Kwabena Kwabena talks exclusively interview with enewsgh.com about breaking through what has so far been a successful career.
He also opens up on ditching rap for highife music, and charity among other interesting revelations.
Why music as a career?
I have always loved music from child hood and the urge to be a musician started very young so I followed wherever music was. Any time there was live band music somewhere, you were surely to find me there and even at church I was always with the drummer and that’s how I started learning how to play the drums, bass guitar, then moved to singing and at a point I had an opportunity to accompany a friend to an audition at Hush Hush and they heard me singing and that’s how I started doing backups in 2001.
I was doing lots of back up for many artists who recorded at Hush Hush then and I remember my first major that blew was Tinny’s “Makola Kwakwe” album.
I did Obrafuor and a few others before Kontihene gave me my major outing on his “Esi” song. And that’s when I started hanging around him and we finally recorded my own tune “Aso” in 2005 and I won Best Male Vocal Performance with that on the Kwabena Kwabena album which had 8 songs.
How long have you been pursuing music?
I started pursuing music professionally from 1998. And my breakthrough single came in 2005, that’s seven years in total preparing feverishly for my big outing. And all this time was used to put the songs right and to be an entertaining artists everyone wants see.
You talked about hanging around Kontihene a lot of the time; how did he influence your career?
Kontihene was very influential in moving my singing as a backup to a hit making artist after 5 years of backing up other artists. Many people told me I could sing and it ended there but he went on as far as putting me on his “Esi”- a JQ produced song and then rapping on my song “Aso” which was produced by Appietus.
Then I did “Mey3” with Martino also known as Martin Keys and he is one of the backbones of KBKB Music from 1998. He is the one behind all the sweet ballads including “Mey3”, “Meni Waa” and “Obidowa Doni Bi”.
I chose to be myself, that was the music I gravitated towards more and it spoke to my soul more than any other music at the time. I looked back at the phenomenal works my predecessors had done, CK Mann, Nana Ampadu, Daddy Lumba and these are highlife greats, looking at the rhythm and templates they left, I just thought we couldn’t have let those things go waste and I felt I could work on those templates and make something great.
Yes, I was around a lot of the Hip Life guys but art is an expression and your opinion as an artist always finds a way to shine through in expressing your art and that’s why I chose Hi life. If you can rap and rap good, that’s great but I thought I could sing and sing well to entertain. If we have different genres and sounds coming from different artists at the same time, it brings variety and fun.
You’ve insisted on playing live on every stage you’ve mounted. How do you convince colleague musicians to tow that line?
I feel to be an artist is to be able to present your art on stage as it is on record or better. In the music world, you should be able to play your music on stage to your audience. If you can’t; you are not an artist. It’s as simple as that. In the west, no matter the genre Hip hop, Pop, Dancehall, Blues or any other genre is played live.
You have no excuse. We are running from the truth, but if you really want to be a proper artist who entertains, then you have to think about live music.
But many complain the budgets artists are offered for shows won’t allow them to hire bands to play live… Is it an excuse?
Music is passion and not all about the money, and anything which is a passion though you want the income to support you, you will always put the art over the money. You do your best and stay within the little budget you get and play good music.
It’s when we all say this is the proper way of presenting our music and this is the way we want to present our music, then the corporate bodies will know if they have to come in, they have to come with lots of money so you the artist have enough to present the show right.
But until we start to give them a show, they won’t mind our appeals for higher pay, because no one will like to pay for a show and come and listen to the CD they were listening to in their cars minutes before they entered into the auditorium and you the artist come stage to dance and leave.
You know you are at a concert when someone is playing a piano, another a guitar, another on the mic singing their heart out. You have paid to come see an artist perform for you only for him to slot in a CD and play you the same recording you already have that’s not acceptable.
What kind of environment do you say inspires the kind of music you do?
I always want to stay in my environment and that’s because I have firsthand information to that and I can’t be talking about a place or thing I haven’t experienced or heard. What makes me feel fulfilled and as a creator is the imaginative, you put yourself in a situation and play it out in the music.
Songs are inspirations and we get to sing a certain melody then you put lyrics behind it and then rhythm comes in. I always look out for a beautiful melody and beautiful story, I put myself in that neutral positions and send the music around for people to listen and get opinions.
As an artist you are always writing songs, so when you ready to prepare an album you begin to narrow in on certain songs and start to shape and choose which song the album should revolve around. You write every day and every time.
How do you decide on a song’s suitability for an album?
I take three strong songs from the album and give it to different people I’m close with whose opinions about my career I trust, and I ask them to listen and arrange the songs in order of their preference and whichever comes in with the most number one spots wins.
This was my second album after a big hit with “Aso” so the expectation was high and I had parted ways with Kontinehe and it was my first major project all alone and it was awesome, the inspiration.
Though both albums were successful but I realized if I had a team that could help with managing different aspects of the brand it will have been more successful so in 2003 I put up the KBKB Music team just before “Dakye” came through and it has really worked.
Have you been on a label before?
Lots happened after Aso” and I thank Kontihene for all the help he gave me from my first album but I was glad it turned out the way it did because I am still here and making my fans proud.
I have never been on a label. I was on my own up until I met Kontihene and we worked as separate artists and not on label basis and we parted ways after “Aso”. It wasn’t intentional to do music without a label but I believed everything that happened then happened for a reason.
As a matter of fact, I had a very difficult time impressing anybody in the beginning, nobody was seeing the potential. And after “Aso” blew up, anybody whom I could walk to for help was not new to me because almost everyone had turned me down before “Aso”. They all didn’t believe in me and so I didn’t see why we could work after I had made a hit record all alone. If you believed in me, you would have seen it from day one and the people who believed were the once I was going to work with.
You’ve achieved relative success; do you intend to give back?
Yes, I rolled out the Kwabena Kwabena Save a Life Foundation and with the National Cardiothoracic Centre we did our first successful show this year to raise funds and we are supporting the hole in heart patients who are mostly kids because they are the future of the nation.
We have many social problems but I feel if I pick one to tackle and another picks one then we will be solving many at the same time. Because I learnt out of every hundred children born, one is a hole-in-heart patient and I felt the future lies with this group and needed us.
By: Abdullai Isshak/enewsgh.com