Very often, discussions on the Internet can be extremely depressing. People who would think twice before insulting you to your face in person can hurl the most inane statements at you, once they are behind the faceless screen that translates their keyboard strokes into words.
Anonymity enable political positions to be taken that are so inane one wonders whether there is any value to the “education” they have spent so much money and valuable time on. Even people whose background leads one to expect a higher degree of thinking, can show very little enlightenment once they get on the Internet.
I believe a host of tomes are being published on a continuing basis about why the Internet turns people who are ordinarily quite inoffensive into what is known as “trolls” who spout venom once they sit behind a keyboard.
Certainly, the ethnic antagonism and wholesale abuse directed at whole groups of people that the writer will never get a chance to meet, can be mind-blowing. Worse, there are people on the Internet for whom time has stood still and got fixed circa 1952-65.
This is a time, of course, that many of the “trolls” can only read about, but which they stridently claim to know more about than those who actually lived through those times; those who sometimes knew the main actors personally and even spoke to them! What a waste it is to be “educated” to a level that makes one prefer the information in a book – a book that depends on human”sources” for its material! -- to the experiential version delivered by a person of life and blood.
It's like preferring the dreams written about in “Revelations” [in the Bible] to the “Synoptic Gospels” (eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus] provided by some of His own disciples.
Nevertheless, if one ignores the small-mindedness that is often exhibited on it, the Internet is capable of providing a wealth of interactions that can bring real benefits. If one is looking for specific information on any subject and one is humble enough to plead with those who have it to supply it, one can get responses that are beyond one's wildest expectations.
This weekend provided me with such a moment. I just happened to mention that I had found on Youtube,
a song by Yamoah's Guitar Band. And lo and behold, a friend sent me by email, four other Yamoah songs, one of which I had been playing in my head for months without knowing where I could possibly obtain it on vinyl or CD. The song I discovered on the net is called Serwaa Akoto:
It is interesting to me because it is relaxed and slow (unlike the more raucous hi-life numbers which one usually gets served on the Internet.)
The song also has one other quality that impressed me a great deal – the voice of the lead singer. The guy's voice has a clear, “bell-like” quality that is not usual in hi-life songs. It brings Joss Aikins and Kobina Okai (at his best) to mind. The guy, I am told, was called “Agyaaku”, and it is amazing that he never made it really big before he was gathered unto his fathers. He came on the scene to late because if I'd heard him in my Drum Magazine days, he would have been featured big – alongside such excellent singers as Kwabena Onyina and Kobina Okai.
But if the voice was good, it was the lyrics that grabbed me really well. The writer is extolling the beauty and virtues of a lady called Serwaa Akoto. He begins by saying that if all the women in the world were “like our sister” Serwaa Akoto, then....
Then what? He doesn't quite tell us! He wants us men to imagine what the world would be like if we got our ideal woman. And what was this ideal woman? She was beautiful of course). If she smiled, her face lit up “like calico!” What? Yes – that is what one calls inspiration. There are similar praises, but mainly about her good character. Except that the writer has enough room in his heart to observe that when she wore platform shoes (“guarantee”!) you would fall for her with all your heart. Guarantee shoes! How absolutely delightful to be reminded of them!
Well, as soon as I announced my discovery of “Serwaa Akoto”, I got the type of feedback that makes writing a worthwhile occupation. Someone posted this to me on the Net:
“Ei, Wofa! [Uncle] you wan keel us this morning ooo!!!!! Great, great music. I remember seeing Serwaa Akoto in person as a kid. She stopped by a couple times at our house at Kwadaso estate [Kumase]. I think she was dating Onyina at that time: Onyina lived about half a mile away. My mum was the one who told us about the lady and the song. Gorgeous was an understatement for my young eyes at that time. Yamoah's Band were on 'right now' cue, now that I’m old enough to appreciate the lyrics.
“It just happens that I went to a concert in Kumase the last time I was in Ghana, and Kwesi Pee (Agyaaku's son) performed all these good Yamoah's tunes, as well as his own, and he received a standing ovation - he was that impressive. These songs never fail to touch you and bring out your "cool" loving emotions. “Y3 wc ade pa wc Ghana” (we've got a lot of good "tidings" in Ghana)”.
Well, Kwesi Pee, good luck to you. You have the pedigree to shine on your own. Obviously, Serwaa Akoto was a beauty of the Yaa Amponsaa-Lamle type, who brought poetry out of the mouths of song-writers, and have become immortalised.
Lamle and Yaa Amponsaa owe their fame to one of the greatest guitarists Ghana has ever produced, a guy so eccentric – or so self-aware as a showman who needed to have his name remembered – that he signed himself simply as “Sam”.
Who could ever forget a short, neat brand-name like “Sam”? On the other hand, who – especially in the UK (where Sam recorded his songs in 1928) – would have remembered someone called “Kwame Asare”? Sam played the guitar very well and sang beautifully too, and became very successful. Indeed, he was the most popular musician in Ghana in the 1940's and 50's, when I was growing up. You know – hand-wound “His Master's Voice” gramophones and all those disposable “needles”.
Sam was my father's favourite musician. He loved the way Sam described Lamle and played it so often that the lyrics have stuck in my mind to this day:
Lamle aa na mewaa no
Obaa Lamle aa na mewaa no
Lamle aa na mewaa no...
Obaa Lamle a mereka n'asem yi
Ne kon tse de adenkum
Ne kon tse de adenkum!...
Se meredzidzi mpo na metse ne dzin a
Na m'eduan no abo fom!
Lamle aa na mewaa no!
(Lamle is the one I am going to marry...
This woman Lamle I'm talking about,
Has got a neck like that of a gourd;
When I'm eating and I hear her name,
The food falls straight to the ground!
Lamle is the one I am going to marry).
Sam also incorporated a lot of humour into his songs. He was one of those who made “Cassava Farm” famous in Sekondi-Takoradi. He wrote a song in which he said,
“Odaadaa me de
Oreko waba a,
Oreko waba a,
(She deceived me, saying,
She was going but would be back soon!
But she'd be back soon
Turned out to be that
She was found [doing it]
Under some cassava trees!)
Sam's range, however, was not about women's affairs only. He composed a song about a fire that consumed the offices of the Elder Dempster shipping line in Kumase: “Kumase ED na wahyew yi a!” There was an autobiographical line in this song, alluding to the time “we went to England to make our records.” Which probably means that Sam and his fellow bandsmen had their passages booked for them at ED's offices in Kumase
Sam also composed a sociological dirge by Sam, in which he lamented that “Konkonsa aba kurom,Kurom aye dinnn!”
(People are bearing tales about each other
And the town has become deadly quiet!)
This notion anticipated the atmosphere that descended on Ghana in the years following the passage of the Preventive Detention Act by the Nkrumah Government in 1958, as well as the “culture of silence” that Ghanaians observed in the PNDC days and which formed the basis of the lectures by Prof Adu-Boahen in the 1980's.
(To be contd.)