You can’t control somebody who doesn’t need anything from you.- Worlasi
Singer Worlasi is charismatic; he controls the conversation. When he’s nervous or uncomfortable, he rises to his feet and remains standing till he has overturned the psychic uneasiness. It takes him only seconds, and is only picked up by eyes of observation.
Wearing casual green batik over dull cream denims and brown boots, Bluetooth headphones over his ears, Worlasi walks into the offices “too simple” for his gift and growing celebrity. I expect him to be overwhelmed by the view our office affords of planes landing at Kotoka, he’s not. I expect him to bask in the widely held assertion that he’s the next great Ghanaian artist, he doesn’t (he instantly detaches himself when after shaking hands with him, I bring it up; “make them talk…” he says, gesturing away from himself –like you would do for food that nauseates you). Worlasi is a strange man.
He stands out in the room, in which there are four others. His short sleeves are rolled once, up round shoulders –so that they show a thin solider texture. He also wears a striking pendant, which sparks a powerful conversation about everything; Jesus, Marijuana, contrast, balance, grandparents, passion, his debut Nusɛ, knowledge, forces, art, instinct, the concept of wealth, sexuality and most of all; keeping out distractions and finding our essence ultimately.
When Precious, sitting across from him, asks about the meaning of the symbol of the pendant, which also appears at the end of his yet to be released Nukata video (which he shows us on his smartphone), he asks for a pencil and an orange post-it, and begins to trace out three seeds which touch one another is a sort of triangle. These seeds, he explains, represent the mind, body and heart. By the end of the illustration, which comes down to finding the dot at the middle –your “center”, the image also curiously looks like the female reproductive organ, and so represents life. If you look closely, you’ll also see legs and arms stretched out, as if being crucified –and so represents sacrifice too.
“So I feel if you are in sync with all these three things [mind, body and heart] at the same time, you can find that center, and if we can all find that center everyday from morning to evening, we can do amazing things”, he sermonizes. “Once we get there mistakenly, amazing things happen. It even happens sometimes in sex”.
Twice, he cuts the conversation, which is dense with palpable emotion and many wisdoms (which we infer is as a result of growing up at his grandparents’), to answer phone calls from legendary producer Da Hammer, who adds to the endless list of high-profile fans of his skill, concerning a forthcoming song on which he features.
Worlasi points to his forehead constantly and draws a straight line ahead to illustrate focus, opts for bottles of water instead, and cusses freely, even in the same sentence he speaks of his granny. He jumps to his feet to stress his deepest convictions, and daunts you with an exceptionally direct gaze; like while insisting that an artist’s work is not for free; “people are refusing to understand and respect the fact that it’s a craft, and the least you can do is to support”, and then knocking on one of the tables, asks if carpenters for instance, can be treated the same way.
It is this same emotional outpouring that steers his music, undoubtedly. He’s blatant in his expression, and even his singing is so fearless that it feels like rap. In Wake Orp, off Nusɛ, he rattles with naked zest and fury significant of a beast let loose, the exact sentiments of every upcoming act –except, his is several notches higher. He explodes: “I curse, I curse, I curse, I curse all the suckers wey in future you go make I sweat” .
The underground artist is naturally angry, and regrets the depressing dizziness which is the music industry. Specifically from that angle, he identifies with disgust, how established acts have cheapened the craft which is music, and reduced it to mere fame and lyrics of no depth. And then, he elucidates passionate dogma about how it is he who has been sent by God himself to correct that –until he finds his feet in there –and then (unsurprisingly) becomes like everyone else.
While he has only been in the industry proper for something like a year, Worlasi pretty much is set to shred the label of underground act (he abhors labels of any kind, by the way), because he represents artistry and difference, and is easily the most sought after act for a collaboration –from EL to M.anifest.
Yet, his product has remained the same, and his devotion intact. Why? “I don’t care about money, I don’t care about fame!”
He’s measured amidst the pressures which accompany being a fully-fledged artist under Ghanaian skies. It is unbelievable, but that is Worlasi –he runs on passion, and “money is worried about when it’s necessary…when I think about money, I don’t do what I have to do. I don’t need money to create music”. He agrees, like he does in his song Motivation, from his recent mixtape Uncut ( ft. Krack Gyamfi, EmpeRaw) that money has to be gotten, as it smoothens things:” I go wake up, work hard, make money, come bed again then wake up, work hard, make money…”, but insists that passion is the real motivation. His whole career in music composition, he reveals, started from a little Pentium 3 PC — “that is the sacrifice. You can’t stop –once you choose something, you can’t stop”. A line in Wake Orp sums this thought: Your money go finish but my passion dey grow/ my passion no fit finish cuz I fucking dey grow”.
He believes things take as long as they take, and that if they happen within any other time-frame, you might go crazy; “you can’t force forces”.
Worlasi insists on simple language, and so he resorts to pidgin constantly, Twi occasionally. When, as preamble to one of my questions I say: ” you thrive on solitude”, he stops me immediately, asking that I use everyday speech “you dey use big words, I no dey understand. What be thrive in solitude?”. I was both embarrassed and greatly impressed at the man. Simplicity is the key.
Nevertheless, his responses are significantly erudite – his intelligence sparkles, and so we all are shocked when he confesses: “I don’t like reading, I hate reading.” Precious suggests Paulo Coelho‘s The Alchemist, convinced that he would enjoy it because of his worldview. But Worlasi stresses (quite bluntly) that if it doesn’t captivate him within the first few sentences, he wouldn’t bother reading on, and then wonders why everybody with whom he’s conversed pushes for him to read.
But here’s what I think: the genius Worlasi has so much to offer to the culture of knowledge that it is more to the benefit of the culture than himself, should he read.
Worlasi posits that when it comes to knowledge, reading is not the only way. Reading, to him, is like a table set with many dishes to be tasted, and not just consumed –that the goal is to be improved by bits and pieces you’ve picked and chosen, and not to blindly imbibe simply because something can be found in a book.
Knowledge is not limited to reading, nor is it to the classroom: “you always don’t have to go to school to know everything, and you don’t have to go to school to know everything. You just have to know what you have to know to be everything […] you’re reading everything but you’re not thinking”, he laments.
He bemoans how Africans are great at reading, perform splendid in Ivy League schools, acquiring and insisting on being referred to by them, and yet being unable to create: “it’s not about learning what is already there”. If they can put these titles aside, he holds a strong view that they can do more, and even earn more money. He buttresses the point with Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, observing (quite rightly) that nobody focuses on his titles as they do his vision and achievements.
This pan-Africanist predisposition flows in his song Black Man, also off Nusɛ: “Black or White, the blood stays red/ Black or White, brains dey your head”. Indeed, he argues that scientifically, the Black man is a superior specie in many respects, hence fervently hopes that as soon as possible, he pushes for his creative spot and realizes he’s greater than what his current contribution to life is.
Much of the conversation also stagnates around contrast and balance; it is how he processes his two dominant interests –music and art. It’s how he processes the bulging half of the pillar in the wall to the left. It’s how he processes the female sex, and sexuality at all–to him, it’s all about the mind, so that if one man thinks himself a woman and another a man, even same-sex relationships can succeed too.
The mind is your god, he concludes his response to a question about Jesus/religion. He brushes it off with a nervous laugh when it first comes up in the discussion, but Precious is relentless in her quest for an answer from this anomaly whose every response provokes long reflection. Lifting his gaze from his thigh, he acknowledges that he’s not much of the Catholic boy his grandmother brought him up as. He’s of the opinion that his ways these days won’t qualify him for a “Christian”, especially from the viewpoint of the church, but ultimately, he believes in a supreme being.
On Jesus, he sets off just as controversial: “I don’t even know if he existed, first of all…but I feel he was in tune with his mind, his heart, and he was in tune with nature…especially his heart”. He who is in sync with his mind is in sync with his god. These thoughts, while they are controversial, are not intended for controversy, for they are said with an honesty and deep personal clarity:
“I have seen something else, I have experienced it myself”.
This “something else” is only found within — it is what Nusɛ symbolizes. It is where his music comes from: “nobody thought me this. I’ve never been to music school, but I’m making sense to those who have been to school”. It is how he knows Marijuana is not for him, at least not yet: “I am naturally high…I want to be responsible enough to start smoking”. You cannot, under any circumstance, be swayed by distractions:“once you’re distracted from that center, it’s fucked up!”
Worlasi’s philosophies are profound, and his eccentricities border on the metaphysical. His music is brilliant, and he’s one bent on living a full life. His fascination with Da Vinci for instance, further assures him that he can do anything he sets his mind to. Man has yet to be cloned, it is the highest form of creation, his pendant reminds him of that, because like I’ve said, it appears like the female reproductive organ, which births life. And while he has no intentions of creating “man”, he intends for his creativity to reach those proportions. It is impossible, so it reminds him to keep pushing.
But in the event it does happen, and he’s built the creative school the size of the tower our office overlooks, once he’s finally absorbed the Jazz collection lecturer/ DJ Kobi Graham gave him days ago, once he has fulfilled his ambition of going to music school, and is able to shoot his own videos, and has truly peaked creatively, “once I’m through with all this, I may have another logo”.
*Worlasi released his 2015 debut Nusɛ to critical acclaim, with many praising his depth of soul and daring originality. In July this year, he released Uncut, a collection of songs which didn’t make it unto Nusɛ.
Photos: Worlasi/ Facebook