Paa Kow, who traveled across the globe to share his music, shares a musical path with Herbie Hancock.
The Ghana native who debuts at Lake Tahoe Thursday with his By All Means Band, plays what he calls Afro-fusion music. His eight-piece band includes two percussionists, two horn players, bass, guitar and keyboards. Paa Kow sings and plays drums.
“I do traditional stuff from Ghana joined with jazz,” he said, citing his favorite artists as drummer Tony Williams, bassist Victor Wooten and especially Hancock, a keyboardist.
“I can tell he’s a real fusion guy,” Paa Kow said. “I hear African influences out of his stuff. African and jazz drumming is similar.”
Paa Kow pointed to Hancock’s opening song, “Palm Grease,” from the 1974 album “Thrust.”
“It reminds me of home,” he said. “The way he approaches music is correct. ‘Palm Grease’ is a real punchy song. We Africans want to get the punch.”
Fellow Ghanaian Azumah Nelson, who made a high-profile visit to Lake Tahoe in 1992, certainly had a penchant for the punch. The super featherweight boxer defended his world boxing title at Caesar’s Tahoe when he decisioned Calvin Grove.
Paa Kow makes his groove by beating drums.
He has performed onstage since he was 7 years old when his legs were so short they didn’t reach the pedals on a drum set. He once skipped school when he hid in a bass drum on a band’s tour bus. Surprised band members let him play the next gig before sending him home.
The youngster gained a national reputation as Ghana’s “youngest drummer” as a member of the government sponsored big band revue New Creation. After the group played in the capital city Accra (Nelson’s hometown), Paa Kow was recruited by pop star Amakye Dede to move to the city to play with the nation’s top musicians.
He toured in Europe and the Middle East and became friends with South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela.
A student from Colorado, Peyton Shuffield, who came to Ghana to study drums with Paa Kow, arranged in 2007 to have the drummer serve as a guest instructor at the University of Colorado. Eventually, Paa Kow moved to Denver.
“Teaching always makes you a better musician,” Paa Kow said. “I love doing that. But I am too busy with tours to be an instructor now, but I still give private lessons at my studio.
“I like (Colorado) because they have the mountains and it’s beautiful out there and they have the school where I get to hang out with all the professors and awesome musicians. It’s a great home to be. I love everywhere in the United States but that’s where I find myself as home. It is great living there, but it’s cold.”
Paa Kow, 30, uses the vernacular of an American jazzman.
He said he is “stoked” to play at Lake Tahoe for the first time and is “down” with making some videos with Tahoe Onstage.
“I want to tell everyone at Lakeview that I am excited to be there, so get ready for the new sound,” he said.
The Live at Lakeview Summer Concert Series at Lakeview Commons features shows on Thursday all summer long. An opening band plays at 4:30 p.m. and the headliner around 6:15. On July 24, South Lake Tahoe’s 4 Piece Puzzle will open for Paa Kow’s By All Means Band.