“I wasn’t really into singing. I will sing along when someone is singing.” Bertha speaking about how she got into music. In 2012, her voice captivates the hearts of thousands of music lovers all over the world on a daily basis as her music, works of her own creative genius, is on replay on the major radio station across the country.
Born Bertha Bridgette Kankam, she says her showbiz name is now ‘Yaayaa’. For now, let’s just say, that is another story for another part of this piece. She is from ‘Oseikrom’ aka Kumasi (she smiles at this point) and specifically from Kokoben due to her matrilineal heritage. School started in the Martyrs’ of Uganda then to St Louis and now the University of Ghana where she is studying theatre arts and music. She is from a family of 7; made of parents, 3 girls and 2 boys with her inclusive.
For someone who now plays the guitar and piano, it’s unnerving to hear that the point where she realized she wanted to be a singer was when “I was 6 or 7. I heard one of Celine Dion’s songs and I was like wow, someone can sing like that then I have to learn other people’s songs.”
With a dream to impress her friends in class with her abilities, she tuned herself to the works of Whitney Houston who “was the only artiste I was listening to” till she later discovered “Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, and Aretha Franklin.” She however is adamant that “my mom loved music and I think she was the one who inspired me to do what I am doing now.”
Armed without a vocal coach, she says “the only thing I did was to rehearse alongside the music that was played and I challenged myself. So if Whitney hit this kind of note, I will rehearse on and on till I am able to hit that particular note or probably do it better than she did… I didn’t really know I could sing because people used to make fun of me. When I was a kid I used to have a very deep voice. It was bad”.
Just like all other teenagers, things changed when she went to Secondary School. “It looked like people wanted me to sing most of the time so it built some confidence in me. I decided to better myself every day because i realized that people wanted more of me”. And people have been wanting more of her since then.
In came Stars of the Future which she won at the age of 19 after nursing the ambition to contest for three years. This presented a whole new mountain of challenges for the budding singing sensation and she tells me “it’s not been easy, trust me. I was supposed to work with a particular sound engineer but I don’t know, things went wrong. It made me feel down.” At this point she says she realized it was time to fully commit to the path she had chosen, music. “I know who what I am looking for, I know what I want to be and nobody in the world will probably see my vision the way I see it.”
“I decided to record on my own”. Teaming up with her brother, she did some sessions in Kumasi and finally ended up at the front door of ‘Kawa’, the “I don’t know what I go talk” sound engineer. “We did ‘Am I’. So ‘Am I’ was the first song I ever dropped song I ever dropped after Stars of the Future”. The promotion of the song however was not as she expected it to be but giving up was not an option.
“There are a lot of songs I have recorded but I am taking my time to release them. It’s not easy at all. People come to me saying they want to manage me but it is about finding someone you share the same goal with or probably someone who shares the same vision as you do and someone who is not going to divert your ideas or change the way you see yourself”
Like all ‘celebrities’, she shies away from talking about her love life and sings a line from a gospel song, “falling I love with Jesus is the best thing I ever done”. But she says of her future “I definitely would want to complete school before taking up music, like, full time. But am still building myself. I go to guitar school, I go piano school. Am doing music in school. Am doing theatre, Am doing directing. All these things am doing is to become a better artiste.”
She is recording a video, building her image and staying out of trouble for now. At the end of it all she reminds me “I am still a girl.”