pay tribute to one of Africa’s finest musical contributors while he is still alive.
“When we came across his story through the network of contacts we have across the African music industry, we realised that we had found someone significant, whose contribution to music has been underexposed. Although Channel O is youth focused we feel that it is important to pay tribute to the greats who have laid the foundation for future talent,” says Yolisa Phahle Channel O’s General Manager.
Yolisa adds, “Here is a remarkable musician who has made significant contributions to the African music industry as well as achieved international recognition. We know that Africa has many highly talented artists who have the ability to make the whole world sit up and take notice and George is proof of this”.
George Lee joins a notable line-up of past Special Recognition Award recipients. Last year saw Oliver Mtukudzi honoured, while Zola received the accolade in 2006 and Hugh Masekela in 2005. Both Enoch Sontonga and Fela Kuti received posthumous awards in 2003.
The live event will take place on Thursday 9 October 2008 in Johannesburg at Carnival City and will be broadcast Thursday 23 October on Channel O (DStv Channel 320).
Tickets to the event are available at Computicket at R100.
Fans also stand the chance to win great prizes this year. Double VIP tickets - which include flights and accommodation – to the awards event, four Casio keyboards, a Playstation 3, three watch sets and four cash prizes of US$1000 are up for grabs when anyone votes in the Channel O Music Video Awards.
Viewers across Africa will be able to vote for the winner in the 13 different categories - excluding the Special Recognition category - from 24 July at 17:00 until 24 September. They can vote via SMS, using the number +27 83 920 8400 (standard international SMS rates will apply) or cast their votes for free on the Channel O website [www.channelo.tv] - where all the nominees’ videos are loaded, giving fans a great chance to refresh their memories about just which artist deserves the ultimate accolade!
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