Those who listened to ‘Songs For Kukua’ might have realized the incredible talent Paapa Mensa is. ‘Songs For Kukua’ was an ode to Ghana (the country) which was founded on a Wednesday (6th March in 1957). The song saw him personify Ghana, and unpacking his thoughts about her. The album was hailed as a breath of freshness and introduced Paapa to a decent number of people who live for brilliantly helmed music. That was some four years ago.
Paapa, prior to ‘Songs For Kukua’ had extended his gifts, both voice, technical (production) and writing skills to others, notably artistes once on the Skillions Record Label (his home) like Rumor, Adina, Sandra. Paapa is the type of guy who would rather be at the background providing direction than be in the limelight. But, if you are such a talent, remaining in the background would last just momentarily. At a point, you’d have to step into the light and share your gifts with the world.
For four years, he wasn’t active on the scene as expected because of schooling. Paapa is a pursuing graduate studies at Portland State University in the US. I guess it’s not easy combining these two demanding activities. At a point, you need to shelve one. Music was kept at bay for academics. However intense or rigourous the academic calendar, he found a way to release a single to alert his fans he still has his musical gifts intact.
A couple of months ago, he released ‘Losers’, a song obviously inspired by the insipid state of global affairs, where conflicts and mayhem is destroying the essence of love and humanity. For many, ‘Losers’, albeit the positive message of finding a common ground despite our differences and its acoustically lean production- was seen as another loosey release; something to remind us that Paapa still makes music. What many didn’t realize was that, ‘Losers’ was a precursor to a five track EP titled simply as Technical Difficulties.
On the choice of title, Paapa offers this interesting explanation:
“The phrase ‘Technical Difficulties’ is so damn popular in Ghana – my home country. It’s hard to go a day without hearing it at a concert, during a TV broadcast or trying to withdraw cash from a bank. I chose the title because as I created this project with equipment worth $2, 000, my creative process was fraught with technical difficulties. The phrase kept ringing in my head. “Technical Difficulties” describes glitches and imperfections in a system, be it a live show, computer software, whatever. It describes the things standing in the way of perfection
This EP features only one artiste-Adomaa. On the song ‘Infront of You’, the two collectively talk about the need to keep focus like a horse in blinds. As the chorus poignantly drum home ‘you could miss what dey infront of you’ if you let your dreams blind you’. The incorporation of traditional Ghanaian rhythms and pidgin adds to why ‘Infront of You’ would be the favourite of many. The vocal range differences complemented each other. Listening to the song, you appreciate the work that went into the making of the song, especially getting the vocal mix right. You feel the recording took place with them in the same room/studio. Actually, the whole EP was recorded as he put it ‘in the comfort (and inconvenience) of my bedroom’ (in Portland, US).
Frustration, pain, conflict, reconciliation and forgiveness are the themes broached on ‘Technical Difficulties’. On ‘Aki Ola’, he seek answers to questions like ‘Why do we take our lives? Why do they drop their bombs?’ On both ‘Losers’ and ‘Together’, Paapa focused on bridging the gap between enmity and love, drawing attention on their benefits. Whereas the words ‘why do we turn love into war’ sums up ‘Losers’, on ‘Together’ he wonders if we could lean on each other (‘brother when I need to dance can you give me a beat?/ So sister, can I lean on you when my legs grow weak?’)
‘How Will I Know’ touches on love (frustrations). Paapa’s enquiries about the depth of his lover’s affection are candid: ‘oh I heard you say you love me/ Those are very heavy words to say’, he admits, before posing the real question ‘but, are you prepared to carry the meaning when it hurts?’ Paapa further quizzes if she really ‘want to do the work that it takes to love me’. Saying ‘I Love You’ isn’t a vapid remark to make. There’s more to these three magical words, hence the significance of his closing remark: How Will I know if you only say it but you never show.
Oh I heard you say you love me/ Those are very heavy words
But are you prepared to carry the meaning when it hurts?
Oh I heard you say you love me/ But, do you want to do the work that it takes to really love me?
Will your heart get in the dirt? – How Will I Know
Other unmissable qualities that bubble to the fore listening to the EP include the quality of production. The technical difficulties encountered during the making of this EP barely glitched the production quality. From the choir-eque renditions on ‘Aki Ola’ (a nostalgic reference to an popular textbook used by many Senior High School students) to the piano led, positivity oozing ‘Losers’ and the tropical ‘Infront of You’, Paapa delivered a project which found the right balance in letting the message walk in the middle without getting overshadowed by any of the aesthetics that complimented it. Paapa’s songwriting is fascinating. The lyrics are simple yet elegant; short yet expressively relaying the meanings being expressed. Every word or phrase chosen served a purpose.
Other standout qualities include the vocal work by Paapa. He can sing no doubt. This project nails this fact home. He used his voice the right way, shading the songs with the right tone of voice. Choosing to sprinkle pidgin on some of the songs made it Ghanaian and relatable. Paapa’s Christian background lived in the songs. He acknowledges this in a candid way: It’s an imperfect musical journal of themes I’ve wrestled with as a growing imperfect Christian man, living with and loving imperfect people in the shadow of God’s perfect grace and mercy’.
With this project, Paapa has proven himself a musical impresario. His music fills one with hope and positivism; something uncommon in today’s musical sphere. Each ear that may encounter this EP would instantly recognize a talent whose creations sound effortless and output thrives on quality.
Paapa labels ”Technical Difficulties” as an ‘imperfect’ art. The imperfectiveness of this art hands it the perfect accreditation. After all, is there a perfect piece of art?
It is available for streaming and download on Apple Music, Spotify, Youtube and Soundcloud.