Obuor and Phamous People (Philms) Made Art With Visuals
Obour’s name provokes mixed reaction within the creative space, specifically the music industry. His politics as the former head of MUSIGHA (Musicians Union of Ghana) for two terms of four years apiece brought in its wake disappointments if measured on the scale of expectations. His coming into office was considered by many as the change needed to necessitate a reformation process among the ranks of MUSIGHA, a union that has been stagnant in its progress for decades.
The expectations colleague artists had of Obour (real name Bice Osei Kufour) was legitimate: he was an artist, young and vibrant, exposed to modern trends in music business and very educated. In addition, his position as an artist handed him a court side view of the dysfunctionality in the structures of MUSIGHA, and the other music bodies that should be protecting the creative works and interests of artists. With those insights, Obour had a lot to do; a task he outlined in his manifesto as a contesting candidate.
His tenure, however, yielded some positive results notable among them being the GHc 2M allocation the government gave to the Union in 2012. How and what the money was used for is another debate to be had.
If Obour, the politician’s tenure went from 100 to 0 by the end of his term, Obour the artist still holds a place in our hearts and musical space. His career spanned some incredible wins: top-charting songs, 7 albums, awards, success and more. His entry into mainstream music began in 2001 following the release of his debut “Ateteben” under Soul Records label. The album spurned the classic single “Ateteben”.
Obour’s musical journey did not, however, begin with his debut album. Prior to his breakthrough, he had achieved a bit of recognition at the ‘underground’ level. In 1998, Obour won the Best Reggae Artist in Central Region at a Musical Contest. He would be crowned “Best Reggae Artiste” at the AFS Awards a year after. With these accolades behind him, Obour’s ambition was stirred. He would release “Atenteben” in 2001, announcing himself in the loudest possible way.
I recall cackling each time I walked past the the entrance of Mfantsipim School around that period. Obour had his album poster on one of the pillars around the roundabout. Every time my friends and I saw it, our conversation would focus on his “kankpe” look and the idea of a ‘dadaba” thinking he could make it in an industry as competitive as it was at the turn of the new millennium.
How wrong was I. “Atentenben” would turn the corner for Obour. In his first year as a mainstream artist , he would pick three awards at the 2002 Ghana Music Awards – Best New Artist, Hiplife Rap Song of the Year and Best Video of the Year. It was a bold statement from this young, fierce and talented artist.
Looking back, Obour’s strategy for “Atenteben” was excellent. At the heart of the strategy was the shock value he displayed in his lyrics, one that caught the attention of many and thus bolstered his visibility. His “shock value” approach was an anathema to the prevailing situation at the time. Though the single was a success, the accompanying video elevated both Obour and the song to new heights.
Perhaps, Obour would not have courted such attention if he had followed the template that had worked for almost every artist. Rap about love, sex or something much more fun and relatable. Again, considering how much that template was being ‘abused’, Obour would have been lost in the maze, spent much on promotions since there were more established artists like Buk Bak, VIP, Obrafour, Tic Tac who were already a success story during that period. By going against the status quo in terms of theme for a lead record, Obour’s selling preposition was defined.
With 7 albums to his credit, including one collaborative album- Best of the Lifes with A.B Crentsil and a project on peace (One Ghana Peace Project), Obour etched his name in the annals of Ghanaian music. One album in particular that became his magnum opus was his 2004 release “Obour.com”. The lead single off the album, “Konkontiba”, ruled both the radio and music charts. According to one record, “Konkontiba” sat on Joy FM’s “MegaHits” Chart Show for a year- from June 2004 to July, 2005. Off the strength of “Konkontiba”, a song that bothered on paedophilic tendencies, Obour would be crowned the “Artiste of The Year” and win four more awards at the 2005 Ghana Music Awards.
The excellence that he chalked with his music translated into his videos. Obour knew the importance of visuals and its effect on people. Armed with this, he established a creative relationship with Phamous People (now Phamous Philms), one of the foremost music video production house at that time. Similar to Obrafour and Hammer’s collaborative relationship or Lord Kenya and Slip Music, the creative collaboration between Obour, his label, Family Tree Entertainment and Phamous People led to the execution of a series of exciting and creative videos.
This article highlights some of the best videos that this collaboration led to.
Obour – Obour (2008)
From his album “Fontomfrom”, released in 2002, Obour outlined the significance of stones or boulders in human activities, both literally or metaphorically. Obour employed “Obour” (stone) as a metaphor to exalt his own importance within the music space. Produced by Nacee, the song is embroidered with traditional Akan (Ashanti) rhythms as Obour plasters it with unadulterated Twi.
The Gyo Gyimah directed video is high on graphics and colour, two qualities associated with Phamous Philms’ videos. Presented in a traditional Ghanaian storytelling setting, an elderly woman (played by actress Dzifa Glikpoe) narrated a tale about how the powerful Obour returned from his century-old journey to a group of young kids. In the video, the power and strength of Obour is showcased- fighting a group of men who had kidnapped a young woman for sacrificial rituals. He would single-handedly defeat a team of warriors en route to taking his throne. As Dzifa Glikpoe reminded the kids, ‘people die, trees die but Obour never dies”.
Obour – Menwu Biom (2009)
The title of this song translates as “I’ll not die again”. The record was found on his “Project Obour.com/Atumpan” album after surviving a fatal accident where a female passenger was killed. According to Obour, the song was written while on his hospital bed. The accident would inspire the launch of his road safety campaign in 2009. “Menwu Biom” was thus a statement to celebrate his survival and enforce the saying that, ‘nothing can kill you if it’s not your time to die’, a belief he emphasized on the opening lines of the verse: “You thought I’d be gone/It’s not my time/I’m still here”.
The Gerald “Ogee” Gyimah directed video is one of the best visuals of the hiplife era. Not only was the storyline captivating, but the technique used in shooting the video were excellent. In the opening scene of the video, the accident scene is re-enacted, followed by a scene where Obour is being pulled through a forest towards what was a ‘witches playground’. One of the best scenes of the short film styled video was the underwater scene and the saying “Wo y3 stubborn”, uttered by the leader of the witches as Obour continuously fought for his survival.
Explaining how he captured the underwater shot of the video, Ogee explained: “I sacrificed one mini DV camera, which costs about $1,200 in water which had water lights and were connected to monitors in order to take everything that goes on underworld. For me, the results are more important”.
Trapped at the crossroad of death, Obour would defeat death by escaping to the land of the living. “Menwu Biom” contained some graphic moments like hanging from a tree branch with nooses around his neck and legs. The third verse was a cautionary commentary on how to avoid accidents and how musicians are mostly accused of being high whenever they are involved in an accident albeit prominent members of society have been victims of vehicular accidents.
Obour – President Obour (2008)
Another song off the “Fontomfrom” album, “President Obour” is a Hammer (Last 2) produced record. It was the first of two songs that signalled Obour’s political intentions. “President Obour”, as the introductory statement hinted was a call for the youth to participate in politics and change the status quo. Obour would call on Phamous People to shot a video that reflected the theme of his missive.
The concept for the video was a simpler one: Obour on a political platform wearing a fugu over a white shirt (I don’t know how fugu became a favourite attire for politicians in Ghana). Obour would outline promises contained in his manifesto. The song was actually a call for a review of the age at which one could become a president in Ghana. At present, one has to be 40 years and above to be able to contest as a presidential candidate. Obour would use the absence of an age cap for those contesting parliamentary primary as justification for the waiver of the presidential age cap. The absence of an age cap, in his estimation would encourage more youths to vie for the top office of the land.
Killing The Game ft. Okyeame Kwame (2009)
On hindsight,”Killing The Game” was Obour’s veiled declaration of intent to contesting the MUSIGHA President. On the song, he would articulate some of the issues confronting the music industry, primarily the lack of structures to enhance the trade of musicians. Obour, along with Okyeame Kwame spoke the truth on issues that have plagued the industry for aeons like good royalty payments, inability to develop and export a particular Ghanaian sound, music licensing and investment into the art form. A couple of years after, Obour would contest and win the MUSIGHA.
Phamous People” would shoot the video for “Killing The Game”. A simple video that typified the late 2000s: a lot of graphics, lot of colour and very simple, something that departed from the videos associated with Phamous People.
Obour’s musical tenure ended when he assumed the leadership of MUSIGHA. With his position, many of his colleagues hoped he would help turn the corner and use his influence to help restructure the system. Much was, however, not achieved in that regard. For many, Obour’s failure can not be pushed under the rug considering he is/was an artist and familiar with the plight of his fellow artists. No one can speak for him on these criticisms. What is an established fact is that Obour and Phamous People never missed when the two collaborated on a project.
Written By: Illegal Brothers