Ghanaian performer/composer/educator Pope Flyne helped bring the genre of highlife music to new heights with the legendary Sweet Talks band of Ghana. He came to California as an ambassador and for decades has shared his joyful spirit and vast knowledge of African folk music, dancing and percussion with a generation of American students.
The Pope of Hilife Music
In 1977, Paul Sean (See-on) Flyne Ackah was named best vocalist in Ghana’s version of the Grammys. The other musicians respected his music so much they dubbed the young pop star “Pope,” teasing him for his clean lifestyle. The name stuck with him when he came to the U.S. in the mid-eighties to teach African roots music to inner-city children in a cultural music exchange program.
The Sound of Ghana
Back in Ghana, Pope and his nucleus of musicans (Smart Nknsah, A. B. Crentsil, Jewel Ackah, Atta Kojo, Prince Nana Afful, Max Kozy, Yaw Tingye, J.Y. Thorthy, Arthur Kennedy, Owusu, Eugene and Asabia Cropper, B.D. Sangari, and Osi Owusu) recorded many songs under many band names, including the El-Dorados, Medican Lantics, the Black Hustlers, and the Sweet Talks. As the Sweet Talks, they had several hits, including the albums “Adam and Eve,” “Spiritual Ghana,” and “Kusum Beat.” This review is regarding a song co-composed by Pope Flyne:
“…’Eyi Su Ngaangaa’ by the Sweet Talks (1976), a deeply funky excursion into simple harmonies, slyly decorated with an extended trumpet solo by Arthur Kennedy. What makes this tune so special is not its hip groove or catchy melody, but the level of depth and detail that develops in the percussion department. Of all the countries in West Africa, Ghana has perhaps the most complex drumming tradition—and while funk and fusion tended to distill rhythms down to the backbeat, the Sweet Talks draw upon the country’s greatest traditional strength.” – All About Jazz.com
Dance & Drum Teacher
Pope teaches or has taught classes & workshops through Young Audiences, Alameda Ballet Academy, and Complexions (CCB) Academy. He is a faculty member at St. Mary’s College and also teaches after-school programs and assemblies at several East Bay elementary schools.
One Man Band
Pope has performed at City Lights Bookstore, Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, Miliki Restaurant and The Exploratorium. He is available for events, contact him here.
He has worked with Sushiel Bibbs on her films about Mary Pleasant and was mentioned in Ishmael Reed’s book, Blues City: A Walk in Oakland.
In his work on Human Rights he performa for the Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP), and performs annually with the East Bay Chapter of the UNA-USA on Peace Day and Human Rights Day. He performed as ambassador of Ghana at the UDHR 50 years celebration: Memories of Ghana’s Independence from the United Kingdom. In 2019 his Hilife version of Every Man, Woman and Child with Merrill Collins led the launch of her worldwide virtual peace party.
Find Pope on Linkedin and Facebook.