In the Ghanian capital of Accra in 1978, De Frank Kakrah was the undisputed king of a flourishing musical scene. Photographs reveal a penchant for extravagantly heeled kung fu shoes and number-52 flares. He brought a lot of sparkle to the pre-bling game with his sumptuously attired band the Professionals.
Born in the Togolese capital of Lome in 1953 he moved east to Accra in his late teens, and chose a good time to hit the bright lights. The reverberations from Fela Kuti’s rise in nearby Nigeria had coaxed a new generation of music-makers into action.
After the fall of president Kwame Nkrumah in 1966, many Ghanaian musicians moved abroad. But by the decade’s end, new music was flowing back in the opposite direction. Different styles and psychedelic spice were being added to the melting pot. Traditional highlife was overtaken by electric guitar bands peddling a brand new type of hybrid boogie. A seismic musical event in 1971 further stirred the local scene: the Soul to Soul music festival in Accra. The influence of two of the headlining acts, Wilson Pickett and The Staple Singers, runs deep in the music of De Frank Professionals.
The majestic power of the organ-driven dance-floor classic Afe Ato Yen Bio is born of tangible soul and gospel roots. It’s evidence of the way musical seeds can sprout such fantastic lifeforms in different conditions and foreign soil. The unrestrained environment of mid-1970’s Accra was fertile ground.
De Frank started out as a percussionist before finding his voice as a singer. An innate feeling for the groove gives him extra elevation on this magical tune. His yearning vocals glide over over beats that would slay into submission anything a modern computer could contrive.
Dineen, Donal. “Sunken Treasure: De Frank Professionals.” The Irish Times, 19 May 2015, www.irishtimes.com/culture/music/sunken-treasure-de-frank-professionals-1.2212531.