Artist : Paapa Yankson
Genre : Highlife
His latent music flair was discovered at the funeral of a neighbour.He landed his first music contract during his mother’s funeral. And for more than 30 years Paapa Yankson has produced music that has brought life to many dead souls.
Anybody who has an ear for good music will notice, quite easily, that Paapa Yankson who was born on June 22, 1944 at Winneba, is a good musician who, as it were, came into the world with microphones in both hands. It was therefore not surprising that while taking a stroll down the street in his neighbourhood in Takoradi one evening, young Benjamin Paapa Kofi Yankson stopped at a funeral ground to savour the music being played by a band.
He walked over to the lead singer and requested to have a go at the microphone. And his performance, according to him, was quite cool.In a chat with the award-winning highlife singer, he recounted how that experience encouraged him to pursue his musical dream in spite of his late parents’ advice to him to become a top-notch clerk (krakye).
He found his parents’ advice quite interesting because both of them were musicians.His father,Teacher Benjamin Akono Yankson, was a reputable trumpeter with the Apam Brass Band while his mother Akua Doma, a trader, was a member of the Christ Little Band of the Methodist Church.
According to him, anytime his mother sang while doing her house chores,he sang along with her.“In fact, whenever I did anything wrong and my mother wanted to punish me I would hide in a corner and sing one of her favourite songs and that often softened her heart and she let me off the hook,” he recalled.
After he had left the Takoradi Methodist School he enrolled in the Ahantaman Secondary Commercial School where he studied and obtained a certificate in stenography. He got a job at the Kingsway Chemists Limited where he worked as a stenographer for five years.
He said: “I later landed a job at the African Timber and Plywood Company, a subsidiary of the United African Company (UAC), at Samreboi.
UAC had a band, the Big Sound Band, so I played as the lead singer while I worked as a stenographer for the company for four years.”When his mother died and he attended the funeral in Takoradi, a band, the Carousel Seven, came and set up its instruments to play.
He later learnt that the band had been looking for him for years and that when they heard about his mother’s death they came to the funeral in the hope that they could woo him to play with them.It was the same band that young Yankson had sung for, while with friends at a neighbour’s funeral years before his mother’s demise. “My mother was also present at that funeral. Now when I was asked to sing at my mom’s funeral I was too dispirited to sing even a note.”
Upon the recommendation of great musician, C. K. Mann, who was the leader of the Carousel Seven, the proprietor of the band, Annis Mubarak, invited Paapa Yankson to play with his band. “I told Mr Mubarak that singing for the band would mean losing my income as a stenographer. He decided to employ me as a private stenographer and a singer for the band and pay for both services.”
Paapa Yankson was more than eager to take up the two jobs. “I earned a lot of money juggling the two jobs but at a point I was tired so I had to say goodbye to stenography and concentrate on music.”After a while, he said, he was not making enough money so he got an additional job as an insurance agent with the State Insurance Corporation (SIC) after playing gigs for the company.
In 1975 he enrolled at the National Academy of Music, Winneba, to read a diploma programme in music, after which he took up a job as the music organiser at the Garrisons Education Unit, Burma Camp, Accra, where he worked for nine years — from 1982 to 1991.
Mr Ebo Coker, a businessman, asked Paapa Yankson to come back to Takoradi in 1991 to help form the Western Diamonds Band. Paapa was put in charge of singing and directing. When the band found its feet after two years he left.
The Chief Executive Officer of the then Ashanti Goldfields Limited, Mr Sam Jonah, invited Paapa over to Obuasi to help form a band for the company. With his support, the Golden Nuggets Band was born and upon his request the band was moved from Obuasi to Accra. He played for the Nuggets till 1995 when he decided to go solo.
He has composed many hit songs some of which have attracted national awards and nomination for awards. In 1997 his composition, “Yaaba” won an award for Best Composition during the Komkomba Awards. His works, “Wiase Mu Nsem”, “Show Your Love”, “Wo Yere Anaa Wo Maame”, and “Tena Menkyen” are among his hit songs.
Paapa Yankson has more than 15 albums to his credit and it is not surprising that some young hiplife artistes keep knocking at his door to feature him on their albums. He has taught and performed in many countries around the world including the US, Canada, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Holland, Nigeria, Benin and Cote d’Ivoire.