I got through to one young talented independent musician from Accra who goes by name Eli and had the opportunity of interrogating him about his music, performance life, interests and influences. Eli has written and sung about loss, love and longing. He’s collaborated with a lot of other rappers before, but in his most recent track Gold Coast that features FOKN BOIS’ Wanlov, he delves into a socio-political issue; about people who ease themselves at the Ghanaian golden coasts or beaches. It’s very relevant that musicians of today look to be some sort of literal pain in the *** for public ‘defecators’. Read further to know more about this artist who is luxuriated in a voice that gets better with each new track:

KW: When and why did you start playing?

EM: It started with the Ghana Police Church Junior Choir. Parents needed us someplace they could please the church, themselves, and have us learn instead of watch Cartoon Network

KW: Which instruments? And what was the first tune(s) you learned?

EM: I can’t say I play any instrument by the level of my skill on the guitar, but when I write I play it all in my mind.

KW: Which famous musicians do you admire and why? And which of them have you learned from? Were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?

EM: Ok so this is the weird part. I’ve listened to a lot. I’ve loved a lot but I cant say who it was or what CD it was, and it’s because I never kept titles or names in my mind. It was just the sound and I’m on to the next one. Growing up, my dad had a huge collection of music from between the 60’s
to the 70’s. I cant recollect the time but it was certainly better than today’s sound so that’s where my influence comes from; Old vinyls my dad brought from yankee!

KW: Who was your first teacher? Other teachers?

EM: Errm can’t say I’ve had teachers. I had a choir master and a music teacher but no they dont count. They helped but no they don’t count.

KW: What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? In your neighborhood or town? And what inspired you to write the song Gold Coast?

EM: As far as my memory goes the same old people everybody loved I loved too. Micheal Jackson, Rex Omar, Eminem, Obrafour, Bob Marley and all the names you can think of growing up in Ghana. About Gold Coast it’s simple, I lived on the 3rd floor of a building by the La Road with a clear view of the La beach and its citizens with my guitarist for more than a year, so I saw how people would wake up early and go free themselves on a beach I take walks on and is a few minutes away from the famous La beach which by the way is the worst beach resort or whatever ever. All this and the fact that people build houses or my country allows people to build houses without toilets so they simply free thier “narsh” wherever they please is why.
KW: Who are your favorite musicians? Groups? CD’s?

EM: I love Bob, Fela and Osibisa. Distant relatives is the best cd/albulm/tape I know.

KW: Have you been in competitions? Any prizes?

EM: I’ve tried reality shows but failed all, and I’ve been rewarded heavily by that!

KW: How do you handle mistakes during a performance?

EM: I’m the most nervous before any performance. I want to make it great so bad sometimes it gets the better of me. The moment you loose the nerves you’ve lost the urge.

KW: Do you teach music?

EM: I wish I did. Someday I’m sure I will, but now no. I’m still a student of the art.

KW: How do you balance your music with other obligations – family life, friends, hobbies, school, job, etc?

EM: I have no other obligations. I will if I choose to. I had a job but I quit because it killed the feeling. All I do is music. All I want to do is music. Family and all other obligations can wait
For every smile I take away I’ll put more on many more faces

KW: Thanks for talking Eli

EM: Thank you for the time.

(ELI, photo via Eli)

Listen to his new track here



(Prof. Nketia speaking at Dream Oval Seminar. Photo Credit; Osei Bonsu)
(Prof. Nketia speaking at Dream Oval Seminar. Photo Credit; Osei Bonsu)

You cannot discuss Emeritus Prof. J. H. Kwabena Nketia’s intellectual and personal life without mentioning African music. He’s one endowed with the pure knowledge about world music but the unique aspect of his career and lifestyle is to live the music he’s been born with or known from his culture even though he’s had the privilege to travel around the world and studied from other sources.

“The main thing is to preserve the development of our creative legacy even in contemporary contexts.” he says, at a seminar organized by DreamOval Foundation, an institution which has the aim to bridge the knowledge gap through the creation, sharing and utilization of knowledge with Education and Technology being their key focus areas. This was at Paloma Hotel on the Spintex Road near Sakumono junction.

It’s no wonder that Emeritus Professor Nketia has also been described as the ‘Grandfather of African Music’. He goes on to mention how he wrote 49 musical pieces in just 3 months short stay in Tanzania once. “I pick from wherever I go. It’s not wrong to learn from other people and places. Do not copy and paste, but rather apply the knowledge from your cultural traditions.” “You don’t have to wait till forever. Some things can be done as a part of our everyday life and you’ll become better with time.” He goes on to share a story about a friend who proposed to a lady at his could-be in-law’s but was denied. He created a song after his friend had told him about the experience “minn ny3 d3nn po na ay3 yie, Kwame ei minn ny3 d3nn mpo na ay3 yie., atekyrema ma fro pata hunu, Kwame ei nipa nyinaa k)) adihw3 minkwaa mi k)) y3 aa adi3 no etu k) (what should I do? Kwame, I am a cat who’s climbed the wrong roof. We all went to view something, I only got there when it had flown away.)”

He shares a few of his works; Mmoatia Sankuo, Ewe-fon, Volta Fantasy, etc and admits that he loves the rhythmic Anlo bell patterns and cadence, that’s how come “you find most of my works fusing ewe agbadza tones or Anlo music because I’m so much in love with their tradition of music.” Though he has millions of works, he as well confesses that Volta Fantasy (circa 1967) happens to be his favorite work of all. Somebody in the audience talked about how his music “is like a story on its own and can perfectly work on cartoon productions or background of movies” and that’s definitely true.

He talks about how passion comes first for him and that “it was never about the commercial aspect of the work that kept me in the career. Things have always been happening in time to keep me not to worry about money at all, and I remember how UNESCO aside Nkrumah and Kofi Busia “funded my projects to develop and document traditional folk music.” He goes on to say, “I started University of Ghana’s school of Performing Arts and Dance Ensemble because Nkrumah liked the idea. Institute of Language Study too.”

He mentions his new project of creating the Professor Nketia archive where generations to come can gain access to his rich musical content, books and articles as well as his collections from other composers as accrued throughout his travels. You can find the Prof. Nketia foundation here: http://www.nketiamusicfoundation.org. and the objectives include:

  • “To promote the conservation and development of our creative legacy in contemporary contexts and
  • To assist in the curatorial and promotional aspects of the Nketia collection of archival materials in the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana and other locations.”

He was a member of the International Music Council once. Literally having traveled around the world with the legend to share his music, his associate tells us; “The software we have on the market today are not made for African music. It was difficult coding Prof. Nketia’s music. We bought computers and spent nights trying to create these notations.” Pointing at musical notes on the projector screen, he goes on to mention, “Even still, it’s not that right.”

In the diverse complex field of music, Ghana must be very proud of well accomplished legends like Prof. Nketia and kudos to DreamOval Foundation for putting together such a relevant seminar for young artists, visionaries, students and thinkers to meet and share under the umbrella of a great legend and voice of Africa. Next month’s DreamOval seminar is on the 27th of March with host Professor Kofi Agyekum, Dean of the College of Performing Arts, University of Ghana. Join in as he shares his thoughts on Our Language and National Development – The Case of Ghana.. Watch this space for details soon.