What is your educational background?
I went to University Primary School, Legon where I had my basic education. I had my secondary education at SOS in Tema then I went to university at Macalester College in Minnesota, United States (same school Kofi Annan went to).
What did you major in?
I majored in Economics.
When did you start doing music?
It started before I was actually consciously aware of what I was doing. It started from listening, mimicking and from being heavily vested in sort of what I heard and being charmed by it. Obviously my grandfather is also an ethnomusicologist and a composer so I think maybe I was fortunate enough to have it rub off me a bit. I always had a keener or deeper interest in music than the normal person and I was always interested in writing as well. I was in my first rap group when I was in Secondary School. It was called Rebel Camp—there was nothing rebellious about us though. It was just a nice name. But that was just how I got my feet wet.
When I went to university, I got the chance to experience more of the different aspects of the music. I was hanging out with more producers, I saw different shows, I saw definitely more artistes outside of hip-hop so I basically dived into a music making aspect and maybe took a bit of a back seat even to the creation. Without going to a music school, that was music school. By 2005 when I finished college, I basically begun attacking it and in 2007 I released my first album, Manifestation. I did my first album the DIY (do it yourself) way; I recorded it, mixed it, got some money doing a Pepsi jingle, used that money to print CDs myself and I did everything myself.
How did an Economics student enter into music?
I don’t think whatever you studied in school defines who you are as a person. Dr Koo Nimo was a chemist or biochemist or that something of the sort. It will be very silly for us to think of creatives as one kind of people or limited to a narrow field. Actually the more creativity we have and are able to apply across disciplines, the likelihood that we will progress as a country. Sometimes our lack of creativity and lack of imagination is why we’re still struggling. No knowledge is useless.
I could have studied Economic, next year studied Law, next year studied carpentry and it could all have led me into knowing and being able to do what I do. Fortunately the economics is coming in handy because if you are in music in Ghana, you have to be an entrepreneur else you’ll sink. I think the economics has been useful and being able to have a discipline to think of what you are doing as a business and think of how to make your creativity work for your life without compromising yourself and to make it successful.
|Nii Ogbamey Tetteh and M.anifest|
Do you go anywhere without your necklace?
My ‘Egudie’ (Laughs). Well like women like their high heels, me too I like my ‘Egudie’.
Is there any story behind your ‘Egudie’?
I just developed the fascination that turned into a gradual habit that turned into an obsession. Who knows maybe in five years I might hate them but right now it makes me feel powerful. It is also a part of creativity. Usually when I walk to a place and people see them, they are able to identify that I’m an artiste.
When it comes to Ghana, who do you listen to?
Definitely I was a child of highlife so I listen to everything from Amakye Dede to Ben Brako and KK Kabobo. Then things evolved and I was definitely a fun of Obrafour and Reggie Rockstone. These two had a lot of great influence on us the new guys. We had the chance to explore a lot of the old people and I appreciate them and the fact that most of them are still around for us the young people to learn from them.
What do you think about the creative industry?
It is fledging. It is not a chicken, it’s still a chick. We need to grow feathers, as in grow up. There are a lot of people working really hard in this industry but we don’t only need to work hard, we need to work smart. We also need to stop being corrupt in our creative industry. You can’t steal ideas and not give credits. We have to be more creative and more honest as creatives. If you do anything to get money, that pipeline will cut off very quickly or at some point.
Tell us about your mum
My mother is Nana Nketia and she a pastor at International Central Gospel Church. She was a lawyer before. So I can say that is where I get my spiritual essence from.
How do you feel when people introduce you in town as Tsatsu Tsikata’s son?
I think people were late to that information which works out well. A lot of people knew of M.anifest before they knew the connection and I think it was fine. There isn’t any kind of excitement or worry.
How did your Dad feel when you became a musician?
I think he is fine with it. Who wouldn’t be? He was at my studio release party last December. Everybody likes good music, so does my father.
Do you follow politics in Ghana?
(Laughs) Who doesn’t?
Is M.anifest married?
I’m married to my music. My private life will be my private life which is the beauty of it. I give the people a lot in my music and if they listen to my music, they will know so much about me more than I want them to know. But one thing I’m not interested in is becoming a public soap opera and people talking about whom is he dating and all that. It is of very little interest to me because I feel like there is a lot to be done creatively with my music that I don’t need any of that distraction. It is an unhealthy distraction for people to be vested in what is my private life.
Do you see yourself doing active politics in future?
No. I think there are many ways to have an impact in this society we have and everybody needs to play their part. I am approaching things from a creative, entrepreneurial and socially aware angle and I’m sure I can have my impact in many ways in that respect. We will leave creating to the creatives and politics to the politicians.
What do you think about the lyrical ‘beefs’ in the industry?
Yeah EL and I are beefing (Laughs). I haven’t paid too much attention to the details of these things. What I know is that competition and rivalry are not necessarily bad. We just have to be careful not to fuel too much negativity. But for me, I have no problem with rivalry. Madrid and Barcelona, Hearts of Oak and Kotoko could have rivalry forever. After they leave the football pitch, they can all go and have a drink so once we keep things in perspective, I don’t have a problem. It is obvious that our fans enjoy rivalry. If EL and I are having some competitive rivalry in music and when we leave the booth we remember that it is just that, it is fine. Some of these rivalries are created but at the end of the day, people have bigger life concerns.
Who in your family has influence in the kind of songs you do?
My grandfather, Professor Nketia has had a bigger influence. We always have great conversations about music, creativity and other things. He has a wealth of knowledge that I am able to benefit from.
Interview by Nii Ogbamey Tetteh (email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @ogbameytetteh)