Interview: Music Producer And Film Maker Edem Dotse talks the making of Waves and other projects

edem

Edem Dotse (R) with Sutra strategizing

There are some people you meet on many occasions yet do not quiet put a thumb on who they are or what they do, although you know many within the circle of friends they keep. Their personality becomes a curious case to unravel. When that unraveling is to happen remains a question you can’t really tell. Then, it happens. You stumble on a piece of information that sheds a layer of your curiosity. Your idea of who the person is becomes a little clearer. The full picture, however, comes into view when his name pops up along a piece of creativity. Although they curiosity bubble is burst by now, you still are not satisfied. You need to know more about the person. So, like Kendrick Lamar said on To Pimp A Butterfly: ‘You go looking for answers’.

Edem Dotse is one person who was a curious case to me, even though we’ve met a few times. Our conversations never went past the usual ‘how be?’ and its accompanying handshakes and finger snaps. I surmised he was a creative of some sort –you can’t hang with the Decaf Team if you aren’t a creative of some sort (just saying). Edem is a man of many hats-a music producer and a film maker.

A product of Ashesi University, Edem Dotse was a co-director on the recently released narrative film, Waves/The Water, by singer SUTRA. The brilliantly made film has been critically acclaimed for its beauty, aesthetics and ability to capture the essence of life, growth and womanhood in a way that leaves whoever sees it in awe. ‘Waves/The Water’ has been described in many ways- ranging from ethereal, raw, timeless, essential and passionate.

Seeing his name in the credits for ‘Waves/The Water’ along with the heap of praise SUTRA dispensed on him and others involved, I decided it was time to talk to this quiet, laid back yet amazing Edem Dotse about his involvement in the making of the film; the challenges encountered; his passion for film making, which he describes as ‘a fascinated medium’; his passion for music production, his future plans and how the arts in Ghana could be grown.

First, thanks for doing this. How did you get involved in the whole process?

My pleasure. So basically Sutra reached out to me about wanting to make a video for Waves. We’d worked together before on her mixtape (The Art of Being) and she knew I was also into film, so it made sense. She had very specific imagery based on what came to her mind when she heard/made the song, and so that was the basis of it. From there we started trading emails and discussing her ideas, and that was the genesis of it.

edeem

Edem (in blue) with Ghalileo and Efua Sutherland on set of ‘Waves’

How long did this idea trading take? And on her previous mixtape, what did you do specifically?

I produced four songs on it. I was primarily producing music before I ventured into film. We started speaking about it in late November, and it was for a little over a month before the actual shoot in early January.

Watching the video, i realized there were a lot of themes drawn from Akan culture-death, symbols, clothes, after-life. How challenging was it to shoot the video and fill it with all the themes?

Man, it was stressful! Sutra was not in town for very long and we basically had about a week to meet with people, put logistics together and rehearse. As you mentioned, the video is full of imagery and we had one day to shoot all of that. It helped a lot that we were working with immensely talented people who had faith in what we were trying to do. About the themes, Akan culture has a lot of depth to it, we tried to draw from the philosophy and poetry of it that tied into Sutra’s vision. Well, we ended up having to shoot some extra scenes later, but I’d say 80 per cent of it was done in one day.

One day to shoot? Wow. You all deserve applauds. I know you as a music guy (a producer) so hearing about you doing films is a surprise. How long have you been in films? And what attracted you?

Ha! Well I’ve been actively studying the craft of film since 2012. But I didn’t start seriously making film until 2015. I’ve always been fascinated by the medium. At some point I began to realize most of my memorable experiences with art have been with film. As a somewhat reserved person, I’m fascinated by how you can open your mind up to the world through it- you can speak through your characters and the worlds you create. I’m also fascinated by the potential to create challenging, non-conventional pieces of work that are full of powerful, relevant ideas that people may or may not pick up on but have a visceral reaction to it. That’s what excited me about working with Sutra on this project.

Is Waves your major work (that has gone public for lack of a better description) or you have others?

I would say yes, it is. Besides that there’s my 2015 short film, Steam Iron on vimeo. I’ve also worked on a short film on schizophrenia that will probably be out later this year.

As a music producer and a film maker, what are the intersections and the point of divergence between these two mediums?

That’s an interesting question (the link between music & film). I think that as a music person, I’m very concerned about the sound design in my work- something I’ve noticed is not common here- the sound of films often feels like an afterthought. I also think that the creating of music, and crafting a musical project is very much like making a film- on a conceptual level- you have to think of themes, motifs, what you want the audience to feel.

What’s the future for you in terms of your creative works-film and music?

In the immediate future, I’m going back to working on music for a bit. I don’t know if I see myself active in the music video scene going forward, but I am definitely open to collaborating on interesting projects with interesting people. I have plans for a few more short films and a feature that will hopefully unfold in a few years from now.

How will you describe, from where you sit, the film making (and music video) scene in Ghana and its music as well?

I feel very optimistic about the creative arts scene in Ghana generally, but I hope we will be able to build sustainable systems to help incubate and support the talent we have here. As for me, in the long term future, I just hope I can keep on making music, or film, or find interesting ways to combine the two.

On your answer to the intersection between music & film, do I sense you have an eye on scoring movies?

About scoring movies, I would say no for now. I’m more interested in helming my own film project, and being very much involved in the scoring process. It’s definitely something I can see myself doing though.

Singer SUTRA talks about her visual narrative film Waves/The Water

su

London based Ghanaian soul/jazz singer SUTRA, on Friday (10th March) released visuals for her songs Waves/The Water to critical commendation. Waves/The Water (#W) is a visual narrative or film that merges two songs off her 2016 mixtape The Art of Being (listen here).

Shot in Ghana, specifically Aburi Botanical Gardens, the aesthetically endowed film is laden with both cultural (death, dance) and spiritual (growth, womanhood, newness) references which reflect certain identity traits within the Ghanaian society especially as espoused in Akan culture.

Directed by SUTRA and Edem Dotse, the video, just like the songs carry a very solemn yet gaudy appeal; reflecting moments of feminine strength (the Earth has weight; as seen in the beginning of the video) and rebirth (reconciliation (with the past) preceding the video for ‘The Waters’).

Two days after the release of #W, SUTRA was on twitter to answer questions from fans about her narrative film. The questions bothered on the inspiration for the film, the symbolism reflected and the challenges she encountered working on the film.

Below are some of the questions and her responses to them. Since the responses were sometimes in short hand and in pieces (twitter and its 140 character rule), we have merged the responses together for easy read and also rewritten in full, some of the shorthand writings.

Thanks for this. The idea of telling two contrasting stories/narratives in one – it isn’t something that has been done before in my opinion. I felt the need to show everyone else what I saw in my head when I created Waves and The Water: different ends of a spectrum of pain. I couldn’t imagine telling the story of one song without contrasting it w/ the other.  There are references to a lot that is important to me: Ghanaian culture (adinkra/funeral dances/colour), water (healing, duality) + womanhood (so yeah!) Also, I wanted to create a living masterpiece that brought different forms of art/creation together. Music, film, photography, dance.

It was super exciting and scary to be vulnerable in new ways to what I was used to. Challenges were present but not many. I think this was because I had 3 conditions: i.e. to work with people I felt I could trust, who were passionate and unashamedly creative. Also, to add that this was why I knew I had to reach out to my friend David Dotse (@DavidEdem_). We’ve worked together before on music. We make a good team because of what we each bring to the table, and seem to have a similar drive and seriousness to what we do when we do it. There were logistical challenges but family and my friends came through. Main challenge was with self and again, choosing vulnerability.

To understand that, the question is ‘what do the flowers represent’? The child represents the cycle of womanhood. The same flower she sees being buried is one she will carry herself as a woman. The flowers mean whatever pain/struggle each of the women has faced. The loss of a child; loss of innocence; of freedom; of love and loss of sanity, even. It was important to me that attention was paid to the pains women carry, and also to the importance of reconciling by burying and moving on. Last thing: the idea of burial isn’t a new one. Burial and healing go in hand. I’ll tell you that this is why when a woman loses an unborn child for example, she’s encouraged to have a burial for it, to mourn and make peace for her spirit. Burial matters.

sutt

Ah, good thought. No, Waves and The Water are two separate stories with a common main character: me. Costume changes because song, mood and story do. First video (Waves) is dark. The Waters is light. Put together show the ends of a spectrum and their relation. Women wear white in to imply the sanctity of burial. I wanted to convey that idea of burial as also holy, necessary and healing.

I think that people do not talk enough about their stories. But our stories are valid and important, what heal and bring community and save. Pain is a major part of the reason people do not share their stories. By demonstrating that sharing heals, the power of pain is dismantled. This is literally chanted in waves “The agony no more has won.” I think the realisation that we can rise from our experiences is freeing. Our ancestors would gather round a fire to share stories, lessons. There was a power in that, not present at all now. I use creativity as a means to tell stories and encourage others to do the same. Storytellers can change the dynamic, if they don’t fear pain.

 The story of acknowledging pain and rising despite it, becoming enlightened by it. I want to leave you to interpret, but these will help. In Waves, a community/family of people invite you to listen to a story they are telling i.e. first group shot (which returns at end). The video then progresses to tell you the story of how one of their own was separated from them & taken on a journey (hence me walking). The family/tribe become the story in order to share it with you.We move from them narrating to becoming. Cue dance, visual triggers. But the central story is of one of them breaking away (“captured by the chains” i.e. pulled away by a force and finding herself becoming who she was created to be. Hence the showing of that symbol on her back at the end which was hidden before.

The symbols give a clue. The ladder on the men’s chests is what she wears around her neck. It translates to “ladder of death”. The symbol at the beginning translates to “the earth has weight” this is a saying that is wise, about the gravity of being rooted. The character is taken from where she does not truly belong and that is painful at first, but then finds meaning + identity. The characters at the end represent wise beings – supernatural, if you’d like. Pain taught the character wisdom. This is the summary.

by Swaye Kidd (@swayekidd) aka SwayeSutra

 

Crafted. The Man and The Brand.

Article culled from harmattanrain.com (@harmattanrain).

Original article By Adedayo Laketu


vi-music

Kwami Kafui (middle) with some members of Vision Inspired Music 

Kwami Kafui coined the term artivist. He identifies as an artivist and is recognized as one. When explained, an artivist is “an activist for art.”

His love for the arts was not a direct translation of talent neither was it as a result of some desire to pursue a career as an artist. He realized some time ago that he had a knack for recognizing and appreciating quality art, and helping those who have the gift to produce it.

From writing and directing plays for church to writing and directing songs for musicals, he realized how passionate he was when he saw a friend with immense talent not doing anything about it. “It bothered me,” he said. “Like it gave me sleepless nights. It was a headache for me. I realized I had a passion for the background in the arts, and just making things happen. I make things happen, by God’s grace. I can’t stand when talent that should be seen or heard hides under the rug.”

Kwami graduated from the University of Ghana with degrees in English and Theatre Arts. After his national service, he had a plan. A plan that turned into the Amped Show. This was a show designed by the youth and for the youth, concerning issues the youth would normally not be interested in. His passion for the arts could not allow him to leave out music or poetry, so the Amped Show made room for that. Artistes such as Adomaa, Tronomie and Robin-Huws of whom he had heard years before, were all on this show. Little did he know they would be the building blocks for the record label he heads now.

Vision Inspired Music is a record label in Ghana that has been operating for almost 2 years. It was Evans’ brainchild, built together with longtime friend, Joseph Akwasi, one of his closest friends and the first artiste the label produced –  Adomaa. Kwabena Owusu-Adjei, a business developer and close friend of the VI family came on officially as the fourth founder later on.

In his own words, the story behind the name Vision Inspired Music came about when…

“We were discussing as partners and stakeholders, and we were playing with the various ideas and words that fell under what we were trying to do. We are a company that believes in vision, and there’s so many things we see that we believe other people haven’t yet grasped, and won’t, until we show them. We are doing that gradually. So we were playing around a lot with words like Vision, Helm, etc. My partner Joseph Akwasi then came up with the brilliant idea to call it Vision Inspired Music, which would double as VIM! Because we are young people coming with full force, a lot energy and zeal, and so many different great ideas. We are full of VIM and we are coming with VIM! Will this change as we grow older? I doubt it. We will always be young at heart.”

The vison which inspired the label is simple.

“We want to give all forms of music the platform to thrive, especially those of the so-called alternative genres. There’s so much talent in Africa, but not many want to risk exploring their art if it isn’t mainstream, because of course, they have to eat. But if some of us can break through, can change paradigms, can be successful while staying true to the art that comes most comfortably to us, then we show others that it can be done, and that there is indeed room for all of us.”

“I’m not against popular music, I find that people think I am,” Kwami adds quickly, laughing. “Popular music here can be considered dancehall, Afro pop, Afro beats, azonto, etc… and there are artistes and songs I enjoy from these genres. They are not my favourite genres, but I like them. But what I’m looking for is some diversity. We don’t all sound the same, and we all don’t necessarily have the same tastes, so create an environment conducive enough for all forms to thrive, so we have alternatives.”

A big part of VI Music is providing an alternative to what is industry prevalent, and making this ‘alternative’ ascend to recognizable status, enough to be given the respect it deserves, and have the corresponding value attached to the alternative, so the people who create this can actually thrive off it. The label also wants to contribute to a healthier professionalism and general upsurge in quality in the music that’s put out there.

“There are so many levels to music making, and some of the most timeless songs (not all, there are a number that don’t follow this) didn’t just get written and recorded in an hour for example. The best artistes in the world didn’t get to their level by being slack professionals.” Kwami explains, “In as much as art is being made, and how it relies a lot on inspiration and feeling, some level of professionalism is required. It’s a full time job.”

To make sure the company is striving for better every day, VI Music focuses on songwriting and artist development as well. The dream is that they will be among that crop of African creatives pushing the envelope on professionalism in art, and taking quality level to the highest possible level.

“We dream of being a huge and highly regarded record label not only in Ghana but throughout the world. We dream of being approached by top Hollywood studios for music scores to film, soundtracks and sound design. We dream of having our artistes make impact the world over. We dream of the VI family being able to expand to different countries, taking on different talented artistes from there, especially in the alternative scene, and making them blossom. We dream of adding to the wave of the new sound from Africa – a confident, self-aware, unashamed sound. We want to be pioneers of this as well. We dream of our art becoming so influential that, we, as part of a larger collective of new thinking young African creatives, are consulted on policy issues regarding our industry and even further, on how we can use our influence to cause social, political and economic change. We believe the field of the arts has so much power to go beyond the box it’s been placed in. We aren’t MERE entertainers. We have the power to affect thoughts, impact events and change lives through art. It’s a dream to see our influence grow to that point.”

Coming together, collaborating and putting in combined efforts are key things Kwami believes in. He elaborated saying, “Too many outfits want to do things alone. I don’t believe in that. I believe in drawing from each others strengths to push a collective agenda, rather than trying to get the glory or credit individually. Synergy is everything.”

When asked how he felt about the New Age Music and the directions its sound can take, he answered saying,

“There are boundless opportunities for New Age Music.

Boundless!

There is so much creativity, so much more of a sense of daring and bravery, and a growing consciousness of self-awareness and claiming our identity, owning our stories, and quite simply doing our own thing… and it reflects in our music.

Odunsi is an amazing artist and producer doing amazing things, Lindsey Abudei amazes me every time I listen to her album, Paapa’s second project was ahead of its time, Worlasi’s mixtape should be enshrined in our music history… A.I. is on another level… just listening to what some of these guys are doing shows there’s really no limit to where we can go with our new sound and new found expression. I think we should continue to experiment and not be afraid to try new things.”

Conversations about music had no end when we spoke with Kwami. We asked him about the December’s VI Concert, the idea that sparked it, how they fought the odds bring such an event to life and the dream for the concert going forward. Kwami also shared his thoughts on how the label plans on curating a global stage for VI music acts to be seen. Here’s what he had to say.

“Music IS a universal language. In English, Twi, French and many languages there are borrowed words or expressions. They all form part of the language. It’s the same for music. I can still be African and make music that’s African, but take some elements from classical music or trap if the art calls out for it. We can experiment and expand the range of our sound while still being us. Diversity does not mean dilution.

We’ve had an eventful 2 years with regards to the VI Concert. The first year was for Adomaa. We learnt a lot, made associations, figured out how the industry really worked and how to place ourselves in it. The second year was for the other acts, because now we’d learnt something, and we wanted to showcase everyone else, and see the reactions.

Now that we’ve successfully out-doored those we CAN work with for the time being, and have continued to put out content from them, it’s time to properly give the people a full taste of their talents. As a package, the show gives everyone the chance to hear some of their favourite tunes from the year, as well as new material, live on set. They also get to enjoy the show with amazing guest features.

One major bonus for the timing, is that it’s Christmas season and as such, there’s a big festive element. We just want to give people , a very memorable experience and something to savor. The odds as always remain resource based. Finding money to do this. The amount of money we need for our stuff is never at par with the money we make even, so we always have to be creative. But we have made it work, and right now are prepping for a night to remember. Going forward, would like this to be yearly, and to sort of crown the year. Would like to explore different venues, and make it bigger and better each year. As the artistes grow, so do we, and vice versa.”

We present to you Evans Kwami Kafui Offori – a passionate fellow with the world in view and at heart.

“I love words, I love film, I love music, I love theatre, I love dance (though I can’t dance to save my life). I believe life would be such a beautiful picture if we painted it with these things every day. I believe in God and purpose, that everyone is here for a reason, and that there’s enough space for every single person to flourish in their field once they work hard on their gift. I believe in spreading positivity. There’s already enough negativity in the world, spread through the media especially, and since art is where I find my solace, I don’t want that negativity to seep in. I believe in the inherent capabilities of every single human being, that given the right conditions, the potential that can be uncovered is unthinkable, and that endless possibilities can be achieved once this happens. No one is better than another. We just need to be given the right environment to flourish from the very beginning. I also believe in the power of art, as a type of alternative way, a third way, to achieve social, economic and political change/development. I don’t have anything personal against politicians and economists. I only believe these systems to be flawed. I believe art however, can offer another way to get where we want as a nation, in tandem with the politicians, economists and everyone once the right structures are devised to suit us as a people, and represent who we are, where we are from and where we want to go.”

Follow the sounds of Kwami’s vision :

Adedayo Laketu is the co-founder/creative inventor of Baroque Age,
an innovative, conscious reality company based in Nigeria.
The 22 year old believes in the power of the youth
and stays constantly motivating.
He loves music and arts and hates dodo.

Interview: Poet Dzyadzorm talks her soon to be released EP ‘The Wine Wrote This’

untitled-1-01

Poet/spoken word artiste, Dzyadzorm talks about her soon to be released EP ‘The Wine Wrote This’, her expectations’ what the future holds for her and place of women in poetry.

I had a hunch you had a project in the works. I, however, didn’t see it coming to fruition this early. How long have you been working on The Wine Wrote This?

I officially started working on the EP a few months ago. There are two poems on there that were written over a year ago but everything else was done last year.

The title of the EP sounds interesting. What’s the story behind the name?

I used wine as a metaphor for openness and honesty. I think you’d agree with me that most of us are in our truest form when inebriated. We tend to become more expressive and direct when communicating. That’s what TWWT is about; allowing my mask to come off and being open and unashamed of my flaws and insecurities while still not neglecting my positive attributes. Themes on the EP include femininity, identity, love/romance etc

Apart from Poetra (Asantewa), who is featured on this EP?

I had the honour of getting the awesome Ria Bossman on one track on TWWT.

Did you deliberately choose the EP title to absolve you of any ‘blame’; say in a blame-it-on-the-wine context?

I never really looked at it from that standpoint, but it’s possible that I did do that subconsciously. It’s possible that on a much deeper level, I’m trying to free myself of any judgment that may arise. I don’t know.

I used wine as a metaphor for openness and honesty. I think you’d agree with me that most of us are in our truest form when inebriated. We tend to become more expressive and direct when communicating.

Writers and poets borrow experiences from various sources when working. How much of your life’s experiences are found on TWWT?

I would say 90% of it is based on personal experiences. These are also experiences that coincide with those of others around me so the EP sometimes can feel like a tribute to several people collectively.

You once tweeted ‘ Thank God for blank pages that permit us to vent ‘. Can you elaborate further?

I often think of poetry as an ever present friend whose sole role is to listen to whatever thoughts burden (or not) you regardless of how idiotic, flawed or inconsequential it may sound and everyone needs a means to vent and not be chastised for it. I think poetry allows that and I’m grateful for it.

You have been performing for years. I first heard you some 4 years ago. How will you describe your growth as an artiste (poet) over these years?

In one word, interesting! My style of performance hasn’t exactly changed but I have learnt to be bolder on stage and I think I’ve become a bit more diverse content-wise. I’m still discovering new techniques and themes to improve the quality of my performance

Do you have any expectations about this EP and what do you intend to achieve by or through it?

One of my favourite spoken word poets, Dominique Cristina, answers this question best. In a session, she said (forgive me, it’s a bit long)

So for me, the process was, one, beginning to understand that I had something to say. That, two, I had permission to say it. That, three; that permission didn’t come from anybody but me. And that, four, not only was my voice necessary, not only was it urgent, but it was persistent and for always. That I could offer it into a space and not teach you anything necessarily but show up big and in so doing, maybe, it becomes instructive. Maybe, you (audience) recognize that that is also belonging to you. I think that’s powerful”

I share the exact sentiments. My entire journey with poetry has been about the understanding that my voice too is valid and ultimately reaching as many people as I can, hopefully make some sort of difference in their lives.

The poetry space is growing yet there are challenges. What do you consider the major challenge(s) affecting poetry today?

My entire journey with poetry has been about the understanding that my voice too is valid

In 2015 and 2016 respectively, Poetra and Akotowaa released EPs. In a few days, TWWT would be out. How important is it for female poets to take their spots within the poetry sphere?

I think it’s always necessary for women to insert themselves in spaces of influence and the art scene is definitely no exception. In a creative space, that’s dominated by male poets, I do think it’s important for us to bring our talents and varied perspectives to the table in order to lure a more inclusive audience. What we have to offer is not only interesting but transformative as well.

What are your favourites tracks on the EP and why?

Obaa Boni, definitely. Aside tipping my hat to myself several times for it’s dope lyricism, I love the energy it gives out whether it’s being read or performed. I think it’s a powerful piece that speaks to the angst of modern day women and femininity and it’s my proudest piece of writing thus far.

‘I can’t wait to start performing fully and more confidently in my Liberian accent. The hybrid tongue is some way bi’. How does your Liberian heritage influence your work as a poet?

Honestly speaking, I wouldn’t say there’s been much influence in that area. At least, not directly. Individually however, being multinational has had an impact on my character and my view of the world at large. I did write and perform a poem on my version of events during the 1996 civil war. Being Liberian and present at the time simply gave me more insight during that period of unrest.

What or who is your muse? Any reasons?

I don’t have one in particular. There are days when my muse is a thing or a place and others where it’s a person or emotion or event. It’s never been static.

What next for you after the release of EP?

I’ll have more time to focus on Kpodola, a spoken word portal I’ve created to harness the talents of our local acts all in one place. There’s a lot of work in the pipeline so I’m really looking forward to it. Other than that, it’s more poetry, more shows and more growth.

Dzyadzorm is one of the foremost poets in Ghana. She is the curator of Kpodola, a spoken word portal. She has performed on many poetry events in Ghana. Her debut EP ‘The Wine Wrote This’ is set for release soon.

Find her on Twitter/Instagram  @dzyadzorm

Read her works at  dzyadzorm.wordpress.com 

An Interview With Nigerian Artist DE BOSS

db4

For the many who have their ears on the Nigerian music scene, the name De Boss wouldn’t be a strange one. The Nigerian born, Texas based rapper is set to release a new album in June. The album would feature G-Unit acts Tony Yayo and Young Buck along other African artistes. De Boss, who has been in the music industry since 2009 has collaborated with African top acts such as Phyno, RunTown and Samini. His track ‘Selewa’ was a breakout tune. Ahead of the release of his album, De Boss shares insight on working on the album, views on modern day trap influenced music and how African artistes can break into the international music market.

 Your album is ready to be released later in the year. How much are you looking forward to it?

Well, music is the job and the album is the Project. So it’s the only thing that matters

What can you share about your forthcoming album, in terms of the whole recording period and any other exciting experiences?

It’s been fun so far from collaborating with new music acts to traveling for video shoots and also meeting great people in the process.

You have some big name artists on the project like Tony Yayo and Yung Buck of G-Unit. How did you get them on the album? And what other artists are you featuring along Yayo and Buck?

There is only one way to get branded name on your project and you have to PAY. Case closed. I have K-Slick (Canada), Olivia Rose Wallace (U.S.A), Mr Criminal (U.S.A), Samini (Ghana) on the project.

set3

You have collaborated with some artists from Africa with Samini (on Salewa) and Phyno coming to mind. Were these features a way for you to introduce yourself to other African music markets?

YES. Salewa with Samini was an introductory single into Ghana, while the songs I have with Runtown and Phyno was recorded  in 2009/2010 back in Enugu – Nigeria where I owned my first studio (Young Money Recs. NIG) which accommodates Phyno and Runtown mostly as producers and other times “rappers”.

 African artist should STOP paying DJ’s and radio stations to play their hard work; that is going about music backwards

 

How impressed were you by the outcome of these collaborations?

The collaboration with Samini was smooth and fun from the recording to the video. Everything was fun.

What inspired this new album and what themes did you cover on it?

My inspiration has always been from my everyday life, work, things I see and places I have been to. I am tired of the hatred, racism and the manipulation of people’s mind. My album will be speaking big things (Truth) that an average man won’t say for fear of being targeted.

You are a Nigerian born artist based in Texas which gives you a better view of the music wave in both continents. The new wave of Trap music (Mumble rap) is, in the view of rap purists, negative on the culture. Do you feel the same?

Music is Music. Trap, Rap or even Pop. They are all different mediums to relate messages. I am versatile and can jump onto any sound as long as it’s appealing. So here is my message to the so-called Rap Purist “TRAP IS BLACK IN THE LAND WHERE IT ORIGINATED FROM (U.S.A), SO TRUST ME IN THE EYES OF EVERY PURIST, IT’S NEGATIVE. So…. NO, I totally disagree.

Every artists have a way of creating a piece of work. Some create in spontaneity. Others need to be in some space to create. What’s your creative process like when it comes to making music?

When I create music, it’s more of a relaxation technique to the mind and a medium to tell the plain truth.

 Afro-pop is making strong entry into global music including hip hop. The pace is however, slow. What do you think can be done to see African artists also entry the US market?

African artist should STOP paying DJ’s and radio stations to play their hard work; that is going about music backwards. Instead, they should put emphasis on distributing their works online/offline, such as music blogs, newspapers and other online sites like Soundcloud and YouTube, therefore spending that little hard earned money in collaborating with already named brand. Radio stations, DJs even TV stations need your songs to do their everyday business and they should be paying you for that.

 

 

SPOTLIGHT: RAPPER KWAME NSIAH TALKS NEW MUSIC, LIFE AND STRUGGLES FACED BY UP & COMING ARTISTES

 

KNSIAH-672x372

Kwame Nsiah thinks the music industry suffocate young, up & coming artistes

For those who don’t know you, how would you describe yourself?

Kwame Nsiah is an ambitious and creative young man with a talent to make music aside other creative and productive things.

How long have you been rapping and which artistes inspired you to pick up the mic?

I’ve been rapping since 2012 but only actively in that year, 2013 and this year 2016. Honestly, Jay-Z was my inspiration to rap. I was a big fan for the longest time and observing his success made me feel I also could achieve success in my own way rapping or making music.

How has Jay Z’s music influenced your own style?

In my earlier work (The Application; my first mix-tape) there’s definitely a huge Jay-Z influence with subject matter and the style of the music. The mix-tape which I released in 2012 had a very obvious Roca-fella feel to it.

First time I heard of you was on Rumor’s ‘Can’t Go Wrong’. How did the feature and stint with JaySo and the Skillions in general impacted your creativity?

Well, at the time I worked for Jayso as his personal assistant. I was there really to learn the in’s and out of the music business from an artist who had managed to build himself up independently and build a business doing it. Before I came to work for Jay, I wasn’t on Skillions music.

The feature happened because Rumor and I were good friends and he felt I was a good rapper. He was really giving me a shot, a chance to show case my ability.
Being around the Skillions camp at the time; when it was really a camp of musical genius helped me appreciate all kinds of creative directions. At most, that was the peak of the impact on my creativity.

Back To Business. How has the response been thus far?

“Back To Business” isn’t really doing as well as I imagined but I’ve come to realise these things take time to pick up. Everyone who listened properly loves it, for me that’s enough, having a handful of people who understand the art. That way you know you achieved what you set out to do as an artist.

You are readying to put forth an album. What insights can you share about it?
(tracks, producers, title of album & producers).

I can’t confirm anything for now but before an album, there’s another mix-tape “Letters To My Peers” coming this year.

What is motivating you to put a mixtape out at this time? Is it to introduce Kwame Nsiah to the world?

Not really, I’m not even on the scale to be considering a global audience. The truth of the matter is, I’m a very ambitious guy and I try to make money however I can.
The dynamics of putting out music in these times is different. With the availability of digital market places, musician don’t really require major label backing to make money of their art. Once you make it available for purchase it’s really up to you to advertise it the best way you can to encourage consumption and digital marketing has also made that quite easy. The goal of the album is to put out good undeniable music and make money of it.

Most of us listen to music seeking to find an escape or even refuge, I’d rather provide truth to my listeners.

One observable thing about your music is the lyrics and how relatable they are to everyday situations. What do you consider when you sit down to write your songs?

Thank you for noticing that. That’s been my creative goal from the beginning, to make music that’s easily relatable to the listener. Humans don’t care much to spend time on things that don’t interest them so it’s hard to find fans who truly care about the music enough to understand the content. When I make music, I chose a crowd of listeners I know would understand it instantly. That way they easily gain a likeness for the music. I try to share wisdom also, lessons I’ve learnt in life that could help whoever is listening. Most of us listen to music seeking to find an escape or even refuge, I’d rather provide truth to my listeners.

Not too long ago, you took to twitter to vent your frustrations with the music industry and you wanting to quit. What warranted those sentiments?

Shamefully true. I guess at the time I wanted too much and I wasn’t getting results. The environment in which we’re operating tends to make one very frustrated because most things don’t go according to plan due to barriers that shouldn’t exist.

Does the industry suffocate the efforts of up and coming artistes like yourself?

Yes it does because you aren’t given any attention when you’re on the come up and some media personalities (unlike a few I’ve met and dealt with) actually demand payola (payment) to play a song they actually believe is good. As an independent act, you could decide to pay these guys but for how long can you survive in such a climate? How far could you possibly get in your career?

How do you intend to navigate the challenges you’ve identified that don’t allow indie artistes like yourself to break into mainstream?

I intend to keep putting out music, widening my social network and building a rapport with more stand-up guys who will help you out just because or for mutual gain. I’m not eager to go mainstream just yet though. I don’t mind being underground for now, as long as I can make money off my music.

What will you describe as your greatest asset as an artist and person?

I would say my relationship with God and how he designed me. I have an interesting ability of identifying beauty, I’ve come to find. And I’m also quite adaptable to change not so much that I just go with the flow but I gradually learn to comfortably fit in where I belong within all that’s around me. I’m a mercurial.

Which artistes are you listening to now?

I don’t really listen to artists lately- more albums than specific artists. I love music so I always need to feed my ears. Right now, I’m listening to ANTI by Rihana, He Has Risen by Smoke DZA, Phase by Jack Garratt, UNI by Copta, 25 by Adele, a lot of Sade, Jessie Ware, Erykah Badu, some Hillsong, some Travis Scott, some Pappy Kojo, some Mr. Eazi, Losing My Religion by Kirk Franklin and constantly The Miseducation of  Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill.

Which artistes amongst your generation inspires you and you won’t hesitate working with?

Well for now I’m really feeling Copta and we have a very good chemistry. I also like Worlasi, Eli, Lady J, Mr. Eazi, Rumor, No Drumz, Epidemix, Liquidbeats, Pappy Kojo, Kuvie, that’s all that comes to mind right now.

Five years from today, where will Kwame Nsiah the rapper be?

5 years from now, I’ll be married, hopefully be a father and hopefully work for a creative agency alongside being a musician and an entrepreneur. That’s my vision.

7 THINGS WE LEARNT FROM WANLOV AND DEPARTMENT OF SOUND INTERVIEW

wa

Photo via twitter

Wanlov the Kubolor needs no introduction, unless you are a foreigner. He is a man of many parts-musician, video director, songwriter, actor and a social commentator. Earlier this month, the Department of Sound, a podcast show hosted by Mutombo DaPoet caught up with Wanlov and had an extensive conversation on a variety of issues; from politics, music, colonialism, economic development to religion.

In this article, I highlight 7 important issues that caught my attention during the interview. Here it is:

ON HELPING OTHER ARTISTES: Wanlov has worked with many up and coming artistes, mostly those whose talents has caught his attention. ‘I show artistes how I record myself, how I do my clips. The only level I get them to though is to give them a finished product; be it finished videos or finished song, putting it on YouTube, tweet about it’.

With regards to shooting videos for artistes, Wanlov revealed he charges only production cost because ‘it’s hard to put a price’ on the work he does for artistes he likes. For instance, Wanlov said he incurred a loss of GHc 30 (USD 8) after shooting Azizaa’s “Black Magic Woman” video which received international attention.

ON RELIGION: Wanlov’s views on organized religion especially Christianity remains very controversial. He explained his reasons: ‘When I speak about pastors, I’m usually addressing those who are fleecing the sheep…those turning human beings into factory workers, just making money for them (mega church pastors), a contradiction to what pastors of old who were selfless and honest in their dealings, though acknowledges there are some genuine and helpful pastors around.

ON RECORDING HIS ALBUMS: It might have sounded surprising and incredulous if someone had said it. Coming from the man himself, it was very revealing. On the difference between recording in US and Ghana, Wanlov provided this interesting answer ‘I’ve never been to a studio before to record any personal projects’.

His major debut album ‘Green Card’ was recorded in SeVen’s (a producer) bedroom studio in New Jersey and his bedroom studio in Los Angeles.  He has however, visited studios to lay a verse for other artistes’ projects.

ON THE LIVE PERFORMANCE SCENE IN GHANA AND ABROAD: According to Wanlov, he and other artistes get invited or tour Europe and other continents often because of the kind of music they do, which the foreign audience love to see or hear. His music has identity (organic and Ghanaian/African) and messages that resonate with European audience, since ‘the West fantasizes rebels and encourage that’.

On the question of Ghanaians appreciating live shows, Wanlov observed that there is a healthy underground live music scene in the city where artistes could play each week. These artistes-mostly underground, end up playing more gigs in a year than some of their established counterparts who wait on the big shows.

ON PAYOLA: Wanlov has been an advocate against payola. In his estimation, ‘payola is evil’ and ‘denies good creations from coming out. He pinned this to the fact that Ghanaians love popular hits and payment of payola ensures that radio and TV stations continuously play these songs to ‘hypnotize the public to accept certain songs’.

Art, to him ‘is a very fragile thing and takes many forms. It is the reason why people are tuning in to radio and TV’. He adds that if everything is seen as advertisement, then arts is compromised. He urged radio stations to rather encourage and showcase talents with good messages to their listeners and help these struggling artistes to earn something (money). He called on radio and TV stations to pay royalties to artistes rather than taking money from artistes.

ON CORRUPTION AND DEVELOPMENT: The traditional African System of living (human African factor) which is ‘communal’ in nature promotes and encourages corruption because of the many human interactions compared to the ‘nucleic’ system (less people contact) existing in the Western countries according to Wanlov. The absence of many direct human contacts and the almost perfect system means taxes paid are used for development. Unlike in Ghana or Africa where taxes paid end up in the pockets of individuals, denying us (people) of the development we expect from government.

ON FUTURE PROJECTS: Wanlov outlined some of the projects he is working on and intentions for the near future. These include working on more videos, a FOKN Bois album as well as the writing the 3rd installment of Coz Ov Moni (the first pidgin musical).  He plans on working on a movie ‘Adventures of Pias Killer Mensah’ and a fictional music documentary on rapper Yaa Pono.  He has plans to adapt and direct Ayikwei Armah’s novels 2000 Seasons and Healers into big budget feature films.

Listen to the full interview below