The Kumasi trio was the first-ever band to record Highlife music specifically Akan ‘blues’ or ‘Odonson’, also known as Ghana Osibaaisa Guitar music. The Trio was led by Cape Coast goldsmith Kwame Asare who is also known as ‘Jacob Sam’ or ‘Sammy’. Other members including H.E. Biney (Guitar); and Kwah Kantah (Drums/Wooden Box).
The band came together when Kwame Asare moved to Kumasi to launch his music career, he was working at T.C.C Company as cocoa worker which is where he met Biney and Kantah. The group's first known song was called “Yaa Amponsah” (1928), a well-known song at the heart of Highlife music. One can say that it was also popularised by Koo Nimo decades after it was first recorded.
The Trio`s epic song Yaa Amponsah was the first to earn Ghana huge royalties. A great example of Highlife's influence and impact on western music, can be seen when in October 1990 Paul Simon sampled part of the Yaa Amponsah melody. Simon's “Spirit Voices” was partly based on the melody and rhythm of “Yaa Amponsah”.
The Kumasi Trio did two sessions for Zonophone (1928 and 1929), you can clearly hear from below the versatility of Kwame Asare’s guitar work.
One of the many tales behind 'Yaa Amponsah', according to Prof. John Collins is that Yaa taught the men of Apedwua how to dance to highlife in the Western Ballroom style. This made the Apedwua elders livid because at that time Akan tradition considered it indecent for a man and a woman to touch each other in public.
Researched and Written by Paulina Nkansah
Collins, J., 2018. Highlife Time 3. 3rd ed. Accra: DAkpabli & Associates.
Collins, J., 2017. Highlife Giants. Cassava Republic Press.