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Kpakpo Addo

The poster for the Hollywood Bowl Concert

Kpakpo the band leader
The Band Leader
Kpakpo the band leader 2
With his group
Songs by Kpakpo Addo
Aliwuo, with Uhuru Dacnce Band

Teddy Kpakpo Addo, the man who sang his own obituary
E. Ablorh-Odjidja

September 08, 2017



In 2004, Teddy Kpakpo Addo recorded his high-life album "Kaya". In that album was the song “Awusa,” which he loved. That song said so much about the man when he was alive. And now it should serve as his own eulogy. "Awusah" was an old folk song until Kpakpo brought his musical attention to it and made it new. With his trumpet and voice, Kpakpo gave this song a distinct life and a sweet-sad tonal feel.

The bitter-sweet quality, a mark of his talent, was what Kpakpo always brought to the music he chose to play. But Kpakpo also had a great sense of humor in his personal life, which sometimes fed into his music. I draw your attention to his vocal rendition of the Ga fisher folk song, “Aliwuo.


Aliwuo was recorded sometime in the 60s, with the Uhuru Professional Dance Band. Kpakpo, the lead trumpeter of the band was called upon to sing, since for some reason the band's original vocalist was not present at the session. The result was an instant hit, both in humor and musicality.

Kpakpo, a Ga, opened that song with a prelude in the Akan language.

Agooo.  Minua fo nyinaaa, Fante” he started.

Indeed, Kpakpo, as a Ga, was not raised on the Akan language and, therefore, the accent came out different and the humorous overture, which was the story of the song, unfolded as an unintentional bastardization of the Akan language. But it still was a joy to hear “Aliwuo” sang that way.

Kpakpo was serious with the fun part of the story telling and wasn't play-acting the broken language part. Even Akans who heard the song later readily forgave him because of the virtuosity of the rendition of the actual song that followed - after the story telling.

Kpakpo, at the time of the recording of “Aliwuo”, was a young man in his late 20s . But, he had already gained the reputation of a superb instrumentalist – trumpeter and a flugelhorn player with the band; arguably, the most professional dance band of the era in West Africa.

And Kpakpo was bonded to his music. Even at leisure time in his living room, away from work, you would see his beloved instruments arranged around him, within reach and ready to be played at the slightest impulse.

Kpakpo was born December 25, 1940 and raised mostly at Bhamiye House, Korletsom Odumasi. His mother was from the Odjidja family. We called her “Auntie Dear.”

Truth be told, a son wanting to be a professional dance-band musician in a family of educators and pastors, who were raised by the Basel Mission (now Presbyterian), was an unpalatable choice of a career  path for the elders of the Odjidja clan. The irony was that this family was also chuck full of musical talents but openly wanted Kpakpo to be a teacher first.

Regardless, Kpakpo chose professional dance hall music as a calling. He took to the trumpet and even became a band leader before leaving Ghana.

It is gratifying to note that it was his trumpet that took him out of Ghana and brought him to the United States of America.

Kpakpo met and married the late Ms. Janet Addo in Los Angeles. He was listed on the marquee at the famous Hollywood Bowl to achieve his epic ambition with a HighLife Jazz Fusion Show in October 2006.  Weeks before the show, Jane died. The show was, consequently, canceled.

I still remember the night after Jane's burial. Kpakpo, deep in sorrow, played muted trumpet sketches to Mahalia Jackson's song, “Take my hand, Precious Lord,” that was playing on the stereo in the background.

Kpakpo was mourning Jane the only way he knew best.

I sat mute. Listened helplessly and inactive. I had promised him multiple times to learn the keyboard. There was piano in the room but I had no skill whatsoever to accompany this master on his trumpet!

So Kpakpo played on - alone.

Kpakpo on any of his horns could be colorfully reminiscent of some of the Jazz greats. His tonal progressions were captivating, his melodies usually bluesy and melancholic. For example, "She mi ni oya,"  another traditional songs he arranged and recorded on “Kaya”.

And in that song, the appropriate tinge of sadness got framed in a cadence of Kpakpo's muted trumpet and aging voice. The theme of separation was already provided in the title: The parting of lovers, filial or otherwise.

It was all Kpakpo, using the same forlornness to a proper effect.  

But the “Awusa” song was better. He loved it. Just after Kpakpo's death was announced, I listened to the album “Kaya” again. And instantly, the idea of “Awusa' being a fitting tribute struck me. There was this strong yearning for his dead mother, "Auntie Dear;" sang in Ga. I paraphrase the vocal lines:

I am an orphan
I wont know the day
Of my own demise
I have no mother
And no father
Pity is my name
The deserver of empathy
From day to day.

And then the trumpet riffs and the forlornness followed.

After hearing “Awusa” again, I concluded that the man had already sang his own obituary. Emotionally vulnerable, but physically very strong, Kpakpo's big eyes would tell you when he was sad or happy and ready to register any experiences of pathos. This was what made him the great musician that he was.

Kpakpo had asked to be buried next to his mother, “Auntie Dear.”

I pay this tribute to him not only because he was family but also because he gave me a window to the lifestyles of professional musicians. I pay tribute to his musical ability, his human qualities, and also to his compatriots of music in Ghana for their collective passion for the high-life style, the best dance-hall music form of any era in this country.

Kpakpo had two sons, Allotey and Allotei (deceased). He is survived by one son, Edward Allotey Addo and his son's wife Doris and five grand children ( Winfried Kpakpo, William Akwei, Isaac Nii Moi, Agnes Aku-Sika, David Addo).


Kpakpo will be buried at Krobo Odumasi on October 07, 2017.

On behalf of the Odjidjas, the Tekpeteys and the rest of the families of Bhamiye House, Korletsom, I wish him a deep and passionate farewell and a peaceful journey upwards to his maker.

E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Publisher,, Washington, DC, September 08, 2017
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