Tragic amour is widely-held to birth the greatest songs, and true artists owe it to us to experience sour love. The unlucky lover, Kwabena Kwabena has more than honored this curious demand of art, and is therefore, master of love songs.
Now to the meat of the matter:
Sonically, Kwabena Kwabena’s aptitude has never been in question. Over five magnificent albums, via superior linguistic ingenuity and melodic virtuoso, the beloved crooner has proven indispensable, and therefore, is well on his way to the status of “highlife legend”.
Since Aso (2004), his songs have served as nectar to a huge constituency of loyalists, which primarily consists women. And why not? His music has always accompanied with it, a timeless eminence and soulful connection in how they navigate the theme of love.
Comprising a concise nine songs, his latest album, Ahyɛse, completes an exciting index of high-profile projects published in Ghana last year –other contributors being the likes of Sarkodie, Ebony, Stonebwoy, Akan, Joe Mettle, and Becca. Led with 3 well-received singles (Tuamudaa, Siwagedem, and Adansie), the album sees Kwabena Kwabena, born George Kwabena Adu, double back to the very beginning, which is what the album title translates into English as.
It makes sense that Kwabena would opt for Ahyɛse as title for this new body of work. For one, they say life begins at 40, and at 39, he’s preparing himself to start living. For another, 40 symbolizes the juncture in showbiz where artists generally take stock of their career, and contemplate legacy. How else can we tell that he’s there? Months before announcing the album, he published his memoire, “Past Days Ahead”, chronicling his compelling journey thus far.
Ahyɛse navigates mainly, love and coitus (Kwabena’s leitmotifs), but also, God, life and living it, sees the singer expertly amalgamate authentic rhythms from across the ages, and features a single guest appearance –rapper M.anifest –a decision which is only logical for the direction of the project…also because ultimately, he’s regularly thrived solo anyway. Whatever theme he tackles, Kwabena’s vocal style induces goosebumps, because his delivery is distinctly persuasive. Whether he’s proclaiming the almighty’s unconditional mercies (Adansie, Adonai), listing the many accolades of the Ghanaian damsel (Obaa), peddling adult music (Tuamudaa, Siwagedem), or imploring a lover to be patient as no condition is permanent (Ɛnsesa), a rich honesty is felt, making the message difficult to ignore.
Like everything he has previously submitted, Ahyɛse is made for lovers, by a lover. But it is as much to detractors too. When, on Efie Biara, he admonishes all that there’s a “Mensah” in every home, we know he’s addressing the impunity with which his private life is subjected to public derision. Measured, he resorts to trusted adages (and vintage trumpets) that have guided our society over millennia, to convey his message: “if you see a fellow’s beard in flames, fetch water near yours in precaution”, “have good thoughts toward your brother, so good deeds will follow you”, “when you throw a stone at a wall, it bounces back at you”, he sermonises in Twi. Nobody is without flaws, and often, another man’s woes make you ignore your own, instead of causing you to reflect on them.
Ɛnsesa is a sobering piece not just for its lyrics, but also for the instrumentation that transports them. Every note, every percussion placement, is deliberate and delicate. It’s almost seductive in how it draws one in. The heavy sigh that is induced in the consumer by the end of the song, is testament to what a loaded tune it is.
Women have arguably been subject of adulation even more times than God himself, and Obaa serves as a special addition without doubt. Introduced by fine strings and a Palm Wine aura, it is a tantalizing homage to the Ghanaian female. Whoever inspires music thus, is not ordinary, for she affects unknown depths of a man’s heart.
M’atwɛn Abrɛ evidences Kwabena Kwabena’s adaptability to varying rhythm, as well as the ease with which he owns it. Highlife isn’t static; unrestricted to a single beat pattern. If anything, it unites cadences from across the breadth of Ghana, from days of our forefathers, to sounds of our time. So must the highlife artist. Kwabena proves a vessel for the spirits, whatever generation, whatever corner. M’atwɛn Abrɛ floats on regal Adowa reconstructed by Kwame Yeboah and the OBY Band (who handle virtually the entire album), and adds to the many moments of authentic heritage and cultural pride on the album.
Other records that round up this exquisite body of work include Obi Asa, and Yedɔ Yɛn Ho. Both joints inspire heavy perspiration, but whereas the former is tailored for the dancing feet, the latter is designed to facilitate the rumpy pumpy.
Whether his voice is slightly above a whisper, or his emotions arrive via the unique pitch of his falsetto, on smooth rhythm, or on rapid tempo, Kwabena shines.
Mature, seamless, and thoroughly edifying, this album makes a magnificent case for highlife and the model Ghanaian songwriter, and further indents him as Ghanaian ambassador worthy of the name. Though it is only months old, Ahyɛse is the kind of album that you would refer to as a classic. It is one to be handled gently, enjoyed repeatedly, and only truly available to them that seek.
Like the album cover, Kwabena bares it all, and embraces himself afresh, flaws and all. It is only when one accepts himself that he can truly impact others.
Ahyɛse – Kwabena Kwabena 2.0!
Artist: Kwabena Kwabena
Label & Release Date: KBKB MUSIK/ November 2017