23 -April -2024 - 02:36

Atongo Zimba & Black Prophet talk Ghana music

Ghanaian music legends Atongo Zimba & Black Prophet both played at this year’s Africa Oyé festival in Liverpool. Ghana Magazine caught up with them for a short Q&A session on Ghanaian music, music festivals and the Azonto movement.

Welcome to Liverpool. Is this your first time here?

Atongo Zimba: Yes, this is my first time in Liverpool. It is very interesting; the emotion is good, the audience are good and everyone is enjoying themselves.

Black Prophet: It’s my first time in the UK! Liverpool looks nice; this is a wonderful festival.

…and are you coming straight from Ghana? 

AZ: You could say so. I live here [in the UK] but I went to Ghana last year. I only returned two weeks ago.

BP: Yes, I’m coming straight from Ghana.

Why European music festivals?

AZ:  What I’m doing is part of promoting Ghanaian music. I’ve been doing what I do for many years but yet many people still don’t know about it. For instance, everyone knows about High-life [music] but not many people are aware of a sound called ‘Sankone’ which also exists. I’m just coming to show that

we also have something to offer, so we can all support it and make it big. In the end we’re all Ghanaians and we want to build Ghanaian music up. For me, I’m happy just to make things happen.

BP:  Most of the time I’m touring Europe; touring with artists like Beenie man, Turbulance; playing in Germany, Poland and Amsterdam –  but not really much in the Ghanaian community. I want to bring it [Ghanaian reggae] to a level whereby they will not only be calling Jamaican artists but a Ghanaian ones too. We’re trying to put Ghana and Africa on the Map; trying to elevate people’s consciousness. I’m taking this thing back to Ghana – in a big concert – showing them how we do it on the other side of the world because we have a lot of talent in Ghana but sometimes the sounds are not so clear.

What are your thoughts on the whole Azonto movement? Are you for or against it?

AZ: Azonto is really nice. It is the kind of thing we have to bring to the table but sometimes people like to criticise it and say ‘this isn’t going to last’. But at least it is something new. You either have to appreciate it or leave it.  However, I still think some Ghanaian musicians need to maintain some focus, instead of just copying others. You can never be like that other person. So why not just say ‘hey, let me also bring something new out’. You have to be true to your own self. In the end, that is what makes you a better musician.

BP:  Well, I’m not against music. I can never be against music. I have a song with Kwaw Kese [Let me do my thing] which is a big song in Ghana and it is kind of Azonto. So I’m not really against Azonto music. To me it is the message which is important. I want my child to come to me and ask “Daddy what’s the meaning of that song?”, and I would want to be able to explain that song to the kid. Musicians are the angels of the earth. What we say, people follow. If you have a conscious music, you can elevate both the high-class and the low-class but – excuse me to say – if you have sh*t music, you’re going to educate no one. Musicians must preach consciousness and that’s what I’m about.

What do you think will be the next big trend in Ghana Music? 

BP: I can’t tell you that [Laughs]. I know I want to bring consciousness but I cannot tell you what would be the next big thing. Human beings are unpredictable. Only Jah can tell you that.

What are your plans after this festival? 

AZ: My plan is to keep working. I like to work more and more every day, so I’ll continue touring. I’m a British and a Ghanaian so I can go anywhere I want [laughs]… I guess that’s why I went back home. I think I was losing it. I had been living here for 10 years. So when I went back, I was building up… You get to feel the culture, visit the family. Then you can come back with something fresh. But I try to keep my focus and not get too distracted.

BP: I’m currently doing my Europe tour but as we speak, I’m recording two albums one in Jamaica – which is an international one being produced by D Fraser and one in Ghana with my own record label, prophetic music production. I might even start one new one for Europe. I’m a working man [laughs]. I love music!