On Friday evening, a talented young man who has been playing on stages around Akron since he was a boy, will perform his last concert in his hometown.
Kofi Boakye's last Akron show will be at the Trailhead at Cascade Lofts before he begins his freshman year at Berklee College of Music in Boston at the end of August.
The 19-year-old Akron native has been gigging, hustling and networking around the area since he was a young teen playing keyboards solo and in his own groups at coffee houses, private events, clubs, schools, on local television and radio and anywhere that would let a high school kid perform. Through it all, Boakye has made connections with powerful local people including his buddy Mayor Dan Horrigan and others who just want to help a smart, hard-working kid.
In January, Boakye, the son of a single working mom, was the subject of a short documentary, “Kofi: Made in Akron,” and held a fundraising concert for its premiere. The documentary was nominated for a 2019 Emmy.
“Through that and a couple of other sourcing and fundraising campaigns I was finally able to raise all the needed funds to sufficiently supply the first semester and the following semester, so I’m truly excited,” he said.
But even before the film, Boakye had a clear plan as to what he wanted to do and held benefit concerts to help raise money to pay for his college education.
“I’m excited about everything that’s coming up. This whole event, the idea of it was to be a thank you to the city of Akron for everything that’s been going on,” Boakye said.
For his farewell and thank-you concert, there will be a cocktail hour and dinner prepared by Jesse Seward, international private chef and owner of Welcome to a Traveling Man International Street Food LLC. The Akron native, who is based in Virginia Beach, is flying in for the event.
“He said he’s always wanted to do something at home, so I felt like this was a perfect opportunity,” Boakye said.
Val B. King, granddaughter of blues icon B.B. King, will open for Boakye.
He decided she would be a great fit for his show when he saw her perform in Akron as an opener for Ohio R&B legends Switch.
In a cosmic coincidence, Boakye discovered that his grandfather Robert Tolbert occasionally sat in on bass for B.B. King’s area shows, giving the always networking young musician yet another connection.
Boakye will perform a mix of his original songs with favorite covers such as Floetry’s “Say Yes” with his quartet.
He said his music will be "all over the spectrum. We’ve got high-energy songs, we’ve also got those sentimental songs that can tug the heart strings a little bit.”
There will be a meet-and-greet with Boakye after the concert.
In addition to experiencing his first fall as a college student in Boston, Boakye will spend some quality time in New York. Since February, he has been making trips to the city to compete in Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater’s amateur night contest. Despite being a relative veteran stage performer who has performed with the Miller South choir in Germany and Czech Republic and headlined a show at the Civic Theatre, Boakye admits his first time on the Apollo stage was a big moment.
“When I first went out there, man, talk about a breath-taking experience. I’d never experienced that where you feel like: Whoa! I’m here.
“That was that moment for me. ... I saw the room and I was like, man, this is crazy. But it wasn't fear, it was more so like 'I’m here for a reason, now it’s time to get to work.' ”
Boakye has placed at least second in each of the three rounds in which he has competed and will go back for round four in November.
“It’s an amazing opportunity; there [are] people from all over the world and your competitors are from all over the world, too. The competition is so great there. When you get to the third round of this competition everyone is talented so it’s not necessarily a measure of how talented you are but more so how much you can separate yourself from everyone else."
Malcolm X Abram can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3758.