Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

Kofi Boakye was proudly made in Akron and he’s about to live one of his longtime Akroncentric dreams.

The 16-year-old keyboardist already fulfilled one dream when he performed with the Akron Symphony at E.J. Thomas Hall as part of Gospel Meets Symphony this past winter.

But this Friday, the Miller South grad and Early College High School junior will take the stage of the Akron Civic Theatre with his band to celebrate the release of his first album of all-original music, Made In Akron.

“This album is my way of giving back and saying thank you to the city,” Boakye said between classes. “I learned pretty much everything I know musicality-wise here in Northeast Ohio.

“So for this album what I really wanted to do was show a range of everything I’ve learned, and it ranges in genres from like lyrical classical serious type to a Latin jazz type feel and even having a spoken word piece from my brother [Andre Bland] that is basically a tribute to Akron.”

Boakye said each of the album’s five tracks were inspired by a few artists he’s either met and/or studied and the list includes contemporaries such as fellow genre-bending pianist Robert Glasper, smooth jazz ivory-tinkler man Brian Culbertson, Snarky Puppy keyboardist and solo artist Cory Henry and Stevie Wonder’s “previous, older records” to name a few. But artists aren’t the only inspiration for the tunes on Made In Akron.

“I think that feel is in a lot of these tunes. Especially the one title Game Show. That one I thought about a lot of the old game shows and how the horns in those songs and those themes were so intricate and so flavorful. It brought a lot of personality into the music so I really wanted to integrate that to the song Game Show,” he said, begging the obvious question of what his favorite game show theme may be.

“My favorite game show theme is the Price is Right. I love that one, it’s awesome. I really tried to use that as the structure and inspiration along with all the other inspirations and ideas of my own,” Boakye said.

Boakye’s two previous releases were primarily filled with covers, so he is especially proud of Made In Akron because all the tunes are his own creation.

“This is a chance for me to show, ‘Hey this is what I’ve learned here in Akron and this is what Akron has given to me over the years. I’ve maximized the public school system, the music programs, the classical legend teachings from Ohio Conservatory and so many other great musicians and pianists like Theron Brown and all those people from Akron, and I’ve compiled it into this record,” Boakye said.

So getting back to living one of his dreams, this upcoming show at the Akron Civic has been a dream of his for a quarter of his life.

“I remember I was in sixth grade at Miller South. I was in the classroom and while they were sitting there talking about world history I just couldn’t help but think about playing or headlining a show at the Civic. And every time when I was younger someone would ask me what I see myself doing with music in the next couple of years I would say honestly I really see myself headlining a show at the Akron Civic Theatre, and I’d say I see myself onstage performing with an orchestra at E.J. Thomas. And for both of those things to happen this year is kind of crazy. So I’m really excited to be able to fulfill this dream of mine and there are so many more dreams I have and I can’t wait to accomplish those as well,” he said.

For the big release show, Boakye will be using his regular band: drummer Jeff Law, bassist Cody Mansfield and fellow keyboardist Marquis Brown. “I play one keyboard he plays three,” Boakye said of Brown, whom he first met at 11 years old.

“I couldn’t find a better group of guys to share this moment with on the stage right now than them, so I definitely had to call them up and ask them to be a part of it,” Boakye said of his bandmates.

Aside from his music studies, Boakye is also a self-described “musician, entrepreneur, public speaker and athlete” who wants to uplift as well as entertain.

“This is my way of saying thank you to Akron but I’m also, hopefully, giving inspiration,” he said. “If I’m doing this and I’m 16 and I came from a similar walk of life that you came from, then we can all do this and the future is bright for every single one of us.

“And there’s not one goal you can’t accomplish. And like my brother, Kwame, would say, ‘The only things you cannot do are the things you choose not to do’ and that’s my mentality and that’s my goal and I hope that individuals come and are ultimately inspired to do something of their own.”

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at www.ohio.com/blogs/sound-check, like him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml and/or follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.