Yaa Yaa - Dumb Drum
With a fierce howl, Ghana’s incredibly talented Yaa Yaa comes soaring through the stereo with her new single “Dumb Drum,” a track that embraces all of the majestic color that her new release Ashanti Vibes has to offer. If you aren’t already aware, Yaa Yaa has been burning up the international pop music scene for almost a decade now, following her win on Ghana’s Stars of the Future talent show in 2009. At only 28 years old, she’s already had an inarguable impact on the future of African music’s place in western pop culture, and with this new song she may well be staking a claim in the hierarchy of music royalty for an emerging generation of fans.
Born into a musical family, Yaa Yaa (originally known as Bertha Bridget Kankam) has been inspired by and inclined towards the arts her entire life. Her incredible live performances have garnered her quite the reputation as a skilled, mature entertainer who is uniquely capable of connecting with audiences regardless of their age and background. When I first had the pleasure of hearing her sing, I was sincerely taken aback that I was hearing a young woman belt out such soulful harmonies. Her skillset is on par with the most seasoned of players, and it’s a wonder how she managed to make it to 19 years old without already having been discovered. In “Dumb Drum,” Yaa Yaa appeals to our most carnal desires as music enthusiasts, feeding into our need for big melodies that cascade down from the heavens in a transcendent, almost ethereal manner. There’s a certain poetry that can be found in her voice that doesn’t necessarily have to rely on strong lyrics or prose to convey dexterous emotions that are instantly relatable. That said, she isn’t content to just let her voice steal all of the limelight on stage. The eclectic rhythm of her style is all-consuming, and even if you try to evade the allure of her vocal, she’ll trap you with her hooks and force you to bask in her indulgent, decadent illustrations.
In the past, western audiences have had some difficulty finding accessibility in the offerings of the African pop music community, and up until now I had always assumed that it was because of a general lack of palate among most western music fans. But listening to Yaa Yaa makes me think otherwise. In a world as diverse and expansive as our own, there’s such a rich variety of textured sounds that have influenced the most successful artists from every continent on the planet, but few have been able to create the sort of crossover tracks that hold universal appeal to audiences of all kinds. It isn’t that westerners don’t understand African music, or that popular African music is drastically different in its stylization. It’s that we haven’t had the right artist to make us appreciate what that scene has to offer. I’m just one music journalist, but I honestly think we may have found the performer that we’ve been waiting for in Yaa Yaa. And if she maintains the momentum her career has now, she may end up taking over both sides of the Atlantic before long.