Osibisa is a legendary music group that has etched its name in the annals of world music as a trend-setting afrobeat band that made a mark in the 60s and 70s, and Kiki Gyan was a fecund keyboardist of the band that was formed in 1969.
At 18 years, Kiki was said to have been worth millions of dollars but records also have it that; he died as a pauper.
Razz newspaper had a dialogue with the only daughter of the star, Vanessa Gyan, who now works as a producer and director at ETV-Ghana and she had a lot of revelations.
Razz: Are you the only child of your father-Kiki Gyan?
Vanessa: Well, first, my name is Vanessa Sullivan-Gyan, the daughter and only child of the legendary Kiki Gyan of Osibisa. (Pauses and gazes at the surprised face of Razz reporter).
Yeah, I understand the look on your face. You doubt if I’m indeed his only child, but the point is, from when he was alive till he died and to date, no one has surfaced to claim he or she is the child of Kiki Gyan.
Razz: how did you feel growing up and knowing that you’re the child of the legendary Kiki Gyan of Osibisa?
Vanessa: I felt nothing. It was normal because I never had any personal encounter with him. According to my mother, they broke up when I was about one or two years old.
Again, I never knew he was that big because where I grew up, never did I hear his name or that of Osibisa or any of their songs. It was when I got to my teens that I started researching him on the internet and realised he was such a music icon of international repute.
Razz: Which of your father’s attributes do you possess?
Vanessa: (Laughs) well he was an entertainer, and I am too. Some say I resemble him, especially my forehead (laughs). They say it looks just like his. I learnt he was someone who was very passionate about his dreams. That is how come he dropped out of school to pursue music.
He was a go-getter, and I am too. I always follow my passion and make sure I get results.
Razz: how did you take the news of his death?
Vanessa: shocked and sad. We were in the State when my mother had the news from Ghana. She called me and told ‘Kiki has passed on’. I cried. We celebrated his 10th memorial anniversary a few months back.
Razz: is it true he died in a church bathroom?
Vanessa: that is what his sister told me. According to her, Kiki went to the church for what you guys call prayers, thus, seeking spiritual deliverance. Later, he was found dead in the bathroom.
Nobody could narrate what took him there or what happened. Maybe he went to pee and left the body.
Razz: people describe your father’s death as a shameful one-do you see it so?
Vanessa: No! Not at all! In fact, I’ve had to attack some people on Twitter who made such remarks! Oh yes, I did! The point is; we shall all die! Death is inevitable!
Besides, death can take all of us anytime, anywhere, anyhow. He was in the bathroom! You and I don’t know where ours will be. Honestly, I get mad when I hear people describe his death as such.
Razz: when Kiki Gyan of Osibisa is mentioned, hard drug is the first thing that comes to the mind of those who know his story. How do you intend to erase this negative impression?
Vanessa: to live a righteous life, as in having nothing to do with drugs to redeem his image and the bad impression he might have left ingrained in the minds of people.
It’s one of my biggest challenges in life! I won’t disappoint him on that.
Razz: Your father was a drug addict and a beggar till he died-are you still proud of him?
Legend keyboardist, Kiki Gyan of Osibisa
Vanessa: yes! Absolutely! This is a man who by the age of 18, had made more than a million dollars, had hung out with Elton John and Mick Jagger, played for Britain’s queen, cruised on champagne-drenched luxury ocean-liners to island-hop in the Caribbean, and once ranked as the 8th best keyboardist in the world.
He was truly talented and always gave to the needy! I’m still very proud of him.
Razz: would you blame some of the Osibisa members who should have advised him against substance abuse, but perhaps failed to do so?
Vanessa: that is also another mystery. Kiki was worth millions of dollars at the age of 17 or 18. At that age, he was under an illusion! I’m not in any way holding brief for him.
The other Osibisa members were older so they should have at least helped him stop taking the drugs. They could have used some of his money to get experts to help him out because Kiki spent almost all his life with them – touring but they failed!
They betrayed him! If I’m your friend, and I’m into some form of immorality and you watch me go on with it till I crush, that is a form of betrayal! Kiki wrote many songs when he was part of Osibisa, but they never gave him credit for that. That was another betrayal.
Razz: did he leave behind valuable properties?
Vanessa: I’m his most valuable property! There is nothing like a house, land or whatever I can point to as this is my father’s property. He helped people but when he went broke, none came to his rescue.
Razz: does he receive royalties both in Ghana and abroad?
Vanessa: in Ghana? Do you guys pay royalties in Ghana? Well, after his death, all documents bearing his name for receiving royalties were changed into my name as the sole beneficiary but as far as I am concerned, I have not received any royalties from Ghana before.
All his royalties come from abroad – Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Britain, USA and others.
Razz: what brought you back to Ghana?
Vanessa: my Aunty and Uncle once called me and asked me to relocate back to Ghana because the entertainment industry here looks promising. So I came down last year in January, stayed for a month, went to the State and came back in August and have stayed till now.
I currently work with Global Media Alliance, ETV as a producer and sometimes a presenter. I produce programmes like Daily Entertainment News for primetime, E on E, Magic Moment and presents Friday’s Entertainment News from 8-9 pm and presented Celebrity Samba during the just-ended World Cup where I hosted a number of GH celebrities.
Razz: Finally, what one thing would you do in memory of Kiki Gyan?
Vanessa: well, I have a couple of things I intend to do in memory of my late father. I want to set up a foundation in his name, Kiki Gyan Foundation to help children who love music but whose parents cannot afford to sponsor them.