FILE - The crowd gives the performer an applause on the Weatherdance Fountain Stage in the Ped Mall in Iowa City on Saturday, June 17, 2017. (The Daily Iowan/ Alex Kroeze)

Cooking up a musical storm in Iowa City


Paa Kow will make his musical début on the Weatherdance Fountain Stage.

By Sarah Stortz


Mixing in elements of jazz, Caribbean, and traditional Ghanaian music, percussionist Paa Kow creates a melting pot of vibrant music using only drumsticks.

At 6:30 p.m. Friday, Paa Kow will perform for an Iowa City audience on the Weatherdance Fountain Stage as a part of the Summer of the Arts.

Originally from the small village of Enyan Denkyira, located near Cape Coast, Ghana, Paa Kow’s love of music developed at young age; he received his first set of drums when he was 6.

As a child, he often spent 10 to 12 hours a day practicing. His parents encouraged his passion for music, particularly his mother, who was concert-hall singer.

“She had control in her voice. She was a true artist,” Paa Kow said. “You could tell her control of what she was doing.”

As he grew up, Paa Kow preferred listening to other music rather than constantly playing it. Some of the artists he enjoys listening to include Willie Armstrong and Victor Wood.

Despite the differences between these styles of music, Paa Kow said all musicians share the same purpose.

“All the artists do the same thing,” he said. “When you look at the keyboard and read off the notes, they all produce [and] do the same thing.”

Outside of his own music, he also works as a producer. However, he usually works with one client: himself. He knows his own music best, after all.

“I feel like when the music comes to me, I know it well,” Paa Kow said.

He said he is excited about performing at a larger venue in Iowa City.

“It’s going to be different because it’s guaranteed that people will see you,” he said. “You can tell people in the room love what you’re doing, but I want more than that.”

Payton Shuffield, Paa Kow’s manager, said this show is a part of the tour for his third album, Cookpot.

“He has been playing Iowa City for a few years now, and this performance will be a great opportunity for his music to reach even more people,” Shuffield wrote in an email. “Iowa City will be Paa Kow’s third stop on a 20-date album-release tour.”

Gabe’s general manager Pete McCarthy, a member of Summer of the Arts planning committee, said he’s been familiar with Paa Kow’s work from a few performances at Gabe’s.

Now, McCarthy said, he is happy to bring Paa Kow back in town so Iowa City can experience his music.

“We the loved the band, so we try to bring him back whenever possible,” McCarthy said. “I’ve been waiting to get him in front of a large crowd.”

McCarthy said he is often stunned by Paa Kow’s large style of performance.

“He’s like the James Brown of drumming in that he pulls [the audience] in. You can’t look away from him,” McCarthy said.

Paa Kow said he approaches a concert by focusing solely on himself.

“I do the music for myself,” he said. “I’m on fire, doing my own thing. It doesn’t matter how many people are there. I don’t care if there’s about thousands of people in front of me or just a couple.”

However, Paa Kow said, this method doesn’t ignore the audience.

“I want my fans to feel the same way, being filled with energy,” he said. “When you give it to them, they give it back to you.”



When: Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Weatherdance Fountain Stage, Ped Mall

Admission: Free


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