Dr. F. Kenya is probably one of the greatest living highlife guitarists in Ghana. His two Powerhouse LPs, which he performed on and composed, epitomize the seriousness of the guitar band format, up to par with such luminaires as Nana Ampadu or K. Frimpong. Funny then, that I would run into him, not in a club or bar, but rather in mid-stride to his morning shower one morning in his hometown of Essima.
The town’s located in the Western Region of Ghana near the Ivory Coast border. To get there, we had to take a 4-hour trot-trot ride from Accra to Sekondi followed by a 90-min transfer.
On our first tour of the area Lion and I searched for a few hours, only to come up empty-handed. On later trips we would score some of our biggest finds, but this particular visit was a disappointment. That is, until we spotted an elderly man sitting in the middle of an open compound covered in nothing but a towel - It was Dr. F. Kenya.
He was warm enough to us, but not without hesitation. After various encounters with these elder musicians I came to recognize the sentiment of scorn quite well, most of them having seen their music outlast their often meager earnings. I asked for the chance to hear his story, but he refused without monetary compensation. He then went into a slew of multi-language rants about nothing in particular. we eventually excused ourselves and simply walk away.
John Collins, who worked alongside F. Kenya for many years, once told me that his was a peculiar methodology: a man teetering on madness and brillance with every note. A sign of a true genius, as evidenced in his second Powerhouse installment. A collection of whirling organ riffs, nasal-y call and response, and brilliant two-finger guitar melodies. The first Powerhouse record as well as his 1978 Ngakula LP are just as impressive, and in time will also find a proper forum on this blog. For now though, let’s enjoy The Powerhouse vol 2, my initial introduction to this man and his talent.
*Note: Due to the fact that Africa’s one of the hotter places you can find yourself in, this lp will at times display evidence of heat damage. Oh well, take it as it comes.