By Berko Akoto
On a hot August day in Chicago when heat warnings had been issued by Commonwealth Edison, the electric company to the fact that those who owed or had been given notices of disconnection had grace period till after the warmth, many people considered taking a breather and the day off from the scalding heat. For the Kojo Antwi fans however, countless would brave and face the scorching and exponentially high temperatures in Chicagoland to see their idol perform.
Mr. Music Man was in the “Windy City” even though on this day, Chicago could easily have been called the Sahara Desert. It had been 12 years since Kojo last performed here. Having played recently in New York, Baltimore and Atlanta, Kojo and his tightly-knit band arrived amid the arid weather ready to soothe the crowd. He would not disappoint.
Many had come to pay homage to the man that has entertained and enticed so many people with his gentle sing along lyrics and melodies for over 25 years. Having been nominated for a BET award in the US, Kojo Antwi decided to kill two birds with one stone by attending the award show that bestows honor to the who is who is in the music industry worldwide and touring at the same time.
The ambiance in the hall was originally calm. The emcee issued an announcement to those in the seats facing directly the stage to move up in order to accommodate the ever-growing crowd that was congregating and packing the entrance to the doorway. A word of caution from him advised the crowd that this makeshift would be temporary because experience had taught him that once the Kojo Antwi appeared, rearrangements would be a necessary action. For those comfortably seated in the said chairs, they thought they had no worries.
On this hot night, the time moved as fast as the temperature rose. Midnight had passed; fans had since been bombarded with music from six opening acts, all home-grown Chicagoans. The local acts were outstanding, each with their own brand of hip-life and highlife; however, fans had come out to see Kojo Antwi. The temperature kept rising.
Over 400 people of different persuasions, married couples, recently engaged couples, the pregnant, the young on the cusp of sexual awakenings, the prowlers – male and female alike – on the hunt for new acquaintances, all there for their own variation of reasons. The heat level and fan anticipation for the headliner rose even higher.
Slightly after 1:45 am, Kojo Antwi’s Rainbow Tribe Band took their spots on the stage. Led by back up singer extraordinaire SHE, the quintet immediately launched straight into “Brebre Nnowaa”, one of Kojo’s all time favorites. The noise from the sing along crowd reached its peak drowning that of Kojo’s voice as well as the PA system.
The configuration in the hall, previously docile during the opening acts, especially among those with seats facing the stage remained intact. Taking the advice of the emcee, they had indeed moved forward so that ample room could be created for those that were still coming in. Comfortable, the seated patrons guarded those seats like Olympic trophies. As soon as the crowd-at-large heard the intro and Kojo Antwi’s voice beaming in the background, they began charging to the front of the stage to get a close up view of the star. They would without more ado lose control, rushing to the stage like Usain Bolt trying to break his own world record. How quickly people disregard the ethics of principality when it comes to reaching out for something dear to them. Both patrons in seats and the recently accommodated standing room only crowd as well as all in the hall went berserk while trying to solidify their spots in front of the stage.
In an instant, Kojo Antwi appeared and weary fans would forget about the heat and suddenly be energized. The moment had arrived. The man they had been waiting had made a grand entrance. The immediate periphery of the stage filled in seconds. Struggling for a close-up view was on the top of the priority list for everyone regardless of their influences. Just like the adage ‘Each man for Himself’, they would not sweat out the heat for that long and be shortchanged. Judging by the pattern of the crowd alignment after all had been said and done, one could easily determine that the ladies established that they had control when it comes to what they want and will elbow even their own partners at all costs to gain control.
Clad in a white outfit with a custom-made ‘Artful Dodger’ -like hat, Kojo appeared on stage at approximately 2 am. His mellifluous and lilting intonation, in tandem with his meticulous pronunciation pierced the heart of fans, bringing back assorted memories. The song would transpose people into the twilight of memory lane. A sigh of relief filled the air. The temperature was no longer a factor. Let the music flow!
And the music did flow for straight three hours. With an arsenal of hits and numerous albums for that matter, it was indeed a chore to pick and select what patrons wanted to hear, yet, this was Kojo Antwi and culling songs from his many albums was not a burden. Each and every other song did not matter. He would unleash a plethora of hits all the while communicating and gesticulating to the ‘women’ who took advantage and displayed some of the god-given anatomies to the crowd.
When it comes to music and performing in public, they are utterly two different entities. There are those that are excellent studio musicians but are dreadful stage entertainers and vice versa. For Kojo Antwi, he is a maestro of both. His appeal that night was uplifting. One could tell the sincerity in which he tackled each song. Every word uttered meant dear to him and connoted well to the fans. His music serenaded the ladies and they proved that night the music belonged to them. He reached out to touch them. He called some hot mamas onto the stage and had them perform some startling derrière gyrations while soliciting the response from the crowd to declare the winner. Being a good sport, Kojo called upon some men for a display.
Hit after hit, minute by minute, the temperature did not matter anymore. Kojo was there to entertain. He sang mostly songs from his early albums. He has so many songs with such little time to play all of them, what was one to do? When the band launched the anthem ‘Dadie Anoma’, a song which most fans believe is Kojo’s all time best, the frenzied crowd, singing along word for word lost control. Just listening to the lyrics alone put a feeling of nostalgia in the hall. We are all travelers in foreign lands and the idea of the song talking about how our loved ones back home constantly remind us of our obligations to them and of course not to forget about their stipends. After a groovy version of that song, Kojo asked patrons to request their favorite songs that had not been performed on that night and the demand kept flowing. An astute performer, he communicated well with all the fans.
In Chicago, Kojo recruited one of our own to play with him. Prolific drummer Paa Kwesi Evans was tagged as his drummer. Whether by fate or design, it worked well for us here. For those that do not know, Paa Kwesi is a journeyman drummer that played for Western Diamonds back home in his early days and has currently performed live and studio sessions with many Chicago bands. Seeing him on drums captivated a feeling of pride for us Chicagoans knowing that Mr. Music Man was making music with one of our own.
As for the rest of the band members including backup vocalist SHE, words cannot express how grateful Chicagoans are to them for bringing their breathtaking stage presence and soulful beats to our city. One by one, Kojo gave each band member the chance in the spotlight. Called upon individually, each proved that they are among the best instrumentalists in Ghana thus playing for the maestro. Kojo later autographed copies of his latest CD for some fans. In these modern days of economic downturns and stress, we feel appreciative when at least for three hours, some one would come here and console our hearts through his music.
One of the climaxes of the show was the moment when Kojo introduced his young teenage son to the crowd. As a father who conventional wisdom has probably taught him that passing on the baton to his offspring is tantamount to preserving one’s legacy, Kojo by touring with his son as an observer probably is indicating that one day the young man may carry his torch. Not an entirely bad promotion for the young man.
Kojo Antwi proved that he is an artist with a god-given talent. Chicagoans thank him for his consistency, durability over the years and disposition in taking Ghanaian music to the pinnacle of the music industry. With that point ascertained Chicagoans also extend their congratulations to SPECIAL KAY, the promoter of this event. When the opportunity comes to patronize our own particularly, artists that travel from Ghana, we should all pitch in and curtail some of the expenses for the promoters. Occasionally dishing out some few bills to have a good time is a must and should not be seen as a business. We patronize businesses all the time whether they are Ghanaians or not. A word to the wise!