Throwback: Paapa Yankson – Ebei

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The melody from the saxophone glides over the soft and mellow percussion drums exquisitely. And for 35 seconds, the only thing one hears is beautiful music: horn sections colliding with riffs from the bass guitar, voices rising in unison on the opening hook. These are some of the enchantments of “Ebei”, a song by highlife legend, Paapa Yankson.

An incredible musician with many years of experience, this gifted baritone voiced, highlife musician released 15 albums during his over three decades of making music. Paapa Yankson was destined to be a singer-his father was a trumpeter for the Apam Brass Band and mum, a singer. He, venturing into professional singer happened by accident. He was snatched by the famous Carousel Seven Band after hearing him sing at his mother’s funeral.

Renowned for his classic ballad, ”Tsena Men Kyen” with the amazing Paulina Oduro, Paapa Yankson’s career went through the musical phases that existed during that era: join a band, rise to become the lead singer, branch out as a solo artiste. After years of playing with the Carousel Seven under the tetulage of legendary C.K. Mann, Paapa Yankson helped form the Western Diamonds Band in the early 90s. After helping grow the band into one of the biggest around, he left after two years. He helped form the Golden Nuggents Band, the resident band for then Ashanti Goldfields. His solo career killed off in the mid-90s and the results were over 15 albums.

I had the pleasure of seeing Paapa Yankson play twice in the mid-90s as a teen in Cape Coast. He headlined two concerts, on two different occasions, at the Coconut Groove Hotel and Elmina Beach Resort respectively. My oldman was a fan so he dragged his kids along to such rendezvous.

His album, “Ewiadze Mu Nsem” (Issues of the World), was one the family owned. Out of the many great songs on the album- Jealousy, Bebia Odo Wo, Nyame N’adom Ntsi, Obiara Na Ne Dofo, Ye Hia Wo Mboa- ‘Ebei’ (Otan huno Ara Kwa) was one of the outstanding songs. The composition, the laid back feel, the voice and the beats added to its beauty. It was the song’s message that resonated with many.

 The Message:

Jealousy, hatred, greed, hypocrisy were the issues addressed by Paapa Yankson on “Ebei”. (The title is an expression of shock or displeasure at an incident or action). Our egregious traits as humans lead us to bond with others outside our immediate family. We develop relationships with others. Like the humans that we are, we tend to also harbour certain traits which, if not curtailed derail our relationships.

One can’t really point to the inspiration behind ”Ebei”- whether it was from personal experience or observation of life. On the song, Paapa Yankson was addressing some of the flawed character traits of humans and how these negativities retard one’s own progress. He was literally throwing shade to all the haters, hypocrites, fake friends. One outstanding thing about the song was the manner the message was conveyed: the calmness in his voice. His tone didn’t carry any spite or condescension.

The soulfulness of the song, its relatable message- mainly anecdotes of life- aggregate to make “Ebei” such a priceless composition. It didn’t gain attention on radio as other songs on ‘Ewiadze Mu Nsem’, which I suspect was down to its ‘insinuatory’ tone. But one thing remains: the song is a work of perfection: beautifully composed and gorgeously executed. It’s one of those songs that steal you right when that sax opened the song. If there’s a producer or artist reading this piece, “Ebei” is the song you should sample or remix for many reasons. Listen to the song and find out. But, make sure you don’t ruin it.

This piece was written two days ago. Just today, news filtered in that Paapa Yankson had passed away. May he rest in peace.

 

Throwback: MzBel feat Castro – Yoopoo

 

IMG_20170706_171524Today marks the third year since Castro disappeared. Till date, no concrete news has been adduced for his disappearance. Whatever has been in the news reel is based on plausible speculations. Today’s throwback isn’t deliberately to celebrate Castro, even though it would not been out of place. It’s just a coincidence that the throwback song for this week features him. 

 

For starters, let me state emphatically that I’m a MzBel fan for two great reasons: one, she has consistently worn her sexuality with such offending resplendence since she first emerged on the music stage a decade and half ago. Two, MzBel is a strong person who hasn’t allowed her past to define her. She has been raped, abused and judged negatively by society, yet the singer/rapper, Nana Akua, walks with her chin high and her upper lip tight.

Of course, she hasn’t been very professional in expressing her opinions on certain subjects, be it political or social level. Her comments have always been more stronger than her physique. The backlash her actions often court is self-inflicted.

These notwithstanding, MzBel is a trail blazer. She succeeded in shattering the ceiling as far as how female artistes were suppose to carry themselves. She entered the music scene when being ‘descent’ was the general expectation. She, however chose to show that moral code the middle finger and bring her baddest behavior to the fore.

The Sassy Girl’s showbiz persona was heard in her music, seen in her videos and during performances. The lyrics of her songs were explicit and suggestive, her performances ridiculously rauchy and her videos, often steamy. MzBel wasn’t a good girl who went bad. She was damn bad from the onset. 

One of her songs that confirmed these qualities was the 2004 hit song ‘Yoopoo’. From every angle you look at it, ‘Yoopoo’ (a slang which loosely translate as excellently done) was bound to be a hit. From the production to artistes featured to the music, ‘Yoopoo’ was a hit from the first day.

MzBel had prior to the song established herself as the foremost female artiste on the secular music scene. Her debut single ‘Ade d33d3’ (Sweetest Thing) had earned her deserved popularity. The producer behind ‘Yoopo’, JQ, was also establishing himself as one of the hit makers in the country (he was adjuged the best producer at the 2004 Ghana Music Awards). JQ was then managing a young, vibrant and multi- talented singer/rapper Castro. Also, Screwface, a rising dancehall artiste was also sliding atop the dancehall wave.

MzBel ensured she showcased her bad behaviour on the song. ‘Yoopoo’ is very sexually toned yet claded in metaphors to conceal its true meaning. The Two language employs a lot of metaphors especially in expressing sexual thoughts making it easy for artistes to incorporate in their music. 

But, despite this observation, MzBel was MzBel on the song; singing and rapping about her sexual encounter/intentions for a man as the chorus indicated : he loves it when I’m sitting on him but gets mad when i get up and leave/ my love do it quick/I don’t have capa (the strength)’.

Castro also took the baton from MzBel and painted a nice picture of MzBel’s fearsome sexual abilities which could get you confused: ‘get me my cigarette to light up my matches’. In a trade-off of verses, she emphasized her naughtiness again: ‘i’ll ride you to heaven when I get you’. Screwface’s verse completed the narrative. He was indicative of her sex is the magic that keeps him staisfied.

JQ’s production was absolutely splendid. His signature beat which combines elements of highlife and Ga Jama rhythms (with it’s soft bubbling drums) and trombone (horn) placements gave Yoopoo an element of catchiness. This jama influenced sound made JQ a go to producer for artistes seeking that big commercial tune. 

It has been more than 10 years since Yoopoo was released. Yet, it still sounds evergreen and nostalgic. Not only would you sing along the memorable hook, if not the entire song, it still carries the magnetic pull that would get you to twirl around even if your dancing is as depressing as mine.

MzBel has a place in my heart still. She made some of the best music of her career songs from the early 2000s to around 2010. Songs that still sounds timeless. And in my eyes, MzBel shattered the ceiling and inspired some of today’s female musicians like Ebony to let the sexuality pervade the music they make. After all, there’s nothing shameful about being slutty on wax and videos.

And for that single act, MzBel deserves her praise. Yoopoo, just like other songs by her is certainly a classic tune.