Friday, December 24, 2010

Famed Producer Coptic Talks Beats, Life & Future Plans.

What attracts you to some of today’s hip-hop music?  Is it the lyrics, the beats or the melody? Maybe, it is all of the above-mentioned facets of this genre of music. More often than not, we listen to hip-hop music without pausing for a moment to know who the creative minds are behind some of these catchy melodies and beats that churn these underground tracks into some of the most requested radio songs or club bangers. Most of today’s chart-topping songs especially those in the hip-hop vein have been created by a select group of hitherto unknown individuals who toil behind racks of music consoles (boards) to create many of today’s party anthems. Of course, there have been a few prominent producers such as Rick Rubin, Marley Marl and DJ Premier who have occasionally ventured out of the stuffy studios into the limelight.

            One of the many faceless beat makers and producers who shuns the glare of publicity but whose handprints can be found on many chart-topping tracks is Eric Kwabena “Coptic” Matlock. This Ghanaian born New York-based beat genius and producer is one of the most sought-after in this hyper-competitive genre of music. His body of work reads like the who’s who of the hip-hop industry. Coptic experienced his first breakout hit producing Puff Daddy's "I Need a Girl" (Part 1) featuring Usher and Loon which peaked at # 2 on Billboard Hot 100,  and most recently a featured producer on "B.I.G Duets: The Final Chapter" with his track "Wake Up" featuring Korn. I learned about Coptic whilst interviewing another Ghanaian artiste David Mensah, whose debut album “Food is Love” had a couple tracks produced by Coptic. A fortnight ago, I made Coptic’s acquaintance and asked for an interview, which he quickly granted. The 40 minute on-air interview which resulted covered an array of subjects from his early life as a DJ, his time at the Bad Boy Records Label and his current project, the Black Star Line album-Close To My Roots. Here is a partial transcript of the interview.

Q: We’re welcoming Eric Coptic Matlock, a prominent producer and beat maker in hip-hop circles, as well as CEO of his own Brooklyn Bridge Entertainment and African Rebel Music Label. Coptic, can you tell us a little about your background?
 ECM: I‘m a young man from Ghana, West Africa. I was born in Awukugua in the Akwapim Mountains in the Eastern Region. I grew up in Accra and always had a love for music from an early age. I moved to the US when I was 13 and was attracted to hip-hop music. I started producing records, which in time led to projects for Puff Daddy and Biggie Smalls. So in a nut shell that is who I am.

Q: How did you get into producing music and what was your first breakout opportunity?
ECM: Well, I earlier stated I always had a love of music. My mother always told me that as a child I would occasionally arrange and beat on my grandmother’s pots. At the age of ten, I joined a local band when living in Newtown, a suburb of Accra where I played the base drum and some percussion instruments. When I moved to the States, I deejayed for a while and started getting involved in hip-hop music. So I realized I could do it and sought out seasoned individuals such as Amos Sackey who mentored me and taught me how to produce a track. I was also fortunate to meet and become friends with True Master (with Wu-Tang Clan) who gave me a few tips and spent 3 years learning the rudimentary aspects of music production. About a year later David Best, a boyhood friend of mine introduced me to one his friends, Harvey Pierre (then an A&R for Biggie Smalls).He loved what I had to offer and encouraged me to improve my craft. Harvey later introduced me to Derrick “D-Dot” Angeletti, an A&R and producer on Puffy’s Mo Money, No Problems and Benjamins. He would in turn introduce me to Jermaine Dupri and D-Mob. He will later play my track for the big stars whenever they come down to the label’s office or studio. So that’s how I got into the music business, and therefore consider myself pretty lucky. My big break came with Jermaine Dupri’s “All that’s Gotta go” (featuring Da Brat). It is worth noting that I have sold more tracks than have been released. In this business, sometimes your production work is purchased but might be shelved for any number of reasons. So that’s how it all got started.

Q: Recently, you embarked on a project to pair rappers/singers from both sides of the Atlantic (African and American), The Black Star Line Album. Could provide us with some insight on this undertaking?
 ECM: The Black Star Line project is focused on African rappers/singers blended with American artistes. The goal is to bring these artistes to the attention of the American public, and the African audience to see their own in a different light. It has artistes from Ghana, Egypt, Morocco, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Senegal, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Until these artistes become part of mainstream in American, they will not be well compensated for their work. Based on the success of this album, I am planning on scheduling a tour for a few of the artistes to some African countries. There will be no personal financial gain to be made from this album because all monies raised will go towards purchasing instruments for kids in Africa. All the artistes featured, including the Americans donated their time and effort towards this album. So your support is really needed.

Q: In your business dealings you have signed a long-term publishing agreement covering both your existing catalog of works as well as future songs. This is an aspect of the music business that generates the artiste a substantial amount of money. The music of Ghanaian and some African artistes are played on stations and used by the Telecom companies without any royalties being paid for the use of their materials.  In your view, do you think this aspect of the music business is not given particular attention by Ghanaian and African musicians and what can be done to address this anomaly?
 ECM: Definitely, worldwide except from most parts of Africa I receive royalty payments for my works. The copyright laws are adhered to in the rest of the world. For some reason in Ghana and some parts of Africa, the laws are not enforced which is to the detriment of the music industry as a whole. The works of artistes that is used in a commercial sense (i.e. video games, commercials and on major T.V networks) have to be paid for because this keeps the musicians and the producers going. I know artistes that have hit records and are not properly compensated. The only way African artistes are making money is by working out endorsement deals with the Telecom companies and doing shows. This situation in effect short changes the artistes because it keeps money out of their pockets and leaves them with a small budget for the next project. In Ghana, there is supposed to be an organization(COSGA) that is tasked with collecting these funds from the media and Telecom companies, unfortunately there is an element of political interference in play here. The support system in Africa for these musicians has to change!

Q: You recently debuted two promotional tracks off the soon-to-be released Black Star Line Project featuring Kwaw Kesse(Ghana) and Eddie Atlas(Uganda). How has the promotional material been  received by audiences?
 ECM: It has been very well received. The reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. I feel like the people that actually downloaded the two free tracks loved it. I've heard very few people criticize it; it's had the best reviews in the press that I've ever had with any other record. I feel that music lovers would buy the full-length album when eventually released and would really enjoy it.

Q: Is there an artist you want to work with that you have not yet had the opportunity to work with?
ECM: I would definitely love to work with Hugh Masekela, Alpha Blondy and Jay Z. These are guys I really admire and will look forward to working with them in the future.

Q: What projects are you currently working on?
ECM: I am currently the A&R for Black Rob’s new LP to be released early next year on DuckDown records. I am also in the process to producing Tek from Smif-n-Wessun’s next solo album which will be released sometime next year.

Q: What are your long-term career goals?
ECM: I have plans to retire to Ghana in 7-10 years. My goals will be to set up a major studio in Ghana to record from and to teach aspiring producers how to produce and record quality records. I am also interested in exploring other entertainment-based businesses in Ghana.

Q: How can prospective artistes/rappers contact you for production support?
ECM: I can be reached on FaceBook by looking up Coptic Sounds. Alternatively, I can be contacted too on the website where they register/join it. With that website they can submit their videos and tracks, where I can listen to their work and critique it. If their work is very good, who knows they can end up on an album!

     Well, Coptic, thank you very much for granting us this interview. Thanks for your time and patience and we wish you continued success with the commendable work. Well, guys, there you have it: our first interview with Brooklyn Bridge Entertainment and African Rebel Musik label’s CEO, Eric Coptic Matlock.

The Afrikan Child © Copyright 2010. All Rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or image may be duplicated without the author's permission. Also, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. General inquiries should be directed to our Web feedback box, accessible from this link or from the footer at the bottom of most pages on our site.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Myra Maimoh: A voice from another world!

Every once in a while, a voice so smooth and engaging comes to the public’s attention that one cannot help but be caught under its’ hypnotic spell. I’m quickly reminded of a quote which states that “music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul.”

Myra Maimoh is one such individual who channels her life experiences into a debut album ("Answer'd me"), which has songs that touch on the perennial issues of fear and love we're all confronted with in today's world. Yet ever-so assuredly, she brings the enthralled listener to a place of peace and empowerment by the end of the last note of this eleven track CD. Myra is a beautiful new singer who I think has a dynamic voice. You can feel her joy, her pain, her happiness in the songs that she sings. So soulful and genuine. You can tell it comes from her heart. Her hard work on this album won her two Platinum Auddy Awards for this debut effort. I recently landed an interview with this native-born Cameroonian, currently resident in Germany, courtesy of the publicity outfit of her Hitsmith Records label. Below is the full text of that interview.

Thank you for granting me this interview. Can we begin by having you tell us a bit about yourself?

Thank you for having me! I come from Kumbo in the Northwest Province of Cameroon. I grew up in Bamenda with my large family. I love to write poems or dance when I´m not singing. I like to take on new challenges all the time, meet new people, exchange views or learn from each other.

When and how did you start making music? How did your family shape your singing career?

I started singing in kindergarten and loved it. I decided to take it to another level (backup artist) at the age of 17. As I grew older, I became increasingly interested and active in music. My life has always been pretty much more about singing than about anything’s else, whether I was conscious of it or not  and that as far back as age 3. By the time I was 17, I always knew it was going to be my profession. This is because it always felt great to be on stage or in studios. The reaction of my audience and the wonderful effect the music had on me made me know this was my vocation.

Who are your biggest influences?

I adore artists such as India Arie, Jill Scott, Richard Bona, John Legend, Rebecca Malope, Bébé Manga, Coco Mbassi and Manu Dibango. I really love not only because of their musicality but also because of their inspiration-packed lyrics. I am very keen on lyrics and I think there are a lot of lives that could be changed in a good way if the audience received the right information from songs.

In researching for this interview, I read somewhere that you were a one time member, of the vocal groups Cherubic Queens and Crystalz. What are some of the fondest memories you have with either group?  When and why did you did you decide to go solo?

Just thinking about them puts a smile on my face! We (Crystalz) used to perform (dance and short plays/drama) every time we had the chance in college (St Paul´s Comprehensive High School.) I remember how much fun we used to have dancing to Shabba Ranks and Queen Patra especially during rehearsals! How I miss my girls, Lindy, Sylvie and Emelda! I love you, girls!! The Cherubic Queens rocked the Franco-Cameroonian Alliance in Bamenda for over two years. It was so much fun but 3 of us moved to Yaoundé to work on different projects. We continued singing together though before we all left Cameroon to study abroad.

On 11/11/2010, you released your debut album "Answer'd me", a soulful 11 track filled with R&B/Pop/World music. You have done some promotional tours across Europe for the album, with plans in the works to tour the U.S.A. Would you mind sharing with us what the public’s reaction has been to how these promotional  tours and exactly when you are coming Stateside?

I will take on the United Kingdom, then back to Germany, Cameroon, France and the USA (July 2011). I am so humbled and touched when I think of the shows. My fans, whom I prefer to call my friends already knew the lyrics of “killing Me”, “Hallo”, “Whatever I Promise” and “You and me”. There is nothing more beautiful than connecting or communicating with one´s audience and having them react positively or listen to them sing one´s songs word for word. It convinced me that we all were sharing the stories told in my songs. Priceless!!

In listening to this debut album with its’ many wonderful songs such as “Killing Me’, “I Need Himand Please Take It Slow”, I come away with a sense that it is a collection of love songs, self-motivation mantras and club tunes. Is there a story behind this album?

My producer and I had this common goal to do songs with a message. That is always going to be our goal. If the songs have nothing to teach then, they should be put aside. I think music is more potent and it shoots straight to the soul so why not transfer positive messages straight to the soul?

I recalled reading an online publication in which Mbachi Halle, a well-known producer paid you a high compliment as an easy to work with artiste. Could you briefly tell readers who Myra Maimoh is as an artiste?

I have this motto, it’s either 100% or nothing. I follow it judiciously!! The fact that music is my passion makes it easier for me to work harder. Every time I have to leave the studio or stage or rehearsals, I do it reluctantly. Plus, my producer, is the coolest. He knows how to motivate and push me. We are a great team together with Ofelia Halle.

Do you write your own songs?

Yes I do, but I do not mind having songwriters write for me. I have been writing songs since I was 15 years old. My former girl bands, Crystalz and Cherubic queens, sang songs like “Its not too late”, “Missing you”, and “ Shawuli eh” which were popular back home. I still write songs with a passion stronger than was the case many years ago.

How can fans find out about any upcoming television appearances, live performances or buy your CD?

You can find that information at my website, on Wikipedia, on Facebook , MySpace, Reverbnation. And, I twitter a lot, too. So I’ll probably mention it in the tweets @Myramaimoh. You can also buy my album from Itunes, Amazon, CD Baby,, Thank you!

Are there any musicians you would love to collaborate with?

I definitely would love to collaborate with Richard Bona, John Legend, Jill Scott, India Arie, Coco Mbassi and Richard King (just naming a few). I love and connect with their music and have a lot of respect for what they do.

Well, as sad as it may sound, positive messages are hard to find in the current musical landscape. Your music has a Christian theme that inspires, elevates and encourages a diverse audience across the globe. What responsibility do you feel artistes should have to make responsible music? What role does faith play in your work?

I think artists have a great responsibility to teach but that is my opinion only. There are different people with different ideas and different goals. Some people just want to get their audience to dance, some want to motivate, some just do it for a sense of achievement with as much passion. I stick to my goal and respect others as well!!

Bringing it home, what’s your take on contemporary African music in general?

I think it is great! We, Africans are slowly separating ourselves from the normal, boring tag called “World Music”! Musicians like Manu Dibango, Richard Bona, among others are a good representation of African music.

What’s the one thing you most want people to know about you and your music?

My music is meant for relaxation, dancing, reflection whether alone or in a group. It is simple, a good mixture of various genres without necessarily exaggerating. I would like to think that it is international thanks to my wonderful producer and his amazing wife, Ofelia Halle! The Mbach, you are the best! It is meant for everyone. I think it says a lot about my person too and my life!

You have a rich musical background that will sustain and propel you ahead in this highly competitive musical landscape. Let’s fast forward 5 years from now, where do you want to find yourself musically?

Thank you! God willing, I will own my own music label for African talents! I have been working towards that like half my life. O' with God´s guidance and support and my fans as well, I will get there.

Is there anyone in your life that you need to say thanks to? Any parting words? 

There are so many people I’ll like to thank. God for being there for me, my parents for teaching me what I know about catching one´s dream, the Hitsmith family and Fonyuy family,  Augustine Ongey, Nji Pascal, Stella Nono, Omar Ayah, The Njinis and the Osagies and Esai Umenei but most especially my fans who connect with my music or myself. They have been so loving and supportive. I wouldn’t have come this far without them. 

Thank you very much for your interest in me and thanks for having me.

      My verdict? Myra Maimoh sound greats and looks good doing it. She is a true artist and a gift. I will urge all music lovers to get the album and open their minds and ears to some real R&B music. Guess what? It makes  a  perfect Christmas gift to a loved one!

The Afrikan Child © Copyright 2010. All Rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or image may be duplicated without the author's permission. Also, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. General inquiries should be directed to our Web feedback box, accessible from this link or from the footer at the bottom of most pages on our site.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The David Mensah Interview

Make mention of British Soul & R&B, and any astute music aficionado’s mind quickly darts back to the era of The Real Thing, Hot Chocolate, Five Star ,and more recently,the music of Loose Ends, Mica Paris, Ephraim Lewis, Craig David and Omar just to mention a few. However, one will be remiss if no mention is made of the other marginally unknown British artistes who toil laboriously to break into the highly competitive US market, but without whose otherwise multi-faceted approach to the R&B music, the world will never have a deeper appreciation of the diversity of R&B from the UK, undeniably the second largest market for this genre of music. This brings me to David Mensah, a budding R&B singer who is quickly coming to the public’s attention with a unique sound reminiscent of the likes of Luther Vandross and Donnie Hathaway.

            Born in Hackney, North London and raised in Wales by British and Ghanaian parents, David benefits from a configuration of cultures and musical traditions that have come to define his musical DNA. His early exposure to reggae, lover’s rock and America R&B will inform his music to this day, as he offers up a mix leaning strongly toward urban pop and jazz soul music.  He is also heavily influenced by other R&B heavyweights such as Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans and Maxwell. David will get his early vocal training quite interestingly from his older sister and much later, professionally from Patrick Jean-Paul-Dean. As a member of the vocal harmony group, Dark Roses he would hone his craft, leading to critical reviews of his powerful vocal abilities and eventually securing the group a deal with Universal Music on the success of their underground hit "I like the girls". Perhaps, what’s endearing about David is the personal quality in his voice, and his charismatic persona that have helped propel him to a much wider audience.

            Being a member of Dark Roses offered David the opportunity to share the stage with some of the biggest names in music such as Alexander O'Neal and Jimmy Cliff, at prominent events such as the Commonwealth Games, The Hackney Volcano Festival, Burgess Park and The Regent Street Festival just to mention a few. More recently, he has performed alongside Omar Lye -Fook, Lemar Obika and Effie at the Jazz Café and The Klute Lounge.

            In 2006, after several months of spinning their “creative wheels” and lack of musical opportunities, the group disbanded leaving David to pursue a solo career. After a two year break from music, David returned to the recording studios to work on his debut album.  For his debut album, “Food Is Love” released in 2008 on the Universal Music records label, he will work the crème de la crème of some of today’s music producers. The album features the creative touches of well-regarded producer Wayne Brown who’s worked with such stars as Jonathan Butler, Ruby Turner, EWF, Lulu and Billy Ocean. The album will also be given additional star production work on tracks such as “Day Dreaming” and “Independent Woman” by no less an individual than Eric Kwabena “Coptic” Matlock, the famed producer who has worked on albums featuring  Puffy, Jermaine Dupri,  KRS-One, Black Rob, Mase,  Carl Thomas, and Ice Cube. The title track of this debut album was David’s contribution to a compilation CD that commemorated the abolition of the slave trade. The album is soulful, sensual, sublime, a mix of retro grooves and hip-hop beats, songs that address the everyday aspects of love, sex and social issues.  The CD has received massive airplay across Europe, America and Africa, soon cementing the public’ instant attraction to this new and refreshing face of British R&B music. 

            A tireless performer and prolific songwriter, David will follow up on the success of his debut album with singles such as Ghetto (track never released) and Straddle Me, which will be released sometime in January 2011. The single “Straddle Me” is currently on rotation on Virgin Media and several stations across the world. The buzz surrounding this single has so far garnered over 4000 vue hits on You Tube and over 750 vues on Virgin Media. It affords David another opportunity to showcase his vocal talents and a return to a genre of music he was once dabbled in.

            On October, 16 2010, David Mensah granted yours truly an on-air interview about his music, his passions and future plans among others. The following are excerpts of that interview.

 Q.A: What’s a day in your life like when you’re not on stage?

David Mensah: Normally, because I am quite hands on with everything, I tend to do a lot of the admin and the business side of music. My day starts off with that kind of stuff, getting back on emails and pushing my music out there. On a good day, I will be in the rehearsal studio for quite a while with some great musicians and try to write to as much as possible in between things.

Q.A: On your debut album, you worked with noted music producers Eric “Coptic” Matlock, Wayne Brown and Jimmy Anthony. Do mind telling the listeners how you met P-Diddy producer Coptic and if possible, share with us how was it like working with him?

David Mensah: Hmm! It was really relaxed I will say working with him. I was introduced to him through a mutual friend. Coptic is very much in touch with his Ghanaian roots, and he loved the fact that I was also Ghanaian and working hard to make my dreams come true. So he took to me immediately and worked with me on my debut album, which was a huge thing for me. He co-wrote Close to my Roots with Memphis Bleek, who featured on Jay-Z's debut album.

Q.A: What image do you think your music conveys?

David Mensah: You know what (hmm). That’s a hard one. I simply want different people to identify with the music. Different songs convey different emotions. I try to make music that people can relate to, and I hope people can relate to in different ways. Hopefully, it means something personal to them.

Q.A: Do you write your own songs?

David Mensah: Yes. I tend to write mostly on my own, at the piano. The lyrics and music are almost always written in tandem. I’ve also had the good fortune of co-writing with some really great people.

Q.A: What are your music career goals?

David Mensah: My music goals are to make my music even better with the next album, to grow as an artiste and a human being, my fan base to grow and tour a lot because I love to sing live.

Q.A: When all is said and done, what do you want the lasting impact of your career to be? What do you want people to look back and say about you?

David Mensah: Bringing it back here to the UK, I will want young people to hear my music and see that I have managed do what I’ve done and be inspired by it. I was lucky growing in the heydays of black music in this country, there was the music of Soul II Soul, Junior Giscombe and Billy Ocean; people I looked up to. It will be nice to similarly inspire other people like that. Some of my music is quite slow and sexy, so if any babies have to be attributed to listening to the album, I don’t mind (laughing).

            Readers, it was a pleasure talking to and interviewing David Mensah. I came away from this experience with such respect for an individual who is marking his time for the big moment. In an industry dominated by individuals with inflated egos, it is indeed comforting to find a bloke so real and down-to-earth. He actually communicates regularly with his teaming fans!! What an entertainer, he is a master in his own right, an amazing artiste and a fine gentleman. If you want grown and sexy music with an occasional trip down memory lane, then make it a point to check out his music or visit a concert event, next time he’s in town. Another undisputed triumph for one of the key young artistes of our time!!

        My special thanks go to Margaret, David’s publicist who facilitated this interview and for her boundless reservoir of patience.


The Afrikan Child © Copyright 2010. All Rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or image may be duplicated without the author's permission. Also, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. General inquiries should be directed to our Web feedback box, accessible from this link or from the footer at the bottom of most pages on our site.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Josephine Atanga : The First Lady of African Gospel

Josephine Atanga is a gospel superstar who hails from the West African nation of Cameroun. On stage or in the studio, Josephine's passion for singing can be felt through her voice. Her realization of her gift of voice came as a small child, growing up and singing in Yaoundé. It is a great part of who she is today. Josephine has been told her voice has a hypnotic quality that can reach broken hearts and broken people with her lusty low and shimmery high notes. She stated in a recent interview that, “This is my calling. God has blessed me with this gift and I want to use it to serve him and help bring people closer to him.” From soaring, soulful vocals to pretty, melodic soft tones, there is supernatural power in every song she belts out.

        This 2010 African Gospel Awardee has a number of albums to her credit including Heaven is Full of Joy and African Dance Carols. She has recorded popular songs such as Ayene and Celebrate Africa, collaboration with Pastor George Okudi. Josephine has performed in over 15 countries and headlined a great number of Christian events. She is involved in a number of charitable causes such as the Vincent Kewala Nyambi Foundation and Care International. Ms. Atanga is also actively involved in events related to Africans in the Diaspora such as the Obama Inauguration Ball organized by Kenyan Culture and Heritage Organization, Inc and the Proclamation Ceremony(African Heritage Month). She is currently the CEO/ Events coordinator for Listar Love Inc, a company that partners with the organizers of the annual MD Fashion week and the Africa Youth Talent competition (PANAFEST 2010) in the Washington D.C area. Furthermore, Josephine has a dance group called Listar Dancers and hosts a monthly Web TV show for African Gospel Online.

          This woman truly has been blessed with enormous talent, and she uses it judiciously and wisely. Please give this woman of God a listen and you will blessed with her ministry through music!

The Afrikan Child © Copyright 2010. All Rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or image may be duplicated without the author's permission. Also, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. General inquiries should be directed to our Web feedback box, accessible from this link or from the footer at the bottom of most pages on our site.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Jay Ghartey : "Presentin' tommorow's GH music today"

    What do you get when you blend highlife music with American R&B, hip-hop and urban pop?  You get Jay Ghartey! One may then ask “Who is Jay Ghartey”?  

Jay Ghartey is a Ghanaian–American singer/songwriter and producer. He was born in the US but spent his formative years in Ghana.  Jay hails from an artistically and musically gifted family. His paternal grandfather was a playwright and poet, and his grandmother, Sabina Hope was a chorister/actress. The latter was instrumental in Jay’s development as a singer and stirred his passion for music and performing.

In the early 1990’s, Jay and two of his friends, Kwaku T and Abeiku, along with his brothers Tufu and Moses formed the rap group Chief G and the Tribe. This rap act along with KKD’s posse and Reggie Rockstone were the earliest exponents of rap music in Ghana. This early taste of stardom was temporarily curtailed when Jay moved back to US to complete his high school education and  later attend Boston University.

In 2009, Jay made the trip back to Ghana to re-launch his career and the overwhelming success of his debut singles “My Lady” and “Me Do Wo made him an instant recognizable musician. The full length album titled “Shining Gold” has 14 tracks and was released in April 2010. The music is festive, vibrant, original and fresh. Each composition is a celebration of encountering new places and people, experience travels and the daily life of this exceptionally humble individual.

Jay Ghartey's signature sound is a kind of multi-layered sonic collage, assembled from scraps of diverse musical elements. Jay’s music is, in short, made up of a little bit of everything. Thus it's no surprise at all that his musical influences have been wide-ranging. In fact, he counts among his many influences  Bob Marley, Sade and Tupac Shakur just to mention a few.

Whilst he acknowledges the huge strides made in the Ghanaian music in the time he spent away from the industry, Jay bemoans the lack of live band music, which has taken a backseat to artistes rapping over beats.  He pleads with his fellow musicians not to acquiescence their rich musical heritage for a more western one and urges them to stay true their musical traditions.  His views are also shared by the respected Ghanaian musicologist, Professor John Collins who notes that “no one abroad wants to hear the African variety of World Music without African dance rhythms”.

During our interview, Jay disclosed that hiplife artiste Sarkodie had worked with him on a remix of the hit single “My Lady”, which will be released during the Christmas festivities in December this year. Jay Ghartey is currently domiciled in New York City, where he writes, arranges and produces music with his brother and business partner Joe.

The following are key excerpts from a radio interview, conducted with Jay Ghartey on 9/18/2010.

Here's my question for you, what was the pivotal moment when you decided that you were going to sing and not rap?
As you already know, I was always singing. I always just felt liked melody, for some reason, brought out the emotion more. This is how I view it. It is just like when you go to church and the choir sings the same words that the preacher preaches, you understand what I'm saying. Unless the preacher has that raspy voice or a voice that just projects out, where he has to yell it out at you for you to really get it. Whereas the choir could sing it in a soft melody and you'd really start crying because you understand it from that immediate connection. Melody has a certain way that projects back to you. It triggers certain nerves in your body and certain instincts that normally wouldn't be triggered by a normal voice. With me, personally, it always started with the message and it's going to end with the message, so I want to make it feel and project back properly to where you can understand it and it translate well to the audience.

The video for the new single “So Wild” was recently completed and is on rotation on TV stations in Ghana. What has been the reception or feedback to the video thus far?
The reception has been great. It is a high energy video with up-tempo dance beats. The video features some scenes filmed at the Arts Centre with drummers and traditional dances. I like to juxtapose the traditional with the more contemporary aspects of our culture. I have had feedback from a lot of folks who have commended me for showcasing the rich elements of Ghanaian culture in this video and sharing it with the rest of world. The video is also currently on rotation on MTV Base and Channel O!

You have described your style of music as “urban pop life”, which is urban music mixed with R&B and a sprinkling of African percussions and highlife guitar. Do you mind expounding on that and what is so different about your music?
The reason why I call it “urban pop life” is because it’s urban music in a sense of the beats, the hip-hop and R&B. I mean in the whole world hip-hop and R&B is big right now, and I’m also part of that. At same time I like highlife and reggae music. I grew up to it when I was in Ghana, so I stress very strong melody; and have a lot of guitars and african percussion in the music.
And so, what is different about my music is that I am bringing out African music in a pop sense but keeping it broad, so a lot of people will want to hear the melody and style. It took a really long time be able to do that because when you try to make a mix of styles, you have to be careful what you lose when you change it too much. People really find my music universal, and so mixing the African percussion, bringing the African guitar and bass lines in makes it unique, but at the same time it has a mass appeal. 

Jay, I learned from reliable sources while preparing for this interview that you and your brother Joe, were involved in some charity work.  Could you tell us the name of the Foundation and what you plan on accomplishing”?
The name of the foundation is GH Brothers Youth Foundation (My brother Joe Ghartey & I). We’ve always wanted to do something like this, and we did not want wait until years have gone by. The album is coming out now, we wanted to give something back while we are still working. So we decided to do it. The first center we have will be in Nima, in the heart of Accra as you know. We went to see the chief of Nima who gave his blessings for the Foundation. A site has been found and we’re renovating it as we speak, so hopefully by the end of the year it will be running. We have a full-time teacher who will be teaching at-risk kids and a music program. It is going to be a very challenging foundation because we will want to get the dropouts back into the education system. We are going to get a lot of people involved with it, whether in Ghana or in the US, so you’re going to hear a lot about (edited).

          Jay’s music has the universality and appeal that transcends his own personality. Just as the Black Stars put Ghana on the soccer map, so will Jay Ghartey through his music. Jay Ghartey is certainly taking music from his native Ghana to the next level!  Many thanks go to Joe Ghartey for making this interview possible. Stay tuned!

Here is a link to the full radio interview.

The Afrikan Child © Copyright 2010. All Rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or image may be duplicated without the author's permission. Also, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. General inquiries should be directed to our Web feedback box, accessible from this link or from the footer at the bottom of most pages on our site.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Loyiso Bala : A Quintessential R&B Artiste from the Rainbow Nation

             In all my experiences, there have been very few musicians whose talents embody all what a true musician should be like. At a time when the music scene is littered with too much borrowing, artistes resorting to auto tuning and eyebrows raising, there is one artiste whose musical style and depth sets him apart from the multitude of artistes the world over. Loyiso Bala is that one musician. Throughout his career, Loyiso's creative impulses have been inspired by a deeply-held spiritual commitment to improving the world through his music and actions. While many musicians fit easily into a single category, Loyiso's unique musical vision remains unclassifiable. 

Born and raised in Uitenhage, in the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa, Loyiso comes from a musically rich background. His maternal grandfather was a well known composer in his time and his parents met in choir. Those sounds and the music of the church (Loyiso began singing in the choir at age 3 as a curtain raiser) shaped and developed his love of multiple music styles. He trained at the prestigious Drakensburg Boys Choir in South Africa where he nurtured his voice like his sibling Kwai before him. At age 7, he first recorded "Mama come back" with Sizwe Zakho, Rebecca Malope's producer.  In 2000, Loyiso then 19 years old, was appointed conductor of the National Youth Choir, the youngest person ever in that position.

In 1996, Loyiso’s brother, Kwai together with a couple of his friends formed what will be one of the most successful groups in South Africa called TKZee. This Kwaito group would provide a platform for Loyiso to kick start his career when he featured on a couple of TKZee’s hit songs. In 2000, Loyiso recorded "Girl without a name" for the TKZee family album (TKZee was later renamed “TKZee family”) which won the group a number of awards. After much success with the group, Loyiso decided to go solo, culminating in the release of his own singles “Musukukhala” and “Silky Soft Skin” in 2001. He followed up those hit singles with two full length albums in 2002 and 2004 “Wine Women and Song” and “Amplified”, establishing him as the best R&B artiste in South Africa. During this period, Loysio enrolled and completed a music degree from the University of Pretoria, a long held dream of his to add a professional touch to his music.

Loyiso, a multi-award winner, has performed in over 16 countries and has legions of fans the world over. He sings in his native Xhosa and in English. Loyiso counts Prince, Michael Jackson and Bach as his major influences. It is certainly worth noting that between October-November 2008, Loyiso achieved a feat  no South African  artiste has ever attempted,  by having singles from his current album ‘I want you’, ‘Blow Your Mind’, ‘Take Me Back’ and ‘Dali Wami’ and ‘Maybe’ simultaneously on rotation on  the top 100 radio charts in South Africa. Call it luck or karma, but this writer believes that the event was a result of his relentless drive and hard work to get his style of music heard the world over. Pure dedication to his craft and it will only get better!!

   In May 2010, Loyiso released a new single ‘Wrong For You’, a song written by singer Robin Thicke and Sean Hurley which has enjoyed considerable success on radio stations. There are plans to release a full length album in October 2010 which will feature production work by noted American and South African producers. My early take on this forthcoming album is that it is a well-written diary, set to amazingly lush production and vocal arrangement.  This is certainly nice R&B. So light up the dinner candle and enjoy the refreshing sounds of an artiste who will remind you of your first love!!

        Recently, Loyiso granted me a telephone interview from his base in Bryanston, South Africa. This interview covered an array of topics and subjects. Below is the full text of the interview.

How has your family and upbringing shaped your singing career?
Since I started singing at such a young age and attended music school thereafter, it has taught me how to discipline myself whilst striving to become the best at what I do. And that has carried over into all areas of my life.

What has been your most memorable experience as a musician to date?
I would sincerely have to say it was performing at this years’ FIFA World Cup Kick-off celebration, right here in South Africa. Second to that would be performing at the 46664 Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday dinner and concert in Hyde Park, London in 2008.

How does your songwriting process work?
I usually start off with a melodic idea, and then I’d figure out the accompanying chords on my piano, write the verse and chorus lyrics and then take it to studio to finish the writing and production process.

What is the importance to you of having meaning or stories behind all of the songs you write?

I feel it is very important to have a story or meaning behind a song, even if it is not a personal one, so that people can relate to it on various levels.

How difficult has is it been trying to sell R&B or your style of music in South Africa?
When I started out, R&B was synonymous with American artists, so at first the South African audience didn’t take to a South African doing R&B easily. I think they felt that I wasn’t being myself. It took a few years for my music to win them over to my unique style of R&B and that is when the awards and platinum sales started. My style of music started out as pure R&B, however it has evolved to what is now classified as “Urban”, a fusion of contemporary R&B, soft rock and urban-styled pop.

You are one musician I know who has made it a goal to try to have your music reach a diverse audience beyond the borders of South Africa. In trying to do this, you have worked in the past with the Bala Brothers, including the gospel project and being a celebrity judge at the 2010 MNET Idols. Have those efforts helped, and is it fair to ask if your fans should expect another gospel album in the future?
Yes, some of them have definitely helped in one way or the other. Case in point, on a trip with my brothers Zwai and Phelo (Bala Brothers) to the UK in August 2010, we received several positive reviews by independent media. I believe that there has been even more interest to perform abroad from the beginning of 2011. In terms of MNet’s South African Idols, it was certainly fun but I don’t think it will get me Simon Cowell’s job (laughing). And yes, my fans can look forward to a gospel album in the near future, though I can’t say exactly when as I will be releasing my 4th urban album, titled ‘FULL CIRCLE’ at the end of October 2010.

You have been known for your work in a number of social causes. You are currently involved with the charity event My 94.7 Cycle Challenge (MaAfrika Tikkun). How did that get started and what are you hoping to get out of that?
MaAfrika Tikkun is an NGO that has been around for quite some time already and have done amazing work in local communities here. So I am going to ride 94.7 kilometers to help raise funds for the great work they do. In fact I would like to please ask that everyone reading this helps me in reaching my goal by simply logging on to:   

In  a 2008 interview with, you stated that with all your success and accomplishments  over the years, this is no  doubt the greatest honor that  you have  received  was to be a part of such a prestigious event alongside the world’s most inspirational man, Nelson Mandela”. Could you tell the readers how you came to be selected as an ambassador for the 46664 campaign and the feeling performing live before a world audience at Hyde Park?
I was invited by the chairman of 46664 to an orphanage in 2007 (if I remember correctly) and a few days later I was called into a meeting to discuss me becoming an ambassador for the brand because of the way I apparently conducted myself during the visit a few days earlier. Performing before an audience of, what I believe was in the region of 50,000, was electrifying! I don’t think I can find the right words to describe it actually. But it was certainly an honor!

You have an album that is set to drop sometime in October of this year. What should your fans and music lovers in general expect with this album?
As I previously mentioned, my 4th album is titled ‘FULL CIRCLE’ as I believe that as a musician, after 10yrs, I’ve come full circle. People can expect variety; it’s does not reflect a specific genre of music. It can best be explained this way, “it is a singer-songwriter album that is sure to keep you entertained”. 

What has been the response of the American market to your music thus far? Are there any plans to sign up with any US record label and any immediate plans to tour the US?
I recorded some of the songs off my new album in the States and hopefully once the album is out I can find a market for them there, too. 

Are there any international musicians you would love to collaborate with?
Yes!!! Please try Pink, Beyonce or Keri Hilson for me!!

What’s the one thing you most want people to know about you and your music?
It’s hard to say because I think my music speaks for itself.

How can people check out your music?
You can find my music on ITunes,, ReverbNation, and at my website

What are your immediate music career goals?
In the next year and a half I hope to have gained more success through the release of FULL CIRCLE, to have recorded a gospel album and have toured more with the Bala Brothers internationally.

I think I am  going to wrap it up now. It has been an honor and pleasure to talk to you and to get your music out to our readership. I think our readers are going to be absolutely thrilled to hear your music and look forward to more great works in the coming years. Thanks!

The Afrikan Child © Copyright 2010. All Rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or image may be duplicated without the author's permission. Also, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. General inquiries should be directed to our Web feedback box, accessible from this link or from the footer at the bottom of most pages on our site.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Avril-Kenya's Newest Singing Sensation

Avril (aka Judith Nyambura Mwangi) is a new star taking over the Kenyan music scene. Unlike many musicians, she did not start in the church choir or in school. She did poetry and drama in high school but that was just about it. It wasn’t until after completing her secondary education in Uganda that she realized that she had a captivating voice. She initially plied her trade doing voiceovers for Trapeez when she was invited by Banda and Lucas of Ogopa.  In 2005, Avril sung backup vocals for a number of artistes before her producers thought that her sound was refined enough to start working on collaborations. She was later signed by the Ogopa Deejays label.

      In late 2009, she released her debut single 'Mama' that is being played in Kenya and East Africa in general and has been a huge hit for her. The song is a about a girl pleading with her parents to understand her and accept her choice of a boyfriend. It has resonated well with many people because it is an issue that the youth occasionally have to confront. She has also collaborated with a number of artistes including with Jaguar on the hit track ‘Tayari’, LAM from Sudan, with King George on ‘Number 1’ and lastly, with Tanzania’s AY on the track ‘Ahsante’.

      The sky continues to be the limit for Avril as she has opened for the Morgan Heritage reggae show in April 2009, performed at the Mr & Miss UON (Carnivore), International Women’s Day, and Stardust in Malindi and at the Youth Convention at Bomas of Kenya among other places.

     Avril is currently pursuing a degree in design at the University of Nairobi and counts her mother as one of her biggest fans. Be on the lookout for more hits from Avril and the Ogopa label.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Interview with Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi & Hashim Haruna of HomeGrown - Hip Life in Ghana Documentary

   HomeGrown HipLife in Ghana is a feature-length documentary that trains its’ lens on a music genre in Ghana called HipLife, a fusion of contemporary American hip-hop and Highlife, the traditional pop music of West Africa. The documentary directed by budding filmmaker Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi (Clenched Fist Productions) and produced by Hashim Haruna (Boggie Down Nima Productions) chronicles over a period of ten years, the lives of a group of young musicians (VIP) from the Nima ghetto in Accra, to their first international tour. VIP’s members (Vision in Progress) are unique, coming from a diverse set of religious affiliations, ethnic groups, and language backgrounds. Its’ members include Emmanuel “Promzy” Ababio, Abdul Hamid “Lazzy” Ibrahim, and Joseph Nana “Prodigal” Ofori. This documentary features other hiplife acts such as Reggie Rockstone (considered the God Father of HipLife), alongside his sidekick DJ Rab, Tinny, TicTac, Panji, DJ Black and Obrafour.

            Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi’s work is a testament to his willingness to carry his camera into dangerous areas in order to get the shot. His previous works such as Inventos: Hip Hop Cubano, The Breaks and i of motion us of movement were only preludes to incessant desire to produce high quality documentaries. Eli does for Ghana’s Hiplife what Martha Cooper did for the emerging hip-hop New York scene in the early 1980’s. He filmed these young and talented artistes in their own world playing, exploring, and being creative. The camera also tracks these artistes as they blossom from teenagers to musicians with fans around the world and how they deal with their new-found fame. As a group, VIP easily embodies the greatness and perseverance that reflected a tough, unforgiving and ambitious ghetto life. They met to see "who is who “in rap competitions. Little did they know that one day they would become superstars. The documentary concludes with footage showing V.I.P. on tour in Europe, South Africa (at the 2004 Kora Music Awards ) and the United States, being received by enormous crowds. The viewer is given an intense experience of the excitement surrounding the group’s success and from witnessing the international explosion of HipLife music. This documentary has had screenings in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and most recently at the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, in Copenhagen, Denmark.

            Below are excerpts of a recent radio interview I had with Eli Jacobs and Hashim Haruna about the documentary, the current state of hiplife and future projects.

How did the two of you get together to make this movie industry and what attracted you to work together?
Eli: I went to study in Ghana for about a year and had a hip-hop show on the local university radio station called Radio Universe. Many of the local acts would occasionally stop by and ask me to play their songs, so that is how I got introduced to the Hip Life movement.
Hashim: Basically, I consider Eli a brother and as owner of Boogie Down Productions we sat down and decided to make it happen.

How did you arrive at the main characters VIP (Vision In Progress) considering there were other reputable acts such as Reggie Rockstone, DJ Rab and Tinny?
Eli: There are many more acts such as TicTac, Obrafour and Buk Bak that were featured in the movie. What happened was that VIP were the ones that brought me to Nima, brought me to (unintelligible) in the late 1990’s and really invited me to their homes ,and I ended up living with them in Nima. So instead of highlighting everybody, I decided to tell the story of how one group from the hood (Nima) made it to the international stage.

Who sponsored this documentary? And how long it took to film it?
Hashim: This movie was independently funded and produced. Eli and I basically funded this film from our own resources. There was no big budget behind this documentary because they did not understand the concept behind this. Believe me, we tried to seek funding but nothing became of it and so we took it upon ourselves to bring this idea to fruition.
Eli: In America, they see the same negative images of Africa over and over again. I feel that if I were to ask for funding for a film about an orphan child from war who does not have a family they would fund it much faster than a film about the youth in Africa having a voice and doing well for themselves.

What were some of the challenges you encountered filming this documentary?
Eli: Yes. Some of the challenges…actually the biggest challenge was the funding. So once we decided to make this happen on our own.(Clenched Fist and Boogie Down Nima Productions pulled resources), and after that it was smooth sailing. We went to Ghana where we spent some time filming, we travelled with VIP to the Kora Awards in Johannesburg, South Africa, to London on tour, and then Boogie Down Nima Productions brought them to the US where we got to film them too. So in terms of the complications, there was not that many. I was really surprised by the number of people that opened their doors and let us in to tell us their story

This documentary has been screened at the Philadelphia, New York festivals and most recently in Copenhagen. What has been the audience reception so far and future plans?

Hashim: Basically, we have a diverse audience. However, a large number of this audience is African-Americans, who are interested in Ghana and Africa. We’ve had a lot of interest in this documentary
Eli: The response has been amazing. I love it when Ghanaians show up to the movie because they leave with a sense of pride. For them, it is easy to relate to this documentary and feel a part of it. For Americans, they see something new, a new image of Africa that they haven’t seen before which I love to show them. The future is getting a lot of people to see it, to give us their opinion, what they would like to see next and really to get the image of hiplife music around the world so that people can hear from the likes of VIP, Reggie Rockstone and the new artistes such as Sarkodie.

              Rod Chavis once said in a paper presentation on “Africa in the Western Media” that images of Africa in the west, many times, are deeply troubling psychologically and emotionally, especially to those claiming her as primordial heritage, lineage, and descendancy. They portray a no there there: no culture, no history, no tradition, and no people, an abyss and negative void. It is my fervent hope that this documentary will help to erase certain long held perceptions of Africa as portrayed in the western media and in some movies. I will urge everyone to either buy the DVD or contact the film maker to arrange a screening due to the film’s uplifting message on Africas’ youth.

I am immensely grateful  to Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi and Hashim Haruna for their time and all the help provided for this interview. These guys are simply great!!

Here is a link to the full-length interview with Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi and Hasim Haruna conducted on 8/28/2010. 

For bookings and other media contacts, please email  Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi  or Hashim Haruna  or by simply visiting the website

The Afrikan Child © Copyright 2010. All Rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or image may be duplicated without the author's permission. Also, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. General inquiries should be directed to our Web feedback box, accessible from this link or from the footer at the bottom of most pages on our site.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

CD Review: Dobet Gnahoré

Dobet Gnahoré (pronounced DOH-bay gna-OR-ay) is a singer, dancer and percussionist who hails from the West African nation of the Ivory Coast. This 2010 Grammy Award winner (for Best Urban/Alternative Performance)and BBC World Music Awardee for “Best Newcomer” draws heavily on the traditional music of the Ivory Coast, but also explores many other African genres to create a diverse, Pan-African pop-influenced sound all her own. In March of this year, Dobet Gnahore released a new album “Djekpa La You” to  rave reviews. Like her past two US-released albums, Ano Neko (2004) and Na Afriki (2007), Dobet Gnahoré tries to pass on African culture in this album, the same way it was passed on to her by Cameroonian writer and director Wéré Wéré Liking and by her father, Boni Gnahoré, who has played a decisive role in her music.

           Performed in a number of different African languages, the album’s songs address social and political issues: the struggles of women in African society, the exploitation of children, the impact of greed and violence on the family. This album “Djekpa La You”, the title of which means “Children of the world” in Dida, pays homage to the children of Africa. On the track Boudou, the sanza, the balafon, the calabash and bongos are brought in to support the guitar, the vocal backup and Dobet’s warm and powerful voice. The harmonies on this track are very natural sounding and track very well. At extreme settings, the doubled vocals begin to stand out more, but allows Dobet’s distinct voice to soar and the song to be enjoyed even though you might not understand the language in which she sings. South African star Vusi Mahlasela (who duets powerfully on the soothing Kokpa) is one of four featured guest vocalists providing a more knowing contrast to Dobet’s guileless singing, with fellow Ivorian Soum Bill taking centre stage on the album’s most bruising arrangement, Evigne. The other guests on this CD include the singer’s own father Boni Gnabore, a master percussionist himself, and Fatoumata Diawara.

        The recommended tracks on this album are Evigne, Boudou , Nfletoun (featuring Fatoumata Diawara) and Kokpa. Take it in, enjoy the beauty and hope that her music will pour over you, and while you listen, figure out how you’ll share the experience with others.

The Afrikan Child © Copyright 2010. All Rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or image may be duplicated without the author's permission. Also, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. General inquiries should be directed to our Web feedback box, accessible from this link or from the footer at the bottom of most pages on our site.