Ghana, after declaring its Independence on 6 March 1957, had made a variety of efforts to connect with African diasporans, some of whom — including Maya Angelou, W. E. B. Du Bois and George Padmore — lived in the West African nation for a time. In the mid-1960s, Angelou approached the government of Kwame Nkrumah and suggested bringing a number of African-American artists to Ghana for the annual independence celebrations. Nkrumah was deposed before action could be taken, but when the American father-son team of Ed Mosk and Tom Mosk approached the Ghana Arts Council in 1970 with an idea for a concert, the Council agreed. A massive 1970 concert by James Brown in Lagos, Nigeria, had prompted the Mosks' confidence in the idea.
Of the musicians invited to perform, Wilson Pickett was by far the biggest star in Ghana, where he was known as "Soul Brother No. 2." (James Brown was, of course, Soul Brother No. 1.) Organizers also unsuccessfully sought performances by Americans Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Booker T & The MG's, Louis Armstrong and gospel singer Marion Williams. In addition, Fela Kuti was approached, but did not perform.
The show was held in Black Star Square (now Independence Square) on the Gulf of Guinea and ran for 14 hours, finishing at 6:45 a.m. with a gospel set by The Voices of East Harlem.
Several at the show remarked that Santana, despite having only one black member, played the most "African-sounding" music of the night. Some have argued that the band's merger of Latin rhythms with rock music strongly influenced the development of Afrobeat.
The American artists were mostly African-American and represented a variety of musical styles:Wilson Pickett
Ike & Tina Turner
Les McCann and Eddie Harris
The Staple Singers
Santana, featuring Willie Bobo on timbale
The Voices of East Harlem
The concert also featured performances by several Ghanaian acts:Guy Warren, a.k.a. "The Divine Drummer," also known as Kofi Ghanaba, one of the first African musicians to play alongside American jazz musicians
The Damas Choir, perhaps the nation's most prominent vocal group since the 1940s, led by Ishmael Adams
Charlotte Dada, sometimes spelled "Dadah" or "Daddah," best known in the West for her soul cover of The Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down"
Kwa Mensah, a pioneer in highlife music and the older palmwine style
The Kumasi Drummers, a group from the Ashanti Region
The Aliens, Ghana's best known rock band, sometimes known as The Psychedelic Aliens or The Magic Aliens
The Anansekromian Zounds, the house band for the Ghana Arts Council
Also performing (and seen on the film) were the Nandom Sekpere group from the Northern (now Upper West) region. Look out for the whistle (wiile) player Nakpi.
In addition, Les McCann and Eddie Harris played part of their set with a Ghanaian calabash player and medicine man named Amoah Azangeo.
While $50,000 was budgeted for paying the American performers, only $1,000 was set aside for the local musicians.
The concert was filmed and released in August 1971. It featured extensive excerpts from the concert performances, along with documentary footage of the musicians interacting with local Ghanaians in the days before the show. The film played in limited release around the world for the next two years but was not a financial success and did not cover the costs of putting on the show.
The film was eventually restored thanks to a program by The Grammy Foundation that seeks to preserve important films about music, and it debuted again in February 2004 at an event at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It was released on DVD on August 24, 2004. The new release does not include any performances by Roberta Flack, who requested their removal. But it does include a soundtrack album on CD, which features tracks from all the U.S. performers excluding Santana and Flack, plus the Kumasi Drummers, the Damas Choir, and Kwa Mensah. It also includes a new song entitled "Soul To Soul (2004)" by Earl Thomas.