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.