Reflection: My take on Paapa Yankson

Paapa Yankson was from Apam in the Central region

Nyimpa beye bi wambeye ne nyinara

Woakra hen. Wakra h3n efi wiadze

Ony3 ne pe oe ewuradze ne nhyehyee

Osiande mber a ewuradze dze hye nono

Na wedu do ntsi na oroko no

Ntis na oroko no

Oko so a oremsen bio

Sweet melodious songs sung by the carousel 7 epitomizes the current state, Song simply says he has bid farewell to us not because he wants to but what the Lord’s

The streets of the oil city are clad in red and black.

The ancient town of Apam is wailing

A great son of the land is no more

A voice as rich as his can never be replaced.

Paapa Yankson is one of the few giants of highlife who propelled highlife and for that matter Ghana to such dizzying heights though he started life as a stenographer it was music that brought him fame.

As a young man growing up in a house that had a big GRUNDIG radio it was the voices of Papa Yankson, Kwame Ampadu, Gyedu Blay Ambolley and the rest who got me hooked on the big band at quite an early stage.

I hardly missed the guitar band stands on Radio 2. I got hooked on his voice partly because of his singing prowess. As someone living in the ancient capital city of Cape Coast “the town of beautiful nonsense” and being quite close to the fisher folk I was amazed by the dexterity to which papa with uncle C.K. Mann can take the songs by these fishermen and remold them into danceable tunes fit for the ballroom and satisfy both the elites and the “mmbrowa” at large.

The early releases by carousel 7 were a delight on anyone’s changer or his master’s voice. If you were lucky to be called upon by a man who trusted you enough to let you wind his gramophone then sweet melodies awaited to assault your ears.

It was after I had entered the U.C.C. that through the instrumentality of my maternal uncle Mr super bad I got the chance of meeting the man Kofi Yankson. Musiga in Cape Coast had instituted a monthly musical show at the center for national culture in Cape Coast and I was penciled to be the master of ceremony and my chance came to meet him. He warmed himself into my heart and I was stunned by his humility and simplicity as he was then a star on his own, debuting his album on the flying elephant label “wiadze mu nsem” had taken the nation by storm and my favorite “EBEI” was at its peak. He encouraged me to learn the trade well as I had a good future in the industry. I picked a few lessons from him and followed him but when he released the show your love album his stature in the contemporary highlife world got to an all-time high, his producer then, Isaac Taylor of Roots Music World became a friend and these men were so enthused about a young man like me who wanted to know everything about highlife.

Paapa got in touch with me now and then as we struck up a beautiful relationship. More like a father and son. The release of his gospel album Paapa Yankson and the Christian sisters drew us even more together when he realized I was a Methodist and a chorister as well.

I came to work in Accra and we maintained our friendship but it was when I went back to Takoradi that the friendship blossomed. I was eager to learn so much about the highlife giants. CK MANN, the late Mr. Wilmot and Kweku Grant were very influential in my highlife journey so any time Papa Yankson came to Taadi he will call me that he was around Moree junction, he will visit and we will move together to either Lucky bar or Columbia. He will talk about his music and other things in the music world, sometimes we will just drive over to Kwafaq and stand by his golf car listening to the live band.

Papa was a great teacher and a wonderful listener. I will never forget the day he screamed at me, he had brought his then fresh alum titled” highlife collections” to me for critique. I listened to the full album over and over again and realized the production standards were lower than his previously released albums and I politely pointed out to him. That was when he snapped. He went like ‘herrr kofi awo small boy mestart de morotow ndwom na wonwo wo and you talking to me about production? Meaning “I started singing before you were born so don’t talk about music production to me” I kept mute and walked on but he called me back and said we should go out. He then asked why I felt the songs did not meet my standards and he took them in but I realized he was hurt. The last time I asked of that album he told me I should gerrroout because I was part of the reason he could not release it.

We kept on communicating with each other and on the 5th of March this year we had a lengthy 1.15 mins interview live on 3FM 92.7 GH CLASSICS, the discussion was Primarily on highlife general to commemorate Ghana@60.

On June 24 I had called him live on radio on Onua 95.1FM to wish him happy birthday and he made me sing the happy birthday song for him. When I asked him his favourite song apart from “mber papa” he said no that was his first composition.

Author: Paa Kofi Abronomah |Onua FM

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