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#VGMANostalgia – The Evergreen V-VIP

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Welcome to #VGMANostalgia, our continuing buildup to the 17th annual Ghana Music Awards ceremony slated for the Accra International Conference Centre on April 8th.

This week’s instalment, the third in the series, focusses on veteran hiplife group VVIP.

The years 2004 and 2011 are the highest points for hiplife group VIP as far as the Ghana Music Awards are concerned. They were adjudged Artist of the Year on both occasions. Only Sarkodie has annexed the coveted title as many times. But their true legacy transcends awards.

Now VVIP (with the exit of rapper Promzy and the addition of Reggie Rockstone), they have grown to become an institution: indeed, one of our most important examples in the evolution of the genre. Among them dwells incredible history: Reggie Rockstone is credited with coining the term “hiplife” to begin with –an undoubted founding father, and though they have witnessed constant gentrification,  VIP (Vision in Progress) has been active since 1997, and so are veterans in their own right.

Three of the founding members of the group: Zeal (formerly Lazzy), Prodigal, and Promzy

Originally consisting five men and a dog, the band’s fortitude has consistently been threatened, but they have always prevailed somehow. Bone parted with the group first. Founder Friction (born Musah Haruna) also left after the release of their second album Ye De Aba to pursue a solo career. So did Promzy (Emmanuel Ababio) in 2013. Even their dog, Chicago, passed away not long after they started gaining fame. The point is this: like the spirit of Nima, the suburb where the group was conceived, they have remained resilient. Among the group’s other projects are Bibi Baa O (1998), Lumbe Lumbe Lumbe (2001), as well as the widespread Ahomka Womu (2003). They’ve published nine records till date, and show no signs of stopping.

Today, as VVIP, they consist of Reggie Rockstone (Reginald Ossei), Prodigal (Joseph Nana Ofori), and Zeal,  (Abdul Hamid Ibrahim), and still know how to make hits. They’re yet to release an album under their new name, but their singles, as soon as they are dropped, become favourites on the radio, clubs, and the streets. Skolom, Selfie, Book of Hiplife, Alhaji, Dogo Yaro, as well as their recent After Party (ft. Stonebwoy) all contain the hit formula –they all come in appealing rhythm and catchy hooks.

Ghana’s music terrain is quickly becoming chocked with the release of new songs daily, and this has seen some of our cherished veterans being pushed to the sidelines. But like a powerful rock, VVIP has remained steady while others have simply been swept away. If it were an easy thing to do, everybody else would have succeeded at it.

There’s a powerfully rebellious quality about the group. It is perhaps what has ensured their survival over the years. This can be strongly felt in their choruses too. Usually led by Zeal (formerly going by the stage name Lazzy), the hooks come as blasting  chants which you simply can’t ignore. The songs, like them, will not take “‘no” for an answer. Even if they were released 20 years ago, they scream at you. This astounding recall feature that their songs possess, even causes much younger generations to lay claim to them as though they were released in their time. Ahomka Womu, Obaa Sweety, Daben Na Odo Beba, Besin, Manenko, Sisi Yare3, Kuzo Muyi Wassa (Show Me Wossop), pass for “throwbacks”, but are very much present in this day and age too. At concerts, these songs inspire deafening roars from patrons, proving what timeless pieces they are.

Contemporary acts will only accept the label of “hiplife artist” when convenient (say, to secure nomination at the Ghana Music Awards), never mind that it is specifically hiplife that they might be doing. The quest for continental/ global appeal sees them adopt labels as “hiphop artist’, or “Afrobeats artist”, or “Afropop artist”. Or, they would come up with their own coinage: this pop or that pop, this music or that music. Unfortunate in many regards, it finds them needlessly shying away from the rich heritage that accompanies the name “hiplife”. VVIP is among very few Ghanaian acts who wholeheartedly refer to themselves as “hiplife” acts, essentially, the last of a few custodians of what remains of the genre.

At the same time, they have successfully assuaged negative stereotypes about Nima, where they come from — the image of a rowdy slum. Steadily, they have steered the Nima narrative to become a hub of dreams, and a centre of endless possibilities to them that believe. Their annual Sallafest, consisting of a huge feast by day, and a musical concert by night, has been running for something like 20 years, and has proven to be a source of pride for fellow Nima natives. It has inspired similar initiatives by their colleague musicians: Dancehall singer Stonebwoy is achieving something similar with Ashaiman.

Renowned street artist Moh Awudu testifies to this: “they are the first group of people who put Nima on the map with a positive perception. Before them, everyone thought of Nima as a place of negative people. They opened that door to us, especially for me — when I started with my art: the Nima- branded t shirts”, he tells me in an interview this afternoon.

“Now I’m using art as a medium to change and promote Nima, and teaching free art classes on weekends. Because, in the end, you don’t have be in a higher position to make an impact to the society”, he further submits.

VVIP’s impact on Moh is especially affective because, he has come full circle: from admiring them from afar, to now collaborating with them on projects.


It is refreshing to see VVIP achieve such high success levels, and still have their street credibility intact. At Sallafest, they are personally involved in distributing food items to the thousands who sit around the endless feast table. Their stardom doesn’t hold them back from connecting with the people on an intimate level. To be this close to your idols, and to receive gifts from their very hands does something to your spirit. These people you watch on TV daily, and witness travel  the world, are just like you. They come from the same lungs as you. The streets which nurture your modest ambition are the same streets which raised them. If they made it, what’s your excuse really? Now message is stronger than this.

VVIP’s impact on Moh (front row, second left) is especially affective because, he has come full circle: from admiring them from afar, to now collaborating on projects. Picture credit: Moh Awudu.

 

When Promzy left, many questioned once more, the sustainability of the group, holding that the rapper left with a significant amount of their verve, especially onstage. They may have a point, but there’s surely something to be said about how decently Zeal and Prodigal held the fort till Reggie joined. Pulling through this specific phase — one widely seen to be their biggest obstacle thus far, is proof that they will be present for as long as they want.

When Promzy left, many questioned once more, the sustainability of the group, holding that the rapper left with a significant amount of their verve, especially onstage.

 

VVIP are one of only three surviving mainstream groups of the class of early 90s and this new millennium who are associated with heavy activity: R2Bees and 4×4 being the others.

They have attracted collaborations with esteemed colleagues from across the continent and beyond, and have shared stages with even more. Over the years, they have been recipients of awards too many to mention. However, one of the two laurels they picked up at this year’s Ghana Music Honours summarises the core message of today’s conversation: Evergreen Hiplife Honour!

 

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Father (Obrafour) & Son (Sarkodie) take on ‘Moesha’ IN NEW SONG – LISTEN

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The Obrafour/Sarkodie collaboration is the most looked-forward to in this town –it has been the case for years. The reason is simple: aside being artistic livewires by themselves, their partnerships perennially prove to be cornerstone material. Typically, motivational spiels on humanity, these records often function as timely vehicles for sober retrospection and soul-searching.

Within a spate of weeks, we have been served two more mighty joints from the pair; Brighter Day –that moving number Sarkodie premiered at the 2018 VGMAs, and now, Moesha which, going by the title alone, appears to be commentary on actress Moesha Boduong’s controversial CNN confessions.

Actress Moesha Boding admitted to CNN’s Christine Amanpour in a recent interview, that she sleeps with a married man to support her lifestyle. The statement generated severe backlash from many Ghanaians, who found the statement unfortunate and embarrassing.

Like Brighter Day, Moesha is produced by JMJ (most famed for his work with Samini, and Kaakie), and so boasts of airtight production that only a veteran can offer. However, whereas Brighter Day expounds the need to identify the blessing in every situation, the latter grieves a hasty love decision –Moesha, with whom the narrator used to share romantic affection, but whom he has left for flimsy reasons, must be won back urgently, as leaving her has turned out to be a costly mistake. All sections of the song capture the desperate honesty that is the feature of all heartfelt remorse:

“We’ve broken up longtime ago

Still can’t believe why I let you go

It was a mistake but now I know”

While they appear prosaic, these words, which constitute Obrafour’s first words in the song, promptly strike uncomfortable nostalgia within the listener who, very likely has thought these words at some point in their life. The purpose of all great songwriting is to awaken emotion, and for as long as the rapper has done music actively, that box has been ticked. Writing for highlife –the genre to which the record leans –is tricky business: one is tasked with the delicate goal of inspiring dance and deep thought concurrently. Again, Obrafour is one of a handful of recording artists who check this box. His entire account on Moesha –his sensitive verses and hook (which see him blend slickly, the English language and his native Twi), portray a master storyteller at work. Often, actual mood is heard, not in words, but in the voice through which they are carried. Obrafour excels here too –for his aching voice suits supplication perfectly. That same voice has, for decades, served as a trusted instrument for social commentary.

Sarkodie’s voice too, has assumed archetypal familiarity due to his leadership in GH rap this past decade. Few contemporary rhymers have to their credit, as many notable verses as Sarkodie — a clear testament to his current stature in the genre. His technique is riveting, and his style the subject of imitation by many an upcoming rapper. How he has kept his place at the apex regardless, is one for his biographers. On Moesha, much like on stuff he has published previously, his voice is not merely heard, but also felt intensely. These days, Sarkodie’s narrative procedure is criticized as “cliché”, but every artist must have vocal identity, and truthfully, were other rappers to have published as much content as Sarkodie has put out, their style too would bear a similar tag.

Representing significant phases of the Hiplife arc (Obrafour as forebear and language guru, Sarkodie as icon of modern glory), the rappers share genuine mutual respect for each other’s artistry, and their unique creative chemistry has been crowned with habitual masterpieces.

At first, Moesha looks like a marketing gimmick, but this is Obrafour, who has never required to latch unto a trending issue to remain relevant, more so at this point in his career, when his legacy is firmly in place. Indeed, when artwork for the record was released days ago, it was widely anticipated to be obvious commentary on the actress. Clearly, we thought wrong.

“Now I know your love was so divine

Wish I go fit reverse the hand of time

Don’t know what to do to bring you back”

But maybe the song is indeed about Moesha after all. Sometimes, the best way to address something is to navigate it through other things. Obrafour is a lyrical mastermind; a clever old man who has frequently stirred social action with his music. Genius resides in his DNA, which is why the following theories, however wild, are worth considering: (a); backlash which followed the socialite’s CNN comments was so intense that she reportedly was afraid to return to Ghana. Listeners will most likely come to the song with a set of negative preconceptions, but the tune, by the time it plays fully, portrays “Moesha” in a rather positive light; courting for her, ample empathy. The song doesn’t immediately repair her public image, but it definitely sets her on that path. It could be subtle reference to the adage that when your child excretes unto your thigh, severing that body part is extreme, (b); the song reechoes Ms. Boduong’s apology to Ghanafo (which seemed to have done little to restore her in the people’s good graces) – the song’s title serving as a crafty metaphor for the country, the remorseful men, Moesha on her begging knees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GRINGO Vs. The Republic of Opinions, Only one Sheriff matters… HE is EL Shatta

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“Now this story begins in a small town, in the ass crack of nowhere. A mining town of yonder, on the edge of the frontier. A land of crooks, villains, gamblers, drunks and wild women. Even in this crazy old town, there has to be some sort of law and order…”

While one group, after seeing Shatta Wale’s new visual offering, hails it as an unprecedented display of creative valor, making it the most iconic submission by a Ghanaian musician in a long time, another, a more cynical faction, simply can’t fathom the fuss, and deems the work as exclusively an ostentatious picture of contradictions.

Whichever standpoint you take on the Gringo debate, the talkability that it has commanded upon release, is massive. And seeing that it is in Wale’s nature to fester daily debate, more so ahead of a new album, it has proven wildly successful. It currently sits atop both iTunes charts and the YouTube index.

Directed by the famed Sesan Ogunro (who also shot the singer’s Bulletproof, among other works for other top GH acts), the 7-minute video/ short film complements Gringo, the first single off the dancehall firebrand’s forthcoming The Reign album. It is also his first major release since joining new creative powerhouse, ZYLOFON Music. Clearly this wasn’t just another release, hence the pomp that has characterised both its making and eventual release.

“Now here’s something you don’t see everyday. Who do we have here? A wandering stranger. Skin’s dark as night. Clad in the finest of silk, gold, and cotton. Is he lost? Whoever this ombré is, he sure ain’t here to ask for directions”.

 

The Shatta Factor:

Since the turn of this decade, Shatta Wale, who is known to his mother as Charles Nii Armah Mensah, has remained at the heart of the GH showbiz discussion. A combination of factors has ensured his perpetual residence on tabloids in these parts; for one thing, he has been a core contributor to what songs truly move Accra.

On Don’t Try, a scorching 2016 warning to whomever  it concerns, he roars: “we dey drop hit song each and every year”. At the time he made that claim, he had amassed an extensive catalogue to back it up, and his infinite penchant to unleash street anthems with little effort, continue to corroborate him as prophet, for he is what one may call “a hit factory”. For another, he is bearer of an abrasive fearlessness which knows no bounds. Many of his actions as a result, because they stir controversy, have kept him newsworthy. Thirdly, his fierce charisma has courted for him, a mammoth constituency of disciples. It takes something to be Shatta Wale.

Now, on any other day, folks would get on about their business, but you see, this ain’t just another day.

 

ZYLOFON Vrs. Cultural Imposition

The ZYLOFON approach has always meant a bigger budget, and so though official numbers have yet to be published, it shows in the video –the ample financial dollar on which the work is founded.

Again, the ZYLOFON approach, as has been pontificated to us all along, is one of cultural imposition; Ghana has so much wealth in terms of craft and culture. For a long time, the rest of the world had tasted it in little doses, but this was a new dawn; and they were going to be inundated by it. And yet, it is difficult to identify anything relating to this theme in the highly-publicized work – not in the song, not in the video, which was shot in Texas, USA. If anything at all, the reverse it what appears to be happening –Shatta Wale rather seems enamoured by, and is keen on perpetuating the cowboy culture. And that causes great unease. But hey, he made country folk sway to dancehall music. That’s something.

And so here we are. Sundown. There can only be one big dog around these parts, and as the saying goes, every good thing must come to an end. I guess bad things come to an end too.

 

Song Vrs Video:

Gringo is set in Smalltown (1886), on the edge of the frontier. EL Shatta, played by the dancehall firebrand, having won the heart of Jasmine, the beautiful girlfriend of the dreaded Snake Eye (sheriff of the land) fights to defend his love and honor. Insofar as it captures Shatta Wale’s heroism, the work is well-made. The remarkable journey of an outlier who, against all odds, swoops in fearlessly to challenge the status-quo, and prevails, is rendered compellingly via powerfully rich narration, arresting cinematography, and immaculate post-production. That it doesn’t really do justice to the song is for another paragraph.

The school that holds that the video conflicts with the song, presents a solid argument: the song loiters about many themes which are hard to piece together: approved apparel for a “bad man”, how far into the womb a good penis should reach, rapper Cardi B’s luscious body, why Shatta’s crew is the talk of town, who is custodian of the best marijuana, bleaching, domestic violence…On the song, he hollers at one Gringo; in the video, he turns out to be the Gringo (which translates from Spanish as “stranger”). It sounds like Shatta was led by rhyme and not much else, for the dissonance couldn’t be more glaring, and real substance is lost on the consumer.

 

Peculiar reticence to music videos:

Typically, Shatta Wale would rather release music than focus on publishing a video. The streets don’t demand much…just the download link to the song. Because he’s modelled his career on street love, music videos have never been the priority. It is apparent in how many of his hits cannot boast of fitting accompanying visuals, or visuals at all. Indeed, sources close to the singer, divulge that he only recently got purged of his curious reticence towards publishing music videos. And so, one may even say he deserves some accolades for releasing as many music videos as he did last year, for instance.

In a way, Wale does have a point; a good song needs not a video to sell, and examples abound to back this assertion. But when a musician gets to the heights that he has, a music video –a great music video — becomes fundamental. And if it arrives as anything less than the quality expected of an A -list name, then backlash is close by.

Shatta Wale hardly gets enough plaudits for what a mastermind he is with (self) promotion, and how versed he’s demonstrated to be over the years, in the dynamics of branding. If a music video is now a prerequisite, it will be done only on his terms. More likely than not, the brouhaha surrounding the video to Gringo was all deliberately planned, and in a boardroom somewhere at East Legon, team members are popping expensive champagne, laughing and congratulating one another for such a genius plan.

 

Shelf life

Artistically, a video does so much for a song/ album in terms of determining its overall tone, and even serving as an extension of the work. David Nicol – Sey’s work on the first couple of videos off Sarkodie’s Highest is testament to this. Sey’s videos were excellent in packaging the overall feel of the project. It is unclear that Gringo does same for The Reign, aside making it showbiz fodder. Again, time will tell.

But Gringo will fly, solely because it relates to Shatta Wale, and as an artist, he complies by no rule. Again, the Shatta demographic consists no pushovers. They will find a way to seize mainstream buzz. However, as his best foot forward regarding The Reign, it is unconvincing, especially going by the singer’s own standards. After the Storm, his last album, followed a plethora of explosive singles (Mahama Paper, Baby Chop Kiss, Kakai, Hol It, Kill Dem Wif Prayers, Bie Gya, If I Collect, Dancehall King). The same cannot be said about The Reign, which remains very much a mystery at this point. Perhaps this new approach has made all the difference, and posterity will prove Gringo’s merit, and by extension, The Reign‘s.

As one story ends, another begins. Who is this strange cowboy? Whoever he is, he will never be forgotten.

 

Cast:

Shatta Wale

Jade Flury

Dennis Allyn

Chad Thackston

Leoard Lay

Woody Willson

Christopher L. Winbush

Matt Williams

Patsy Deleon

Michael Dominey

Mike Alavardo

Sandra Baskin

Cynthia S. Dire

Vicky Dempsey Burns

Weldon Ovliver

Jason Campbell

Aimee Michelle

Christopher Mills

Charlie Motz

Lauren Cook

Tara Davies

Linda Jo Dominey

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Hail Mufasa, FULL of Grace, Everlasting King – CASSPER Nyovest – AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

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MUFASA [noun]: king!

Of Swahili origin, the word feels like thunder. It implies exemplary leadership, and assumed global prominence via the 1994 Disney classic, The Lion King. These days, it’s also an alter-ego that South African hip-hop titan, Cassper Nyovest, functions under.

When, in 2004, he sought his parent’s blessings to drop out of school to pursue music fulltime, it was a heavy blow to them. His father, Latsebela Phoolo, for one, was a renowned teacher in the town –and it was not a good look. The house was not exactly thrilled. But 16-year-old Nyovest (whom they named Refiloe Maele Poolo) was resolute in his ambition: “…I’d rather chase my dream, which I believe is going to work out, than keeping it safe and regret it my whole life,” he had told them.

Today, at 27, the rapper is in every way, Mufasa – emperor of African hip-hop, a multi-platinum selling act who has shared stages with the very greats, and is famous for regularly drawing multitudes to his concerts, including a record-shattering 68, 000 fans at the First National Bank (FNB) Stadium, Johannesburg last December.

Today, at 27, the rapper is in every way, Mufasa. Images: Instagram/ CASSPER NYOVEST


STARR FM, Meridian House – Accra.

A young photographer rushes into the studios first, holding a black camera with both hands. Nimbly, he pans the shooting device around the room. Starr Drive host Giovanni Caleb, is blending pop tunes behind a console, and co-host Berla Mundi’s eyes are glued to the screen of her MacBook.

The camera’s lens returns to the glass door through which it’s handler has just walked.

Enter Cassper, leader of the force!

He is followed by an entourage of four, and holds an iPhone to his face. Handshakes and felicitations bounce around in the room. Before he sits down in the sofa by the wall, Cassper takes several selfies and, alongside a picture of the Starr FM logo on the purple wall, he tweets: “Ghana tune in!!! We here!!! STARR FM!!! 103.5!!! 

Cassper in the studios of Starr FM, Accra. Image: Instagram/ CASSPER NYOVEST

Accra is clearly home to the Mafikeng native just as much. Notice the calm liberty in his gait, and the overall peace in his demeanor. He sports a full beard, and sparkly jewelry hang from his neck, out his ears and left nostril, and on both wrists. But for the black sunglasses behind which his eyes are hidden this afternoon, his colour of choice is pink. His t-shirt is bereft of sleeves, and his majestic biceps are on full display. His shorts end at the knees, and his feet are covered in trendy white trainers. He’s just climbed up the Meridian House for a radio interview, but he could well be going to the gym.

When Ed Sheran’s “Shape of You” comes on, he nods and sings along ardently. He’s deeply impressed by the mix, and his face contorts into one of intense passion when he yells to Giovanni over the loud music: “Is that you doing the mix?”. Giovanni smiles and nods in the affirmative. “That’s sick bro!” says Cassper (who also constantly uses urban jargons “lit” and “dope”), shaking his head in awe.

Due to time constrains, my conversation with the rapper, which happens over a fleeting ten minutes, but which he describes as “dope” nonetheless, takes place right in the Starr FM studios, during a lengthy musical break, contrary to a nearby restaurant we had earlier scheduled it.

 The rapper’s motives for visiting these parts are simple: “to check out the scene, spread the name, record some music…”. But, in 2018, what is the evidence that one’s trip to Shatta Wale’s Ghana has truly been worthwhile? He must perform the “One Corner Dance”, submit positive judgment on Jollof from this town, and experience Shatta heat simply for calling someone else his favorite dancehall singer. Before he flies out to Uganda on Thursday for the Full Moon Party, Cassper undergoes all these rites. Therefore, he was here some!

The alias Mufasa, more than aptly defines the rapper’s stature in African hip-hop, especially over the past few years. For one thing, it is testament of how steadily and imposingly he has proven himself in the ranks of African hip-hop. If anyone still harbors misgivings on why his name is so frequent in discourse about the continent’s biggest rap exports, here are one or two facts: all three albums he’s published have gone platinum; he’s been honored nearly 40 times by a plethora of high-profile schemes (Channel O Music Video Awards, MTV Africa Music Awards, South Africa Music Awards, SA Hip-hop Awards, All Africa Music Awards – AFRIMA, Urban Music People Awards, etc); topped many “Best MC’ lists, collaborated with culture elders as The Game, Talib Kweli, MI Abaga, Kwesta, HHP, DJ Drama, Black Thought among others; and filled up arenas where pop giants as Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Chris Brown, and Trey Songz have all fallen short.

“I felt like I was in the position to…kind of…lead in African hip-hop,” says Cassper about his decision to adopt Mufasa as alias, and there’s no debate there. Easily the fastest –rising act South Africa has ever witnessed, Cassper’s feats have yet to be matched.

Easily the fastest-rising act South Africa has ever witnessed, Cassper’s feats have yet to be matched. Images: Instagram/ CASSPER NYOVEST

Family!

Like the character in the Disney film, the rap Mufasa holds his household very dear. Two of his albums: Tsolofelo (2014), and Thuto (2017) were named after his sisters, and his family has constantly been the subject of his songs. When anyone has made unsavory comments about his kinfolk, they have had to face legal action for instance, because he’s always held that his family functions as his backbone, and will be respected. The man even christened his record label Family Tree.

“Family means everything to me. I’m family-oriented. Also, my blessings, I believe, come from the prayers my family send up [to heaven]. My family has made a lot of sacrifices for me to get to where I am… and t’s just my support structure. I live with my sisters. My mum is also practically at my house all the time, so I come from a very loving family”.

He divulges, with genteel pride, that his grandmother, at a point, had not less than 26 people living under her roof – something that has influenced his culture of having a large family around. Indeed, he also admits that, for his FNB gig, he was willing to part with everything (including his cars, and resort to taxi service, Uber) to make the concert happen, but could not bring himself to letting his house go – not just because it was a beautiful place, but more importantly, because of who inhabits it – his family.

FAMILY! Image: Mzansi Stories

It is Possible!

Hip-hop portrays a precise story: the journey from penury to opulence. It is perhaps, why the philosophy of trophies is so dominant in the culture. Whether they are plaques, or jewelry, or cars, or record sales, they represent a redemption. For the teenager who nurses faith in a better tomorrow, the aggressive profligacy displayed in the lyrics and music videos resonate with him in a peculiar way.  “It is possible! My life will not always be like this”, he would assure himself with a sigh and a smile. Young Cassper experienced these exact thoughts: “I grew up loving cars and stuff…”

“I grew up loving cars and stuff…” Image: Instagram/ CASSPER NYOVEST

It’s Bigger Than Hip-hop! 

By all means, supercars are a significant accomplishment. But having finally achieved all these, he would realize that higher desires existed in this life, such as the need to shift culture: I got to a point [where] I still enjoy having sports cars and whatever, but they don’t mean as much to me anymore”.

Rather, he deems them as investments. It is why he didn’t hesitate in putting his cars up for sale for the FNB show:

“At that moment, my dream meant more than having a car…you know what I’m saying? Having a car doesn’t mean anything when the stadium is empty, or you don’t have [the] exact stage that you wanted to have, and you don’t give people the experience that you wanted to give them…so, I would [rather] do without everything I didn’t need to make sure that this dream comes true”.

 Again, the FNB gesture was to prove how seriously he takes his craft, and the influence that it has accorded him, “… to show people that I’m all in – and I needed them to be all in as well. I’m not half-stepping”.

“I wanted to’ to show people that I’m all in – and I needed them to be all in as well. I’m not half-stepping.” Cassper performs to 68,000 at the FNB Stadium (Johannesburg) in December, 2017.  Image: Instagram/ CASSPER NYOVEST

 Also known as Soccer City or The Calabash, the FNB is the largest stadium in Africa. Casper’s bid to fill it was the boldest attempt by any SA musician. Just 7000 shy of the 75, 000 target, the numbers were still an iconic milestone, swiftly catapulting the show unto global headlines. But what did it mean to Mr. Nyovest himself?

 “It was important for me as an African in general. When you break it down to me firstly being a South African, then me being a South African Hip-hop artist, and then being an independent South African hip-hop artist, then it becomes too personal. But for me, it was really more about just being an African and making headlines all around the world about what happened in Africa last night”.

 “…it felt good for me to make news as an African for the good reasons –cuz we’re always in the news for …you know what I’m saying…corruption, poverty, and all that stuff that’s going in our continent, so it was just dope to be in the news for some dope stuff.”

At this point in his career, filling up stadiums has become normal. This year, he intends to take the series to the 85 000 capacity Moses Mabhida stadium, Durban. Fearless ambition has ensured that the man is ahead of the pack by quite a stretch.

At this point in his career, filling up stadiums has become normal. Image: Instagram/ CASSPER NYOVEST

Cassper is not only music overlord of the “rainbow nation”. His inroads elsewhere are also noteworthy. For example, he has performed in more African countries than any other rapper, and this year will see him consolidate his impact on the continent. Indeed, his trip to Ghana is in this direction.

Rap virtually requires an arrogance from its practitioners. It’s about mounting your flag and defending it with every drop of your blood. And yet, at its very core is respect for the efforts of other worthy soldiers in the game. This is a key element to his solid footing as a leading name in rap circles. He does not hide his admiration for fellow African acts who are excelling too, because he subscribes to the notion that everyone is king in their land. “The best thing to do is collaborate […] it’s all about growing together as Africans, and building each other…”, he suggests –so that, a time will come when he will be able to sell out venues in Ghana, and colleague Sarkodie for instance, can do same in South Africa. It’s bigger than hip-hop.

Often, the man a person becomes is homage to the man who raised him. Specifically, in this regard, Cassper’s dad is Superman. Image: Instagram/ CASSPER NYOVEST

Superman!

Often, the man a person becomes is homage to the man who raised him. Specifically, in this regard, Cassper’s dad is Superman.

“My father is a great man cuz he made a lot of great people. He was a teacher. So, my father was never like a successful businessman, but he taught successful businessmen. There are so many people that came from him…from his teachings. I’m one of them…my popularity mostly comes from my humility, and that’s what I learned from my dad, so I’m a product of my father”, Cassper relates about his dad.

The way he closes this glowing homage, one gets the impression that Latsebela Phoolo is not merely a name, but a title too: “his name is Latsebela Phoolo!”.

Full Circle!

Cassper’s mum, Mme Muzuki Phoolo, calls him “messiah” now.  And why not? His career thus far is proof of what a powerful visionary he was, even at 16. The decision to allow young Refiloe to chase his dreams has paid off richly.

“It’s overwhelming for my mum to put me on such a high pedestal and to motivate me in such a way, especially with Bible scriptures …because she’s such a great person, and such a wise person. So, anything that my mum could say that shows that she’s proud of me really makes me proud …it makes me feel good about myself and the steps that I’ve taken. Because, also, I come from a point where my parents were not really happy about me dropping out of school, so the fact that they’re happy about how my life turned out is really dope”.

With our dialogue over, Cassper walks up to one of the swivel chairs, across the massive table from Giovanni. He wears one of the large headphones, and before he sits to engage Accra, he does a minute of the famous Shaku Shaku dance, a recent pop invention by Nigeria’s Olamide. Guy’s got moves, too.

All hail the Mufasa.

* A multiple-award-winning musician, producer, and businessman, Cassper is CEO of Family Tree Records, his independent imprint. At the forthcoming Vodafone- sponsored Ghana Music Awards, he has ben nominated alongside Davido, Wizkid, Toofan, Cassper Nyovest, Nasty C, Tiwa Savage, and Olamide for “Best African Artiste of the Year”. Get Thuto, his latest album here.

Cassper reunites with Stonebwoy while in Ghana for a follow -up to their 2015 joint, “Fever”. Image: Instagram/ Cassper Nyovest

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BACK Bigger & Better… ADIEPENA, a KiDi Love story – LISTEN

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Melody –that has always been the trick with Pop and Highlife. If it’s catchy, you’re sorted. And these days, it is precisely music from the Richie Mensah -led LYNX Entertainment we truly look forward to. After all, they have proven custodians of the modern wave; proponents of the new hit formula.

As was the case last year, the outfit is very much steering the charts this year too. Offerings from MzVee and Kuame Eugene have already kept the fort secure –an easy assignment due to the residual impact of their 2017 hits.

Adiepena, KiDi’s latest offering, sums up the first round of releases from the label, and properly sets their year in motion.

Adiepena, KiDi’s latest offering, sums up the first round of releases from the label, and properly sets their year in motion. Image: Instagram / KiDi

Produced by Dat Beat God, who is steadily drumming up acclaim for himself, especially for his contribution on dancehall singer Epixode’s latest album “3Nity”, the song immediately calls the great Kojo  Antwi to mind, specifically because in 2009, the celebrated maestro released a soulful ballad with the same title. It follows a similar bpm as Odo, and indeed, most records that made the charts in the past 12 months. Floating on moving guitar melody which inspires the particular smile that precedes a passionate kiss, the joint also works as a fitting follow -up to the widespread Odo, which served as backdrop for many a love story upon release, and even attracted Afro pop titan, Davido’s attention.

On the tune, the singer/songwriter and producer also references the likes of Nana Acheampong, Paapa Yankson, as well as 4×4 member, Coded’s cheeky 2018 hit “Edey Pain Dem”. Therefore, Adiepena not only excels as homage to Highlife elders, but also serves as a well-constructed bridge that connects this generation and the ones prior.

Aside the rich dynamism of his approach to songwriting as evidenced by this new record, KiDi (alumnus of singing contest, MTN Hitmaker) brings a clean maturity and quintessential ‘lover boy” smoothness that constitutes an essential trait of masterpieces; and the reason he’s settled perfectly into the role of  “gal dem sugar”.

KiDi’s stuff typically come with a fine finish. The works possess a powerful permanence. It is why, unlike many of his contemporaries, his submissions are typically spread over significant periods. Throughout last year, he released just two songs –and it was enough to sustain his brand, and a seat at the table. As one would notice by now, the man’s songs are to be savored. They cannot be consumed like your regular Afropop joint which, after a few weeks, tastes musty. These songs inspire inner conversation and soul searching, and so are only properly digested over years.

They may not be credited with fashioning solid love groove from a cocktail of nostalgic refrains, but the LYNX camp has definitely both popularised and brought a modern touch to that penmanship style. Every word you’re listening to has already been sung by a Ghanaian great at some point. Yet, your heart clings to the sound as a child would a new toy. What is happening? Here’s a theory: expertly arranged, the song is being delivered in a vocal texture that is exceptional and fresh. To fellow musicians, this approach appears simple. It is therefore no wonder a number of them have hastily experimented with the method, albeit with little efficiency. But there is a science to this; there are levels to it. We only see what the magician wants us to see. Everything else is carefully hidden behind his experience and sleight.

Adiepena feels straightforward. The tune spans just a little over 3 minutes. But as should be the outcome of all true classics, the replay button is automatic, as is the melody that plays on in one’s mind long after the song is over.

KiDi translates from Hausa as “rhythm”. All of a sudden, everything adds up.

Born Dennis Nana Dwamena, KiDi is up for 5 laurels at this year’s Vodafone -sponsored Ghana Music Awards slated for April 15, including Highlife Song of the Year, Best New Artist, Afro Pop Song of the Year, and Song of the Year.

Accompanying visuals for Adiepena were directed by Rex.

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IT IS MIDDAY in Accra, THIS IS Kweku Obeng Adjei on Starr 103.5 FM

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Starr 103.5 FM, Meridian House – Accra

It’s a minute to midday. Dark and muscly, Kweku Obeng Adjei struts briskly from the Komla Dumor newsroom into the studio across, a Lenovo laptop in his sturdy hand, an expression on his face which spells strictly, business.  He’s shadowed by a petite young lady of similar complexion. As they enter the studio, colleague broadcaster Kofi Okyere Darko, has just wrapped up his duties on mid-morning show “The Zone” and is on his way out.

A giant table occupies the center of the room. On it rests an iconic console whose channel faders are regularly caressed by on-air titans Bola Ray, Francis Abban, Giovanni & Berla Mundi, Jon Germain, Nii Aryee Tagoe among others. Black microphones, and swivel chairs surround the desk, and the day’s major newspapers rest on a small cabinet in the back. On a muted flat screen TV on the wall behind the glass door, an Al-Jazeera documentary is showing.

Kweku settles in the chair behind the console, from where he is faced directly by one of the microphones, three computer monitors, and a wide section of Ghana’s capital, who will be at the end of his voice in seconds. He sets the Lenovo down, beside the console, and begins to whisper something as he stares at the screen. The lady with whom he has just entered, offering production assistance, also sets up by his side. Suddenly, the familiar jingle announcing the Starr Midday News is heard in speakers in the top corners of the room. The news is live.

For the next half-hour, Accra and beyond, will be equipped with the very latest news items across governance, business, international happenings, and sports.

Classily attired in a chequered long-sleeved shirt, Kweku radiates the calm charisma of one truly in charge, his eyes darting about purposefully in this high-pressure enterprise, squinting at the screen of the Lenovo, working channel faders on the console, monitoring the fleeting hands on the wall clock, nodding for a voice clip to be played, whispering instruction to Ms. Petite, or taking feedback from behind the glass window to this left, bracing for an interview, mouthing the next story…

“I’ve always known that radio was going to be my thing”, says Kweku in his signature gentle manner, recounting how, as far back as his primary school days at John Teye Memorial, he has exhibited traits of broadcasting. This desire to utilize his voice even that young, led him to join such groups as the arts and debate clubs. Today, his old classmates aren’t surprised by his exploits, as hearing his voice invokes fond memories of the Class 5 pupil who once voiced a radio promo for his school’s anniversary celebration.

Possessing a soothing sleekness in a way that entrances you, Kweku’s voice is literally music to the ear. It is textured in a such a smooth tone and smooth inflections that everything it utters is instantly convincing. And as is the consequence of dedicating one’s self to radio, the voice is more popular that the person himself. He knows all about it, and has seemingly even made peace with it: “a lot of people don’t know my face but know my voice. Because I’ve been to places where, once I open my mouth and I’m talking, people then know and are able to relate, and even mention my name”.

For as long as Starr FM has been in existence (since 2014), Kweku Obeng Adjei has manned the afternoon bulletin. With a voice designed for radio, a superior interview technique, and an overall professional edge, he has earned an unquestionable spot among the nation’s top -notch anchors. Further testament: last year, he was adjudged Best Newscaster of the Year (English Language) at the Radio and Television Personality (RTP) Awards, and has been nominated on a number of other occasions. This year, due to how effectively he has maintained his steam, he may well retain it.

Obeng Adjei poses with EC Chairperson, Charlotte Osei, after an interview.

Owned by the Bola Ray – led EIB Network, Starr FM towers high in the media terrain. In order to maintain this rank, people like Kweku must remain on top of their game at all times. There is no room for mistakes, as the company risks a dip in ratings as a result. This is where trusted voices as his come into play. Master of the mic, Kweku’s many years of experience, starting from Radio Univers, through Joy FM, Choice FM, and then Power FM (which is now Starr), have purged him of the kind of pressure which accompanies this job.

“It’s just about doing what you have to do, and ensuring that you’re applying all the the skills and ethics of the profession. So for instance, if you’re do interviews, you have to ensure that you have information about what you’re going to be talking about. You must also know who you’re going to be interviewing, because you don’t wan to go on air and mess up. So there isn’t much pressure, but, of course, you must be on alert, because you never know what can be thrown at you” he posits. He can afford to say that now, because of how many years of professional service he has chalked. In addition, the brands which he has been associated with in the past, have built in him the confidence of a veteran.

“Because of competition and who may be on air around the same time you do the bulletin, you must always ensure that your presentation is apt and on-point, and you have all the big stories on your plate. For me in particular, I have worked with some of these competitive stations so I know how their bulletins are prepared, I know how the presentation is done. But of course, currently with Starr FM, I always focus on what I’m supposed to do to ensure that my brand is leading, and a choice for many”, he adds.

A reliable hand, Kweku not only runs the midday bulletin, but also produces a number of other programmes, sits in for other OAPs from time to time, and is a mentor to burgeoning broadcasters. His work culture is remarkable, and his contribution to modern Ghanaian radio, is just as noteworthy. Still, many hold that he doesn’t get as much credit for his efforts…that he may even be underrated.

But the broadcaster disagrees, stressing that he is acclaimed in the industry — where it matters: “I don’t think I’ve been underrated. I know my stuff. I have worked at great places, and at all these places, I have been able to deliver”.

During commercial break, an editor appears by the door: “let’s do something on Togo”. He vanishes almost as suddenly as he appears. A lady walks in and hands in a piece of paper with information hastily scribbled on it. Sports anchor Dennis Mepouri walks in to present the sports, and then rushes back to the newsroom, which is engrossed in usual seriousness; eyeballs staring keenly at the screens of computers, fingers tapping away on keyboards, assignments being written on a nearby white board. Named after Ghanaian broadcasting icon Komla Dumor (formerly of the BBC), the hall is home to many of the country’s brightest young journalists, who hope to follow in the steps of the late Dumor.

Like many newsreaders in this town, Kweku cites Dumor among his idols (alongside Matilda Asante, who gave him his first real break at Joy, Tommy Annang Forson, and mogul and boss Bola Ray, whom he also now considers a brother and friend), admitting that even today, he occasionally resorts to Komla’s old videos to, among other things, “relive and learn”.

Obeng Adjei’s relationship with Bola Ray has even earned him the nickname ‘Deputy CEO’ amongst a section of his peers.

“We all don’t know why he had to leave that early”, says Kweku after a pensive pause, “but Komla was a symbol on the way that, if you wanted to be a journalist …if you wanted to build a standard or class for yourself, you’d look up to him, and I think that his values, his ethics, [and] the zeal with which he performed his duties professionally, encouraged most of us to give this profession all our hope and all our energy.

“Through studying Komla, we realized that journalism is very powerful. I mean, you had the mic to make and unmake, to impact lives, to straighten issues, and to hold people accountable”.

Though he worked at Joy FM, Kweku never got to work with Komla Dumor, as he was on his way to the BBC at the time. Nevertheless, Kweku regularly picked up a thing or two from him, often tuning in to the BBC in anticipation of Komla’s unmistakable smile.

To Kweku, Joy FM proved an impactful grooming platform, where he learned to read the news, conduct interviews, package stories to make an impact. At the Kwesi Twum- owned establishment, Kweku also learned key nuggets as patience, enduring frustrations, and navigating egos –all elements that have steeled him up as a formidable professional. At Starr FM, he has certainly blossomed into a real star!

As far as classic men go, Kweku cannot be overlooked. Always dapper in a blazer or crisp African print, the radio gem also stands among truly well-dressed men in these parts. Radio or not, Kweku believes that elegant dressing (which he picked up from boarding school days, and by associating with sharply-dressed colleagues/ friends) does something to one’s own confidence, and inadvertently influences output.

Behind these microphones, thirty minutes pass very fast, and every second counts. But when you have executed the bulletin as well as Kweku has just done, you too can afford a habitual calm sigh of accomplishment like he’s just breathed.

He makes his way back to the Komla Dumor Newsroom, slightly more relaxed than he came in …Lenovo in hand, and Ms Petite following. A mountain of work still awaits on his desk in the newsroom, as is a rice dish which will be consumed quickly, and out of necessity. A journalist has no rest.

*Born in Accra, and husband to “Pretty Anita”, Kweku is alumnus of Mfantsipim, NIIT, the University of Ghana, and the Ghana Institute of Journalism.  

 

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Charisma, Talent and an absolute beauty that is so SENA, so DAGADU – AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

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Saturday January 27. Breakthrough Studios, Tesano – Accra.

It is not surprising that Sena Dagadu answers my hello in Pidgin – it is normal about her speech, if you’ve followed her — but it still catches me off-guard, pleasantly so, too. “Wosop! Ebi you be the Enews guy ɛh”? Her smile is sunny, and her handshake, warm. “Yeah”, I return her smile, and swallow what is left of my introduction.

She has just walked off one of three sets in this large first-floor space that houses Pascal AKA’s Breakthrough Studios. In a hall buzzing with constant movement and exchange, she stands out, glorious in colour and charisma. On her jumpsuit are black spots evocative of a jungle cat, and she wears a large yellow scarf over her shoulder. Cowries hang from her dreadlocks, and the gigantic ethnic neckpiece around her neck reaches down to her belly.

Sena DAGADU on the set of her new video. Image: Eben Yanks/ ENEWSGH

“Amake busy small, so adey come”, she says with regret in her eyes, points me to an orange plastic chair, and then rushes back onset. Her first name, screams across the wall behind her in bold green graffiti. There’s a crown on the “E” in “Sena”, and down at the base of the wall, are the words “scare crow”, “Sark”, “original”, “Yo Chale!”, and “Let’s get kickin”. They’re not as big as “Sena”, but they’re legible enough. She nods steadily to heavy drum kicks of the track that now fills the room, and mimes into the video camera swinging to and from her, her face exuding funk and attitude. Directly opposite this first set is a cage sprawling with electrical cables, and fluorescent light. It is where Sarkodie will perform when he arrives in a few minutes. The third set, to Sena’s left, fascinates me immensely –not only is it alive with orange and white patterns (and everything on it; sunglasses, a vase, the sofa, boxes), but assumes a different hue under artificial light. Female dancers are practicing over here, their male counterparts are summersaulting over there, makeup is being dabbed on eager faces, sweat is being wiped off soaked necks, in spite of a big standing fan swaying its head this way, and that way. A creative mess – that is what this is. It is all being steered by AKA, who instructs gently from his seat, or storms up suddenly, bouncing like a hip-hop act, to ginger Sena on. This will go on, I am told, till tomorrow morning.

The bubbly Ghanaian-Hungarian musician, is as hands–on as Pascal himself (who currently ranks among the most influential video directors from these parts), suggesting ideas and angles, joining the crew behind the camera to review shots. “I don’t like not knowing what’s going on”, she divulges to me, when we finally settle in her make-shift dressing room to the back for the chat. She opens a pack containing her lunch, and takes two bites of the chicken on the rice meal, and then packs it away again. She wipes her lips and fingers with tissue, and offers me her full attention.

Sena DAGADU on the set of her new video. Image: Facebook/ SENA

Sena is seldom without a smile: in music videos, during interviews, at concerts, or in pictures, a lasting smile inhabits her lush cheeks and fearless eyes. It is virtually unimaginable to describe her person without listing her smile. Still, when I point out what I think is a pretty obvious relationship between her face and a smile, she is stunned. “Really?”, she asks, an extra tickle in the pitch of her voice, and then laughs. A realization hits her almost instantly nonetheless, about the the fact of my observation: “for one thing, it makes me feel good”, she admits. “I don’t like being angry, I don’t like being upset, I don’t like confrontation, and fights, and things like that…When I see people and they smile at me, it makes me feel good”.

“My normal face is a happy face. It has to be an extreme situation that makes me change my face…maybe concentrating or something like that, but in general, I’m a happy person. I like the things that I do, I enjoy the company of my family and my friends, and I think that it would be as if I’m ungrateful for my life if I don’t smile, so I just try to, you know, make myself and everybody else around me feel better about themselves by giving them a little smile”, she explains further.

I toss another word at her -another noun I think truly encapsulates her character: colour. When she moves, Sena oozes a vibrancy that invigorates everyone and everything around. This word too, ignites a sparkle in the sides of her eyes. “Colour”, she repeats the word, but with the peculiar island inflection that cuddles the “r” at the end. “Without colour, everything will be so dull!”, she emphasizes, stretching “dull” so playfully, even I can’t hold back a chuckle. She continues: “I love colour. I wear, actually, a lot of black, but then, even when I do that, I always have something that will pop a little bit of colour –whether it is lipstick or eye-shadow, or jewellery, or something like that.

“The world is filled with colour: the rainbow, green grass, laterite soil, the sky, you know…everything. It’s the same as the smile. It makes life not just more bearable [but] more interesting, more exciting…I like fashion as well, so, colour coordinating; what goes with what…it’s just fun, you know? Colour is like smiles – it’s just fun.”

IMAGE: Eben Yanks/ ENEWSGH

Because Sena navigates, and excels across multiple genres, she has come to represent variety. Since the start of her career in 2001, whether by herself, or as member of the Hungarian collective, Irie Mafia, she has combined influences from hip-hop, reggae, funk, rock, EDM, soul, jazz, Afrobeats, etc. This rich versatility, she attributes to her lack of “patience”:

“I’m not exactly your most patient kind of character. I do have patience when I have a goal I want to achieve –I can wait for years for it to happen. But in general, I like excitement. I don’t like being dull…if I do something today, I don’t want to do the same thing tomorrow. In my music as well, that, kind of, has a certain play. I like to change my musical styles, even the people that I’m working with, you know, test myself and try different grounds that I haven’t tried before…try to push my boundaries a little bit further. So variety, for me, is normal. It’s like…one you’ve tried something…I might come back to it, but I like to, you know, go across the palette and see what else I can do before I go back to the ones that I’ve tried”.

Ultimately, “World Music” is the umbrella I conclude best encapsulates her craft, because she dabbles in everything. “To be very honest with you, it is very difficult to say that I’m belonging to one genre or not”, she stresses bluntly, “–so I like how you said World Music”.

And when I tease that, as is the case of human families, she might have a favourite son namely, reggae, because of the air of freedom that her music arrives in, she quickly refutes it: “I don’t have a favourite child, and it depends on my mood. Some days, maybe I’ll be driving in town, and the only thing I’ll be listening to on the radio is reggae. Sometimes too, I’ll be very calm by listening to some Classical music, and I can’t listen to, you know, electronic music… It depends. That’s the beauty about music. Every music has its day, every music has its mood and the reason why it was created

“[As] artists, you try to capture a moment in your life and a kind of vibrant frequency, and then that music represents that…and you can’t have the same vibration when you are in a different mind frame. That is why I listen to a lot of kinds of music, because everyday is a different style, everyday is a different feeing in your soul. So maybe, today, I like my hip-hop son, the day after, I go like ma Classical daughter, I go feel ma Jazz niece, and so on and so forth. I don’t have any favourite, I like all kinds of music”.

Still, what is the sonic direction on her new project? I am inclined to ask. It’s going to be different, of course, but it’s not a difference she hasn’t already explored previously, and sees her explore new depths to her creativity: “Since my last album, I started to push myself. Like I said, I like to push my boundaries in production. So I wrote the songs on my last album –and the new stuff that we’re working on –for example, the song that we’re shooting a video to here –are also beats that I produced for myself, so it’s like a new thing that I’m doing, but it’s an old style of music that I’ve always liked – hip-hop…kind of popular music, with a little bit of some Sena eccentricity inside. Because I write the music and the lyrics myself, I’m starting to get a certain character which is my own”. This new sound is hip-hop, but a liberal kind: “I’ll not label it strictly hip-hop, you know, but it’s got elements of that – it’s electronic music, so you’ve got all those hard kicks and, you know, regular 4/8 patterns and 12- bar verses and things like that. So I’m kind of going into this now, but then again, testing my own strength in production and beat making and things like that. So it’s a new exciting thing for me to do, actually”, she tells me.

Another word: Difference. Whereas she constantly dabbles in a variety of melodies, it is nothing like you’ve heard before; how she articulately rides (and marries various rhythms), via Pidgin, English, Patois, and Hungarian –an alternative.

“I guess so”, Sena concurs. “I try not to follow trends for the sake of following trends…I do try to present an alternative to what everybody else is doing by being myself, because there’s nobody in the world like me –there’s only one pɛ.

“Nothing is one-way. If you search, you’ll find; so I try to be part of that crew that presents an alternative.”

Sena’s collaborations in Ghana, over the years, have stayed within a small circle: Reggie Rockstone and VVIP, FOKN Bois M3nsa and Wanlov Da Kuborlor, Worlasi… Most recently, these partnerships have birthed acclaimed joints as “One Life”, and “Skolom”. She reveals though, that she is expanding that list, starting with this new album. Aside Sarkodie, the likes of EL, and Pappy Kojo are both to be expected on the project.

Worlasi, easily Sena’s favourite Ghanaian act currently, makes an appearance in this video though he’s not on the record. In one scene, he sprays a can of graffiti at the RED camera through a glass wall. In another, he joins her in ecstatic bounce. She has often declared her admiration for the “Nukata” man right from when he first launched a body of work. The result of their first partnership (Worlasi’s instructive April 2016 joint, “One Life”), without question, sparked a beautiful artistic relationship, which will guarantee more songs from them in the near future.

In one scene, Worlasi sprays a can of graffiti at the RED camera through a glass wall. In another, he joins her in ecstatic bounce. IMAGE: Eben Yanks/ ENEWSGH

A mutual admiration continues to blossom between them, and Worlasi’s recent recent EP, “Outerlane”, has made things even better:

“The EP I last soak, and really really enjoy, was Worlasi’s Outerlane. It freaked me out. It just completely freaked me out. I was humbled by his artistry, and I gained a whole level of respect for such a young talented artisan in today’s world”.

Consisting 9 songs, the project, like anything he has published over his young glowing career, is both highly unconventional, and widely-praised.

“I was weaked [sic] by his last EP”, Sena reiterates playfully.

Anyway, more words: truth, modesty, knowledge. “I like the fact that you think I represent those things because they’re things that I do strive for”.

On truth, she’s true: “I always try to be true to myself, especially. I do not try to compromise myself. I’ll not do something that I’ll not feel comfortable with – and I try to write my lyrics honestly –experiences that I’ve had, or thoughts that are my own. I don’t like to borrow; I don’t like to sample…I don’t even like to do covers of other people’s stuff. I like to be true to myself”.

On modesty, she’s modest: “I try. I mean, I have my flashy moments and I’m all over the place, but in general terms, I have a lot of respect for people that have guided me in my life. The true people I have respect for are very humble people; they’re very modest people… they continue to work and learn throughout their lives –and I’m talking about people who are in their 80s and even older than that. I respect people who have gone through life; hardships, happy times…everything, and still manage to remain calm and cool, and friendly, and open, and communicative. They’re my idols”.

About knowledge, she holds that it is something that should be sought daily, from whatever situation: “I wasn’t born knowing anything, and I’m still quite young in my life. I think that everyday, there’s something to learn, either from people, or situations, or anything that happens in your life”. From how a video director goes about his work, to the grace in how an ice water seller holds her spine, there’s always something to pick up: “if you want to learn diɛ aa, everyday, you’ll find a situation, at least, which will teach you something”, she’s convinced.

In many ways, Sena reminds you of the ocean –magnificent in its wonder, and bursting with infinite possibility. But it scares her a bit, because it once almost drowned her. She breaks into a nervous laugh when she mentions snakes too, and eyes the ground near her feet, as though there’s one crawling up her leg this very second. “They just freak me out!”

What else? “Not trying…that really dey bore me”, as does the realization, at 60, or 70, that she didn’t explore her full potential. “I try to not be afraid of life, because that one diɛ, no point…then you might as well die”, she sums up.

Ultimately, Sena also typifies an overall “wave mentality”, or a peculiar “Irie vibe”, if you will. “Irie” denotes “good feeling” in Jamaican patios, and she’s a staunch advocate of that. It’s evident in how she exclaims “Oh Yeaah!”, when I utter the term. “I’m all about Irie vibes, I mean, if it’s not fun, then don’t do it. We are here to enjoy life. So if you’re doing something and you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it!”

An intricate puzzle, life is only truly figured out in bits, with each passing day. Our time here, and how we go about navigating it, is a task we must enjoy, whatever the circumstance. A silver lining is what our gaze should perpetually be fixed on, if we must find true meaning over here. “Irie-ness, constantly”, as Sena puts it.

*Sena is author of numerous projects, and has played at destinations all over the world. Her latest album, FEATHERS,  was released in April 2017. Get it here.

 

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