From Keteke to Obra: The evolution of a beloved Ghanaian tv Series


Stories and facts

"Obra" (Life) (Ɔbra in Akan) was a Ghanaian television drama series that gained immense popularity in Ghana during the 1980s. The series was a cultural phenomenon, captivating audiences with its relatable storylines and memorable characters.

The roots of "Obra" can be traced back to a situational TV drama series called "Keteke" (Train/Locomotive), which debuted on GTV in 1981. "Keteke" focused on everyday encounters at a train station, highlighting the challenges faced by ordinary people striving to make a decent living.

The show featured notable characters such as the Station Master, who managed the train station's affairs; Ghanaman, who represented the struggles of the average Ghanaian; and Maame Dokono (Madam Kenkey), the station's food vendor. The train station served as a crucial public space for social interaction, gossip, and various dealings.

"Keteke" also shed light on the economic hardships of the time and the moral dilemmas characters faced in their quest for survival. This popular series eventually evolved into "Obra."

For many years, primetime Sunday evening entertainment in Ghana was dominated by the Osofo Dadzie group, which had been a staple since 1972. However, internal conflicts began to surface within the group following a European tour in the early 1980s.

Some key members secretly obtained visas and embarked on the tour without involving Jane Ackon, Bea Kissi, Frimpong Manso, and other essential members, resulting in a disastrous tour.

Upon their return, the group requested a modest raise in their transport and logistic costs from ¢40 to ¢65 to reflect the rising cost of living, but GBC-TV management refused to compromise. Consequently, the group stopped performing new plays, forcing GBC-TV to air old Osofo Dadzie episodes, which gradually lost their appeal.

The situation caught the attention of Flt Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings, the new Head of State and leader of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC). He invited Grace Omaboe (a main scriptwriter for Osofo Dadzie) and Nana Bosompra (producer) to form a rival group to fill the artistic void while a permanent solution was sought for the Osofo Dadzie impasse. Thus, Omaboe and Bosompra organized auditions and recruited a cast for the new show.

In 1981, "Keteke" had already begun gaining popularity. Grace Omaboe and Nana Bosompra rebranded and expanded it into "Obra," a larger production with a more diverse cast and complex plots.

The actors primarily spoke Twi, Fante, and Akuapem, and the episodes addressed various virtues and vices of life, such as honesty, integrity, patience, and perseverance. The cast typically wore local attire, reflecting Ghanaian history and culture, which distinguished them from the Osofo Dadzie group, known for their formal suits and ties.

The cast of "Obra" became household names in Ghana, largely drawn from the Ghana Theatre Club and the School of Performing Arts, where Grace Omaboe was a member. The original cast included David Dontoh (Ghanaman), Grace Omaboe (Maame Dokono), and Joe Eyison (Station Master). Other notable cast members were Edinam Atatsi, Oklu, Charles Adu Armah, Emily Brown, B.K. Afandoh, Esi Kom, and Amankwaa Ampofo. Jane Ackon, formerly of Osofo Dadzie, later joined the cast. In 1984, Belinda Oku (Adwoa Smart) also became part of the "Obra" family.

The theme tune for the series, also titled "Obra" (Ɔbra in Twi), was composed and performed by Nana Kwame Ampadu. This memorable song became synonymous with the show and remains a nostalgic piece for many Ghanaians.

"Obra" left an indelible mark on Ghanaian television, blending entertainment with social commentary and cultural reflection. Its legacy continues to influence Ghanaian media and remains cherished by those who experienced its original run.

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