SPOTLIGHT: Meet LYZA, The A&R Working With Your Favourite Artists

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Ask LyZa, born Elizabeth Ntiamoah, what her impressions are about the new wave of music in Ghana and the artists behind it and her response is nothing short than a quick rhetorical question. ‘Have you seen the new crop of artiste?’’ before adding ‘’GH music has always been good. The attention on these talented guys was just not there but now I think it’s looking really positive’’

Lyza is a professional Public Relation practitioner and an A&R (Artist and Repertoire) person. Entering into the A&R field was an unplanned decision. An honest expression of opinion on a song led to her entertaining the idea of becoming an A&R. At present, Lyza , who describes herself as one who ‘isn’t sure about her height’ was raised around music. From Michael Jackson to Alpha Blonde, rock music to blues, her father serenaded their home with music. This led to shaping her musical consciousness and her love for music, which in the process resulted in a sibling rivalry between herself and her brother.

‘When the adults weren’t home my brother had a way with operating the tape and VCD (if that’s what it’s called) he then started rapping and I thought I could beat him to it ‘’

Lyza now has two artists on her roster. They are the Nigerian singer BigBen and rapper Bryan The Mensah from Ghana. Her first client was BigBen whose music she heard after a friend put her on. In the case of Bryan, it was BigBen who asked her to take a listen. ‘’I had seen a couple of people retweet his (Bryan) stuff but I checked it out one time after he tweeted at BigBen, then Ben said I should listen’, she recalls.

A closet rapper who sometimes raps ‘for the fun of it and just to show people who doubt that I ever did’, Lyza in this interview, lift the veil on her experiences as an A&R, the challenges associated with her work-how she navigate the unavoidable conflicting views with artists, how having a good ear and exhibiting a high level of tolerance is crucial in her line of job. She also discusses how she juggles between her two jobs-a PR and an A&R. She also talks about life outside the domain of music and the skills needed to succeed in this business.


First off, may I ask: Who is LyZa?

So LyZa is a girl who isn’t sure about her height. But she’s fun size and I believe she is amusing with a little temper for garnishing.

Born and raised in Accra?

Born somewhere in the Eastern Region but raised in Accra

Do you remember how you got introduced to music? Did you grow up with music playing in your house?

Through my parents and my brother, who I suspect got introduced the same way I did. My parents were both Michael Jackson fans. (Might have been a thing during their time). I grew up listening and watching everything Michael Jackson but one amazing music my dad literally abused was by 10cc. The song was titled ‘’Dreadlock Holiday’’. My brother and I will mimic and mime the song for the greater part of our lives it had a good story to it, from then I was curious to find more music.

So, I guess they played different genres of music right?

Yes they did; from rock to blues to anything weird and a lot of Alpha Blondy too. It was played every day even when the adults weren’t home. My brother discovered more rap music and had a way with operating the tape or VCD (if that’s what it’s called). Later he would started rapping to every beat and I thought I could beat him to it.

A healthy sibling competition. Did you ever beat him?

I am pretty sure I did. He did his verses in Twi. I did mine in English. I always took my time because I always wanted to win. My parents never picked a winner though.

Your parents obviously didn’t want to cause any family feud

Looks like it. I would have won anyway.

Do you still rap?

Yes I do but for the fun of it. And just to show people who doubt that I ever did.

One place that also shape our music palate is Senior High School. How was your experience like, music wise?

I wrote more music in High School. It was such a confidence booster knowing people knew that I could actually rap. So, I wrote a lot to stay relevant and bar heavy. I got caught dropping a few bars to beats being played on the table and all. That’s how I became friends with (music producer) Fortune Dane (@fortunedane). He was really passionate about music back then as well so I became interested in doing more. Funny thing is I never wanted to perform (*Fortune Dane is a music producer who has worked with artistes Sarkodie, Kwaw Kesse, R2Bees, Efya among others).

Why didn’t you want to perform? Was it borne out of shyness or the ‘attention’?

Fame I believe. I have never wanted to be seen out there ‘cos I feel it will obstruct my ‘movement’ (endeavors).

Which SHS if I may ask?

Ghana Senior High School in Koftwon (Koftown is how many Ghanaians refer to Koforidua, the capital of Eastern Region).

Before I get into your job, how did you connect with Bryan The Mensah and bigBen?

I met bigBen through a friend who asked me to check out his music and as usual I gave my opinion. Bryan (The Mensah), I met on twitter. I had seen a couple of people retweet his stuff but checked it out one time after he tweeted at bigBen. Then Ben said I should listen. So yeah twitter.

What kind of opinion did you offer bigBen that got him to work with you? Curious to know.

(Laughs). I had two songs. I listened to the first and thought it was the usual nice singing, great voice, great tune but I wasn’t sold. I wanted to know what was different with him. (Then), I listened to his second song and he had written an amazing story with an awesome production by himself. It was organic. I loved it ‘cos it was different and there were more tunes and more stories and more vibes.

Was it the song he wrote about his father not in support of him making music? Do you by any chance remember the title?

Oh that’s a M.anifest song, “Do My Own”. And yeah Ben’s story on that was amazing too not forgetting his production.

My love for music had me talking with a few acts here and there about what could be done to push their art. I knew they had something special. That’s when I decided I really want to do this.

What about Bryan The Mensah. What attracted you?

He is different you know. I like that but honestly aside loving his sound, it was the way he pushed his music own music.

Did you approach Bryan or he approached you to work together?

Ok, so I started tweeting and talking about his songs a lot then I decided to connect him to the few friends I thought might like his sound. I asked him to forward his music to some radio stations I had spoken to. He was swift about it, so we took it from there. I then asked if he had a manager and he asked if I am serious about managing him. So, I had to get serious about managing him.

You have links. Very impressive

(Laughs). Just a few friends

Is that how you began as an A&R?

Officially yes, but my love for music had me talking with a few acts here and there about what could be done to push their art. I knew they had something special. That’s when I decided I really want to do this, plus I like being behind the scene anyway so that was it. I sort of promised myself I will do something with and for music. I really didn’t know what I was thinking

Explain who an A&R is & what the job entails?

A&R is responsible for the scouting of talents for record labels and assisting the artiste in his recording process like finding or suggesting the right feature, producer. You are basically the artiste go to person till a song or album is done and published. And to do this, you need to have an ear for music as well as know what’s really catchy or trendy. I don’t even need anyone to tell me that I do have that in me.

I win or I learn. I can’t seem to think about quitting. Whenever I get frustrated, I move on to the next task ahead or find a means around it. But, I made a joke about quitting one time and Bryan said “it’s too early or it’s too late” so I guess there is no coming out of this until we win.

How long have you been doing this?

I would say a year officially.

What are some of the challenges you face as an A&R?

Working around everybody’s ego; from your artist to the other artist and artist managers when it comes to getting a feature for yours. Working with up and coming artist is double the wahala (problems) because you need to convince the next artiste that your act is solid and even after convincing them, fixing a date to get the song done is another. Then there is trying to get it on radio. But, it’s all part of the job so we move. Other times you stay up with your artiste to get a work done and then you just not feeling it so there is a lot of back and forth going on. You literally can’t sleep on the job.

Have you ever had a situation where you and your artists went back and forth on a decision? Care to share?

(Another laugh). Yes. I think it was about a release date or the song choice but we did find a way around it. There was a lot of talking and a tantrum. That’s all I can say.

Ever been frustrated to the point of considering quitting?

I win or I learn. I can’t seem to think about quitting. Whenever I get frustrated, I move on to the next task ahead or find a means around it. But, I made a joke about quitting one time and Bryan said “it’s too early or it’s too late” so I guess there is no coming out of this until we win.

How will you judge the GH music scene at present? Both the good and bad

Have you seen the new crop of artistes? Ghana music has always been good. The attention on these talented guys was just not there but now I think it’s looking really positive. That’s good but that’s not to say we can’t always do better and push good music and these guys.

Good ears, negotiating and having links are skills worth having, any other thing?

Being tolerant even if that’s not who you actually are. You need to be, as well as having a good relationship with people, not use people for your gains. Give credit where it’s due. Always stay in touch and connected.

Do you feel like your gender impede your work with these artists?

Not really. Until I call or meet with a person, most don’t even know my gender and they get excited when they find out. I have been asked what I did to either get a feature or a favor because of my gender but the thing is I have been fortunate to have come across serious minded people (guys especially) that are all about work and mind their business. I believe I am putting in effort so nothing really obstructs me. If something doesn’t work for me I move on from there.

Being a PR is work on its own. How do to juggle both?

(Sighs). I go do my 9-5 as a PR but I am an A&R every time and every day. I just make time to fix in that every free chance I get. It’s tiring because my PR job is in another region and most times, the music business requires me moving around. The good thing is A&R requires communication and my PR instinct comes to the rescue all the time.

Do you help in writing songs for your artist?

No, except when bigBen wants to fix in some Twi then I have to translate his English verse to Twi. Aside that, both artistes are really good with everything they do musically, from writing to producing.

Which artist would you love to work with Reasons?

Wow I have a tall list, basically every artist in Ghana because we intend to do this for a long time. From mainstream to ground up so long as the sound fits. Wiyaala, Mensah, Mdot, Edem, Kubolor, Sark, Teephlow, Worlasi, Akan, Efya, R2bees. They all have been consistent in what they do and definitely artiste from other countries for sure too.

Aside music, what other things attract you?

Books. My favorite author must be John Grisham. First book I read by him was “The Client”. I wanted to be a lawyer before and even more so whenever I read his books. But yeah I read everything.

What do you think some of our artists need to improve on so as to compete on the global level.

They should keep the same energy they started with. They obviously don’t have the same resources with artiste elsewhere but they do have the content and will to stay pushing. There is no point in slowing down if you really want to compete worldwide. The hunger they started with needs to live.

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“The Whole Truth” by Sizz The Truth Is Out

Sizz The Truth

“The Whole Truth. This work of art challenges all existing stereotypes on African music and presents a multifaceted artist who who’s a listener with his dynamic skill. From inspiration to references on pop
Ghanaian culture, a listener is taken across a wild ride!

SizzTheTruth presents new frontiers to music made in Africa with his iconic blend of highlife undertones, Hip-Hop and alternative beats. This project is inevitably one that will stay in minds and on playlists for years to come.

Sizz The Truth, a Ghanaian/Nigerian rapper & singer, has been on the Ghanaian alternative music scene for a while, carving his own niche and sound.

Earlier last year he announced his upcoming debut project and it’s finally here.

The project, “The Whole Truth”, is a mix of various sounds- a deliberate approach geared towards satisfying the music taste of for everyone (listeners). Only two guest artists- Ko-Jo Cue and Cina Soul are featured on the project.

Cue, as expected, finessed his verse on “fatality whiles the lovely Cina Soul bid us farewell on “Till We Finish” with her mellifluous voice.

Sizz the Truth definitely did take us on a journey and showed his versatility on this project.

The selected producers for the project were SoBeatz, Arrow (his partner), who produced 5 songs, Boye, K.Banks, PJ Katz and DJ
Kwamzy.

All songs except the feature verses were recorded and mixed at Xtreme Studios and mastered by Foreign Local at RGG Studios.

Get ‘The Whole Truth’ here by selecting your preferred streaming platform or store:

https://goo.gl/ez9b3N

THE CUTS: EP 03 Vol. 4

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


Kiddblack – About You

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‘About You’ has the potential to kick Kiddblack from semi- obscurity to the limelight. This love song is couched to emit rhythmic pleasure and thrill. Kiddblack ask his girl if she’d stick with him through his journey to stardom. Produced by Kuvie, ‘About You’ opens with a slapping kick and bass, something similar to what’s heard on Busta Rhyme’s ‘Dangerous’. Kuvie neatly tucks in a series of african elements only Kuvie could create, on a track that opens with both the minor and major piano keys surrounding it. Kiddblack’s booming and textured voice especially when singing the hook is perfect. The deadlock wearing, black kid has the vibes by his side.

 

Ty Bello – Dance For You

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“I’ll dance no matter what this life is playing/ I’ll dance to the rhythm of your grace’’. Ty Bello’s declares on “Dance For You”, a gospel song that exalt God, the pillar in her life. The song is recorded live and boast heavy keyboard and massive kicks which beam with glorious excitement. Her voice (with its lisp) carries a reverb effect, and emotions dripping through the song, adding to the sensation the live recording offer. Ty’s voice range isn’t in the same category as some of the best singers in the world but, she can hit them with less difficulty. This is how Ty Bello narrate the making of her 2014 album, ‘‘The Morning Song Book”: In 2009 I begun this amazing season where I would write music to God as my morning devotion. It was a unique time of discovery and I I felt it was a unique way to give of myself…Open and sincere…It wasn’t long that I realized that I was receiving way more than I was giving. Every beautiful exchange with God always leaves us with more. I was also humbled when I got this heartfelt assurance that he thought the songs were perfect. Perfect?? If you’ve ever written music you would know that ‘perfect ‘is the one that simply evades …Well…it’s taken a number of years to make… Here it is. My gift to God… His to me.

 

 

Kwame Yesu – Real Rap II

Kwame Yesu is the latest artist to pay homage to afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti, on his song Real Rap II produced by YungFly. (The beat is from Yung Fly’s re-work of some Fela songs released last year to celebrate “Felaberation”). The trap sounding song has chops of Fela’s “Zombie” and references of some of his classic songs. Kwame Yesu talks about the state of music industry – how bloggers, fake friends, radio dampen the efforts of young artists- ad the hypocritical tendencies of these same individuals when you make it. He incorporates parts of a Fela interview about music and role of the artist in society to help drum his point home. Kwame Yesu has the talent to make him one of the best from this part of the world.

 

Pambour feat Kwesi Arthur – RARE

‘Odo kakra/ Sika kakra/ So, why you dey love me too much?’, a question Pambour seeks an answer to on ‘Rare’. A love centred song about a girl who holds her man down on all fronts including financially- she gives him money to pay the waiter when on a date. Pambour is an artist from the GroundUp Chale camp. His label mate Kwesi Arthur makes an appearance on the song, delivering a simple yet flawless hook. Over a moody trap beat with a touch of soulfulness –courtesy the horns and guitar licks and violin strings bubbling beneath, the two perform in both Twi and pidgin made sure, this Jay Fyn beat wasn’t wasted.

 

Throwback: Noble and Sandra – ”Ayalolo”

 

You can’t run
The time is now, do what you can don’t you know
Look at us now, our ancestors have seen Canaan
But we are just seeing things in this world”

The above lyrics is part of the opening lyrics to “Ayalolo”, a song performed by Noble and soul singer Sandra Huson. The lyrics portray a song about patriotism and the need for us, as a country, to take responsibility to better our lot.

Noble and Sandra Huson recorded this song somewhere around 2010/11. The Jayso produced song can be classified under ‘criminally underrated song’ category.

Noble Nii Nortey was part of Black N Peach, consisting of Noella Wiyaala and Emma Orleans- Lindsay, the 2012 winners of the of ”Vodafone Icons Mixed Edition”. But, this song was released prior to him joining the ranks of the music reality show.

Sandra Huson, on the other hand belongs to the Skillions camp and has built a reputation over the years as a soul/blues singer. In 2010/11, she was a young voice occasionally making appearances on songs by her fellow label mate.

“Ayalolo” was the first collaborative efforts publicly released between Noble and Sandra . The song carried a soulful tone and began with a series of keyboard notes and mellow bass line pierced by a sucked out horn throughout the song before the kick and bass dropped. The horn seems to be the foundation around which the soundscape was built.

The contrasting vocal expressions and language of choice also added a ton of flavour to the already engrossing song. Nobel, with his timbering voice sang mostly in Ga, bringing to the fore thought provoking messages. Noble had a voice belonging to an older male. Sandra’s vocals exuded a charming warmth that balanced the heaviness that Noble’s delivery had kicked up. Their vocal display on the interlude and chorus emitted chemistry and blatant passion.

Noble’s lyrics reminded us of our history and the legacy left behind for us by our ancestors and Kwame Nkrumah to build on; something we are failing to do.

Why, why, why have we relaxed ourselves for poverty to cause us death
Nkrumah come and see what you have left
Your children are crying and calling unto you
Don’t relax on this earth because you have got the power
Heaven we going, Heaven we going, we going higher
At your field of work and your doings let’s see the fire
If this country will succeed it depends on you, your desire
What are you waiting for? The journey is long? We still going

Sandra, on the second verse urged us to stay focused, believe in ourselves and put our collective strength together and build a better future.

‘’So, c’mon now, let make it work

Cos we all want to be the first

Take my hand and show the world, we do survive the worse’’

 “Ayalolo’’ isn’t a political song albeit the theme of building a better country or place is largely considered a political issue. Inherent in the song, however, is the fact that, we can all help in building a better future for us and the next generations by playing our part with excellence.

Many years after its release, “Ayalolo” still sounds fresh and relevant, like old wine as the cliché goes. The vocal deliveries are still lush, the theme very relevant and the production is exceptionally amazing. (Of course it’s a Jayso produced track). The decision to sing in both Ga and English was meant to have a broader reach. Unfortunately, the song didn’t attain that traction. But, one thing is always clear: a great song would remain a great song, notwithstanding the number of ears that hear it.

Kobi Onyame and Wanlov Share Inspiration in “Still We Rise” Video

Self-belief. Chasing dreams despite the challenges on your path is the theme of ‘Still We Rise’, a song by UK-based Ghanaian rapper, Kobi Onyame and Wanlov (The Kubolor).

“Still We Rise” has the two gifted rappers spread doses of positivism about life and success (chasing one’s dreams) as expressed these lyrics: ‘keep fighting on/ We’re upward bound/ seeing the sky as lower ground’ and “you for dey feed your passion/Fuel your desire/ No fright flight or fear of height/Go higher” delivered by Kobi Onyame and Wanlov respectively.

The song’s 90s hip hop beat and airy horn section along with the cadences in their respective flows render “Still We Rise” a bop.

The video for the song is shot by 6Miludo (a subsidiary of Skillions Records) and directed by both artists. Employing both long, short and panoramic shots, the green environs of the Aburi Mountains (location for video) were captured. The video is engrossing in it’s simplicity.

“Still We Rise” is found on Kobi Onyame’s critically hailed album, “Gold”, released last year. The album was voted the Best Album at the 2017 Infinitime Music Awards held in London. “Gold” is heavily steeped in Ghanaian highlife grooves and traditional afrobeat rhythms; a homage by the rapper to his Ghanaian and African roots.

Kobi Onyame belong to the class of Ghanaian rappers of the early 2000s, who began what later came to be labeled as ‘GH Rap’. As the founder of the Haatsville Project, Kobi Onyame, formerly known as Jay P, along with the Skillionaires inspired a wave of young kids to become rappers.

Watch the video for ”Still We Rise’

Album Review: Burna Boy Proves He’s Not A One Dimensional Artist on “Outside”

On “Calm Down”, the penultimate song of his recently released album “Outside”, Burna Boy hints: Got me moving in slow motion/ I’m tryna walk on top of the ocean. Though a reference to an overdose on drugs, this declaration, is a summary of his career. Over these years as an artist, the Afro-fusionist hasn’t received much credit for his immense talent. When the conversation around some of the best talents from Nigeria is made, his name falls down the pecking order.

Yet, Burna Boy, born Damini Ebunoluwa Ogalu, knew his time was inching closer and that, the validation he deserves would come in some few years.

“Outside” is the perfect project to accentuate his credibility as one of the incredible talents from Nigeria and Africa.

“Outside” has Burna Boy touching on the themes of life on tracks like ‘More Life’, which incidentally was one of the five songs he submitted for Drake’s album of the same name. Unfortunately, Drake chopped it as an outro, but Burna Boy chose to make it the Intro to his album.

The energetic Ph City Vibration (an ode to his home city of Port Harcourt, River State) offers a glimpse into his upbringing: I was born inna the Teaching Hospital/ I no dey stay far from the Liberation Stadium/ Na I dey chop poly, and fish and yam’. The 27 year old Burna Boy paints a picture to prove to all that, his come up wasn’t as rosy as many might think.

Music has always been in the blood of Burna Boy. His family has had a long association with music. His grandfather was once a manager of legendary afrobeats king, Fela Ransome Anikulapo Kuti. His father was a big dancehall enthusiast. It’s therefore no surprise how Burna Boy turned out, career-wise.

Afrobeat is omnipresent on “Outside” as exhibited on the rhythmic ‘Koni Baje’, a Yoruba phrase that translate as ‘It Won’t Be Destroyed’. Replete with sage wisdom about how success breeds many friends, the highlife toned song is dominated by soft drums, electric guitar riffs and horns sections that leaves you pressing on the rewind button after a first listen. ‘Ye’ continues in that same afrobeat realm, with it’s theme of staying successful: I no fit die for nothing”, he notes. ‘Plenty suffer wey we face/ just to make sure money dey attest to the mantra that many don’t see your pain, only your success. ‘Ye’ and ‘Giddem’ both have interpolation of Fela Kuti’s ‘Sorrow, Tears and Blood’ from his 1977 album of same name.

Burna Boy features UK acts JHus and Lily Allen, on the slow afro dancehall number ‘Sekkle Down‘ and “Heaven’s Gate” respectively. Whereas “Sekkle Down” focuses on romantic flings, “Heaven’s Gate“, with it’s ebullient spark, has Burna boldly telling haters you can’t come around my estate. Lily Allen’s shrill delivery adds a layer of texture to the song. (“Sekkle Down’’ carries a JHus imprint than Burna Boy’s, although he in the end, owned it).

If there’s any song with the potential of thrusting Burna Boy into global limelight, it’s definitely has to be “Heaven’s Gate”. Not only because of Lily’s name attached to the song, but the stellar delivery of Burna Boy.

On both “Calm Down” and “California Devil”, Burna Boy faces his demons- use or abuse of ecstasy drugs. He references his popping of molly in the club on ’Calm Down’ (So, why I just put all my pain and problems/ In this styrofoam cups/ And drink it all away). He revisits drug use on “California Devil” (I’m so high/ Can’t open my eyes/Can’t look in your eyes). The lyrics, however betrays how these drugs serve as a source of escape- from the pressures of life for artists like himself.

The EDM laced title track, “Outside” features UK pop singer Mabel, whose crooning adds an emotive feel to the introspective musings of Burna Boy. This, perhaps is the most personal song on the album, considering the legal issues he faced in the last part of the year. On ‘Outside’, Burna reiterate the ‘survival of the fittest’ theme akin to the jungle; alluding to how nobody cared when he needed help. Before the beat finally drops on the song, he asks a very poignant question: “so if my mama cry and I rest as well/ Does her son end up like Vybz Kartel?”.

“Outside” is proof of Burna Boy’s incredible versatility and artistry. The genre blending sounds aside, he shows no hint of struggle in his deliveries- he knows how to bend his voice to sit within songs. If “Outside” is Burna Boy’s gallery, then on each wall hangs a portrait of his gifts.

Watch Video: Ayorkor Covers Songs By Wulomei and Flavour

The name AYORKOR may not resonate with many music fans at the moment. She is a young musician who’s charting her own course by taking a route that is becoming all too familiar lately.

In a new series by Musical Lunatics dubbed ‘Fret Board Series’, Ayorkor shares her beautiful voice with the rest of the world by mashing up two songs: ‘Boboli’ by the legendary Ghanaian folk group Wulomei and ‘Nwa’ by Nigerian highlife kingpin Flavour.

In this 4mins, 32 seconds, Ayorkor, who belongs to the Musical Lunatics- a band led by music producer and guitarist Nii Quaye- serenades with this unforced exhilarating display.

The accompanying video captures the expressions of both Ayorkor and her two man band- a guitarist (Nii Quaye) and a percussionist. The camera works, simplicity and sepia tone of the video makes it a must watch.

Music mash-up videos have in recent times, become one of the avenues for upcoming artists to court public attention and fans. The videos, if well promoted, does open avenues for the artists.