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Baring it all: The story Ebony never finished

BY: Sammie Frimpong
Ebony
Ebony

In life as in death, Priscilla Opoku Kwarteng and controversy fit well into many contexts.

She, known better by her stage name Ebony, was - and probably still is, to the few pitifully hopeful fans of hers who believe her confirmed demise is but a tasteless prank she'd soon snap out of - an enigma of a sort Ghanaian showbiz hadn't seen since Daddy Lumba in his prime.

A character who divided opinions so sharply you'd easily forget she sprang out of her teens and into the realm of national consciousness not long ago.

Truth be told, it's hard to cast Ebony into a particular mould -- her vivacious, dynamic self just wouldn't permit it.

For a primarily Reggae/Dancehall artiste, she did Gospel too well (more on that later), and for a girl whose sense of fashion would make her a perfect fit for the crowd at any club on a sweaty Friday night, Ebony's voice would hardly have been out of place as part of a sombre Sunday service choir.

It's easy to remember Ebony as one of the naughty ones - her own nickname, identifying her as a self-styled ‘90s Bad Gyal’, left little doubt about that.

Her eye-poppingly suggestive choice of clothing for music videos, live performances and even TV interviews, along with a catalogue of risqué stage craft, did plenty to validate said moniker.


She was brazen in that regard, presenting herself in a manner that Ghanaians hadn't had forced unto then since a certain Mzbel’s star dimmed and, really, Ebony in many ways was like Mzbel, only more talented and more daring.

Half of the society she sought to entertain - an exuberant, youthful army of libertines seeking a poster figure as the face of their cause - egged her on, while the other half, unwavering in their resolve to stay conventional and desperate to preserve norms of morality, apparently being dragged down the drain by Ebony et al, slammed her afresh after each show.

Oh, and about her music itself? Well, let's just say only her appearance made her lyrics - loaded with double entendres that would make even Lumba, notorious for similar reasons - seem mild.

If you could read between lines she rarely ever left blurred, you'd easily realise hits like Kupe, Poison, Sponsor and the incredibly popular Hustle weren't packaged and delivered to convey much subtlety.

That, though, was just one of Ebony's faces. Like the mythological Janus, she had another which stared right the other way.

For every Dancefloor that begged to be wiggled to at the waist and would long remain a staple on the, er, dancefloor, (forgive the pun), there was a Maame Hwe which tugged at even her harshest critic’s heart and has come to stay forever and a day as the anthem for the campaign against domestic violence in Ghana.

And for every gospel-flavoured Aseda (which, per revelations after her death, many now discern as an ultimately futile attempt to curb ‘prophecies’ about her premature death) that a mom-of-six trader at the Malata market would hum to herself as she assembles her wares each morning, there is an innuendo-laden Hustle (the video of which actually has a market setting) that few ‘ladies-of-the-night’ would mind having as their unofficial soundtrack.

To think that Ebony crammed all of this between 2015 and now is even more startling than anything she'd actually accomplished.

It's why she has had her genius acknowledged and her death mourned by many whose professional affairs have little to do with a music studio, including international football stars as well as past and sitting Ghanaian presidents.

Indeed, while 2017 may have only been her second full year in the limelight, it already qualified as something of an annus mirabilis.

The Bonyfied album she launched in December last year was only her maiden compilation, but it was widely predicted that was to prove merely the first of many solid efforts.

Now, though, it's certain that offering would eternally stand alone as a body of work to be prized as a collector's item, an enduring memory of one who did more with three of her 20 years on earth to impact Ghanaian music than any of her gender (yes, there have been an awful lot of those, I know) has in contemporary history.

Regardless, Ebony remains in contention to become the first female ever to claim Artiste of the Year honours (the icing on what is expected to be quite a haul) at the Ghana Music Awards during the edition due later this year, and not just because of some sympathetic swing.

But after all tears dry and the dust settles and the ‘pastors’ who have queued up to claim ‘credit’ for Ebony's February 8 passing each enjoy their 15 minutes of fame (pending the next big tragedy, of course), and after the conspiracy theorists rest their cases about who predicted the misfortune [but shouldn't have] and who could have averted it [but didn't], the story would be told of a young lady who boldly bared body and soul - literally - to Ghanaians all the way down till a saddening and sudden demise.

To borrow words with which Roman politician and general Mark Antony mourned another whose life was brutally truncated while at the peak of their powers.

. .

Here was a diva!

When comes such another?