One thing must be said about highlife singer Kofi B: he is a unique artist. His uniqueness shines right across his beautiful and proverb-filled songwriting, his mastery of the Twi language and mellifluous voice. Kofi B should, in my estimation, be one of the most heralded highlife acts of his generation. But as is often the case, especially with regards to a trade as music, the most talented usually don’t become recognizable names even though they are mentioned among the best talents within the music space.
Long before we became familiar with a name- and voice like Bisa Kdei, there was Kofi B. The two, however, bear, to an extent, similar musical traits: they both have a melodic voice, they write very good and their songs mostly reflect the themes of life, love, often presented in a thought- provoking manner.
Kofi B registered his presence on the music scene in the early 2000s with his classic single “Mmobrowa”. The song quickly thrusted him among the names or voices considered the future vanguards of highlife music. (The continuous rise and attraction of hiplife / rap was diminishing the appeal of highlife thus the need for new voices to rekindle the genres appeal). This, Kofi B, along with the likes of Daasebre Dwamena, KK Fosu, Ofori Amponsah, Kofi Nti, Nana Quame were seen as the chosen ones to not just resuscitate the genre, but keep it alive for the next crop of singers.
“Mmobrowa” embodied the true tenets of highlife music. The production (instrumentation) fused traditional palm wine Yaa Amponsah guitar strums with contemporary highlife sound -to fit the era of the early to mid-2000s; the message or story – human stories- rendered by Kofi B shared similar traits with those that veterans like Nana Ampadu, Amakye Dede, Samuel Owusu would talk about in their songs.
From the opening lone Yaa Amponsah rhythms to when the drum kicked in, to the soulful voice of Kofi B breezing through the sonic ambience created earlier, the musical nerves in your body were ready to receive the excitement the song was to offer.
On “Mmobrowa” (literally translate as “pauper” or someone who doesn’t have enough), Kofi B described how his poor circumstances is informing his life choices. That is, coming from a place were poverty is reality and not fantasy, he had to live within his means. He expressed this more succinctly in the following line: ‘me fura 3ntuma go ntsi min di emprepre agro” – to wit, I don’t indulge in fights with others ‘cos my clothes are very old”.
This line clearly put in perspective his circumstances and why he doesn’t live recklessly. The desire to work towards changing his condition meant moving to a place with more prospects – the City – and working harder, the type of job notwithstanding. He finally calls on God to ‘take the wheel’ of his life and success.
The video for the song depicted the story much in detail. It showed Kofi B’s economic background and his journey in search of success – how his family bided him farewell, his steadfastness against temptations -as seen in his decline of a car ride and resistance when he was forcibly dragged into it by two ladies.
The video was directed by Gerald “Ogee” Gyimah of Phamous People (now Phamous Philms). The video marked Ogee’s own rise – and his company – within the music video directing fray. In an interview, Ogee described how he shot the video all by himself- with no crew- using a handycam camcorder and relied on natural light.
Kofi B boast a catalog of five albums and numerous singles. Songs like “Akua Atta” (featuring Ofori Amponsah), “Koforidua Flowers”, “Aserewa”, “Densu”, “Twa Me Ke Ke” have become favourites of many people. But, none usher listeners into a world of brooding than the evocative yet beautifully rendered tune “Mmobrowa”.