Battle with the dreamkillers – M.anifest’s ‘Ebei’ –

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As has become the tradition of several artists in Ghana, after being handed an award at the ‘glitzy’ event at either the conference centre or the national theatre, a track usually follows to satisfy a number of reasons. The track either tells of how they had to hustle to get where they are, or about how much money they now have or sometimes, just plain old blabber for several minutes with a nice beat and hook.

It is with this disposition i approached the newly released track from the only Ghanaian musician with a dot in his name, M.anifest.

He calls the track ‘Ebei’; a direct translation of which could leave you with something like “oh dear.” Adhering to his trademark style of rap where every bar leaves you reeling under a shower of well-placed words that not only make sense but convey a powerful message, M.anifest sends a strong message about how folks ought to continue believing and pursuing their dreams with passion.

“Some get jobs but no passion, some get passion but no jobs; so when you talk about living

your passion, them go ‘yob’ you say charley make you dawg; when you make it rain, it can rain cats and dogs,” is how he opens the second verse of the track.

You get a sense, a the seconds pass that you are listening to an artiste who understands the industry he is in and who feels there is so much more to be done. With several known

names in Ghana’s rap scene falling along the way due to a plethora of reasons, it is refreshing to see someone commit himself to nothing but excellence.

M.anifest stresses when he says in the track; “Dreamkillers dey chao, I start dey source; since umbilical I cut the cord,” the point that folks looking to pursue their dreams must from the beginning be ready to shun the company of people who shoulder what Ghanaians call ‘pull him down syndrome’.

Though his mastery of the art form (rap) has never been questioned (he won an award for it so go figure), the manner in which he references DKB’s punches, borrows lines from M.I. and yet still delivers a message of resilience and perseverance, is simply impressive.

In a previous interview M.anifest pointed out citifmonline.com: “There’s a changing of the guard. When you have artists like E.L, Efya and myself being celebrated in the mainstream it opens doors to a plethora of other left-leaning musicians who also deserve to be heard and celebrated. There is also a return to the real and relevant. The biggest song last year was life (walahi) by R2bees, a song that had nothing to do with booty shaking, pseudo-love, or any form of silliness. Music that speaks to the soul is winning again.”

It’s clear that here is an artist who has his sights set on only one goal: Taking Ghana music to the very top.

He tells citifmonline.com in an interview for example that “Great quality music is the way to go in Ghana. Ghanaians are notoriously good at genre-defying music and i think we ought to keep pushing the envelope and stamping Ghanaian-ness on our music. I do Hip-Hop because that is the medium i fancy and flourish in and it lends itself easily as a form to use to unapologetically touch on life, love and more. Yes it’s a powerful global art form but even with that i believe it’s essential to put local relevancy to it and draw from our rich musical history.”

He however points out: “I do however think radio can do more to represent a bigger spectrum of quality music and arts in Ghana. Sometimes it feels like DJs have the same

playlist of 30 songs and there is an over emphasis on one small trend. I want to hear more from Ghana’s musical past, present and future being represented. “

He says in the track: “When you see white smoke, you know M got the new pope.” I get the feeling there is so much more original and uniqueness to come from this artist.

Ebei.

Wisdom

Wisdom

They are old..
They speak little..
They leave you fulfilled

Artistic Genius: E.L feat. M.anifest’s Hallelujah video

The man on the beat

El performing at the Chris Brown concert

Truth: The video is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G

Truth: The video will have you wondering where the rest of Ghana’s creative minds have disappeared to!

FACT: Anyone who says creativity and an eye for quality is a dying characteristic among the nation’s youth, needs to watch this video.

It might seem like a lot of praise to shower on one video, but in this case, it is praise well deserved. After establishing himself as a man who settles for nothing but the best, it was only natural that a magnificent song which speaks of the realities of many young men and women walking the streets of Ghana daily, be depicted in such a manner.

It is not entirely clear just how much influence the two artists had on the creative direction of the video, but knowing them, they wouldn’t allow an opportunity like this pass by without exerting their influence.

E.L is at his classic best in this one. The tallest rapper, beat-maker, suave and official swagger-king of the GH rap music scene.

M.anifest and his high flying chains and traditional print, his iconic beard, punchy lyrics and all-round “I sing for Africa” demeanor; give him away as the perfect man for the perfect collaborative effort.

You will be forgiven for concluding that M.anifest had a hand in the theme of the video because right from the beginning, the giant horse hoofs smashing through the calm waters of the beaches of Accra, set the tone for thumping good music video.

You could blame him for his insistence on staying classic, but E.L manages to make a white shirt, black trousers, black shoes and a tie look great on the beach.

From the ‘fearless’ horse rider on the beach to the visionary lady tossing the beans into the sky, the attempt to reach out to memories of days gone by is never lost throughout the video. The occasional ‘akata swagger’ attempts to creep in at certain points with bike riders and the like, but the central theme is never lost.

If the sound of the chorus gets your feet dancing, then be rest assured that your eyes will love its depiction in the video. Everyone is flying everywhere; including E.L

The angles from where some of the shots were taken, the lighting adopted, the balance of art, style and creativity; simply sublime. The locations, of which am not too sure, combine seamlessly with the personalities and the theme of the video to leave you wanting more at every point.

It is not entirely clear why all through M.anifest’s verse, a woman is dancing in the background though. The director can answer that question. He would also be inclined to tell you why on the 2:50 mark in the video, he decided to do what he did. Classic stuff (When you watch the video you will understand).

I am a girl – Yaayaa

“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.

Track photo for Am I

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.”

His name is Ebo Taylor

He sits before me in his black hat, slanted awkwardly in a typical showman fashion to accompany the sunglasses he dons.

The combination of patched blue and white that makes the bulk of the colours on his shirt and the black trousers held up by the black belt with a gold buckle, though modest, screams class.

Nothing, however, beats the air of confidence and achievement that surrounds this man known by the world as composer, guitarist, arranger, bandleader, and producer.

Before collaborations with world renowned musicians such as Fela Kuti and tours in countries such as Malaysia and a dozen countries, he says of his beginnings, “Entering the sixth form, I decided to become a musician so I learnt much more about the guitar instead of the piano; I was originally playing piano.”

Born in Cape Coast in 1936, he tells me he had a teacher for a father and a trader for mother both of whom according to him, “were a great influence on who I am today”. Education stared at Jubilee school and was continued at attended St. Augustine’s College where he immersed himself into the world of music.

“How did you learn how to play the guitar?” I ask.

“There were some students who played guitar and I begged them to teach me”, he says simply. However when born talent meets opportunity, “along the line, I became very conversant with the guitar and I could play it better than those people who taught me and I found myself on the stage every Saturday for school entertainment”.

Surprisingly he tells me, smiling, “I strayed into professional music” when he was invited to Accra to join the Havana Dance Band as a guitarist at the age of 19. Whether it was for the fame or money, he did not say but after tours to Ivory Coast and Monrovia he migrated from both band and location when he joined the Stargazers Band in Kumasi. When I pushed he only said they were “more popular with highlife”.

You might consider it divine intervention because it was with this same band he got his first studio recording experience. “I played some of the outstanding solos that became ‘household whistling’ (gesturing) and I became popular”, he hinted. He was soon on another journey of discovery and joined the Broadway Dance Band where he started out as one of the composers and ending up its music director.

After a year, he was off again but this time because he had been sacked. My raised eyebrows prompted some explanation, “I was sacked from the band for smoking; it’s not legal but they wouldn’t permit me to smoke in the band so they sacked me. I was the only culprit”.

With assistance from his parents and the Ghana government, he enrolled at the Eric Gilder School of Music where he enjoyed the comradeship of schoolmates like Teddy Osei, Saul Amafio and Eddie Quansah for three years. He formed the Black Star Highlife band in 1963 and recorded several great hits with musicians like George Akins whom he described as the “the most outstanding vocalist of his time”.

The lure and love for his home country (plus the fact that he had completed his studies) brought him back where he reformed the Broadway Dance Band with greats like Pat Thomas and the late Tommy King. The band eventually became the genesis of the Uhuru Band. The magnet of the city life pulled him to play for the Blue Monks Band at Tiptoe after which and became a recording artiste for Esi Bons and Polygram.

When he was not recording his own work, he was working as an Artiste and Repertoire Manager for Essiebons which led him to produce “the maiden albums” of artistes like Gyedu Blay Ambulley, CK Mann, Paapa Yankson, Jewel Ackah. “While this went on, the country was hit by continuous military rule and night club life entirely banned by curfew so a lot of musicians went away to England and America.”

What did he do?

He tells me he stayed on and played with Bands like African Revolution. However when contracts in Abidjan and Lagos came calling some years after, he was also forced to leave. He however returned shortly after and dedicated the next nine years of his life to teaching music at the University of Ghana.

A “jam session” with a Berlin based group known as the Afrobeat Academy at the Du Bois Center led to an invitation to into the studio for what was to be a journey of album production, tours and a rejuvenation of what was becoming a forgotten passion.

With a combination of traditional Ghanaian material with Afro-beat, jazz, and funk rhythms to create his own recognizable sound, he released Love and Death on Strut Records in 2010, his first internationally distributed album. Its success prompted the release of Life Stories: Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1973-1980, in 2011. He is currently promoting his third Strut album, Appia Kwa Bridge at the age of 76.

“I played in Holland, I played in Sicily, I played in Portugal, I played in Spain, I played in Italy, I played in Sweden, I played in Denmark, I played in Norway, I even played in faraway Japan and I also came to play in Brazil and in Morocco”. All this he said he did in two years.

He says he is back home for four months. He represents highlife music in Ghana. He typifies the phrase “the best comes from the West”.

His name is Ebo Taylor.