01.03.2024 Feature Article

Oh, These Songs!

Oh, These Songs!
01.03.2024 LISTEN

Duke Orsino:       If music be the fruit of love, play on.
Give me excess of it, that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die….
Twelfth Night
William Shakespeare

Did we not hear the political rumblings in the country? Did we not hear the social agitations, the demonstrations and the kindred fallouts? So, why don't we comment? But rather behave like adherents of the Buddhist philosophy: Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.

We may not understand Japanese but can read English, and so can appreciate 'Mizaru', 'Kikazaru' and 'Iwazaru' (and appreciate also that these sayings depicted by three monkeys – zaru – could be seen in the carvings at Tosho-gu Shrine in Nikko). The three monkeys respectively cover their eye, ear and mouth.

Or, we want to be likened to the Roman Emperor Nero, enthroned at the age of sixteen in AD 54, who 'fiddled while Rome burned'. Tacitus, the Roman Historian, who chronicled the dastardly and murderous reign of Nero circa AD (Anno Domini – Year of the Lord) 64, wrote profusely, “He that fights and runs away, may turn and fight another day. But he that is in battle slain will never rise to fight again.

“The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws. They have plundered the world, stripping naked the land in their hunger… they are driven by greed, if their enemy be rich; by ambition if poor… they ravage, they slaughter, they seize by false pretences, and all of this they hail as the construction of empire. And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace”.

Or do we stand by Martin Luther and say, “Here I stand.” You will recall Luther – the German scholar's '95 thesis' against some of the behavioural and teachings of the Catholic Church, nailed on the church door in Wittenberg.

Luther was, importantly, against the sale of 'indulgence' – “A remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.” (In 1567, the Pope abolished the sale of indulgences). Luther was not ready to 'recant'.

We may not write the second volume of 'Chasing the Elephant into the Bush – the politics of complacency' by Dr. Arthur Kennedy who poured out his vituperation and suggested reasons for the NPP's defeat in the 2008 elections – nay, not to talk about some 'Mafia'. We may not consider, like Kwame Bawua, projecting ourselves to be considered as a presidential material.

And so we remember Alexander Pope: “For forms of government let fools contest; whatever is best administered is best” – that is, the success of a government does not lie in any specific form but it does depend on efficient administration – sans corruption. It should rather be a 'social contract' as espoused by Enlightenment scholars like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Then, we chanced upon Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the erstwhile Majority Leader who has handed over the mantle to Afenyo-Markin. Kyei-Mensah, in the company of Andy Appiah-Kubi, Patricia Appiagyei and other MPs who had come to Kyerekrom, our grandparents' home for the one week observance of Oheneyere Nana Kyerewaa Amponsem II, to commiserate with the indefatigable Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Ignatius Baffour-Awuah.

There would not be an opportunity to discuss anything specifically with the former Majority Leader, but we would recall our membership of Asante Students Union Alumni (ASUA) and our co-editorship of 'Mpomponsuo', a newspaper based in Kumasi (in the 1980s).

Ever-smiling Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu hints of yearning to read our next article (this one) in Daily Guide. And in an un-Christian-like fashion, a friend nudges us: let him carry his own cross. “Hɔn a adepa ba a wɔkyɛ di no, ɔka ba a hɔn ara na wɔkyɛ tua.” Then we remembered Ramblers, and someone was crooning: Madamfo pa bɛkɔ… (Ani Johnson)

So, we go back to our 'music' days or our heyday. At Akrokerri Training College, Mr. Antonio was simply called by the students, 'Tone-tone-semi-tone'. And we had to 'learn all by heart' (Lecturer Ainsley) to score good grades in all subjects, not only in English, Maths, Science but also Arts and Crafts, Physical Education and Music if one was to come up tops.  Then, we cannot forget the Africanus Quartet a musical group which would open and end entertainment nights between 1968 and 1972.

Still thinking musical, we would recall the song we requested 'Emperor' Mike Eghan to play for us when we won the first prize in the Club Show Competition in 1972, and were invited to GBC 2 Studios, Accra to collect our prize. It was the slogan: North, South, East and West, Club Beer is the best. It was Jimmy Cliff's 'Born to Win', “I am born to win… Being lost and found turned upside down… Being cast aside and being despised…” And on returning to Kokobra near Fumesua, our 'family and friends' trooped to our parents' home to enjoy free booze of Club Beer.

We look back and recall Jim Reeves' (1962) country music: “I have heard of a land on the faraway strand.” This is a beautiful home of the soul built by Jesus on high. There we never shall die. This is the land where we'll never grow old. “When our work here is done And the life's crown is won. And our troubles and trials are o'er. All our sorrows will end. And our voices will blend. With the loves who've gone on before…”

Then, we recall Sanford Fillmore Bennett's 'Sweet by and by' song, with accompaniment of guitar by Bird Youmans. “There's a land that is fairer than day. And by faith we can see it afar. For the father waits over the way, to prepare us a dwelling place there. (Refrain). In the sweet by and by we shall meet on that beautiful shore…”

We cannot forget Pussycat's 'Mississippi'. “Where you can hear the country song from afar And someone plays the honky-tonk guitar. Where all the lights will go out one by one….”

Or Elton John's 'Nikita' or 'Candle in the Wind' (Goodbye England's Rose). “Goodbye England's Rose, may you ever grow in our hearts. You were the grace that placed itself where lives were torn apart. You called out to our country, and you whispered to those in pain. Now you belong to Heaven, and the stars spell out your name. And it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind; never fading with the sunset when the rain set in…”

We went back to our hovel; to check our blood pressure (BP) using a sphygmomanometer and the gauge was 139/79. Wow! It told us a few things; we learn some lessons about life from 92-year-old Kwame, Esquire, who lives a 'satisfied' life at Patase.

Is it not better to relax and live a simple life? Leave the King to 'dance naked', avoid being called Tobiah and Sanballat, and upon death when we lie in state, let the music flow.

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By Africanus Owusu-Ansah