Roy ‘Gramps’ Morgan, a leading member of US-based family reggae group Morgan Heritage, was on Tuesday, May 23, unveiled in Accra as an Ambassador of the 2017 Pan-African Historical Theatre Festival, Panafest.
Gramps Morgan, the keyboardist and lead voice in the five-member family reggae group formed in 1994 by their musician father, Denroy Morgan, ended a weeklong personal visit to Ghana by offering to be a brand Ambassador for the Diaspora for the 2017 edition marking the 25th anniversary of the Pan-African festival.
Gramps told newsmen at an unveiling ceremony at the African Regent Hotel that he had previously travelled to Ghana on two occasions but on this third visit, he realises that ‘God is working here’.
He recalled his days in Jamaica in the late 1990s when the then Ghanaian President Rawlings paid a state visit and urged Jamaicans and Blacks in the West Indies to endeavour to ‘come home to Ghana’.
“Yes, Ghana’s doors have been open to the Diaspora since she became Independent but the time has come to open those doors a little bit wider to attract those in the Diaspora to come in and make an impact in business, in the arts and in other areas of social endeavour,” Gramps said passionately.
“Brothers and sisters, you might not know this, but coming home to Africa is one of the most difficult things confronting even affluent people in the Diaspora – especially those in the United States. The reason is that most of them still know little or nothing about Africa, and for that matter, about Ghana.
“As I go back home, my responsibility as an Ambassador for a continental Pan-African festival like PANAFEST is clear. I am going to reach out to my network of friends, associates and all the conscious people out there and encourage them to visit Ghana to sample the nice, peaceful life here…..and try out some Banku or fufu and palm-nut soup,” Gramps said to a loud applause.
Morgan Heritage’s 2015 album ‘Strictly Roots’won the Grammy Award in the Best Reggae Album category in 2016.
Gramps says he and ‘brothers’ were getting ready to launch their latest album – Avrakedabra — a highly anticipated release which features Ziggy Marley, Stephen Marley, Kabaka Pyramid and Dre Island, when he surprised everybody with his decision to come to Ghana a couple of weeks ago.
He said when his brothers and associates asked him what he was going to do in Ghana at this crucial time, he said: “Ghana (Kenya too) is special to me and something there is calling me now!”
Asked if, as a headliner, the entire five-member ensemble of Morgan Heritage will be featuring at PANAFEST 2017, Gramps said if everything worked out well, he could get the whole band to participate in the festival, adding rather jokingly, “After all, I’m the oldest brother in the band and I can decree that they all come home for Panafest.”
The Pan-African Historical Theatre Festival – PANAFEST is a landmark biennial festival which has been celebrated in Ghana since 1992 and usually attracts scores of artistes in both the visual and performing arts from the Diaspora and other parts of Africa. This year’s PANAFEST will be held under the theme:’PANAFEST @ 25 – The power of Pan African Culture’.
Although, as usual, the reverential components of Panafest activities are scheduled for Cape Coast in the Central Region, the 2017 edition marking the 25thanniversary of the festival will open on July 25 with wreath-laying ceremonies at the tombs of Pan-African stalwarts W.E.B. Dubois, George Padmore and Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first President, in Accra and end on August 2 with an International Musical concert also in Accra.
Activities to be hosted in Cape Coast during the 10-days of the festival include the opening of an emporium and visual arts exhibition, visits to Historical Sites, series of International Variety Performances, the Panafest Colloquium and the Grand Durbar of Chiefs, Queenmothers, and people.