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 Yaound├ę. 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.