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Ghanaian, Jazz icon George Lee is set to join the league of Africaâ€™s celebrated musicians that includes Zimbabweâ€™s own Oliver Mtukudzi â€” the Channel O Music Awards.
Lee, whose career spans for over 50 years â€” is set to receive the coveted Special Recognition Award at the 2008 Channel O Music Video Awards ceremony scheduled for 9 October 2008 in Johannesburg at Carnival City.
The highly esteemed Special Recognition award is designed by Africaâ€™s leading music channel, Channel O, to acknowledge the contribution an individual has made to the African music industry.
Last year saw Mtukudzi or simply Tuku honoured, while Zola received the accolade in 2006 and Hugh Masekela in 2005. Both Enoch Sontonga and Fela Kuti received posthumous awards in 2003.
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/singerâ€™s famed visit to Ghana in 1956.
The â€˜Aâ€™ 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 â€” a singer-songwriter/producer/arranger/mentor and multi-instrumentalist â€” was one of the artists selected by the then President Kwame Nkrumah, to attend Ghanaâ€™s prestigious arts and culture school for six months before being sent to the World Fair in Berlin as Ghanaâ€™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 Georgeâ€™s horn loud and clear!
George recalls fond memories of that time, â€œThe 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,â€ 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 protÃ©gÃ© of George Leeâ€™s and as a teenager he spent 18 months living under Georgeâ€™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 Lamaâ€™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.