Can there be any doubt about the place of Kojo Antwi in Ghanaian music? Not even a novice would dare underrate ‘Mr Musicman’, aka ‘The Maestro’, he should be in a comfortable lead among the platinum giants.
His latest offering, some 18 interesting tracks, 14 of which are likely to make it to his next album due for launch soon, includes the controversial Supremo, released barely a week ago which pitches him against other greats of varying fields and generations.
There is Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Cristiano Ronaldo, Muhammed Ali, Elvis Presley and the “stubborn” Robert Mugabe who all serve as status pillars in the song Kojo Antwi agrees packs a punch.
The first few lines belies Kojo’s insistence and apparent mission – six back-to-back Akan proverbs or wisecracks that virtually translate that ‘before you were, I was’.
He sings “I’m the Supremo, King of love songs.” (M’adwareɛ fɔɔ yɛ ansa na wo nsuo rebɛtɔ; Abogyesɛ bɛtoo mfemfem (aninton nwi); Otwee nhunuu adukrom no na ɔda; Worepɛ me ahweaseɛ no mayɛ nhyira; Huhu huhu nnyɛ me hu; Nea Onyame ahyira no yemmɔ no dua.)
There certainly must be a beef for Kojo Antwi to attempt to defend his territory, for as the Akans also insist, ‘Okusie ntu mirika awia kwa’ (the rat does not race out of its hole into the hot sun for no cause), some invading forces must be threatening Kojo Antwi’s domain.
But he says we are all wrong who think so. “Well, I’m a songwriter and a wordsmith. I put words together, blend it with melodies and beats to make music. And when I’m composing a song, that song must fit into an album.
“Supremo is a compilation of different songs, different beats, different words into an album. I’m not into singles so if you listen to a song and judge what I’m doing, you may be wrong because I’m looking at a bigger picture.
“Now Supremo, when you listen closely, you hear that I mention the name of Robert Nesta Marley (Bob Marley), Peter Tosh, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, all these great, great champions, … and some of them.
“ I mean if you pick someone like Michael Jackson, he sang Bad when he was selling the most records, Ali was — stinging like a bee and all that and Elvis, he’s still regarded as the king. A lot of things have been read into that music,” he said.
He continued,”I don’t think for me as a songwriter, it was to let people feel like I’m in competition with someone. No, for me the beauty of that song is being able to put something from Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, just bring everybody into one song.”
Kojo Antwi also recalls Ogyatanaa Band’s Yerefrɛfrɛ which pays homage to great Highlife musicians and mentions several of them by name, Onyina, Pat Thomas etc. And Supremo should be held in that same vein, he says.
“As a songwriter… I’m doing an album, those topics about love I’ll sing about them, but then my team thought it was strategic to come out with a song that has a little punch, but that punch is NOT against anyone.
“ That punch is to say, this is what I do, this is what I do best.
There is nothing wrong with that, a little confidence here is not too bad. It’s not about blowing your own horns like others are saying.”
And he insists he could not have brought all of the great guys together on one song just “to sing against my brother musician, no, no, no, it’s not about that. The beauty for me is bringing all these great guys on one platform, in one song, and also using it to make a little statement.”
Well, Kojo Antwi has been around for so long and given so much we can’t begrudge him if he disagrees with us. He is one man whose pedigree leaves little room for sympathy – we still expect him to be at his best if he must perform.
Can he afford not to continue giving when the audience is still on the dance floor, with knees angled, shoes squeaking and body and soul willing?
He says he has poured four years of work into the upcoming album, and it is keeping with his tradition to produce durable songs that will pass the test of time, one that the grandkids would be happy to play even in their time.
Wow! “Mr. Musicman, The Maestro, Supremo”, play on and as you said, remain a musician and not like modern day radio stations that tout themselves as the best even while on test transmission.