The musician’s death was confirmed by one of his friends, Mark Darlington, on Facebook, and local media suggest he succumbed to cardiac arrest days after his 40th birthday on June 6.
Considered a champion of the reggae sub-genre in Ghana, and praised for his unique fusion of dancehall and hiplife, Sonni Balli was behind local hits such as ‘The Truth’, ‘Frienemy’, ‘Ama Frimpong’ and ‘When You Are Gone”, among others. He is also credited with mentoring a new generation of Ghanaian dancehall artists, notably Samini.
The news of his death caused an outpouring of grief on social media.
“Sonni Balli how could you do this bro,” Darlington posted. “I wished you a happy birthday last Monday! That’s not fair! I’m devastated and heartbroken!”
“I can’t believe you’re gone Sonni Bali,” veteran hiplife producer Jay Q said. [rap group] VIP, Daasebre Dwamena and Ex-Doe, needed my services to work for G-Life. I had already produced VIP’s first album Rana Sala for his record label, so we had an ongoing business relationship. We went to the studio and I met Sonni Bali and Abiola (G-Life) for the first time. With their voices and my beats, we churned out the hit song ‘Wate Wani Ayera’. Sonni Bali on this track was a rapper. It was great working with you. May your musical soul rest in peace.
“Rest in peace, legendary Sonni Balli,” posted Reggie Zippy. “Thank you for paving the way for most of us to roam the ‘raglife-hiplife’ music scene in Ghana. Sleep well, King. Your name will forever be in the good books of Ghanaian music.
“Smh, Sonni Balli,” Samini tweeted. “No words”.
Born Sonny Kwabena Amoako Akoanor in the UK, Sonni Balli began his music career at the age of 17, scoring his first mainstream success under the tutelage of veteran producer Nana King, who ran the Ashanti International label. Sonni Balli formed the group G Life soon after. The band, made up of three other friends, was behind the Kotoho and Abrabo in Ghana LPs, before breaking up.
Sonni Balli returned to his solo career, scoring collaborations with hiplife groups Mary Agyapong, Slim Buster and Lord Kenya, among others. His first solo album, recorded after teaming up with London producer Eugene Nartey and Bad Habit CEO Bright Okah, is titled First scene Second.