Sarkodie host album listening for his album ‘Highest’

The Electroland office space in the Samsung building at the Ring Road played host to a Sarkodie private album listening session yesterday. With journalists, bloggers and friends present, Sarkodie answered questions from a section of the audience on his career, family, experiences and his new album.
The ‘Highest’, slated for release on Friday, September 8th, will be Sarkodie’s fifth studio album since making an entry into the music space in 2009. The 18 track album span the genres of hiphop and afropop with highlife influences. With Jayso as the producer of the album, Sarkodie also features artistes like Worlasi, Joey B, Jayso, Victoria Kimani and Nigerian acts Flavour, Koredo Bello and Jesse Jagz.

Hosted by Live FM’s Antoine Mensah, the session was simple, well-attended, intimate (courtesy the space), lively and conservational. It was Antoine who revealed Sarkodie has, in 2017 released just two singles (‘Pain Killer’ and ‘Gbozaa’). The rest have been verses on songs by other artistes. Surprisingly, this album has none of the young acts he has worked with. The only ‘new artist’ featured was Worlasi, who came upon the recommendation of album producer Jayso. He described Worlasi as ‘just incredible’ and loved his ‘state of mind when it comes to his creativity’.

On the inspiration behind the album, Sark indicated that, his daughter, Titi, heavily influenced his creativity in terms of what songs to make and what to say. ‘Even though she doesn’t understand a word of what I say, I had to be very self-conscious of what I say’, he added. ‘Highest’, Sarkodie revealed wasn’t made with radio in mind. He made it for the fans.
On why he decided to work with Jayso, he revealed it was because of the history the two of them share. Jayso was the brain behind some of the biggest hits Sarkodie had made since his career began in 2009. ‘Jayso knows my story (begins) and felt he’s the right guy to produce this album’. The two had had a good working relationship which resulted in an unrealized collaborative album, ‘The Mind Game’ despite releasing three singles.

Asked how he handles the pressure that comes with his position as the leading artiste in Ghana, he confessed it wasn’t easy from the beginning. ‘I’ve matured now so it’s a little easier’, although he admitted it’s still work in progress. 

Recording of the ‘Highest’ began some two years ago ‘around the time ‘Bossy’ came out. The thing with Jayso is that,you can’t rush the work. It takes time’, he indicated. As part of the promotion of the album, tours across Europe, the US and Ghana was announced. 

Jayso intimated how much work has gone in the making of the album, the doubts of Sarkodie on hosting an album listening for fear of ‘leaks’ and getting corporate organizations to get involved. On the subject of free downloads and leaks, Jayso siad they are guarding against it. He appealed to music journalists and platforms to at least share links of songs to the music hosting platforms of the artistes rather than ‘owning’ the songs. ‘It may not bring us money but we can show the numbers (of downloads or plays) to corporate organizations for sponsorships’, Jayso revealed. 

This point was emphasized by Sark during the Q&A session where he appealed to all to patronize their artistic creations as the Nigerians do with their artistes. The support system in Nigeria is seen in the quality of music and videos their artistes release. Despite the success of some Ghanaian artistes, their videos don’t measure to standards. 

The audience were played six songs from the album. Six music videos for the songs ‘Overdose’, ‘Baby Mama’, ‘Glory’, ‘Your Waist’, ‘We No Dey Fear’ and ‘Come To Me’ were screened exclusively for the invited guests. According to Sark, ten videos have been shot and would be released in due time. One thing is clear from watching the video: they do smell like money. Sark dropped the money bag for the videos. Exotic as hell. 
‘Highest’ is the fifth album in his catalogue, coming after Makye, Rapperholic, Sarkology and Mary. 

And let me add this: the new Samsung QLED TV offers you that fantastic viewing experience. The picture quality is mind blowing. And, electronic maker NASCO has entered the phone making market. Sarkodie was presented with a branded version of their phone. 

THE CUTS: EP 02 VOL 09

THE CUTS is your weekly round-up of songs and videos that has caught our attention and think you must hear or see. The music featured aren’t genre specific. THE CUTS is delivered every FRIDAY


             Sammy Forson – I’m Tired

It was a matter of time before he made his formal entry into the music space by having his credits on a song. The pull factor to be an ‘artiste’ grows very strong especially when you’ve been around artistes and music for decades. For radio presenter and artiste manager Sammy Forson, ‘I’m Tired’ is his first official record. The Live FM Mid-morning radio host goes for some top cherry MCs like Cabum, EL, Kojo-Cue, Obibini and LJ on this hard hitting hip-hop beat. And they both slayed, with each teasing out some identifiable tiring experiences. 

Thebeat is too inviting for any MC not to dream of hopping on. Obibini and LJ (his name isn’t familiar to many) were incredible, holding their own against the other three certified MCs. ‘ I taya say underground MCs just dey suffer/ the money dey but Miss. Malaika s)) dem dey sponsor’, Obinini makes his tiredness known. As Sammy Forson himself did intimate before the beat kicked in: ‘The people all around the world try to make a difference. Just like me, they’re tired’. THIS IS HIP-HOP

Adomaa – BRA

Watching this video, I kept wondering what could top having your girl invite you to an afternoon date where she offers not food but some nice musical performance as a way of assuring you of her love. That’s precisely what Adomaa did in the video for ‘Bra’. Shot entirely at the Kona Cafe, Osu, Adomaa takes centre stage and croons to her boyfriend whose identity is hidden for a few minutes. The video is simple, appealing and colourful. It’s very clear that the three (Adomaa, her boyfriend and the saxophonist) had extreme fun on set. It’s also a nice advert for Kona Cafe. If you’ve not been there, better check it out. 

Juls feat Nonso Amadi & Maleek Berry – Early

There couldn’t have been a better first video after the release of ‘Leap of Faith’ EP than this standout track ‘Early’. A warm, well toasted love song has a video that carries such same clout. It’s another date themed video with Juls and Maleek Berry on what appears like a vacation trip to the beach with girls they picked up a night ago. Even though the visuals isn’t as evocative as the song, seeing the characters in full bliss is in itself superb. Makes you want to take a trip at the beach with the one(s) you love for a good time.

Eboo – Good Life

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It’sbeen almost a decade since afro dancehall artist Eboo captured the attention of Ghanaians with his debut single. Many may remember the hook to ‘Once, Twice’. After a very long hiatus, Eboo makes a return a new single ‘Good Life’, a dancehall, tune with a this-is-why-I-love-you theme. ‘Good Life’ is an average yet decent output (compared to his decade old single). It’s a forgettable song.  Wth backing from Empire Entertainment (which his big brother media mogul Bola Ray runs) you may find yourself singing along to it before long.


Tony Bryte ft Serge – Aaliyah

If you are expecting some crazy, ‘put me in my feelings’ type of lyrics due to the title of the single, sorry for leaping before watching. Tony Bryte abandons his R&B scales for something far off his comfort zone. For what the lyrics fail to offer, the beat provides thanks to it’s spikey, experimental sound. ‘Aaliyah’ is a love song where Tony Bryte and Serge serenade and confess their love to their ‘Aaliyah’. Forgive me Tony for thinking you were a Nigerian all along. Just got to know you are Takoradi abrantie. 

Bryan The Mensah is moving at his own pace on ‘Friends With The Sun’ EP

 

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Knowing how to move in this young and vibrant, yet fast changing Ghanaian music industry is an advantage. Knowing your worth as an artist is the gunpowder to your survival. While some break through by following the latest trends, those who adopt the often long and arduous road to success need to have the patience of a Buddhist monk.

Veterans like Jayso took their time to build their profile before releasing a body of work. Newcomers such as Worlasi, AYAT and to an extent, Adomaa entered the music scene through the ‘backdoor’- they stuck to a certain style and cracked the code. Bryan The Mensah has joined this list.

‘Friends With The Sun’ (FWTS), his eight track EP released on August 5th, is an invitation into Bryan The Mensah’s world and musical journey. He side-steps the usual narratives that rappers of his age indulge in- wild shenanigans, boastful talk, wealth flaunting (which is mostly a faux). Bryan The Mensah rather shares his philosophy in life, friendship, career and his resolve to stay and steer a certain course he deems comfortable.

There’s a lot that has changed about Bryan The Mensah, both physically and mentally since I met him some years ago. This was during his time with the collective called TH’ FRVNCHMN’. Since his transition from ‘Denny. MadeIt’ to ‘The King of Tea’, Bryan has shown glimpses of a wise and matured rapper as evidenced by songs like ‘’The King of Tea’ and ‘Sharp’.

For those who have paid attention to his singles prior to ‘FWTS’ won’t be surprised by the content heard on the EP. For those who followed the rollout of FWTS on twitter, it compares to those done by AYAT and Worlasi. The inspiration behind the EP is summed up in these words:

I really wanted to introduce people to a more unique, personalized and innovative approach to music and creative art in general. I want this EP to inspire anyone who comes across it in anyway possible to be able to find growth from whatever their current predicaments may be.

‘All This Life’, with its brightly laid sounds (hip-hop, electro, house elements) has Bryan The Mensah shifting through the essence of living and striving for the best: ‘Some people wanna live life/some people wanna leave legacy’. As the verse progresses, he comes with the reminder ‘people go feed you with choices but you nor you for make am officially’.  This message is further emphasized on another Seyyoh assisted tune ‘Good Design’, a song that seems to be inspired by the notion of ‘we were created in God’s image or perfection’. Here, he aims for perfection: ‘I no really get time for temporary goals/ Everything I do is going gold’. Seyyoh, who I’m hearing for the first time, spreads her soulful vocals over the track.

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FWTS isn’t only a display of Bryan’s bravery in terms of sound experimentation. He also brings on board fellow young rappers like Tim Lyre, Fii, Tano Jackson and Kwesi Arthur, who joins him on ‘Darling Falling’; a song that doesn’t deviate from the theme of being great. ‘We come from greatness I know it’, he raps on the song. ‘We ain’t alive to just sit around and congratulate other dudes’. Kwesi Arthur questions the mindset of some Ghanaians who ‘sell our country for coins’ and those who ‘still dey sit on the fence’, watching the rot that is crippling our country.

In the game of love, being real is a must. On ‘Jesse’, he put on display all his cards to the girl he’s after. Tim Lyre with his The Weeknd-esque vocals and Fii help make this radio formatted, afro-dancehall tune a jam. Even in his sleep, his subconscious self keeps reminding him not to fail on ‘Last December’ which features Tano Jackson. Staying focused, knowing what you need and putting in the necessary work is the fuel needed to ignite the fireball of success. Both are expressively laid in its true form on the introspective ‘See The Move’ where he denounces fair-weather friends: ‘Ewiase (world) as you know it is a single man journey/ That be why I dey put only conscious men near me’. On ‘Wallabow You’, he tells a relatively successful guy to leave him alone to his own ways- moving at his own pace, direction and systematic growth: this thing no be competition/If you get your wave masa go catch fish with it’, he raps.

It’s on the deep cut, a potential anthem that he declares his true intentions. ‘Pop Mandem’ carries an infectious vibe thanks to its catchy hook. It reveals a self-conscious Bryan who knows his worth: ‘I’ll always stay true…you can’t mix me with the fake dudes’. Putting veteran artiste/producer Jayso is clever. Jayso is one of the few artistes who has stayed on the periphery of fame albeit his enormous contribution to today’s rap scene. Whilst Bryan talks about steering his course, Jayso is a believer in building a compelling catalog and not live for the moment: ‘lately rappers acting phoney here… dropping all these radio singles but they last just for a year’. ‘Pop Mandem’ is Bryan’s own version of ‘Light Up’, where he plays Drake and Jayso takes the role of Hov.

‘Fake it till you make it’ is an unwritten rule in showbiz. Bryan The Mensah isn’t sold on it. He believes in himself and his own greatness as his comments below indicate:

I was inspired to make friends With The Sun by some life experiences of mine. They helped shape my perspective of life now and I really wanted to share them. The purpose of the EP was for me to have an opportunity to fuse all creative concepts with real life situations. I really wanted to introduce people to a more unique, personalized and innovative approach to music and creative art in general. I want this EP to inspire anyone who comes across it in anyway possible to be able to find growth from whatever their current predicaments may be.

Being talented isn’t enough to succeed. Being aware of who you are, knowing the obstacles on you path and embracing them is equally crucial in surviving. Bryan The Mensah is aware of this hence his friendship with the Sun (a metaphor for life’s obstacles). ‘Don’t listen to the ones wey dem no dey agree/(Don’t) listen to the ones dem no dey see/ They just want a life/We just wanna fly/ They just under pressure cos they don’t believe’. A profound reminder.

Concert Review: ‘PhreakOutLive’ Concert hosted by BeatPhreaks

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Having to make a decision on whether to go home or attend an event you have looked forward to is always a tough choice. That was me last Friday. Throughout the day, I was caught in a quandary: go home and get some rest considering the busy week I’ve had or be at Alliance Francaise, Accra to experience what the much talked about PhreakOutLive was all about.

At 6:30 pm, I was contemplating which of the options to take. Going home would mean missing out on whatever fun the night would be serving. It would mean waiting for another year to experience the wave. Attending the event also meant staying out late, the struggle with getting a car back home. I came to a decision after an hour: I was going for PhreakOutLive.

8:35 pm was when I got to the venue. The Musical Lunatics were prepping, playing some mellow jams to the small crowd present. Even when Official Kwame, the MC on the night introduced the first act of the night, the amphitheater of Alliance Francaise wasn’t fully packed. People were still filing in. Poet/Spoken word artiste, Hondred Percent opened the night. By the end of his performance, the benches were largely filled.

A sea of performances followed and the artistes on the bill dished an exciting, riveting and memorable show. Nigerian act, Big Ben performed ‘Do My Own’ (a song he did with rapper M.anifest which introduced him to a section of Ghanaians). ‘Do My Own’, according to Big Ben is a response to his dad’s displeasure at his career path.

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Eli Muzik showed maturity on stage. Photo by @rockradiogh

Ria Boss, who performed three songs including ‘Everything’, ‘Love Yourself, and ‘Flame On’ (fan favourite) proved again why she is a big deal. Afro/Neo Soul singer, Eli Muzik delivered one of the best sets of the night. His growth and maturity as an artiste and a performer were on display. His vocal control and his ability to direct his band affirmed this observation.

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Ria Boss Photo credit @kuu_ire

By the time producer Kuvie took over for his set, the crowd was already hyped for whatever was to come. Each one of the previous performances had upped the excitement a bit higher. Bringing out fellow Villainaires (artistes/collaborators of Villain Sounds), Kuvie’s set was an energy spreading episode. New comers OneRJZ, $pacely, Nxwth, KiddBlack and Darkovibes were irrepressible. With their trap-influenced tracks, they got the crowd roaring. The euphoria had hit a crescendo by the time Darkovibes performed his hit song ‘Tomorrow’. One guy close to me (I was near the stage) was belting out the lyrics like he helped Darkovibes write the song.

One observation made during their performances was the degree of unity existing between these young artistes. They provide a clutch for one another. And they extended same love to new sensation Kwesi Arthur. Songs like ‘Ade Akye’, ‘Prekese’ (his version Future’s ‘Mask Off’) and ‘Grind Day’ have become anthems. Seeing the GroundUpChale act on stage singing/rapping those songs made it extra amazing.

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Kwesi Arthur brought some heat on stage. Photo by @Kuu_ire

If there’s an artiste that impressed so much on the night, it was Yung Pabi. Even though I’d seen his performance once (during a Yoyotinz Open Mic session last year), his set on Friday was a standout. His entry, the choreography and the dramatization of his song were enough proof that he came to make an impression on the audience. And he aced it.

For many fans, A.I was the man they came to see. And he didn’t fail to give fans what they needed. Covering most of the songs-both full singles and hooks for others- from his recent catalog such as the classic ‘Grind’, ‘Paper’, ‘Burn Fat’ and hooks done for others, the 2Ligit artist proved he’s indeed a formidable talent. His voice is as perfect as the one heard on wax. His rapport with the fans who stood inches away from the stage was admirable as well. The call for an encore wasn’t fully honoured because of time.

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Villy knows how to thrill. Photo by @Kuu_ire

When the incredible Villy (of Xtreme Volumes) came on, the crowd had left or were leaving, which was very sad. But, that didn’t diminish his performance. As he told the crowd who stayed, he doesn’t ‘care if you’re 10 people or 100 people. I’m performing for you’. Villy is a master act. He exudes energy and knows how to rock a stage. He can hit notes without struggle. The crowd was indulgent, singing along to some of his very popular songs such as the political charged ‘Wia My Money’. For over 20 minutes, he was dishing out great vibes with a touch of class.

Two things are worth criticizing. First, the sound was poor to an extent. There were periods where one the sound from the band overpowered the singing of the artistes. Ria Boss suffered that. Same happened during Kuvie’s set. Also, the list of performers could have been structured well. Villy should have performed before A.I since it appeared many came to see him.

The Musical Lunatics were exceptional on the night. The band confirmed their status as one of the best, if not the best band around. There were moments I found myself looking around, wondering if some of the artistes were performing to a dubbed instrumentation CD. But, it was all the handiwork of the Musical Lunatics. Nii Quaye and his boys are untouchable. Ayorkor impressed with both her performance and backing duties.

As Official Kwame put it, the essence of PhreakOutLive is to provide a platform for young artistes on the come up to showcase their talents to the new music fans. The artistes featured lived up to the ethos of the event. They recognized the opportunity given them and they equally gave out their best on the night. For this, and DJ KEYZUZ deserve encouragement and support to keep this event going for many years

 

THE CUTS: EP 02 Vol. 8

THE CUTS is your weekly round-up of songs and videos that has caught our attention and think you must hear or see. The music featured aren’t genre specific. THE CUTS is delivered every FRIDAY.                                                                            ——————————————————–

M.anifest feat Mi Casa – Be My Woman
M.anifest seems to be strengthening ties with South Africa as a country and her artistes in recent times. And the reason isn’t far-fetched (it’s all about economics).  With the rise in brand comes the need to enter new markets and no music market in Africa comes bigger than South Africa –if we are talking about the existence of a formidable music industry.  From shooting videos in South Africa to featuring her artistes like HHP (on Jigga) and ProVerbs, M.Dot recently featured South African vocalist Nomisupasta on ‘’Cupid’s Crooked Bow’’ off his “No Where Cool” LP. 

On his new single ‘Be My Woman’, M.anifest drafts the three-man music collective Mi Casa. In this video, viewers are given a snapshot into the daily life of Humeleng SOLAR Modise (the crush he wants as his woman) from when she wakes up in the morning through to her yoga session to when she takes her bath to when she picks her clothes and steps out.  In the end, we see she’s indeed his. The song carries an unmistakable house music vibe (those superlative guitar chimes). One major classic song kept ringing in my ears listening to “Be My Woman”: Paul Simon’s ‘Diamonds On The Sole of Her Shoes’. Drafting Mi Casa on this song is indeed a smart move. They indeed spread that soulful magic over it. 

Reynolds TheGentleman– Ole

Need to say this: the video for “Ole” emit a stronger sense of loss that matches those heard on the audio. There are moments in the video where you feel such strong sense of sadness for Reynolds, and wish you could call Adomaa to forgo everything and take him back. The sadness in his voice isn’t as painful as the emotions across his face when singing those burning lyrics. The greyish tone of the entire video, the almost empty room, the painful strumming of the guitar chords and those crushing waves towards the end of the video as captured by the video director Ben Bold, sum up the feeling of hurt engulfing Reynolds, who interestingly remained a gentleman despite the chaos within.

Fuse ODG – No Daylight

‘No Daylight’ is a summer hit without a doubt. From its fast paced rhythms to its afro dance vibe, this Killbeatz produced, Fuse ODG song has everything to love about it. ‘No Daylight’ is a song that fit every occasion: gym sessions, raves, carnival. Its afro dance vibe (popularly called kolomashie in Ghana) hands it a joyous and vibrant outlook as expressed in the video- the well-choreographed dance moves by dancers of various creed and ages. I must admit that, I’ve never heard many afro dance tunes with so many lyrics like ‘No Daylight’. It’s becoming apparent that Fuse ODG’s list of big records as seen with “Azonto” and ‘Antenna” and “Million Pound Girl” (Badder Than Bad) is growing. “No Daylight” is definitely making that list. It could even surpass them in terms of global reach. 

B4Bonah feat King Promise – Girl

Don’t let your wave die!! That’s exactly the life B4Bonah is living, musically. Having caught attention with his hit single “Dear God”, which has since received two official remixes, dropping another banger is the smartest thing to do. “Girl” seems to be another song destined to propel him further. What’s highly impressive about the video is the choice of location for the video- The Tema Harbour. Apart from Kojo Antwi who shot a video at the docks for “Bra”, not many artistes/directors have done it. For choosing such a spot, David Nichol-Sey and his scouts deserve thumbs up. Don’t be surprised to see other artistes/video directors creating something at the docks soon. B4bonah is among a legion of new artistes pushing the envelope with their music. Putting another promising (pun) act, King Promise on ‘Girl’ wasn’t a mistak-King Promise is receiving tones of love lately. If there’s something I love about King Promise more than his singing, it’s his dance moves. Goodness!! 

    

Interview: Eff The DJ displays complexity in simplicity

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All photos via EffTheDJ’s IG

If you’ve ever been to any of the weekend raves that the city offers, you’d probably have danced to the playlist of one of the best DJs in the city. For years,  has built his reputation as not only a music head but a DJ with impeccable music policy that spans across the genres of hip hop, hiplife, afrobeats, pop and all that is in between.

A few weeks ago, the love extended to him on social media when he celebrated his birthday was enough attestation to his value as a person and a DJ. The Ashesi University graduate who happens to be the resident DJ for Serallio and nKENTEn’s ‘DecafLive’ podcast events describe himself in the following words: The chill, calm, DJ everyone knows’.

Djing wasn’t Eff The DJ’s first love, although he has been a music fan since childhood. He started out as a dancer: ‘I started as a dancer, all through junior and high school. This obviously contributed to my ear for music’. His attraction to the art of DJing happened after witnessing DJ K3V (his now #IFKR collaborator) and Kobby Ankomah-Graham playing at different events respectfully.

Days after celebrating his birthday, I got him answering a few questions about music and the DJ business in Ghana. In this interview, Eff shares his first DJing experience, tips on how to grow, Kendrick Lamar, how reading the crowd is a quality of a good dj and why he’d play a hype man for DJ Keyzuz in a DJ tag team battle.


For those who don’t know you. Tell us a bit about yourself

The chill, calm, DJ everyone knows (haters will disagree). I go by EffTheDJ, but my actual name is Franklin Digber. Love art, love music.

How long have you been DJing and what attracted you to choose this art form?

I’ve been doing this for about 4 years. I’ve been into music since childhood. I remember going over to my cousin’s place when I was young and taking their Michael Jackson CDs home to listen and dance along to the songs. So initially, I started as a dancer, all through junior and high school. This obviously contributed to my ear for music. We had the virtual DJ software on our computer at home but I never really used it. Fast forward to (Ashesi) University, we have a year group party and DJ K3V kills it. So I link up with him later and we started our small classes. My mind was made when we had another event at school and I heard Kobby Graham play for the first time. I said to myself, “this fire, I will play some”. And I never looked back.

The journey has been worthwhile I can see. With four years experience, do you remember the first time you DJ’d and how was your first experience like?

 (Long laugh). Very vividly. Yeah, it was another campus party. At this one, they shared “Poki” (you know the old ice cream thing, right?) I was so nervous. I’d say I hadn’t really learnt to read crowds yet so I came with a completely different vibe. You know how these things go, there’s a section of the crowd which usually is a wild minority waiting for a different vibe so I was feeling myself and all, then suddenly someone threw poki at me in protest . I’m still searching for the Person. Stress chale (laughs).

That obviously threw you off

It did. I was ready to pack up but Baylor and K3V encouraged me to stay, because these things happen.

Talking about reading crowd, how important is that awareness to a DJ?

Very, very important. Reading the crowd accurately makes your job up to like 40% easier. The rest is keeping your reading up, challenging yourself, and giving an experience — and depending on the crowd, challenge their ears.

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What exactly does a DJ look out for when reading a crowd?

(Hesitates), various things. I don’t think it can be standardly defined. For me, I look out for the ambience of the event, the personae of guests, what a day in their life is like, what they probably listen to, what they want to hear, what you feel they haven’t heard in a while, and what you think will make them go nuts if they hear for the first time.

How would you describe the Ghanaian audience? Are they hard to please or easy to win?

Ever since I started playing, I’ve been exposed to various audiences, so it’s hard to call this. But, I’ll say there are different audiences. Some are easy, some are hard. It really depends on where you find yourself flourishing.

For indoor I try to set a mood. For outdoor, I try get people to vibe. Someone passing by should be able to chill and nod along, even if they don’t care about what’s going on.

The first time I saw you was at The Republic Bar some years back. Your playlist was what gripped me. How do you curate a playlist for the events you DJ? Say an outdoor event and a private or indoor one?

Oh thanks. Truth is I hardly curate playlists for specific events. When I do, I note the kind of music I think will work for them and try it. If it’s working, I continue, if not, I wing it. And whether indoor or outdoor, it depends on the kind of people present. But usually for indoor I try to set a mood. For outdoor, I try get people to vibe. Someone passing by should be able to chill and nod along, even if they don’t care about what’s going on.

What has been the best event you’ve DJ’d thus far?

Best event. I’d say back in 2015. I think, one FXP Takeover night at Republic (probably the session that birthed #IFKR). If you’ve ever been there on a very wild concert night, imagine the same energy for a regular Friday night. We really made the waiters’ job difficult that night, and that was the first time I moved a crowd with hand gestures, and no mic. Never felt more powerful.

Let’s talk about #IFKR. You guys dropped two songs earlier. What’s going on?

Yeah, we hit a couple of bumps on the way but we’re on track now. The EP is on the way. We’re just wrapping up now. It won’t be too long.

 How much music do you have (bytes wise)

162 giga bytes

That’s some huge library. It’s understandable

(Laughs) it’s a personal thing. It’s hard to delete music

As a DJ what are some of the challenges you encounter in your trade?

As a DJ in Ghana, you are literally the party, but you can still somehow get taken for granted. You’re not well taken care of or you’re underpaid.

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With your experience as a party DJ and having been a radio dj, is there any difference? If yes, in which areas?

Playing for radio is a more controlled environment. There’s so much liberty in being a radio DJ. Also a wider opportunity to introduce the audience to new music, and also an opportunity for the DJ to build a fan base. Depending on the kind of party, you’re either playing what the guests came to hear, or what you feel like. As I said earlier, the audiences vary.

DJs are seen as the guys who can make or unmake an artistes. How valid is this observation?

Yeah, I kind of agree. Traditionally, music comes out, and DJs keep it on rotation for people to get used to, and then that makes the artist. But more recently, due to various channels of information flow, artists have been able to make themselves. There’re various ways but the seemingly more efficient ways are using the internet, and by using the street route. If people like your stuff on the internet, they’ll want it played and it might not have to do with the DJ at all. Same for music that’s hot in the streets.

That’s a very solid point. I also share the same view. How do you prep for an event?

I try to get a practice set in at least a day before, speak to any DJ I know who’s done a similar event for tips. And a lot of thinking

Aside K3V, which other DJs excite or challenge you to be better both in Ghana and outside?

In Ghana, easily Kobby Graham, Keyzuz and DJ Putin. Kobby’s crates are just wild, Keyzuz’ technique is impeccable, and Putin’s crowd control is unreal. Outside, Diplo (and Major Lazer) is/are my guy(s). DJ’ing and productions blend so many sounds and cultures together. It’s just beautiful. Not forgetting DJ Black. I listened to the ‘’Open House Party’’ while growing up and his consistency and keeping up with the times over the years has been amazing.

What does the future hold for you as a DJ?

I dey streets chale (I’m still grinding), I don’t plan on looking back anytime soon

Why should an event organizer choose Eff The DJ over any others?

I try to channel an experience through the music as much as possible. You know, umm, displaying as much complexity in simplicity.

What does music mean to you both as Eff The DJ and Franklin?

A tough question. Music is a form of self-expression. It means so much, ‘cos there’s a million things you pick up. And as a DJ, it’s a million things you express yourself with through the music, which connects with your audience and that influence their self-expression. It’s a million connections of emotions.

What advice would you give your son should he aspire to be a DJ?

Practice every day, Keep an open mind, Experiment more, Embrace Ls (losses), Mind your brand, Focus. Eat before your gigs. Drink water. Most important of all, have fun while you do it.

You’re one of the three stans of Kendrick Lamar I know. Can you share what exactly you like about him?

Ayy, who are the other 2?

@7Giocondo and @vinkyenkyehene

(Laughs) there’s @Kobby_Skywalker and @DaniellePrime_ also. But yeah, Kendrick’s writing, storytelling, feature and LP execution is just so great. You’d think it’s a different artist sometimes. Also love how well he stays out of the news. You usually only hear news about how well he’s doing with his craft, and has been able to achieve so much. Close to everything is thought through, through and through.

You listed some of your favorite DJs earlier on. If you should draft one to partner you in a DJ battle, who will it be? Reasons

Easily, my auntie. Keyzuz will play and I’ll be her hype man

Lastly, what don’t you like about GH artistes and the music out there? Last words

Your last question is a bit hard to answer. Apart from some artists making the same songs over and over (which happens everywhere else), there’s not much I don’t like about GH artistes. I like that the new crop are creating their own lanes, and aren’t necessarily playing by the traditional rules. And I love the new wave music out there. Can’t wait to peep the scene in the next like 4 years.

 

I Told You So: Curating a Piece of Ghanaian Storytelling through Artistic Experimentation

On Sunday, August 6th, a predominantly young audience sat ready to be taken in by Abdul Karim Hakib’s stage adaptation of Bob Cole’s classic film, I Told You So. Those familiar with his work know that Abdul Karim usually uses artistic experimentation to re-familiarize his audience with the ordinariness of humanness that we seem to run from, especially the not-so-beautiful parts. I witnessed this when he staged Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, (twice in two years) at University of Ghana’s Efua Sutherland Drama Studio – he held the emotions of the audience at ransom, conducting it however he pleased. 
Clad in their Kente the Hi-Life/Afrocentric band, Palm Wine, regaled the audience before the play began. Their melodies, like a good shepherd, guided the audience throughout the play. In this way a sort of unconscious tribute was paid to the chorus of Ancient Greek Tragedies. Yet, the play is not necessarily a Tragedy. It is probably closer to a Tragi-comedy than anything else.

Palm Wine’s contribution to the actual play as far as addressing events in it, was limited to musical fables. Songs that hang on folk music traditions; songs like “Ɛdwen Dɛ Ɛreyɛ Me” and those of Akan Nwomkrɔ traditions such as “Takoradi Police”. The few oldies among the audience could do nothing to wipe the nostalgic grins from off their faces. 

Artistic experimentation, especially of the kind that Abdul Karim is known for, always wraps itself in a cloth of uncertainty. Many plays have been adapted for stage long before Abdul Karim, and some like August Wilson’s play, Fences, have been successfully made into stunning films. The challenges of adapting a film, especially a classic like I Told You So, are many. During one of the embryonic scenes, a relatively substantial number of characters flood the stage. They collectively play the role of customers at a restaurant. While it would have been easier for a smaller number to play this role, more numbers provided cover for those among them who stylistically doubled as stage hands. 

In the same scene, these characters become involved in very articulate and deliberate dancing. The dramatic experience was here enhanced by the very fact that the dancers were many as opposed to few. By the simple tactic of inflating cast size, Abdul Karim conveniently tackled what would otherwise have been a loophole of stage adaptation – transition of scenes. So instead of the audience being bothered about characters they were expecting to act setting up a scene, their attention was fully arrested by this time-saving strategy. And once their attention had been surrendered, they were thoroughly amazed by the theatrical display that occurred.

In keeping with bringing to the fore the ordinariness of the human condition, the set of the play was bereft of any flamboyance. The use of the simple and plain reflected the penury of the majority of the characters, both in economic and psychological terms (Mr. Jones is a wealthy man and yet no time is wasted in redecorating the set to convey his wealth during those scenes that are clearly in his house). It also emphasized the pervasiveness of human ordinariness when all else is stripped away. 

The play, in a subtle way, presents a reimagining of Henrik Ibsen’s modern realism ideas in a retro-Ghanaian setting. Like Ibsen, the characters in Abdul Karim’s adapted play are influenced by their environment and what society expects of them. Rosina considers herself worthy of a rich man, marriage with whom would up her social status and reputation in the eyes of her peers and the community at large. It is for this reason she aligns herself with her uncle, Esuoabroboɔ and her mother, Araba Stamp, to prepare for her marriage to Mr. Jones.

Again, in typical Ibsen realist fashion, the characters are psychologically motivated and their actions expose their socio-economic standing. Esuoabroboɔ and Araba Stamp see Rosina’s marriage to Mr. Jones as a way out of their poverty. They stop at nothing to ensure that the marriage goes through. In several instances the patriarchal set up of the times is alluded to. In a scene where Araba Stamp expresses her contradiction of Esuoabroboɔ’s opinion, the latter tells her, as more of a reminder, that women have brains but are not known for their thinking. This psychological disposition dictates how the women in the play are expected to behave. The cultural trait of matrilineal inheritance among the Akans, provides a kind of psychological boldness to Esuoabroboɔ. He is thus motivated to supersede his brother-in-law’s decision to not give his daughter Rosina’s hand in marriage to a rich man.

Regarding plot, there were causally related scenes, just like in Henrik Ibsen’s plays of Modern Realism. When the play began, those present seemed to be the typical non-responsive Ghanaian audience. In their defence, everything seemed rather hazy in the beginning as the audience was unsure whether this was a Ghanaian musical or something else entirely. As the play progressed however, everything made sense (Is that not how stories usually go?). 

The songs the characters sang at the beginning were the same musical fables that guided the audience throughout the play. Scene after scene, the play kept getting better. The humor grew and the auditorium’s ricocheting laughter with it. Much like Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, the play floated on a steady crescendo until at the end there was an undeniable wave of immense satisfaction at what had transpired.

Perhaps the most ingenious element of Abdul Karim’s experimentation with Bob Cole’s I Told You So, was the way he employed anachronism. Throughout the play, Mr. Jones magnanimously doled out cash to anyone who would take it. While this may have served to provide a hint at the ill-gotten source of his wealth, it appeared to hold a more profound role. Mr. Jones was giving out modern Ghana Cedi. It could be that attempts at finding money from that era proved futile. But the brilliance of going ahead to use current Cedi notes is this: by so-doing Abdul Karim conveyed the idea that just like in those days, the psychological structure of our humanness has not changed. We are still motivated by money and many, especially the poor, are still too afraid to speak up for the things they believe in and would rather leave it to fate. These flaws define the ordinariness of our humanness. They are pervasive in our lives today as they were in the days of Esuoabroboɔ and Araba Stamp.

The play adaptation of I Told You So, was a well-executed endeavour.  The themes and lessons portrayed are relevant for our time and will likely remain so for posterity. The boldness of the entire enterprise cannot be overstated and neither can the praiseworthiness of the performance. 

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Akyempo is a poet and writer whose poems and essays have been published by Brittle Paper, African Writer, Kpodola, Three Sixty Ghana and Circumspecte. His poems have also been anthologized by Afridiaspora. He is the 2016 winner of the Three Sixty Writers’ Challenge. His latest works are available on his personal literary website – greymural.com. He can be found on both Twitter & Instagram via the handle: @Akyempo