Patrick Steel Kwame Ampadu alias PSK Ampadu was one of the most successful musicians in the country whose early struggling beginnings served as a success story to encourage young musicians that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Kwame Ampadu, of the African Brothers Band fame, like most musicians, fought his way through rocks and thorns to reach the musical zenith in Ghana. The journey to the top was long, dangerous, steep, and tiring but he patiently cleared each hurdle one after the other with patience, dedication and determination.
He was born to Opayin Kwame Ampadu (farmer) and Mercy Afua Ntiriwaah (housewife) both of Obo-Kwahu, Eastern Region on March 31, 1945 (Easter Saturday). He schooled at Obo and Afram Plains (Owurobon), Government School and Roman Catholic primary schools respectively.
He came back to Obo Anglican Boys School to complete his elementary education from 1956 to 1959. At Anglican Boys, little Ampadu was a member of the school choir and the tiniest boy of his peers. Despite his size he won the prestigious and enviable position as “tune giver” in the group.
For Ampadu, the road to secondary education was blocked since his father refused to pay for entrance fees to Abuakwa State College (Kyebi) and Ebenezer Secondary Schools (Adabraka, Accra) after passing the almighty common entrance on two occasions.
Out of frustration Ampadu journeyed to Accra in search for job but his dwarfish structure became an obstacle as employers refused to hire him. Ampadu was thought too little to stand the test of living independent life though he had a giant’s brain to manage his own affairs. Ampadu agreed that he was physically small for any employer to hire him.
The jobless desert of the city of Accra saw Ampadu returning to Kwahu Mpraeso, which became an oasis for him to rest and drink. He secured a job as a messenger with the Ministry of Agriculture, Mpraeso and for ten months in 1960, he was guaranteed of a monthly paycheck. He called this “ani bo a eko tiri mu.” (When the eye closes it goes back to the skull).
Ampadu, who contemplated going to the nation’s capital for the second time, sneaked back to Accra upon an invitation from a friend, Noah, without informing his employer. Unfortunately, he missed this friend, who had left Accra for Asante Akyem Agogo to play for a band a week earlier. The dreams of this form four (standard seven) leaver was almost shattered when P. K. Yamoah and his band came to the rescue after a relative of Ampadu introduced the desperate and disappointed tiny young man to Yamoah. Yamoah was a bandleader and salesman for Guinness Stout Limited, a brewery company in Accra. Ampadu received another knockout blow in his life.
Four years into courting with Yamoah, the bandleader was transferred to Kumasi so he moved with his group, the Yamoah’s Guitar Band in the early 1960s to Oseikrom but the Kwahu man (Ampadu) was scared of the garden city, Kumasi, which later became the cornerstone of his success.
Ampadu stayed in Accra and got back to the rhythm of job-hunting again. He, however, vowed not to go back to the Mpraeso Ministry of Agriculture since he vacated his post unceremoniously.
He galloped from job to job and finally settled with the Ghana Farmers Council as a messenger and later Canteen keeper (Beer Bar attendant). He had then, since the departure of Yamoah from Accra to Kumasi in 1963, formed his own group, the African Brothers. It was an amateur group that played gigs mostly on weekends. The name of the band, according to Ampadu, was in support of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s call for African unity. Ampadu was laid off from the Farmers Council after the 1966 military coup. The Afrifa’s coup, the first military coup in Ghana, probably opened heaven’s gate of success for Ampadu. He became disappointed from joggling between jobs so he decided to play full time with his group but the initial struggle to get his music on wax became a pain.
The Kaikaikus, E.K.Nyames, Kwabena Onyenas, and Dr. K Gyasis were the musical names to reckon with at the time. So breaking through the ceiling was almost impossible. Record producers were simply not interested in him. In fact, his physical structure did not command any qualities of becoming a good bandleader. He however, relied on his composition skills and composed for other bands. After providing eight (songs) compositions to Jerry Hansen’s Ramblers Band International, Hansen introduced Ampadu to one Joe Eyison (the late Station Master of Obrah Fame) of Philips Records Company, West Africa Limited. Through the help of Eyison, the company auditioned Ampadu and his first two songs with Philips became instant hits, “Aganka Dabre and Sominaso Ntonko” on 45 PRM records.
He made it to Kumasi in December 1966 for some Christmas gigs where his live performances were more profitable for his kind of guitar band music.