Komla Dumor rose like a column of mercury – Blakk Rasta


Outspoken reggae firebrand, Blakk Rasta recalls the shock that was waiting to greet him when he first met Komla Dumor at the Joy FM studios in Kokomlemle, Accra.

On the wall above where Komla sat in a room he called his office hung a Second Class Lower First Degree certificate. Blakk Rasta’s first reaction needed no exercising the brain – who in their right senses would display boldly what many accept to be a shame, a disgrace. This guy must be a joke, he told himself. 

“What is it about ‘Lower’ that this man is so proud of [that] he has put it on the wall and you know, Lower? A lot of people would hide it under their bed and would not even want other people to see.” 

Blakk Rasta does not recall exactly what he had gone to do at Joy FM on that occasion but he certainly recalls he was not working at Joy then. His eyes panned the other items hanging on the wall and yes, there it was, a Master’s Degree from Harvard University.

“I said this is a man who is so proud of his past. I, Blakk Rasta will also display a certificate whether I have Fourth Class Lower, on the wall because that’s my achievement academically. I found myself in him, and from that time I said to myself naaaaa, this is a man who has grown beyond what people think of him.”

The next time their paths would cross again, many years later, Black Rasta was in the HITZ 103.9 FM studio at Kokomlemle dishing out his Taxi Driver show as a staff of the Multimedia Group. Komla for his part had long bid Multimedia a gentleman’s farewell to work with  The BBC  where he rose, as Blakk Rasta puts it, like a “column of mercury” to make fame for himself and country. He was returning to Ghana to cover the historic  July 11, 2009 visit of President Barack Obama http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25816646 , the first ‘Black Man’ to be elected president of the United States of America. Komla had arranged with Rasta for an interview, and Blakk Rasta was expectant. When it happened though, he was so surprised the manner of the interview.

“It was a party,” he recalled. “Yeah! When he came in we were just partying. He did not tell me that day he was coming in, he said he would be coming to Ghana. He called me from England. So when he came in, for me it was like oh, ok he worked here some time ago so he is just coming in to interact with me until this thing was done and I realised that it was on BBC. Then I said whaaat! This man took the interview so informally and he just interacted with me… I was on the radio so at that time I was on two networks at the same time – the Ghanaian network of HITZ FM and then the BBC. Barack Obama was playing on HITZ, and then he was on BBC with me with his cordless mic and he was singing. I did not know I was on BBC till everything was done – the interview, I played the song over and over, he didn’t even want the song to end. The way he approached the interview, oh my God have mercy! It was so informal, so beautiful, he took me off guard beautifully and we were in a party mood.” http://www.whitehouse.gov/video/President-Obamas-Visit-to-Ghana/

The Obama Interview
President Obama was visiting Ghana and Africa following his historic election and Komla was an undisputed choice to cover the visit for the BBC. Blakk Rasta doubles as a reggae musician and had released his  Barack Obama http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L85YF0pyPH0  hit which had caught Komla’s attention and became the subject for their interview. Rasta told him of his own surprise when he had heard calls for Ghanaian politicians to emulate this Black American who was so gentle and positive in his politicking and efforts to re-write history. That urging led him to read more about Obama and to be convinced to lend his music as support for the Yes We Can campaign. And as the pair chatted on in the interview, they broke into singing the song together.

“One thing that will remain in my mind for ever, Komla was on key. When he sang the song, I was shocked he was on key! And I said what, I was going to ask this man if he had ever done music, because a lot of people would sing it, yes, but they would sing off key. He was on key, he was on time and he did it just like I would have done it in the studio. So I was so impressed by that and he asked me a few questions. Look, together we were in the studio, you should have been in the studio to see him jumping to the music, it didn’t sound like we were having an interview, we were just having a party and Komla made me feel so proud.”

After the interview Komla was magnanimous enough to promise Blakk Rasta interviews on the BBC anytime he came to London. As fate would have it, Blakk Rasta “never went to England before he passed away.”

Any lesson the youth must learn from Komla’s short life?  

“I think perseverance. He himself said that he started off as a traffic reporter, ‘don’t pass here, go there, Accra is this dat dat dat’. That’s what he was reporting on the radio. A “mere traffic reporter” has risen to the point of being the BBC acclaimed journalist. I mean what does that tell you? With no training, absolutely no formal training he’s been able to move up there, perseverance…  For me he loved his work, he persevered. People annoyed him, people called him all sorts of names, when he started at the BBC he fumbled a little bit but he rose beyond everything like a column of mercury, up, up, up until he hit the top, boom! For me Komla inspired me so much. Komla made me feel that yes, … there’s no place that is your limit. Breakthrough every place, it’s limitless.”

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