Some time back I wrote a blog on a genre of music I call “conscientious” GH music – the kind that makes you stop right there in the midst of an azonto move or heart-thumping beat. Not because the tune changed, but because you have to think – to actually ponder the weight of the words contained in song.
For that category I mentioned folks like Efya and Manifest, and hinted at new comers like Chase. I also mentioned Paapa
of “Songs for Kukua”
fame as someone to watch. Well, watch I did. Last Saturday Alliance Francaise hosted Paapa in collaboration with 3rd Channel Direct, Skillions Records, 6Milu Media and Accra [dot] alt.
The talented young song writer and musician decoded his inaugural album which is home to the masterpiece of a single, Write for Me”. To say that we witnessed talent in realization would be an understatement.
Appetizers – Funky Prof, Sandra Huson, Sharifa, Faint Medal, Bebbet
For starters, the audience was swayed into a comfortable ambiance of conversation thanks to the undeniable prowess of the FunkyProfessor, Kobby Graham. Unlike most concerts that leave the main act for last, Paapa was woven into the program from beginning to end. He even accompanied his opening act Sandra Huson on piano, and her rendition of Hallelujah left me – and I’m sure many others – spellbound.
Besides Kobby and Sandra there was Babette, a spoken word artiste known for her signature red lip. As the hostess Sika Osei mentioned, there are very few female spoken word artistes in GH and I believe Bebbet is but a harbringer of all that is yet to come. Paapa also introduced surprise act Sharifa Gunu, a musician from Northern Ghana who is breaking ground in the GH music industry. She performed “Saleman” – which for the non-Dagbani speakers is yet another heart ache song – and ended with a very enthusiastic dance set remiscent of Senegal’s mbalax.
And then there was Faint Medal
. Stop. The thought of their performance still sends shivers down my spine. I had heard about Faint Medal from some friends – this cool, ultra-hip Ghanaian rock band – but nothing prepared me for their pidgin rock. It is too exciting to put to words! The fusion of rock (which sounds eerily like Nickelback), old school high life, poetry in song, instrumentals, all of it! The sounds from Kyekyeku’s guitar transported the sounds of Malian and Senegalese music straight to that stage! I am too excited for this group, they are a serious game changer and another to watch out for. I mean the name alone tells you they’re definitely not your usual suspects.
Kwaku & Kukua – A Ghanaian romance
I had listened to the single on Kukua’s album – “Write for Me” which I think is the very essence of poetry in song. I mean, the video is a masterpiece and evidence of the creative genius that went into its making. I’d also listened to “BeYouTiful” and “Stronger” from Paapa’s inaugural Christian rock album “Solar”. But all that couldn’t prepare me for all the amazing tracks Paapa shared with us that night.
So the first time I heard about “Write for Me”, I wondered who Kukua was. The lyrics rang too true to be made up and I felt a little sorry for the young lady who had to let her man go to faraway lands. It resonated with me. Not because I’ve had to leave my various husbands behind each time I move country, but because I had to leave Ghana, my family, friends behind to venture out into the wild, wild West.
Imagine my surprise when Paapa revealed that “Kukua” is actually Ghana (and “Kwaku” himself – no surprise there). Why? Kukua is the name given to a female born on a Wednesday (Wukuda) in Akan culture. Ghana was birthed on Wednesday, March 7, 1957 – the rest is history. Any person – man, woman or child – who can dedicate an entire album to Ghana, showcase a depth of understanding for her complex personality, strengths, challenges, and deliver beautifully has me sold.
Paapa exceeded my expectations. He aced the “conscientious music” score twice-over. “ “Lost” captures the internal struggles we each undergo in finding ourselves, our paths and our purpose, while “Deeper”…well, it just goes deep. I also enjoyed “3rd
Thief” which really does justice to the literary tool of paradox with phrases like “grief with gladness”, as well as “Now that I’m here” with rapper Jayso. “Wake Up” talks about that moment of realization when the blinds unfold and you see the truth of what is. But the zinger for me was “Richest Man” Why? It touches on the notions of poverty, wealth and equality. The development economist in me is obviously smitten:
Autotune never impressed the deaf
Blind man no fit dey see your dress
Doesn’t care if you are fresh to death
But I think the best thing in the world to get
Besides the beautiful chemistry of the tracks, the lyrics had me going gaga. One especially from “Wake Up” just hit the nail on the head: “But the funny thing is, death doesn’t even hurt the dead.
It hurts the people that the dead leave behind instead”. And the poetry of “Please use your pencil to draw me closer to you” from “Your Way” cannot be ignored. But we’re not just talking lines worthy of Shakesphere o. The pidgin too repped hard!
While the album is laden with references to the Christian faith, it has that universal quality that will appeal to anyone just looking to be inspired. I’m Muslim, and “Songs for Kukua” is exactly the type of album I’d put on my Ramadan playlist. The album is also a great memoirs of some of the struggles and experiences of an African living or studying abroad. There are priceless insights in there – I highly recommend it for all who are about pursuing their academic career abroad.
Stage presence-wise, I think Paapa and his crew did a good job of connecting with and engaging the audience. At one point Paapa invited his father on stage to do a solo, and I found that very heartwarming. The fact that he decoded his album by sharing it’s relevance in his life, when and where it was inspired and so on made me feel like I was listening to secrets from the depths of his being. And isn’t that what this life should be about? Giving of oneself in the best way one knows how?
Alors, it goes without saying that Paapa’s “Songs for Kukua” is an album every Ghanaian should get. You will be inspired, you will think, you will dance, laugh, smile, cry, nod your head in recognition. You will even find a tune or two to azonto to. But above all, you will marvel at this amazing piece of art…and by a 22-year old no less. Get it! To Paapa – as I tweeted to you, I believe you are only at the beginning of all you shall accomplish. Thank you for sharing your talent, story with us. More vim – For God and Country!
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.