Kwahu music is good music — Nana Ampadu

This year’s Easter celebrations at Kwahu will see a cherised son from the area, Nana Kwame Ampadu, perform again before his kinsmen after 18 years of missing the annual festive romp on the mountains.

The show at the Ohenenana Classic Hotel at Mpraeso on Easter Sunday, March 23 will not be just a salutation from proud Kwahu citizens to the prolific songwriter, singer and guitarist from Obo but a symbolic appreciation of all the musicians that hail from the Kwahu territory.

They are a lot: E.K. Nyame of E. K’s Band, Yaw Kune, Kweku Mireku, Yaw Ampomah of T.O. Jazz, Obuoba J.A. Adofo, Kojo Antwi, Teacher Boateng, Paapa Yaw Johnson, Samuel Owusu, Mum B, Captain Newman, Ameyaw Yankson, Aboagye Asiamah, Oheneba Kissi, Sas B, George Jahraa, Adane Best, Obuor, Tweneboah Kodua and others.

Some of them made their names long before Independence but a great deal of them came to national notice after March 6, 1957.

Nana Ampadu, now the General Secretary of the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), is one of Ghana’s best-known highlife stars.

He formed the famous African Brothers Band in 1963 and has released countless hits with the band.

“E. K. Nyame from Kwahu-Pepease was known all over the Gold Coast when I was in elementary school in the early 1950s,” Nana Ampadu said when Showbiz caught up with him for a chat on Kwahu contribution to music in this country.

“He was a sight-reading clarinetist and singer and I loved his music as a boy. I was always glued to my grandfather’s gramophone whenever he played E.K’s records. Luckily, I met E.K. when I first came to live in Accra and I learned a lot from him.”

Many Kwahu-born musicians have also learnt from Nana Ampadu. He remembers a young J.A. Adofo being brought to him by a relative ­in 1969 for coaching in singing.

He took him under his wings for a while before Adofo moved on to study guitar with someone else. Teacher Boateng, who later formed the Africana Band and Captain Newman also benefitted from Ampadu’s tutelage.

“Trading and farming were among the key occupations preferred by Kwahu citizens. I believe the prominence enjoyed by the African Brothers convinced more people that music was also a good enough profession to pursue.”

The outstanding thing about Kwahu musicians, in Nana Ampadu’s view, is their ability to compose meaningful, thought-provoking songs.

“We definitely have our shortcomings but what is peculiar as well as commendable about us is that we often weigh our lyrics carefully before putting them out to the public. We are usually not the type that dabble in risque lyrics and not mindful of public sentiments.

“Take Kojo Antwi and Oheneba Kissi for example. Even when they sing about love, they are considerate about their choice of words and imagery. I think it all boils down to the good upbringing Kwahus give to their children.”

Whether big-time or just emerging, Easter is usually the period for Kwahu musicians to take their acts home.
Nana Ampadu considers that practice as very useful because budding ones take inspiration from those already in the field, especially if they have made some name nationally.

“E.K. never missed Easter when he was alive. I was also a regular with my band until 18 years ago. Some Kwahu elders have been interested in getting me over to perform this year and I’m happy to go because the young ones must see and learn from us.”

Incidentally, Obo seems to have produced a lot of the prominent Kwahu musicians. Nana Ampadu, Captain Newman, Kojo Antwi, Oheneba Kissi, George Jahraa and others are from there.

“If ever there is a national inter-territory music competition, I believe Obo will lead Kawhu to conquer all,” Nana Ampadu said with a smile across his face that seemed to suggest how proud he is to be part of the Kwahu music fraternity.