In his younger years Akan was always jarred by news that he was going to spend the holidays with his maternal grandfather who lived in Twenedurase, Kwahu, in Ghana's Eastern Region, and worked as a linguist in a chief's palace. “I thought they were bothering me,” he remembers. “Little did I know it was going to be beneficial to me someday.”
About a decade or so later, with all the knowledge and skill unconsciously garnered by spending time with his linguist grandfather coming in handy, Akan considers how much of a gift those times were.
Born Bernard Nana Appiah 27 years ago in, Accra, Akan started rapping in 2001 – then still in high school – with the artist name Quabena Shy. He went on to form a group, Y6K with five friends, rapping with each other after school. Akan soon started to participate in rap battles, honing his skills recorded his first song in 2007. But in 2015, a little over two years ago, he decided to rebrand himself, a process that would come to represent his growth as a person and as an artist. In his resolve to shun the superficiality and frivolousness of the Quabena Shy epoch and pursue a more grown-up, level-headed path, he changed his name to Akan.
On his first project following his change in artistic direction Akan says a thank you to Quabena Shy for where the latter's gotten him, and registers his wish to discontinue going on that path; invoking an Akan proverb and a bible quotation, both of which make a case for the need to risk things, to make changes, to grow.
Akan describes being docile when growing up, thanks to an upbringing layered with indoctrination to be “calm, cool and accept things as they were offered.” To a large extent, the AKAN EP was also about questioning – and then outgrowing – that notion.
“I started asking questions, feeding my curiosity and standing for who I am rather than who people thought I am and should be,” he discloses in an interview with yoyo tinz. “[I'm] using my music to express my thoughts and ideas... standing for the new me and questioning the rules we are made to obey.”
Indeed the AKAN EP did evince growth with themes of culture and selfhood on which Akan compellingly communicates his viewpoints. The positive reception that the EP received, coupled with the impact of the impressive singles released in its aftermath, began the sprouting of an organic Akan fanbase, now blossomed into the Akan Abusua.
If the AKAN EP denoted growth, Akan's recently-released debut album, ONIPA AKOMA depicts maturity. Living periodically with a linguist grandfather, he was bound to imbibe profound knowledge of Akan cultural consciousness, from the language to its philosophies. That, together with his avowed influence from listening to highlife and hiplife veterans such as Adofo and Obrafuor, come to bear on ONIPA AKOMA.
Among other things, ONIPA AKOMA is an exploration of the contentious relationship between the heart and the mind, laced with themes that very much tie in with and build upon those broached on the AKAN EP. ONIPA AKOMA culminates into an eloquent offering, which has been received with critical acclaim.
Speaking about the album in the yoyo tinz-produced AKAN | ONIPA AKOMA documentary, audio engineer BeatMenace said: “ONIPA AKOMA is a very compelling piece of work...the listeners' experience is definitely one that would take you on a rollercoaster of emotions.”
The album has also received glowing endorsements from the likes of Jayso, Sarkodie and one of Akan's very own heavy influences, Kwaadee.
It's not going to be a walk in the park for Akan as he continues to travel along the road he’s chosen to take with his artistry. With the musical palate of the larger society preferring music more suited to dancing at the club, he has reiterated time and time again his resolve to make his music utilitarian, asserting that he can't keep rapping for rapping sakes.
Nevertheless, if the measures of his growth as an artist are anything to go by, Akan is going to keep making music with increasing maturity and eloquence and, again in the words of BeatMenace: “brutal honesty, which is rare to find today.”
Image by Fullish Art
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