AB Crentsil was a great vocalist and one of Ghana’s most popular storytellers. He was also a fine gentleman with an easy-going personality who must have decided much earlier in his career to using his unique musical talents to make people happy. I believe he was most successful in this regard when he used sexual innuendo, usually with pretty graphic references and stories told with incredible humour and sarcasm.
Songs like “I Go Pay tomorrow” pleading for more tolerance from debtors also endeared him to the poor and those casually described in Ghana as “struggling to make ends meet”
Together with songs like “Papa Samo’, “AB” as he was popularly called soon became known for releases that became Highlife anthems. His other speciality was love songs, particularly adoring women. Angelina is definitely my favourite. No 4 in the 10 TOP HIGHLIFE HITS
MOSES – BLASPHEMY BE WAT?
“Moses” must surely be Uncle AB’s most memorable song. Needless to say, such a blasphemous song could have got him beheaded in Biblical times. When it was first released, a radio ban only made it more popular.
Uncle AB skillfully transforms one of the most popular stories in the Bible, Moses crossing the Red Sea into an explosive adventure of sexual pleasure. It works because his humour is infectious and the music is thrilling, not to mention his great storytelling style. Like other Highlife greats like Nana Ampadu, CK Mann, Kobina Onyina, and K Gyasi, he was a master of the oral storytelling tradition.
“Moses” is a rouncy and pretty vulgar story in Fansti. It is so sexually “explicit” that you would be lucky to get somebody to translate it for you, word for word.
A memorable recording that hit the international airwaves was with Teddy Osei and Mac Tontoh, as part of the Super Group, Highlife All-Stars. The recorded sound was superb with Uncle AB’s unique vocal abilities in full flight
Occasionally, Uncle AB, would step over the mark with a song like “Atia” which unfortunately played on some ethnic stereotypes. The song nearly cost him his life when he toured Northern Ghana. Uncle AB was a tireless performer. He released so many Highlife gems in a great career that he was committed to, even from a wheelchair.
We must thank Uncle AB for making us happy, especially during Ghana’s darkest days of political turmoil from the 1970s. Sadly, like most Highlife greats, he continued to spread the happy vibes even though his living basics were not taken off. Uncle AB was one of Africa’s most prolific musicians but most of his records were pirated throughout his career. He was also ripped off a lifelong of royalties by bloggers and leading radio stations. I am not sure he received a pension. If he did, for how much.
THE LAST TIME
I last saw Uncle AB, a few years ago at the Gold Coast Bar in Accra. He had been invited to perform as part of a Highlife Legends Night and I called him to make the arrangements. He arrived limping badly with a walking stick, and almost out of breath. He was not looking happy but tried as he did to smile when I reminded him about my early teenage attempts to see his show at the Talk of the Town Club in Tema. Eventually, I asked if anything was wrong. He smiled and said he would talk to me after his performance.
On stage, I saw Uncle AB transform from his melancholic mood. By the time he got to his song “Moses”, everybody was laughing and cheering. After the show, all he obliged me was “Invite me more more” he said as he sat in his car. “Me eh, I can rock papa!” he laughed and waved happily as his car drove off.
Thank you, Uncle AB