Inside my Xmas hamper
Words can kill.
Listening to predictions by some of my most trusted radio commentators in the last two weeks, Christmas 2018 died in me.
But there is also the miracle of resurrection, and there have been many instances around the world where patients who had been certified dead have come alive, just in time before the pathologist reached for the scalpel or skull chisel.
I received my resurrection last Sunday at the PIWC ATTC Dome in Accra.
There, in that 1,000 capacity air-conditioned theatre, I, for the first time, understood why the movie, ‘Sound of Music’, featuring the ever-beloved Julie Andrews, is still one of the most loved around the world, even today, though it was first released in 1965.
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I understood the process of metamorphosis that melted the steely military will of Captain Von Trapp.
The transformation was wrought by the sound of music from the mouths of children whom he had hitherto brought up to respond to only military commands.
In this life, it is good to have a name.
I saw the invitation on my phone.
It was an invitation to ‘A beautiful Christmas’ and I attended only because of the name, Harmonious Chorale, founded and conducted by James Varrick Armaah, nurtured and managed by Rev Joyce Aryee - three names that spell nothing but the best in harmonies and sweet melodies in four-part choral renditions.
For five years, I have convinced myself that I cannot encounter Harmonious Chorale and remain the same again.
The truth became flesh last Sunday.
Apparently I was not the only one bitten by the Harmonious bug.
By 5.02pm when the programme took off, there was standing room only.
Harmonious Chorale is a success because of discipline, a quality without which no choir can achieve greatness. Armaah looks soft on the outside but you don’t mess with him.
Joyce Aryee brings up the rear with her impeccable management skills, the type that saw one of the best transformations in this country - giving a soft touch to the rocks and dynamite of the Chamber of Mines.
The choir is a specialist in thrilling audiences, and on Sunday, it was thrill uninterrupted.
In the process, Armaah led it to pay musical tribute to those that have come before him, the likes of Barima Asumadu Sakyi, Kenn Kafui, M.K. Amissah and the grand old sire of Ghanaian choral music, the late Dr Bilson whose Western Melodic Singers blazed the trail in the early 1980s.
This write-up is not a review of the Sunday programme. It is only to introduce you to the first gift I have in my Christmas hamper.
The two other gifts in the hamper include Ace Annan Ankoma’s music CD, titled, ‘My Yaddah’.
This write-up takes it for granted that everybody knows that Ace is not only a consummate practitioner of law, and an uncompromising defender of human and people’s rights, but is also a passionate creator and performer of music.
Ever since the early 1990s when I caught him rehearsing his composition - ‘Wahendzi to renntwa da’ - Ace and I have bonded emotionally.
He knows I love his legal brain but he apparently has no idea the depth and breadth and the height of the love I have for him as a musician.
This dammed love spilled over in June this year when I heard two tracks on his first wholly owned album’, ‘My Yaddah’, a compilation which I consider the best Ghanaian CD in 2018, not only in the gospel but all genres.
I am not talking of noise.
I am not talking about a poet that went into the studio to rap over rhythms created by a sound engineer.
I am talking of music cooked with ingredients carefully planted, harvested and masterfully prepared by a chef who has initials after his name.
Every bar of every song in ‘My Yaddah’ has been painstakingly crafted; so painstaking, indeed, that there are guitar riffs which were created by an expert in the USA and exported via the internet to be added. Even the voices were made octave-perfect long after they were first sung in the studio.
‘My Yaddah’ qualifies for consideration as “world music”.
Some of the most loved highlife gospels popularised by Joyful Way Incorporated have been fused to jazz (be careful: this is j-a-z-z that will blow you apart), some to a hybrid of South African marabi and kwela.
There is one that is flavoured with the ever familiar Indian sitar strings.
The third gift in my Christmas hamper is the CD released by Nigerian Nathaniel Bassey, ‘This God is Too Good’.
Here is a worship minister who knows how to bring his audiences into the throne-room of One who sits in majesty to receive blessings, honour, power, praise and thanksgiving.
It contains the people’s choice, ‘Onise Iyani’ for me, however, there is nothing more powerful than ‘Champion of the Universe’.
PS: If you want to add a third CD into the hamper, go for ‘Asem papa bi a matse, oye’, one of the most ‘stolen’ songs in copyright history, a song that has become our national anthem; at least, as long as Nana Akufo Addo remains President of Ghana.