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26 years of music, 25 years of Ghana Music Awards race: Bragging rights of Okyeame Kwame
Rapper Okyeame Kwame
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26 years of music, 25 years of Ghana Music Awards race: Bragging rights of Okyeame Kwame

ON Saturday, June 1, when nominees in the various categories of the Telecel Ghana Music Awards (TGMA) are mentioned on the stage at the Grand Arena of the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC), one name that is sure to draw loads of respect will be rapper Okyeame Kwame, who is in contention for the Best Hiplife Song of the Year award.

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However, even before a winner is declared for the category, Okyeame Kwame, 48, has the bragging rights as the only artiste who still makes the nomination list of TGMA, former Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA), after being in the music business for 26 years.

This accomplishment may easily go unnoticed. However, for an industry that easily ‘swallows’ struggling young talents and has the insatiable thirst for ‘retiring’ artistes even in their prime, just because they have been in the system for a decade and sometimes even less, Okyeame Kwame deserves his flowers and, of course, bragging rights of a height many of his compatriots couldn’t reach.

What makes Okyeame Kwame’s history and journey with the most prestigious awards scheme on Ghana’s entertainment calendar inspiring is that the defunct Akyeame, which was made up of now Quophi Okyeame and himself (Okyeame Kwame), won Hiplife Song of the Year and Group of the Year awards at the maiden edition in 1999/2000.

And after 25 years, he is still in a favourable spot to win the Hiplife Song of the Year award again. Very commendable, yes or no? Well, Okyeame Kwame describes it as a great feeling.

 Strategy

In an interview with Daily Graphic, Okyeame Kwame, real name Kwame Nsiah-Apau, expressed lots of appreciation that his works are still held in high esteem after many years. 

He describes himself as a vessel through music and art to impact lives. For the Woso hit-maker, music is his passion.

“I’ve had many music researchers interview me on the strategies that are working for me to stay relevant, and the first on my list has always been that I can’t live without music. That's my life. 

“Sometimes, I even beat myself for not making more music than I have done already because I’ve got so much in me. Therefore, I'm planning to change that narrative this year and make and put more music out there. 

“When I make a lot of music, I just don’t have the time to put them out. I need to change that and bring out more music because it is my most important occupation. And I think that because I'm really honest about my art and I allow it to pass through me. The content is usually compelling and acceptable. 

“Also, creating my music with live productions has been very helpful. There are live basses and live keyboards. I love to introduce elements that bring out the feel of live production. So, even if it's a computer, you enjoy some guitars somewhere, there's a bass somewhere, you know, the music is recorded semi-live. There are lots of fresh human energies of high professionals who are even much higher in knowledge in music than me, who are working with me all the time. And that makes my creativity soothing and compelling. 

 “My posture makes it possible for me to be unattached to the things I create, and because of that, I can take criticism of the art easily. It also allows a congenial atmosphere for co-producers, directors and artistes to make contributions without too much conflict,” he added.

Staying Power

Coming this far and competing with artistes, most of whom are younger than the years he has spent in the industry, is one that wasn’t achieved on a bed of roses. One of his ‘change agents’ was not only to build a sustainable career by relying on performances and selling music but also to create opportunities with music to stay relevant.

“Music brings a lot of value to me as an artiste. With music, I held the Versatile shows for years, organised events and have a large audience that helps me sell brands as an ambassador. I understood early that doing other relevant projects aside from music would cement my influence.

“So, over the years, I have been doing the Hepatitis B Health Walk and Free Screening and the Climate Change campaigns, which have gone a long way to push the Okyeame Kwame brand,” he said. 

The father of two also applauded his present and past management teams for playing crucial roles in his career.

“I’ve always had a strong management team. From Abraham Ohene Djan, Lanre, Kwame Amfo, Okraku Mantey, now Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, to my current team; they have always been on top of the game. 

“The whole booking of meetings, interviews, PR, social media and promotion, among others, are done by people. And if they don't work hard, no matter how nice the music is, it is not going anywhere. 

“I still consult my former managers whenever the team has to take a tough decision. So, consistency in management and working with the right people helps. Also, working with fresh blood such as Kuami Eugene, King Paluta, Kofi Kinaata bring new ideas, help to tap into their audience and keep you always in the minds of young ones too,” he added. 

Undoubtedly, Okyeame Kwame is one of the few pioneers of Hiplife from around the mid-1990s who remains active in the industry. He has received several local and international awards for his music and as a philanthropist.

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They include “Key to the City” of Cincinnati and the United States Volunteer Award from former US president Barack Obama.

 Conclusion

Back to TGMA25, what will happen to Okyeame Kwame if he wins the Hiplife Song of the Year with his song Insha Allah, after 26 years in the industry? The answer will come on Saturday, June 1, 2024, at the biggest night organised by Charterhouse to celebrate Ghana’s music and artistes. ‘Stay tuned’.

 

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