Pidgin Slang & Politics: Paapa’s Fresh Urban Sound

By Robin Riskin


Kukua, I just got this scholarship

So I’ll be moving to the dollar ship.
I just want my dreams to set sail
Cause if I stay with you they might fail.

From “Write for me,” by Paapa (bit.ly/V3QSeo)

Paapa's new song "Write for me" premiered tonight on YFM with Kobby Graham.

Paapa’s new song “Write for me” premiered tonight on YFM with Kobby Graham.

————-

Amidst a barrage of azonto beats, mindless lyrics, and money-flashing videos in the Ghanaian music scene, Paapa stands out as a thoughtful and serious artist. A self-described “Ghanaian, Musician, Skillionaire, Dreamer, Forgiven sinner” (his Facebook descrip), his fresh, contemporary, faith-inspired sounds refuse to quite fit into any box.

Mixing slang pidgin phrases with complex sociopolitical issues and soulful melodies, Paapa blends musical styles in a compelling cosmopolitan fusion. Think Lecrae or Mali Music’s conscious Christian rap, John Legend’s coffee piano soul, and Osibisa’s street groovy funk. Paapa writes and produces all his own music, often laboring for months over a single song.

Paapa Kwaku hMensa, who goes by the artist name Paapa, was signed four years ago at the age of 17 to Skillions Records, a Ghanaian label known for producing positive indie music, headed up by rap favorite Jayso. Today, Paapa balances his career as a musician with his schoolwork at Reed College in Oregon, US. Having made the most out of his debut album ‘Solar,’ released in July of 2011, he is gearing up for his second album release, ‘Songs for Kukua,’ coming out this March 6, to coincide with the 56th anniversary of Ghana’s independence.

Paapa synthed smooth tunes at Ind!e Fuse with Accra[dot]Alt Dec. 14

Paapa synthed smooth tunes as a headlining artist at Accra[dot]Alt’s Ind!e Fuse last month.

This Sunday night, Paapa treated his fans to a pre-release of the single, “Write for me,” which premiered on YFM Radio with DJ Kobby Graham. The stunner of a song connects his personal experience of leaving Ghana for school in the U.S. to a larger narrative of the brain drain for Ghana and Africa. With soft piano strokes and slow guitar strums, Paapa sings an ode of regret and longing to his homeland Ghana, captured through the metaphorical character of Kukua.

Kukua, the name for Wednesday-borns in Ghanaian Akan traditions, matches Kwaku, Paapa’s own Wednesday day-name. The song plays out as a dialogue between the two, Kwaku telling Kukua he “just got a scholarship” and will be “moving to the dollar ship”; that the “cedi and pesewa” (Ghanaian currency) “cannot afford my dreams.” Kukua sings, “Please don’t l-e-eave me-e,” ending in a low tremor, “If you leave / Please write songs for me / And come back to me…”

Jayso (left) joined Paapa at his Family Reunion Concert Jan. 5. Paapa was signed by Jayso to the Skillions Records team at the age of 17

Jayso (left) joined Paapa at his Family Reunion Concert Jan. 5 at Sytris Cafe. Paapa was signed by Jayso to the Skillions Records team at the age of 17.

Paapa was a headlining artist at Ind!e Fuse last month with Accra[dot]Alt at the Alliance Française d’Accra, performing alongside stars such as FOKN BOIS and Tawiah from the UK (of Mark Ronson collabo-fame). While at school in the US, Paapa keeps his mainly Ghanaian fan base active through social media. Whenever he comes home to Ghana on school break, he hits up a barrage of concerts, and has held three packed solo shows in collaboration with 233 Live in the past year.

Paapa’s upcoming sophomore album, coincidentally corresponding with his sophomore year in uni, promises to be thoughtful, intimate, and deeply musical. A quieter sound and more critical approach characterize “Write for me”; Paapa seems to have grown a bit jaded and introspective since the energy-pumping ‘Solar’ album. With an already evolving sound and promising musical future ahead, we’ll have to watch and see how his story plays out, the songs he continues to write for Kukua.

Paapa was one of the headlining artists at Ind!e Fuse alongside FOKN BOIS and Tawiah.

Paapa had the crowd rocking at Accra[dot]Alt’s Ind!e Fuse at the Alliance Française d’Accra.

“Write for me” can be downloaded for free at bit.ly/V3QSeo. The ‘Songs for Kukua’ album comes out March 6, 2013. Paapa’s last album, ‘Solar,’ can be downloaded for free on www.reverbnation.com/paapamusic and purchased on iTunes. Paapa can be found on www.facebook.com/paapamusic, twitter @PaapaMusic, and www.paapamusic.tumblr.com, to name a few.

————-

“Write for me”
Paapa
13/1/13

Kukua, I just got this scholarship
So I’ll be moving to the dollar ship.
I just want my dreams to set sail
Cause if I stay with you they might fail.

And with tears in her eyes, she said,
“Please don’t leave me
If you stay, we’ll find a way.
So don’t leave me.
If you stay, we’ll find a way.
I promise you.”

Kukua please know,
Say you’re so beautiful,
Black Star my queen.
I love you but guess what
Your cedi and pesewa
Cannot afford my dreams.

She said, “Kwaku, If you leave,
I’ll lose one more piece of me. I’ve lost too many.
But history repeats itself. So it’s time to play a different song.
Cause I need you right here beside me, here at home.
I know that I have got some issues
But ano fit fix alone. I said ano fit fix alone.

“So don’t leave me.
If you stay, we’ll find a way.
So don’t leave me.
If you stay, we’ll find a way
I promise you.

“If you leave,
Please write songs for me.
And come back to me.”

2 responses to “Pidgin Slang & Politics: Paapa’s Fresh Urban Sound

  1. Paapa is just amazing!! This song is definitely not for lazy listeners cause it speaks volumes!!! well done!

  2. Wow! This is a great and detailed introspective view of the beautiful song, #writeforme and it has induced a form of nostalgia.. All of us who have gone away from ‘kukua to follow our dreams…

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