In West Africa, music means life.

Multi-instrumentalist Paa Kow, founder of the By All Means Band, grew up in Ghana and learned that concept, as well as the basics of music, while he was a child.

"We as children were taught how to make music with our feet, our hands and our mouths and how to put all of those sounds together," Paa Kow said during an telephone interview from his home in Boulder, Colo. "We learned what the deep fundamentals are about music through its rhythm and beat."

That opened his mind to a more esoteric concept.

"I found that music is something too big to describe," he said. "It's a thing that you play, but don't see, but when you play the right notes, it's cool how everything comes together. It comes out in a natural way and you can gather some people around to make music."

Paa Kow will share his music when his By All Means Band performs a free concert for Mountain Town Music's Winter Wonderjam at Park City Live, 427 Main St., on Friday, Dec. 7.

Park City Live is donating the venue and incurring all the costs to present the show free to the community as a support for MTM's Music in Schools program, which gives children in Park City and Summit County schools the opportunity to develop the appreciation of music as an art form.

The day of the Park City Live concert, Paa Kow and his band will give two assemblies for all the students at McPolin Elementary.

School performances are important to Paa Kow, because they not only allow him to share his music, but also his culture.


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"It's important for me to play schools because it educates the students in a natural way," he said. "When I do school programs, I teach my music, but I don't bring a book and I don't show the students the notes.

"I don't do it that way because, for me, I started playing music in a natural way," he said. "I started playing music because I had to have music in my life, no matter how I made it."

Music must come from within, Paa Kow said.

"I have seen some musicians go to school and graduate with music degrees, but don't know how to keep a beat or rhythm," he said. "That's important to know. You can play but if you don't have the basic rhythm from the bottom, you can't learn music naturally."

When the By All Means Band performs in schools and other live settings, Paa Kow sings in both English and his own language.

"I do that to show that even when people don't understand me, if I play the music right, they will still hear and feel the energy and get what I'm doing," he said. "That brings me confidence. When you see their faces get happy, I want to perform for them more."

The By All Means Band, which has released a new CD, "Hand Go Hand Come," play a form of music call West African Highlife, which originated in the early 1920s and is usually played with horns, percussion and guitar, according to Sonny Otis' 2009 book "Highlife Music in West Africa."

Some of the genre's basic rhythms can be found in the up-tempo music of Danny Elfman's now-defunct band Oingo Boingo, but most of the people in the United States haven't heard the highlife sound, except in small pockets of the country.

The first time Paa Kow came to the U.S. was as a guest artist for Colorado University's West African Highlife Ensemble concert.

"I moved back to Colorado after that in 2007," he said. "When I was here, I saw that the kind of music I wanted to play really isn't played here. So, I thought that I should bring my traditional music and mix it with jazz and stuff, to make something unique and something I would like to do.

"The United States is a big and good place to share my music with those people who haven't heard it before," he said. "I thought it would help further my music career, because there is a lot of opportunity here to play. And through my music I could share my culture."

Paa Kow's By All Means Band will play a free concert at Park City Live, 427 Main St., on Friday, Dec. 7, at 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.parkcitylive.net and www.byallmeansband.com.