Nana Kwame Ampadu: The great storyteller of our time is 75

By: Kouame Koulibaly
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BRILLIANT lyricist. Those are the first words that come to mind when one tries to describe composer, guitarist and singer Nana Kwame Ampadu, a household name in Ghana and beyond who turned 75 on Tuesday, March 31.

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Of course, other words like erudite, inventive, clever, talented, imaginative, witty commentator, cultured and knowledgeable can also be used to describe the man from Obo-Kwahu in the Eastern Region who formed his African Brothers band in 1963.

Since that time, he had been an astute observer of the flow of our lives. He has composed and recorded songs about money, love and marriage, good citizenship, greed, drunkenness, death, road manners for commercial drivers, effective parenting, social stratification and virtually every aspect of our being in this country.

Tracks like Ebi Ti Yie, Aku Sika, Kofi Nkrabea, Obiaa Ba Nnye, Woyoo Woyoo, Mother, Mentumi Ngyae Wo, Agartha, Aye Se Ye Do Wo, Obra, Drivers, Anibere Nnye, Oman Bo Adwo, Kwaata and many others were popular at different times.

Though many see Ebi Ti Yie (I967), a song regarded as critical of the then ruling National Liberation Council (NLC) and pulled off the airwaves for some time, as his biggest hit ever, the man said he had never pointed at any of his works as his favourite because each song was appropriate at their times of release.

“My view is that to be truly relevant as a musician in this society of ours, one must target a variety of audiences.

"You won’t fare well if you only go for material that interest a small segment of our people. That’s an advice I have been giving for free to our musicians,” Nana Ampadu said.

Something else he has been doing for free in recent times is taking his evangelical messages to churches across the country.

He preaches the word of God to, as he says, open the spiritual eyes of Africans.

As time elapses and music making doesn’t take a greater portion of his time anymore, Nana Ampadu has found other means of spending his time.

Apart from his preaching, he also writes scripts for films and books.

“I’m writing a lot on religion and spirituality. I have a book coming out before the end of this year.

"It’s called You Are Above Witches. We are stronger than witches and there’s no reason to waste time being afraid of them.

"Don’t be hesitant to do anything because you are afraid of witches. In that book, I’m empowering people to think above what they fear witches could do to them and live more fulfilling lives.

“After that, I will bring out another book about false prophets. I want to explain to people who false prophets are, how they operate and how to spot them.”

In his active playing years, Nana Ampadu and his band traveled several times to the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, France, Belgium, Holland and across Africa to perform.

Like a competent university professor, several ‘students’ passed through his hands and became band leaders on their own.

They included Sam Derchie, Teacher Boateng, Oppong Kyekyeku, Nanaba Amoako, Senior Eddie Donkor and Prince Osei Kofi. He said he felt proud to have mentored those guys and more.

Apart from helping the men to hone their skills, Nana Ampadu also groomed and produced albums in the mid-to-late 1980s for female singers like Mum B, Akosua Agyapong, Abena Nyanteh, Ama Oforiwah, Rita Owusu and Stella Tackie.

According to him, he noticed that the Ghanaian society was not supportive enough of female musicians and he resolved to help them realise their potential.

To Nana Ampadu, music is a powerful force and it is always useful to listen to what lifts up one’s spirit.

He therefore doesn’t listen to a lot of the stuff floating around these days because they are so uninspiring.

He, however, loves acts like Oheneba Kissi, Daasebre Gyamenah and Kofi B.

“The power of music is greater than the power of bombs. Musicians must remember they are nation builders.

"They can direct the course of entire nations. They must not see themselves only as entertainers. They have been imbued with abilities to counsel and motivate.

“I urge the public also to give the necessary recognition and respect to musicians so they can do their best at all times,” Nana Ampadu stated.

Though he served as General Secretary to the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) for nine years, the man was reluctant to make comments about the union, saying he did what he could during his tenure.

He also would not be drawn into a conversation about the Ghana Music Rights Association (GHAMRO).
Multi-instrumentalist, Desmond Ababio, Acting President of the newly-formed Society of Ghanaian Musicians (SOGHAM), wished Nana Ampadu well for clocking 75 and praised him for the significant contribution he had made to the development of popular music in Ghana.