NEL MAGNUM (Roger Ebo Quansah) aka Roger That is a young music producer who has not hidden his desire to venture into scoring music for movies. The walk towards his dream became a reality when he scored for the highly anticipated Pascal Aka directed blockbuster movie Interception which hit theatres a fortnight ago.
Having disclosed his intentions to me in an earlier interview (read here), I got him to talk about realizing a dream, his move from Mixdown Studios and the music scene in Ghana.
Have a read.
Talent is a necessity to bearing a legacy for oneself.
The last time we talked was in 2014. It was days before the release of your sophomore beat tape ‘Heat Wave. How’s life a year after?
Thank you so much for this opportunity Swaye. I appreciate it.
First off, life has been good, very interesting and fairly rewarding Swaye. There have been the ups and downs, but the growth curve is quite a steep uphill climb. Opportunities have come and gone. Some proved worthy, others bore no fruits at all, but in all, the experiences have been priceless.
My creative journey has been wonderful and exciting. But most importantly, music has taught me so much, and it has made me become more appreciative of life. I’ve also had the chance to meet and work with some remarkably talented individuals this past year. A few readied projects will kick-start some of my new productions into rotation. Just wait.
And to top it all off, I am an uncle. This very fact revealed a lot of interesting things about myself. It has been an excellent year full of exciting events.
You moved from Mixdown to Villian Sounds few months ago. What necessitated that move?
I watched a nature documentary some years ago on YouTube. It was about two young lions who were driven out of their prides to start on their own. As they went, they became oblivious about what to do next. With their source of security, food and shelter now their sole responsibility, and without much experience on their own, life became so tough to the point they had to kill another lioness’ cub for food. Quite gruesome and cannibalizing, I know.
But in the end, these two lions became originators of their own prides. Experience taught them how to handle the hardship. Now in the video, the commentator mentioned something that got me thinking. He said that “at a point in time in a young lion’s life, he’ll be driven out to start his own pride no matter what.” Then I thought to myself, at a point in time I’ll need to start my own thing and I’ll have to make a decision. But making the decision to take a step into the world was very challenging since a lot of things I knew I associated with Mixdown Studios.
At a point in time in a young lion’s life, he’ll be driven out to start his own pride no matter what.
When the deciding factor finally dawned on me, I realized my dreams will require some freedom and a leap of faith to attain them. And trust me these dreams are panning out incredibly well. I just dey smile.
In our last interview you spoke highly about the legendary Hans Florian Zimmer and art of movie scoring. Now, you have scored for Pascal Aka’s blockbuster movie ‘Interception’. How does that make you feel?
I feel nothing is impossible. I feel every single thing that a person dreams of and sets his mind on, he’ll bear witness to in his life.
On the day of the premiere, I was a little nervous as to whether the sound will be how I imagined it in the big cinema. And quite frankly I was blown away. The audiences’ reaction (with their claps and cheers) was enough for me to nod my head in appreciation of the hard work and dedication that has gone into this project. I heard comments that made my heart swell with pride. It feels extremely good to be this fortunate when all I had was a dream.
This floods my mind with memories of when I began as a young beatmaker, friends- Newman, Jerry and Jalil Sigli advised that I take a step specifically into composing music for movies. And quite frankly I did not take this advice lightly. Now here I am, being the music composer for one of the biggest movies to come out of Africa. I feel accomplished. Yet in the mortal words of director Pascal Aka, he said “let us not be too cocky now, for the best is yet to come.” I feel very grateful.
As a music producer who is now venturing into movie scoring, share with me the whole transition process?
The transition isn’t that easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to really understand being a music composer. I am still learning. From a music producer’s point of view, composing music for movies is a different ball game. The creative process is a little different from composing regular music. This time, you’re not just creating a beat. You know the conventional intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus architecture of making a beat rarely works with music for movies.
In my little experience, I can say that you need to also understand the moods and emotions which the movie is taking. You need to really understand the instrumentation and how to convey what is being shown on the screen with music. And this requires some patience and understanding.
One reason Hollywood and Bollywood has great movies is because these industries invest a lot in the music, and the sound in general. When you watch behind the scenes scoring and recording of music for notable movies like Man Of Steel, you’ll understand the work that goes into composing music for movies. It’s crazy work.
How did the scoring for ‘Interception’ happen? Were you head hunted for it and how long did it take to get it right?
Pascal Aka is a genius, hands down! He knows exactly what he wants. After working with him on Double Cross, a movie which features an elite cast of Ghanaian actors, he contacted me for Interception.
Now composing for Interception was a new playing field for me. All the parameters felt alien. A Ghanaian action movie with high octane fight sequences, this is war!
Firstly I needed to identify which soundscape will express the movie well enough. Pascal helped immensely by supervising which sounds to use and improve. It took a considerable amount of time to get the sound the director, the producers and I wanted. In all it was an interesting experience, and I can’t wait for the next scoring job.
What would you consider as the biggest challenge(s) in movie s scoring?
The biggest challenge I’ll say is understanding what exactly the director wants, and the direction he or she is taking the movie. You literally have to take the director’s place and ask some questions based on how the music relates to the movie.
The biggest challenge I’ll say is understanding what exactly the director wants, and the direction he or she is taking the movie.
In my young experience as a movie composer, I believe honesty and an impeccable attention to detail are key elements in scoring movies. In the process, I check myself on how I feel about this scene and its musical accompaniment?” If I don’t feel great about it, I scrap the project and start again. A tedious process sometimes.
You are rich now right?
Very rich Swaye. (laughs). I’m very rich in knowledge and experience and eventually, there will be a synthesis of this knowledge and experience into cash, then I’ll be wealthy. Maybe afterwards breakfast won’t always be Gari soakings. (laughs)
This move would obviously impact on the career in a way. How prepared are you should the big break happen?
I’ll make a correction to your question. The break has already happened. It occurred when I met with Pascal Aka for the first time. He was the most interesting person I met that day. I played him a few sounds, and now here we are.
About preparations, I’ll say this is an ongoing process. Everyday I prepare myself mentally, and musically. I have taken steps to further improve my music creating skills. Because on the day the ‘big break’ will present itself, you must have your bags ready packed to go with it. No turning back. No faltering. The Regal team is going for the full course.
In my last interview with you, you were very critical of the music industry. Has your opinion changed?
Ghanaian music is gradually becoming recognized by the world. This in some sense settles my heart in a calm place, and it means that Ghanaian musicians are becoming adept with the fact that talent is a necessity to bearing a legacy for oneself.
But some other people confuse themselves with the notion that talent doesn’t sell, yet they praise and listen to THE very talented Adele, and then make comparisons with her and some musicians in Ghana.
‘’Talent is a necessity to bearing a legacy for oneself’’
I solemnly swear that education, dedication and direction is lacking amongst our musicians. They abandon their genuine and original talents and hop onto what is hot. The next dancehall hit will render a lot of Ghanaian musicians to become Shatta Wale’s protogés. Even rappers want to be dancehall musicians.
It is also sad how our musicians find being original a curse. I believe they’re lazy and find it difficult to build their God given talents.
But yes, I believe my opinions will change some day, because the new musicians coming up want a change so badly. Being a music producer, I have met with some young and very insightful individuals who actually have a plan to shape the music industry in Ghana. And it’ll happen, because that is what I, Ebo Quansah, aka NeL Magnum believe in.
How do you envisage yourself as an aspiring movie scorer in the 5 years?
“The future is for discovering.” Beautiful words from Coldplay on their album X & Y. So let’s see where this lands us. Maybe God, or destiny, or fate, or the Universe or Karma has it that I work with Mr. Hans Florian Zimmer someday. We’ll never know.
NEL Magnum has produced music for big name artistes such as EL, C-Real, J-Town, Gemini and upcoming acts like Red Mic, TH’ FRVNCHMVN and Qaybah.
Follow him @nel_magnum and on facebook Ebo Roger.