PART 1 :THE BIRTH OF KUMAWOOD.
In the 2000s, a new phenomenon of movie experience hit us here in Ghana. It wasn’t really a new thing; it was the medium used, people in front of the cameras, the excitement they created and the brassiness with which it was presented.
The actors weren’t new; we knew them from different platforms, the stories were not really new; we saw them on Akan Drama, the show runners were not new; we had experienced them helm a few decent Ghanaian movies. So, what was so special about the phenomenon which came to be known as KUMAWOOD?
Let’s begin with the actors. As mentioned earlier, they were not entirely new. We all had already seen Bob Santo and Abusua Panin Judas from the then popular TV show, KEY SOAP CONCERT PARTY. They had enthralled us with their performances on the show, and their drama troupe had won the annual competition for Key soap concert party drama on a few occasions.
Before that, Bob Santo and his bosom friend, Abusua Panin Judas had toured the country as side performances to Nana Ampadu and his African Brothers Band in the 1990s. They had later moved onto record audio dramas such as ABAAWA MARY, which attained so much popularity that it was almost unimaginable to enter a house where no one owned an audio cassette of their drama. Mind you; they had not started the trend, a popular comedian, Waterproof, had achieved an incredible amount of success in recording his stand-up comedy shows.
In the early 2000s, after the Nigerian film marketers had decided to place a ban on 10 of their top industry players, the popularity of their movies in Ghana began to dwindle. Miracle Films, which had turned from movie production to being more of a distributer to Nigerian movies, wanted a way to get its Ghanaian movie lovers back. They tried an experiment; let Bob Santo and his friends discuss what Ayo Adesanya and his co-stars were doing in their movie.
Ghanaian-Nigerian movie collaboration had been tested, practised, gained popularity and lost popularity prior. This new formula however worked. The Twi audience loved Santo’s comedic commentary. They wanted more Santo. Miracle Films was smart and responded: an entirely new Ghanaian movie with our local stars with Santo as comedic relief.
Then gradually, they started fading Akorfa Edjeani, Edinam Atasti, Pascaline Edwards as they introduced new faces such as Raf Samao, Nana Ama McBrown, Mavis Adjei, Naana Hayford, Becky Parkins and others.
Soon, a fully-fledged Twi movie was ready to take its flight under Miracle films. The format was simple; portray the everyday Ghanaian stories that the Ghanaian movies had chosen to ignore, because they were too busy creating their own versions of Romeo and Juliet or letting coffins fly in the sky a la SAMADORA and JEWELS. The everyday boring life issues such as living in compound houses and its many dramas, over zealous religious practices that affect families, female empowerment among others, were left to Grace Omaboe, S. K Oppong, Kofi Laing, Nana Bosompra II to tackle on GTV’s Akan Drama and Cantata.
Miracle Films pulled from these Akan Drama stories, made it bigger by setting it in realistic locations rather than the over familiarised three studio living rooms GTV had all the drama troupes used for their productions, and made the characters more rounded and very familiar to the people we lived with in our communities. Santo was no more and so Agya Koo was called on to provide comic relief in one of the most popular of such Twi movies to come from Kumasi; KUMASI YONKO which also saw Nana Ama McBrown in a leading role and not being only appreciated because of her looks.
It made instant stars out of these two actors. Miracle Films saw how profitable it was to use the stars from the dead Concert Party Show so, Mercy Asiedu, Akrobeto, Kumiwaa and many others from the Concert Party world were called onto join the new wagon. And their popularity grew as the new genre grew. Soon, it would welcome people from all walks of life, who would contribute to making the biggest movie industry in Ghana outside the capital, very successful.
Written by Quaku Danquah