For most young artistes in Africa, breaking into the music industry can be tough and discouraging, considering the setbacks and disappointments that they may have to experience on their way to success. Some work years, sometimes even decades, before they finally reach the spotlight.
But for Ghanaian Afro-soul singer Efya, breaking into the incredibly competitive music industry was pretty easy. She did not only have a famous mom to give her a hand, but she had also amassed some following as a runner-up in a talent hunt show in Ghana, “Stars of the Future”.
“I was really lucky because of Stars of the Future,” the award-winning vocalist told Face2Face Africa. “I had already become popular through the competition before I started putting out music so everybody was excited to hear what it is that I will put out so I was grateful that my first single was a hit, second single was a hit then we just kept going like that…and when it gets to that point, you can only go higher. I realized at that point that I just need to better my craft and create a niche for myself…”
And so she did. From 2006 that she entered that competition to joining a girl group that treated the world with their exceptional voice and music, Efya has carved a niche for herself, calling the basis of her sound, soul. “I like to put a little bit of soul into everything I do even if it’s Afrobeats,” said the I’m In Love With You Now hitmaker who started singing right from age seven in church.
Indeed, the Ghanaian singer and songwriter, born Jane Awindor, has become one of Africa’s biggest music stars, who has also played a huge role in the global explosion of Afrobeats.
Afrobeats — don’t confuse it with Afrobeat which was pioneered by Nigerian artiste Fela Kuti — is a fusion of West African pop music with dancehall, western rap, bashment, R&B and EDM. The sound of Nigeria and Ghana, Afrobeats is on track to becoming the world’s biggest musical genre as it continues to dominate playlists and radio. The musical movement even got its own chart this year in the UK.
Efya, who has helped some of the biggest names in the genre on some of their hits, including Wizkid’s “Daddy Yo,” and Mr Eazi’s “Skin Tight” is now doing great with her sound and style, providing a soulful melodic sweetness to Afrobeats.
But growing up in Kumasi, Ghana, Efya never planned on being a musician. “I wanted to be a film director,” she said. “I was going to finish school and go to NAFTI but then the thing is that I already started NAFTI when I was younger so I was editing, by 17 I was editing. So it was a build up of a lot of things from here and there and then I entered the competition. Then they chose me. First 100, First 50, First 25, First 10, First 5, Top three.”
With many hit singles including “Best in Me”, “One of Your Own”, “Until the Dawn”, “Little Things”, “Forgetting Me”, and collaborations with many local and international artistes, the songstress is in line to producing more Afro-soul music, she said while showing gratitude to music greats like Angelique Kidjo, Miriam Makeba, Kojo Antwi, and Asa who inspired her and set her music career in motion.
These music greats, through their chart successes, sales and key label deals, did famously put themselves on the international map. However, African music, in general, was sidelined on the popular music scene until recently that the world started paying more attention to the continent amid the rise of Afrobeats and major movie-music projects including Lamar’s “Black Panther: The Album” and Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift.”
With the spotlight on African sound and artistes, Efya has urged her fellow musicians to take advantage of the shift. “I think these are very exciting times. I think this is the time where we take up our mantle and we fight like we’ve never fought before…fight with the music, let them know, let them see us as us, let them feel what it is we feel when it comes to our music and once it’s in their hearts, it’s never gonna leave because African music is like magic.”
Highlighting the roles of labels including Mr Eazi’s emPawa that provides distribution, marketing and other services for independent African artists, Efya believes that Africa’s music industry is more than ready to handle the opportunities that the rise of Afrobeats and other music genres can bring and even develop more homegrown companies.
“I think from the beginning now that Mr Eazi has started, it will definitely go well and that will encourage investors to do more when it comes to that side because if they see that the structure he has put up is working, and is functional, and is helping artistes, and is developing artistes, there is no reason not to invest in it more to make it bigger in different places so we can connect to all the African musicians in the world everywhere.”
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