Ghanaian music legend, Abraham Benjamin “A.B.” Crentsil died at 79. The highlife singer passed away on Wednesday, July 13.

Crentsil was considered one of the “big three” contemporary Ghanaian vocalists and won numerous Ghanaian music awards, including the Fomtrom Evergreen Award, a special honor awarded to musicians with 15-20 years of service to the industry.

He was revered for his paradoxical and imitative style of music.

Speaking with David Akuetteh on Luv In the Morning on Luv FM, Senior Lecturer at the English Department at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Dr. Peter Arthur, described Crentsil’s music as intellectual comedy.

“His music created a vibe that made the listener think deeply while being entertained with quality humor,” said Dr. Arthur.

”His was the type of humor that even made the target of a joke laugh.”

Arthur also labeled Crentsil’s satirical music as high-level culture and comedy.

“We have high-level and low-level comedy…meaning that some comedy is so dense that it becomes a part of literature whereas another comedy is done for a few laughs,” he said.

“Crentsil’s work pushed the limits of imitation and parody to the point where he evoked a sense of awareness in his listeners.”

Dr. Arthur believes that despite the criticism that A.B. Crentsil received throughout his career, he created a movement for intellectual understanding and awakening.

“Perspective is what defines comprehension…he wanted people to understand that imitation and parody is a way of understanding the world,” he said.

“When someone sees and describes something in a paradoxical or imitative manner, it allows others to consider a different perspective.”

Dr. Arthur emphasized, however, that Crentsil came to learn the limits of controversy during his illustrious career.

“Some of his songs pushed the limits of public opinion,” he said. “He was indeed targeted for some of his work but at the end of the day, there’s not a single person who does not consider him a musical legend.”

According to Dr. Arthur, Crentsil’s controversial lyrics originated from his ambition to be known and heard.

“Many people aren’t aware that Crentsil started with gospel music with clean lyrics,” he said. “It was his vision to deliver a message that inspired him to do what others did not.”

Besides his controversial lyrics, Crentsil was also renowned for his rhythmic beats.

“He was born to Fante parents who migrated to the Western Region,” Arthur said. “Crentsil grew up in Tarkwa and joined a band from the Aboso glass factory.”

The band, “El Dorado,” began Crentsil’s musical journey and his affinity for Fante rhythms such as Apatempa.

Dr. Peter Arthur described that Apatempa rhythms worked well with mid-tempo beats and were popular amongst dance bands in the ’70s and ’80s. 

From “El Dorado”, Crentsil moved to Takoradi and joined his second band, “Lantis,” of the Atlantis Hotel.

After a short stint with “Lantis,” Crentsil relocated to the city of Tema. Here, he became part of another band, “Sweet Dreams,” of the Talk of the Town Hotel.

According to Dr. Arthur, it was during his time with “Sweet Talks” that Crentsil began transforming his persona and image as an outspoken and paradoxical vocalist.

Dr. Arthur also identified double entendre, indirect insinuation, parody, and didacticism as the defining qualities of Crentsil’s music that surfaced during his transformative years and were prevalent throughout his career.

In the ’80s, Crentsil faced persecution at the hands of the coup administration in Ghana for his music. 

He relocated to Canada to continue his music career and it was there that he recorded and published his most famous and infamous hit, “Moses.”

“Moses” followed the story of the Prophet Moses but was foreshadowed by sexual innuendos, references, and imagery.

Despite its controversy, “Moses” is now appreciated as a piece of literature in Ghana and much of Western Africa.

Arthur described Crentsil as a master storyteller and emphasized the importance of appreciating the vivid imagery present within his music.

“I was devastated when I heard of Crentsil’s passing,” Dr. Arthur said. “He will be sorely missed but remembered as a pioneer of Ghanaian music.”