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‘I bring difference and uniqueness to Ghanaian music’ – Stonebwoy

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He comes out as a striking young man with a dream of advancing the Ghanaian music industry, not just by doing what all others have done, but creating music that is unique and different from the wave of hip life blowing across the nation and the rest of Africa.

When asked what he brings to the Ghanaian music scene, he replies: “Difference and uniqueness.” He believes that if he hasn’t been doing things differently from what others have done, Ghanaians would not “have pushed me or supported me to this level.”

In response to why the mix of music—afro pop, reggae and dancehall—he said, “It is what I can connect with, personally.” He loved music so much he didn’t believe there should be a barrier to music. In as much as others would like to excel in one area, he blends the three genres of music so well that “one can have a feel of it.”

Livingstone Etse Satekla, popularly known as Stonebwoy, recounted the creation of what has come to be known as ‘Afro Dancehall’ and ‘Afro Reggae’ music. He was one of the first to have blended reggae, afro beat and dancehall music so well that people have begun to like it. This success was also partly due to his ability to mix the local dialect with the English and Patois languages.

He believed it was this uniqueness that brought him the Black Entertainment Television network (BET) award, because the organizers saw a different brand of Ghanaian music coming from the young man. He was the sole winner of the award, a departure from previous years when it was jointly awarded to different artistes. This, according to him, was due to his ability to skillfully blend the three brands of music into a completely new type that appeals to both Ghanaian and international markets.

“Look around you now, lot of artistes now. We have Kaaki,Eye Judah, I Wan,  etc; everyone is trying to tow a certain lane that you know… this is what Stonebwoy carved—bridging the gap between the old form of reggae and the new, and making it work.”

Stonebwoy’s story is particularly striking because of his association with one of the hectic neighbourhoods in the nation’s capital. He thinks that finding himself rising from Ashaiman is destiny, and so realizing he has talents from God, “I represent the people. I do music that can appeal to all classes of people, also being influenced by where I grew up. In all, it’s a blessing; every hard or difficult time in life I see as a blessing.”

According to him, “where one comes from does not really matter; it depends on the person and the dream and the drive and the focus.” He indicated that what his environment did was to open him up to various classes of people—the rich, the poor and middle class— and that made him know what he wanted to become. “I believe it is a matter of blessing growing up in one of the urban cities in Ghana…like the hustle thing agoan over there.”

Stonebwoy sees the Ghanaian music industry to be at its developing stages, and therefore thinks it needs sustained investment to mould it into a viable venture. According to him, this investment would make it promising and worth attracting many, including those who think music is not a respectable profession to pursue. He said further that Ghana is yet to take the music industry seriously, like other nations do. He believes that “once it is recognized at the highest levels, then all other things would be put into it to make it attractive.”

Livingstone observed that in as much as he appreciates the role the likes of Quick Action, Okomfor Kwaadei, Samini, Buk Bak, Afro Moses, etc. have played in his success story, he can’t point to any particular person as his role model, because, “a lot of people impacted in my career; some didn’t even know they did.” He believed also that even though somebody may impact on one’s life, one would also have to maintain his own identity – to be himself or herself in order to bring out one’s uniqueness.

Commenting on the love and massive support he receives from his fans, Stonebwoy asserts that “it’s amazing, and before God and man I have never seen this as a reason to want to brag; neither do I see it as a form of … like a point to feel… like… superior over them, but rather what runs through my mind is how amazing God can use a person to inspire other people.”

In that respect he does music that pleases them and makes them happy; “even deeper music that would let them think.” That is the reason why even the current president of Ghana has said he loves some of his songs. “That alone gives me a certain level of fulfilment and makes me know I am doing the right thing.”

Internationally, Stonebwoy wants to extend this uniqueness by saying that if there is Afro pop and Afro beat there can be Afro dancehall and Afro reggae. This is what identifies the Afro brand coming from Africa, and it is his desire to send such a message across.

Even though he doesn’t want to take credit alone for the spread of that genre of music, he wants to say he is one of the persons who started pushing Afro dancehall “till it started making sense, because you hear the Afro beat and it’s jamming, and it’s from down town melody with Ghanaian dialect and Jamaican patois and English, so people love it and relate with it all round.” As he indicated, his songs are now playing on Jamaican radio and across the Caribbean, as well as other African countries.

Livingstone believes that it is God who decides what the future would look for him, but he also thinks that “as long as I keep on making the people happy, keep making good music, I am gonna be one of the first to be doing the first things.” He believes he has already started doing the first things. “Like the first person from Ashaiman to win a Ghana music award; the first one to win the dancehall reggae awards, and the first Afro dancehall to win a BET. “That’s all I want from God. So anyhow he sends it, any how it ends, anyhow he pushes it, we can only give thanks and hope for the best.”

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