Ghanaian musician Delasi’s debut album Thought Journey comes to life with introspection, intellect and infectious sound.
Throughout the album he tackles issues of racial tension, youth, immigration, curiosity, sorrow and physical and emotional love, all looking out to a Ghana dealing with a lot of economic troubles. I had a quick chat with ‘The Soul God’ about the album.
Shiba: So let’s start from the very beginning… Tell me about yourself, Ghana and how you came to be a musician.
Delasi: So I’ve always been attracted to my parents’ records. They listened to a variety of things like reggae and classical music, Afrobeats etc. I remember artists like Bob Marley, Osibisa, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Lucky Dube… Judy Boucher was my mum’s favourite! Movie soundtracks like The Sound of Music and Doctor Zhivago. I started writing songs of my own and have always been melodic.
My mum loved those as well, especially Doctor Zhivago both the 1965 original and 2002 remake! Although, I heard a story about you writing a song about fish in class…
That was when I discovered hip hop. In my teens I related to the rebellion in the messages of 2Pac, Nas etc. I would start writing rap lyrics. Prior to that I only made melodies of my own poet-type songs. At that moment I had done The Fish Song… my mates were all singing along. They could sing my lyrics! It gave me a very good feeling. I still remember that song and can sing it to you sometime!
Of course! So that’s when you knew you would make it. From that moment to releasing Thought Journey, what kept you going? It can’t have been too easy to make music and a living when you’re still coming up.
Yeah, that’s when I knew I had some influence on others via my music. I could draw too and that drew people to me as well as my little poetry… I’d write to the girls that I was too shy to talk to.
Yeah, I just held onto the thought of releasing an album some day and I remembered imagining an illustration of me as an album cover. I eventually got to do some professional work with Ghanaian superstars… one notable mention is Reggie Rockstone, a pioneer and founder of Hiplife a Ghanaian genre of music which has its roots deeply embedded in hip hop.
Anytime I did something else besides music I never felt any joy… So I kept at it.
I would collaborate with Reggie and become pals with some of the artists I’d hear on the radio in Ghana. These days I’m open to music from all over the world… There’s been a lot of disappointments in the music industry and it’s hard for an up-and-comer but anytime I did something else besides music I never felt any joy… So I kept at it.
So now that you have your album out, you’ve had quite a busy year promoting it. Can you shed some light on your travels so far? The album artwork is also beautiful by the way.
The album cover was done by Bright Ackwerh, a dope Ghanaian illustrator. I’ve had a few listening parties in Berlin, Nairobi and Accra. It’s been very wonderful. My listening parties have been full of lovely people… genuine music lovers who appreciated the messages I had for them through my songs. I’ve performed in Harare as well which was very spontaneous but very fun as over two-thousand people were cheering and shouting for more…
What was Berlin like?
Nah, it was very chilled… people always dance to my music even if I’m singing in Ewe, my mother tongue. I guess the emotions are relayed nicely and a connection is built. They were very appreciative and I had several performances in Berlin and the reactions were the same regardless of language.
Music is a language of its own, so they say. So for those who don’t understand some of the Ewe in your tracks, is there a general theme to your album? What are some of the thoughts you experienced on this journey of yours?
The album is mixed with English, Pidgin English, and my Ewe mother-tongue as well as a little droplet of Swahili. Themes range based off my own experiences on journeys and things I observed as well as other people’s stories.
The message of pursuing your dreams really matters.
There’s the socially-aware songs like Artificial Lines which is about immigrant woes (inspired by a news article on how African immigrants in Israel were being treated). On Why for instance, I question the world around me and my not understanding it fully.
On songs like Destination Greatness and Dreamer I’m adopting a ‘you can do it’ attitude for everyone out there; the message of pursuing your dreams really matters. There are also love songs either of a physical or symbolic nature. I’m still gathering thoughts each day, learning more about my environment and the way it works.
What are your thoughts on Africa as a continent and the direction we’re headed in as African people?
Music is uniting us through cross-collaborations and events on the African continent. I just opened for the Fokn Bois in Nairobi and they told me how much they enjoyed sharing their music in East Africa and the acquaintances they made… this is how I feel when I’m out there networking and pushing for collaborations on the continent.
Why did you choose Abena Gyamfua, Lee Bass, Peter Somuah and Yaw Donkor to collab on your tracks? Do they share similar sentiments in life and music? And if you could choose anyone from the continent to collaborate with next, who would you choose?
Yes I choose my collaborations carefully… I have collaborations with artists and producers from very different parts of the world on this project (US, Ghana, Kenya , Germany, Denmark, Japan) thus illuminating the Thought Journey experience. Peter brought my jazz influences on the album out with his sax and trumpet… Lee Bass brings the dubstep vibe on Amedeke Menyao.
Abena is an amazing Ghanaian singer living in the US and I love her conscious vibes and great voice, so a collabo was only natural. Yaw Donkor is one friend that has always believed in my music. He also possesses a strong vocabulary in his native Twi tongue. He is apt with the flows and storytelling style.
For performers I’d choose next, I like Nneka very much. Her music comes from a deep place. Fokn Bois are very witty and at the same time socially aware in their songs. An ambitious collab wish would be with Frank Ocean! On African collaboration… Spoek Mathambo, Nonku Phiri… I believe they’re soulful and poetic and I can relate.
Commot For Der was shot by half-Dutch and Kenyan producer/filmmaker fesfood. We painted this picture of an Africa that still had issues with Africans travelling within the continent. We wondered… If Kwame Nkrumah were still alive, would he be happy with the way Africa was heading?
Wow. What do you think about the possibility of an African passport?
Let’s see if the African passports actually gets implemented for real.
So there’s doubt? Mauritius and Rwanda are apparently already on board.
There was talk of a single currency before and we all know what happened with that! It’ll be a good thing though because I make friends from different parts of the continent and I love them all equally along with the ways we are so different yet so much the same. Travelling within Africa is more expensive than going to Europe so we hope it’ll help Africans to travel within the continent more.
And lastly, what’s next for you, any big plans for the new year?
I’m hoping to do some international gigs for next year and I have more visuals and songs I can’t wait to share! I question myself and human existence, my adventures and sometimes the bitter experiences that make for good songwriting. I’ve had the opportunity to share the album at the University of Ghana as guest lecturer twice and that felt rewarding. I look forward to more of such lectures in future.
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