In 1956 an 18 year old musical genius became the band leader of the Ghana Messengers, pioneering a new bebop hi-life sound that became the craze of the nation. Opening for Louis Armstrong's historic tour of Ghana, the young saxophone prodigy and his band broke musical barriers and created hits that have now become West African classics. So profound was his talent that George Lee, born Kwame Narh Kojo Larnyoh, was commissioned by the then President Kwame Nkrumah, to study the extensive rhythms of his West African homeland before being sent by the President to the 1962 Berlin World's Fair as Ghana's cultural emissary. In the next four decades, living and touring extensively in Europe, United States and Africa, musical Master extraordinaire George Lee has taken jazz, reggae, R&B, African traditional, and world music into virtually every conceivable entertainment medium. In the 1960s and 70s hitting every corner of Europe, and America, Lee honed his skills as a horns arranger and session musician. During these formative years of the modern music industry George Lee shared his talent as a producer, composer, arranger and player with such musical greats as Bob Marley, Johnny Nash, Cat Stevens, Toots and the Maytals, Jess Roden, Gene Chandler, and many others. George Lee played a major role in the adaptation of the comic operetta The Mikado, and spent four years as the musical director of 'The Black Mikado' during the show's successful run at the London West End Cambridge Theatre. In addition to composing and arranging, George toured with legendary South African bandleader, the late Chris McGregor and his acclaimed Brotherhood of Breath. In 1986 after an inspirational tour to Mozambique, George Lee returned to Africa, first to Swaziland, and then in 1990 to South Africa. He wrote music for South African literary giant, Khaba Mkhize's award winning play 'Pity!Maritzburg' and was the music supervisor for the first West African theatrical production in South Africa, Wole Soyinka's 'Death and the King's Horseman'. He also composed and performed the music for Kweku Ananse, a play introducing Ghanaian folklore to South African audiences. ' Good Man in Africa' a major Hollywood movie starring Shaun Connery filmed in South Africa, also featured George Lee, composer, producer and performer. Undoubtedly the highlight of George Lee's stay in South Africa is to have had the singular privilege of leading a tribute by 100 cross-cultural drummers at the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela on May 10th 1994. Also to be one of few people to have been in a position to vote in the historic elections of the first and last countries to gain independence in Africa. George Lee has continued to make a significant contribution to music education and upliftment in South Africa since 1990 when he was one of the first African musicians in the South African classrooms. Since 1994 George Lee has gone to Alexandra Township each week to conduct free music clinics for all comers at the Maloke Centre. Yet through all his experience, 'Big G' or Alakuku the gentle giant as he is alternatively known, remains the consummate artiste-performer. Like his massive frame and imposing dreds, the pure presence and power of his music speaks for itself. George Lee's horn will make you cry and laugh, his playing will touch your soul, shaking the root of your whole body. With music that is fast, furious and wicked as well as sublime, intimate and peaceful, spanning the heights of modern and classical jazz and authentic African rhythms. Like his unforgettable stage performances, George Lee and his band ANANSI is an exercise of musical imagination, evoking and expressing many qualities of the human psyche. ' Everything I write, everything I play or produce is something I feel strongly about - otherwise I wouldn't touch it ' Although better known in South Africa as a jazz sax man, George's main medium of musical expression has long been song writing, or storytelling to music as he puts it. Lyrically it's George's love of humanity, peace, and the need to stop the abuse of women & children, and the preservation of our precious environment, which absorbs him. Most important is the value of education in the search for effective re-construction, healing and progress.
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