Tribute: CK Mann Made Music That Transcended Generations
I know I rocked the “Adwoa Yankey” tye-and-die fabric before I came to know the lyrics of the song from which the fabric got its name. My grandpa operated a very popular shop in Cape Coast known for trading in batik tye and dye as well as other African fabrics. Thankfully, the shop has been passed on to the next generation.
Growing up in a household where music was an integral aspect of our everyday life, C.K. Mann was one of the prominent Ghanaian musicians whose music boomed through our house.
After four decades in the music business, Charles Kofi Amankwaa Mann, a prominent Ghanaian highlife great passed on to glory at the age of 83. His passing was announced on Tuesday, 20th March after months of ill-health.
The discography of CK Mann is rich and ageless. Composed mainly of highlife songs- and what became known as afrobeat (thanks to his work with Ebo Taylor, a pioneering figure of afrobeat), his music borrowed from the anecdotes of life, love and religion mixed with traditional music of fisher folks, popularly called Osode.
In his latter years, he ventured into gospel music. In 2013, he released his last album ‘’Wope Nyeho’’ (Let Thy Will be Done), consisting mainly of traditional gospel hymnals soaked in highlife fervour.
This is how he explained his use of Osode:
“The raw and pure Osode vocal ensemble is unique and can’t be equalled by anyone other than the fishermen folks. I also wanted to play Osode and make it appeal to a much wider audience. So I changed the instrumentation a bit and to the Ashowa, the hand piano or rhythm box that is used to perform Osode, I added two guitars, organ, bass, etc. But I managed to maintain some of the original ingredients such as the hand-claps, and the call and response style of singing’’.
Regarded as a pivotal artist within the highlife scene in the 60s, the Cape Coast born CK Mann began his career in the port city of Takoradi. His musical interest led to him joining the Kakaiku Band as a guitarist, which was led by Moses Kweku Oppong.
After playing with them for years, he joined Ocean Strings which disbanded in 1965. After a four year stint, left the band and founded the Carousel 7 Band. Carousel 7 became the resident band at Princess Hotel in Takoradi.
That decision changed his life and set his career on the ascendency. With Carousel 7, he released his renowned single ‘Edina Benya’ in 1969. (The song’s title was an ode to Edina or Elmina. ‘’Edina Benya’’ is an accolade to the historic town of Elmina known for its Castle, forts, beaches and its Bakatue festival). The band subsequently released their debut album, Funky Highlife in 1975.
‘’Funky Highlife’’ spanned 12 songs, notable among them were Asafo Beson (7 War Clans), Fa W’akoma Ma Me (Give Me Your Heart), Obaa Yaa Aye Me Bone, Kolomashie, Dofo Bi Akyerew Me, Ankwasema Dede, Okwan Tsentsen Awar.
The success of the album ushered him into the league of the greats. But, the military interregnums of the 70s and its effect on nightlife-the curfews- led to C.K Mann and others to leave the shores of Ghana to US, Europe and Nigeria to continue with their trade.
A known guitarist, composer, singer and arranger, CK Mann merged, seamlessly, the traditional osode (folk songs of the fishing communities found in both Cape Coast and Takoradi) with the blistering horns and rhythmic percussions as typified by Asafo Beesuon. This new wave impacted on the music of Gyedu Blay Ambolley, Paapa Yankson, The Western Diamonds Band among others.
The compositions especially from his first album continue to inspire many artists across the globe. Asafo Besuon for example stands as one of the most sampled Ghanaian songs ever.
In 2001, ‘Asafo Beesuon’ was sampled by Funky Lowlives for their song Latazz. Also, the Pussycat Dolls sampled portions for their global smash song for their hit record ‘I Don’t Need a Man’ in 2005. In Ghana, the opening notes of the song seemed to have inspired ‘Passenger’ by Western Diamond Band.
The love themed song, ‘Fa W’akoma Ma Me’ was handed a new lease of life by Rex Omar in 2005 by performing a cover of the song. Rex Omar kept the original song title and the original lyrics of the song, adding DJ scratches and upping the tempo of the song to make it more danceable and funky.
CK Mann’s influence wasn’t only limited to the songs he made. He also had a knack for spotting talents. After watching Paapa Yankson (now late) sing at his (Mr. Yankson’s) mother’s funeral ground, he personally invited him to join his band.
Again, he drafted Ebo Taylor and Pat Thomas to help produce and feature on some of his records. Armed with these talented musicians, songwriters and multi-instrumentalists, they set out to craft incredible pieces of music that have endured the test of time.
After over four decades of making music, CK Mann has left us, joining a list of veteran artists who have crossed to the other side of life. And if there’s any lesson he left behind, aside his musical catalogue, it’s for musicians- and all of us to endeavour to create works that would transcend our generation.
Masterpieces aren’t cheap to create. They however, endure the test of time, when you are no more.