Music Review: Betting My Last Dime on OKyeame Kwame’s ‘Hallelujah’
OK, imagine something unusual. Imagine the product of a fusion of the young and old. Imagine something that is both godly and ungodly. Imagine a cocktail of all the ingredients that make up a thrilling song. Imagine a song that is both commercially viable and inspiring. Think of a song that leaves the club on Saturday night and goes into the church on Sunday morning without guilt. Like a stone that kills two birds.
That is not hypocrisy. It is called capriciousness. Kwame Nsiah Apau has a better word: ‘versatility’. It is what Hallelujah is. This stone kills three birds, actually. It is Gospel and Azonto and Hiplife.
The song is an autobiographical account of the rapper’s musical career, recounting how successful he’s been in the past two decades.
We may not have read if he wrote it, so he makes a song out of it. The import is to credit his successes to God, to whom he says ‘Hallelujah’. It’s remarkable how Okyeame Kwame boils a complete story in the four minute record. This song checks all my boxes! It will break grounds. Let’s bet!
The beat is unfamiliar, because it is meant for Okyeame Kwame. He’s never done anything above the speed of a standard highlife tune. He’s never got close to anything that makes you want to dance with so much energy. Hallelujah beats the odds, the way Abochi beats the percussions.
The song ideally is meant for reflection in solitude. A chronicle of a person’s life would have been created in a way that would be soaked in silence. But the producer insists on making us dance, regardless.
Like all others and the ones yet to come, this one too is excellent in composition, vocal delivery, and instrumentation, particularly. The sounds makes a very, very heavy pound. Everything is happening at a time, right from the word ‘go!’
The percussions are played in their totality with a perfect compensation from the keyboard, the bass guitar and the folk instrumentation that is introduced at the ‘jama’ session. Plus those well-timed drum rolls make the song sound like the kind of praises we do on 31st Night services. Listen also for the whistle of a piccolo. You can’t ignore it.
The electric guitar melody running at the sides is inviting. You could feel those six strings entangle and move you around, dancing like a puppet at the mercies of a puppeteer. And you can’t help it, especially at the beginning.
At this point of Kwame’s career, what more can he ask? Abraham Harold Marslow, an American psychologist in this theory of needs, explains that the highest need is self-actualisation; the stage where a person realises his personal potentials and self-fulfilment. At the climax of Okyeame’s business, he feels accomplished. We kind of concur, for it’s undebatable. After all, he’s a happy family man with more than enough to put on the table, a musician with enough plaques to show on his shelves, a man carrying a soul with enough good deeds to show his creator. And he’s got a beautiful wife to go back home to.
This is a life the angels will be proud of. And Hallelujah is a song they will dance to, too. It is coming from a grateful heart.
His prosperous life is well exemplified in the music video. It opens with a display of thumbnails of scenes to typify his luxury, a healthy lifestyle and fun-filled moments. He cruises in a brand-new Rolls-Royce Phantom, he’s got some enviable regalia to showcase, he’s cladding in expensive outfits, he treks around, enjoying the services of a personal guard and becomes the talk of town. The women adore his splendour. It’s set, indeed!
Ofori Ankah Kofi, who directed the visuals presents the piece in all the quality it deserves. The location, Holy Trinity Spa makes a befitting setting with its serene atmosphere. Here’s where Abochi is introduced.
But this Abochi guy, really is a force to reckon with. The way he cunningly grabs attention with his first official appearance is intriguing. He possess this kind of charm that appeals to everyone. On Hallelujah, his voice is luring, in the way he sings on a baritone note and backs with a tenor. It makes up for Okyeame who doesn’t have a very good voice. His diction is relatable, too. He enters with the chorus:
Wɔnto ma no ɛ, Hallelujah Praise the Lord, Hallelujah Thanks for the good you’ve been doing to me Awurade a na w’ama me asɛ bi
Okyeame Kwame became prominent in the late 90s as one half of the defunct hip-life group Akyeame. He mentions their historical performance at the world famous Apollo Theatre in New York, the Constitution Hall in Washington DC and finally STRATSFORD Rex, London. During the period they released four albums: Nyansapo in 1997, Nkonsonkonson in 1998, Ntoaso in 2000 and Apam Foforo in 2002.
Their songs ‘Ma San Aba’, ‘Menko Meda’ among others become street anthems. They won the GMA Artiste of Year Award in 1999 together with Hiplife Song of the year, Song of the year and Video of the year. They enjoyed six years of success until their breakaway in 2003.
It is worth noting how Kwame recounts these moments and acknowledges his colleague in the statement:
Ankyɛ Fan town na mehyia Okyeame Quophi Vim ɛne raps deɛ na abranteɛ yi wo bi Neɛma asesa deɛ nso nyɛ ade a mewerɛ fi Me kae sɛ me hunu ɔka me ho a mɛdru akyiri
Here is an awesome display of the attitude of gratitude.
Kwame released his first solo album “Boshe Ba” (Promised Child) in 2004, just after the breakup of the Akyeame band. He followed in 2008 with “Manwesem” (My Poetry), “The Clinic” in 2011 and “Versatile” in 2012. Since then, local and international stages have carried his weight. Global audiences have been electrified by his craft. So in the words “Hiplife yɛ me dea” he claims ownership of the art. I am not saying this, neither am I resurrecting an old argument. It’s in the song!
The Rap Doctor’s application of language is unrivaled. He stuffs the song with rhymes, simile, metaphor. As is usual of him, he does not spare us his rap showmanship. In his second verse, the rapper breathlessly juggles thirty eight words in a time space of 8 seconds:
Afei me ride passe pɛ amanfoɔ se Kwame rapi Hwɛ gyidi na Kwame baako pɛ Mennsuro biara na makɔtɛ Barbiara na me paapi Rapper Dacta na clappi Y’ɛhyɛ aseɛ beef Okraku Mantey na ɔde Lord Kenya bɛ tackie
Here’s where he sounds like bass drums and snare kicks played in quick succession. This thing runs in the family. Don’t try this at home!
It is now evident the kind of course BRA Kwame is chattering for his music craft, and in subsequent releases we expect such similar work of inspiration. ‘Woso’, ‘Try Another Time’, ‘Sika’ were released to either educate, motivate, inspire or advise. This one too is toeing the same line.
You’ve been trying to win in this game forever And you feel you are under pressure Listen to my story and know that with God by your side Everything will be ok, It’s OK
I have mentioned elsewhere that we can’t find enough plaques to honour a talented player of Okyeame’s calibre. He has walked a journey of the legends. He has lived the life of a maestro. Forty years is a big deal and to have spent half of it on an enviable career is a long way coming. What more can he say but ‘Hallelujah’?