Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Kwame Yeboah — Master keyboardist

Story: Hadiza Nuhhu-Billa Quansah
He is young, energetic and forward looking and it is no wonder that he has worked with several big names in the music industry in Ghana and abroad.
His prowess on the keyboard and guitar and his skills as a producer and recording engineer make Kwame Yeboah a hot commodity in the world of contemporary music.
He has provided services for big names in the industry such as Kojo Antwi, Miss Dynamite, Craig David, Stevie Wonder, Alexander O’Neal, Amy Winehouse, Jimmy Cliff and good old Osibisa.
This makes him shuttle regularly between London and Accra and, at 34, the only job he has ever done is to play music, something he emphatically says he will not trade for any other.
“I have no regrets at all for being a musician all my life,” Kwame said. “I have tapped knowledge from a lot of people and sources and I’m happy now that I spend a lot of time here these days to manage, guide and share what I know with some of the young, brilliant and up-and-coming Ghanaian musicians.”
His father is a veteran highlife musician, K.K. Yeboah, and Kwame attributes his achievements to the fact that he was surrounded by music throughout his childhood and was allowed to drift where his instincts led him.
Apart from his father’s early influence, he also learnt from his maternal uncle, the late Paa Gyimah, who was a proficient guitarist for Jewel Ackah, Senior Eddie Donkor and several other local bands.
“Though there were instruments all around me as I grew up, my father was initially not too keen on me taking up music. He felt I should pay more attention to school but I was playing drums by the time I was five and the guitar by seven,” he recalled.
Since his father was not excited about his venturing into the music industry, Kwame hung out a lot more in Snr Eddie Donkor’s house, which was close to theirs at Abeka in Accra. He also followed his uncle Gyimah around quite a bit.
“The guitar was my main instrument in the beginning but I moved on to keyboards. I realised that whenever a band was playing and the keyboards came in, the sound became bigger. I wanted to be able to be the one responsible for that big sound,” he said.
Many know Kwame in Ghana as Kojo Antwi’s keyboard player and music director. The two first came together through keyboardist Kwabena Akwaboa in 1996 for a Miss Ghana gig.
“I was hired to play that gig alone but Kojo invited me to a session in the studio after that. He was extremely impressed with what I produced in the studio and we have been together since then,” he recalled.
Kwame started his primary education at the Cosmos Preparatory School and continued to the Wassa Amenfi Secondary School in the Western Region and finally completed at the Pank Secondary in Accra.
As a result of his love for music, he took some music lessons in Denmark to be able to write and interpret music with world jazz piano players such as Michel Camilo and Danilo Perez.
Kwame hails from Wassa Akropong in the Western Region and his main focus now is running his two Mixstation studios in Accra and London and performing with his Ohia Beye Ya Band.
He was music director for this year’s Vodafone Ghana Icons music reality show.

Stop charging unapproved fees — GES warns

The Ministry of Education (MoE) has warned heads of senior high schools to refrain from charging the unapproved feeding fee of GH¢2.80 currently being imposed on students.
The Head of Public Relations of the MoE, Mr Paul  Krampah, told the Junior Graphic that it had come to the notice of the ministry that the approved feeding fee of  GH¢1.80 had been increased without  approval from the ministry.
“We have written to the heads not to collect such amount of money  from parents but it looks like some heads are flouting the order. For this reason, a committee has been set up by the ministry to go into the current problem  between the MoE and the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) over the feeding fees for  boarding students,” he said.
Mr Krampah said the headmasters claimed reverting to the old fees would have a serious effect on the quality of food they served to the students.
“This is simply not acceptable, as the heads are going contrary to the agreement they signed in connection with the feeding fee last year,” he said.
He explained that just last year, the feeding fee was reviewed from GH¢1.40 to the current GH¢1.80 to enable heads of schools to fulfill their desire to improve both the quality and quantity of food served to students.
 “It is, therefore, surprising that the agreement, which was for  two years and, therefore, would end next academic year, is being changed by the heads,” he noted.
 Mr Krampah, therefore, asked  parents who had already paid the GH¢2.50 to ensure that the balance was credited to their children next academic year.
In separate interviews with some headmasters and headmistresses who wanted to remain anonymous, they  explained that  the current amount being charged was woefully inadequate.
“As you know, we are dealing with teenagers who are very active and, therefore,  eat a lot and this same GH¢1.80 is for breakfast, lunch and supper,” they lamented.

Manasseh Awuni Azuri - Journalist of the Year

He is currently the youngest  media practitioner to have ever won the coveted Journalist of  the Year award.
After barely three years as a practitioner of both print and electronic journalism, Manasseh Awuni Azuri has eight top national awards to his credit.
Last year, he won three awards during the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) awards and went home with four awards this year, including the topmost award.
A few weeks ago, he was again presented with the National Youth Achievers Award for Media Excellence by President John Mahama at a grand ceremony.
The name Manasseh, which means "God has made me forget the suffering in my father's house",  was chosen by him, as it truly reflects the bitter experiences he had to go through while growing up.
According to him, his father, Mr Awuni Adaboro, who is a watchman at the Krachie Government Hospital, started life as a farm labourer who went round weeding people's farms to make ends meet.
He said because of the work his father did, he (Manasseh) was always mocked at by his mates in school. That made him vow to study very hard to become a well recognised professional to be able to take better care of his parents in future.
"Life was so difficult at that time that sometimes we woke up not knowing when our next meal would come. That continued for quite a while, leading to my siblings and I developing kwashiorkor at a point. Though we struggled with meals at home, my father ensured that he never defaulted in paying my school fees," he disclosed with pride.
Manasseh, who recently landed a job as a reporter with Joy FM, an Accra-based radio station, told the Junior Graphic in a chat that he attributed all the successes he had chalked up in a short time to God and his father, who spent the little he had on his (Manasseh’s) education.
Born at Bongo in the Upper East Region in 1985, his parents relocated  to Krachie in the Volta Region when he was six. He started his primary education at the Krachie Local Authority School, and then proceeded to the Henkel Memorial JHS from 1999 to 2001.
Throughout his education, Manasseh  exhibited leadership skills — he was the Assistant School Prefect in primary school, and at the Krachie Senior High School he was elected School Prefect, later becoming the Students Representative Council (SRC) President  at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication.
Asked how he had come into journalism, he explained that after secondary school, he wanted to continue immediately to a tertiary school but could not because of financial problems.
Consequently, he worked as a caretaker at the Ghana Education Service (GES) Guest House at Kete-Krachie to be able to save some money to fund his tertiary education. While at the Guest House, "I used to write short stories and posted them  on the notice board for our guests to read".
That, he said, caught the attention of the GES Public Relations Officer at Krachie, Fredoline Empeh, who encouraged him to apply to the GIJ to pursue a degree in journalism.
"Initially, I wanted to study business because I felt that would make me rich one day. At that time the only rich person I knew at Krachie who I believed had everything was the bank manager and so I wanted to be like him," he said laughing heartily.
Unfortunately, his dream of becoming a bank manager in future switched when he started writing award-winning plays for his school drama club.
Manasseh, who loves writing on things which are of human interest and issues affecting the less privileged in society, aspires to be a novelist in future. He is currently pursuing a Masters degree at the School of Communication Studies of the University of Ghana, Legon.
Born as a twin, he has 10 siblings and enjoys reading, listening to gospel music and ‘borborbor’. He is also a Presbyterian and Junior Youth teacher.
 Interestingly, he speaks Twi, Fante, Frafra, Ewe and Krachie.
For Manasseh, banku and tuo zaafi (TZ) with okro soup are his favourite dishes.
He advised children "never to be intimidated when your friends laugh at you due to your poor background. The best is to strive to excel each day".

Kwabena is world champion

Story: Hadiza Nuhhu-Billa Quansah
Eleven-year-old Kwabena Asamoah made Ghana proud after beating 3000 other competitors to be crowned the World Champion, Intermediate A Category,  of the  2012 Universal Concept Mental Arithmetic System (UCMAS), an international competition held in Malaysia last month.
The international competition is an annual event organised by UCMAS Education Group. This year, it brought together children from the ages of five to 14  from all over the world to compete at different levels.
Last Tuesday, the Junior Graphic caught up  with Kwabena at the UCMAS Ghana office at Achimota in Accra to share in his success story.
 Kwabena, a Class Six  pupil of the Crown Prince Academy,  competed  with children from 54 other countries and answered 200 arithmetic sums within eight minutes.
Smart and eloquent Kwabena, who represented Ghana in the competition, started the UCMAS Abacus classes two years ago at the Dansoman Learning Centre.
"I started preparing myself for  the international competition by representing the Dansoman Centre in the UCMAS Mental Arithmetic Quiz show on GTV," he said. There, he showed an outstanding performance  to emerge the national champion after answering 200 questions within eight minutes.
For his prize, he was presented with trophies, certificates, medals and a full scholarship to complete the remaining levels of the UCMAS Abacus classes.
The Director of UCMAS Ghana Limited, Mr Girish Gurbani, said the essence of introducing Abacus to young children was to help eradicate the fear of Mathematics among children and boost their confidence.
"Basically, UCMAS Abacus enhances the listening skills of children and bolsters their creativity and imagination. With the great performance of our students in their respective schools we have no doubt they are on the pedestal of achieving enviable academic laurels," he added.

New BECE date — Candidates approve

Story: Hadiza Nuhhu-Billa Quansah

A NUMBER of final-year students  have welcomed  the change in the date of the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) that has been moved from April to June  and have described it as a blessing.
This year, the BECE would be written by candidates from June 17 and completed on June 24 instead of April as  has been the case over the years.
They said writing the examination in June would give them more time to prepare properly.
There is, however, another group of JHS students who are not excited about the change. Their reason is that they are in a hurry to write the exam and  rest rather than spend time learning while the days drag on.These opinions were expressed when the Junior Graphic went round some schools in Accra, to find out whether candidates were aware that the timetable had been changed by the Ghana Education Service.
During interviews with JHS students of the Police Depot ‘1’ JHS, La Yahoushua JHS, Private Odartey JHS, Calvary Methodist JHS, Grey Memorial JHS among others, the students said the change in date means extra work for them as their teachers and parents would expect nothing but better grades because they had ample time to study.
The Headmistress of the La Yahoushua JHS, Mrs Theodora Agyeman,  in an interview, described the change in the time for the BECE as very good since it would enable teachers  to complete the syllabus and conduct some mock examinations before the students began the examination in June.
Mrs Agyeman explained that usually those of them in the public schools have a lot to do when schools reopen in January. “For instance, we have to prepare the students for sporting activities and the national parade on March 6 for the Independence anniversary celebrations each year and all these affect time for schoolwork”.
Regina Dzifa Gadzo, a JHS three student of the Bask Academy, said the headmaster of her school had informed them about the new date just before they went on the Christmas break and cautioned them not to laze about in the belief that they had a long period to study before the examination.
Meanwhile, some students of the Madina  No. '1' Cluster of Schools with whom the Junior Graphic met said they were not aware that the examination time had been changed from April to June.
A parent, Nana Konadu, was not satisfied with the change of the examination time as she had planned to travel outside on holidays with her twins who are both writing the BECE. “ I had planned to travel with them during my leave in May but as it is now I cannot because of the change”, she said.
According to the Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Education Service, Mr Stephen Adu, the change had become necessary to enable candidates to have ample time to prepare for the examination.