Nii Amaa Akomfrah goes home
A tribute by Nii Yemo Nunu
Death, the unannounced visitor, always causes shock waves whenever it arrives. That of Nii Amaa Akomfrah was no exception.
In the early hours of Friday, February 4, 2011, death the unwanted visitor, arrived at the corridors of this talented and versatile drummer and flutist and succeeded in freezing his drumsticks and further asked him to take a long rest among his ancestors in the other world.
The exploits of Nii Amaa Akomfrah in the musical history of Ghana might be lost on the minds of some people, but knowing that he played with the late Ghanaba the Divine Drummer, and further asked him to take a long rest among his ancestors in the other world.
The exploits of Nii Amaa Akomfrah in the musical history of Ghana might be lost on the minds of some people, but knowing that he played with the late Ghanaba the Divine Drummer, and that he was the leader of the strong and energetic Afrika Obonu Ensemble (later renamed Ghanaba-bii), then one realizes that this man really has a story to tell.
The story began from a day in the early 1960s. That was when the late Mr. Ashietey Adomfrah, the then regional organizer of Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana Young Pioneers took his son to the Accra Community Centre and had him registered as a member. He enrolled in the music department and started lessons in the rudiments of music. It was here that he first saw Guy Warren of Ghana (later Ghanaba) who had returned from the United State and was holding workshops on music for member of that department. Little did he know that in years to come, he would be the leader in charge of Guy Warren’s back-up group.
After graduation from the Solomon Commercial College at Koforidua , he worked as a accountant with the British company. Taylor Woodrow. In the 1970s, he formed a traditional group called fontomfrom of Africa which he later renamed Obonu Ensemble.
He enlisted the services of sex young and energetic boys from the La Township where he was born and started training them to man his ensemble.
Alomfrah followed Ghanaba’s musical sessions all over town where he would wait and help pack the drummer’s kit after every performance.
In 1985, Ghanaba responded by inviting the young drummer to his house in other to share ideas. It was at this stage that Ghanaba saw what he was doing and took keen interest in it. Ghanaba was impressed with Akomfrah’s group and decided to have them as his back – up group. That began a relationship that saw the two artistes perform all over the country.
As a personal friend and the official photographer of Ghanaba. I was privileged to witness and record the great acts of these two groups on film and audio tapes for posterity.
Let me put it on record that in 1985 when Ghanaba invited Nii Amaa and his group for performance, he (Ghanaba) was then in the course of giving up on live performances due to the crippling curfews imposed by the then military government.
The great drummer was, however, energized by the enthusiasm he saw in Akomfrah and that caused him to start a series of free live shows with his group at the Accra Community Center dubbed “Free south Africa”.
Throughout the 1990s, Ghanaba and Nii Amaa provided live music at places such as the University of Ghana at Legon, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and technology at Kumasi and the University of Cape Coast.
They played in open parks, markets, funerals and generated a lot of fans at the month sessions at the ten uncompleted Kwame Nkrumah Park with their “Free Mandela” shows.
Encouraged by all these years of playing with Ghanaba, to the point of even staying in Ghanaba’s house at Midie for many years, Akomfrah decided to take his music to another level by playing at the various psychiatric hospitals in Accra.
He was later joined by his friend, the late Kojo Arkorful, who became the groups co-ordinator and they began serious research into African musical therapy and the medicinal use of music and plants.
It is in this area that Akomfrah and his Afrika Obonu would be highly remembered for their unprecedented acts of providing music therapy, drumming and dancing at many Ghanaian psychiatric wards, occupational therapy departments at hospitals, orphanages and children’s homes.
At all those places, the curative power of music was manifested when inmates danced sang along and called for more music amidst clapping for the musicians.
There were also shows that served as workshops for the occupational therapists and nurses who had the opportunity to experience at first hand, the inmates under the influence of therapeutic music.
This is the untold story of Nii Amaa akomfrah, the man we are mourning and whose body will be lowered into his grave today, March 5 at the La Public Cemetery.
I am happy to be paying this tribute to Nii Amaa Akomfrah, my friend and brother in arms, as the one who saw it all from the beginning. My assurance to him is that his musical exploits have well been documented and that his exploits into music for therapeutic reasons in Ghana has put him miles above everyone else.
May his soul rest in perfect peace.
Daily Graphic, Page 21 Saturday, March 5, 2011