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SPOTLIGHT: Meet LYZA, The A&R Working With Your Favourite Artists

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Ask LyZa, born Elizabeth Ntiamoah, what her impressions are about the new wave of music in Ghana and the artists behind it and her response is nothing short than a quick rhetorical question. ‘Have you seen the new crop of artiste?’’ before adding ‘’GH music has always been good. The attention on these talented guys was just not there but now I think it’s looking really positive’’

Lyza is a professional Public Relation practitioner and an A&R (Artist and Repertoire) person. Entering into the A&R field was an unplanned decision. An honest expression of opinion on a song led to her entertaining the idea of becoming an A&R. At present, Lyza , who describes herself as one who ‘isn’t sure about her height’ was raised around music. From Michael Jackson to Alpha Blonde, rock music to blues, her father serenaded their home with music. This led to shaping her musical consciousness and her love for music, which in the process resulted in a sibling rivalry between herself and her brother.

‘When the adults weren’t home my brother had a way with operating the tape and VCD (if that’s what it’s called) he then started rapping and I thought I could beat him to it ‘’

Lyza now has two artists on her roster. They are the Nigerian singer BigBen and rapper Bryan The Mensah from Ghana. Her first client was BigBen whose music she heard after a friend put her on. In the case of Bryan, it was BigBen who asked her to take a listen. ‘’I had seen a couple of people retweet his (Bryan) stuff but I checked it out one time after he tweeted at BigBen, then Ben said I should listen’, she recalls.

A closet rapper who sometimes raps ‘for the fun of it and just to show people who doubt that I ever did’, Lyza in this interview, lift the veil on her experiences as an A&R, the challenges associated with her work-how she navigate the unavoidable conflicting views with artists, how having a good ear and exhibiting a high level of tolerance is crucial in her line of job. She also discusses how she juggles between her two jobs-a PR and an A&R. She also talks about life outside the domain of music and the skills needed to succeed in this business.


First off, may I ask: Who is LyZa?

So LyZa is a girl who isn’t sure about her height. But she’s fun size and I believe she is amusing with a little temper for garnishing.

Born and raised in Accra?

Born somewhere in the Eastern Region but raised in Accra

Do you remember how you got introduced to music? Did you grow up with music playing in your house?

Through my parents and my brother, who I suspect got introduced the same way I did. My parents were both Michael Jackson fans. (Might have been a thing during their time). I grew up listening and watching everything Michael Jackson but one amazing music my dad literally abused was by 10cc. The song was titled ‘’Dreadlock Holiday’’. My brother and I will mimic and mime the song for the greater part of our lives it had a good story to it, from then I was curious to find more music.

So, I guess they played different genres of music right?

Yes they did; from rock to blues to anything weird and a lot of Alpha Blondy too. It was played every day even when the adults weren’t home. My brother discovered more rap music and had a way with operating the tape or VCD (if that’s what it’s called). Later he would started rapping to every beat and I thought I could beat him to it.

A healthy sibling competition. Did you ever beat him?

I am pretty sure I did. He did his verses in Twi. I did mine in English. I always took my time because I always wanted to win. My parents never picked a winner though.

Your parents obviously didn’t want to cause any family feud

Looks like it. I would have won anyway.

Do you still rap?

Yes I do but for the fun of it. And just to show people who doubt that I ever did.

One place that also shape our music palate is Senior High School. How was your experience like, music wise?

I wrote more music in High School. It was such a confidence booster knowing people knew that I could actually rap. So, I wrote a lot to stay relevant and bar heavy. I got caught dropping a few bars to beats being played on the table and all. That’s how I became friends with (music producer) Fortune Dane (@fortunedane). He was really passionate about music back then as well so I became interested in doing more. Funny thing is I never wanted to perform (*Fortune Dane is a music producer who has worked with artistes Sarkodie, Kwaw Kesse, R2Bees, Efya among others).

Why didn’t you want to perform? Was it borne out of shyness or the ‘attention’?

Fame I believe. I have never wanted to be seen out there ‘cos I feel it will obstruct my ‘movement’ (endeavors).

Which SHS if I may ask?

Ghana Senior High School in Koftwon (Koftown is how many Ghanaians refer to Koforidua, the capital of Eastern Region).

Before I get into your job, how did you connect with Bryan The Mensah and bigBen?

I met bigBen through a friend who asked me to check out his music and as usual I gave my opinion. Bryan (The Mensah), I met on twitter. I had seen a couple of people retweet his stuff but checked it out one time after he tweeted at bigBen. Then Ben said I should listen. So yeah twitter.

What kind of opinion did you offer bigBen that got him to work with you? Curious to know.

(Laughs). I had two songs. I listened to the first and thought it was the usual nice singing, great voice, great tune but I wasn’t sold. I wanted to know what was different with him. (Then), I listened to his second song and he had written an amazing story with an awesome production by himself. It was organic. I loved it ‘cos it was different and there were more tunes and more stories and more vibes.

Was it the song he wrote about his father not in support of him making music? Do you by any chance remember the title?

Oh that’s a M.anifest song, “Do My Own”. And yeah Ben’s story on that was amazing too not forgetting his production.

My love for music had me talking with a few acts here and there about what could be done to push their art. I knew they had something special. That’s when I decided I really want to do this.

What about Bryan The Mensah. What attracted you?

He is different you know. I like that but honestly aside loving his sound, it was the way he pushed his music own music.

Did you approach Bryan or he approached you to work together?

Ok, so I started tweeting and talking about his songs a lot then I decided to connect him to the few friends I thought might like his sound. I asked him to forward his music to some radio stations I had spoken to. He was swift about it, so we took it from there. I then asked if he had a manager and he asked if I am serious about managing him. So, I had to get serious about managing him.

You have links. Very impressive

(Laughs). Just a few friends

Is that how you began as an A&R?

Officially yes, but my love for music had me talking with a few acts here and there about what could be done to push their art. I knew they had something special. That’s when I decided I really want to do this, plus I like being behind the scene anyway so that was it. I sort of promised myself I will do something with and for music. I really didn’t know what I was thinking

Explain who an A&R is & what the job entails?

A&R is responsible for the scouting of talents for record labels and assisting the artiste in his recording process like finding or suggesting the right feature, producer. You are basically the artiste go to person till a song or album is done and published. And to do this, you need to have an ear for music as well as know what’s really catchy or trendy. I don’t even need anyone to tell me that I do have that in me.

I win or I learn. I can’t seem to think about quitting. Whenever I get frustrated, I move on to the next task ahead or find a means around it. But, I made a joke about quitting one time and Bryan said “it’s too early or it’s too late” so I guess there is no coming out of this until we win.

How long have you been doing this?

I would say a year officially.

What are some of the challenges you face as an A&R?

Working around everybody’s ego; from your artist to the other artist and artist managers when it comes to getting a feature for yours. Working with up and coming artist is double the wahala (problems) because you need to convince the next artiste that your act is solid and even after convincing them, fixing a date to get the song done is another. Then there is trying to get it on radio. But, it’s all part of the job so we move. Other times you stay up with your artiste to get a work done and then you just not feeling it so there is a lot of back and forth going on. You literally can’t sleep on the job.

Have you ever had a situation where you and your artists went back and forth on a decision? Care to share?

(Another laugh). Yes. I think it was about a release date or the song choice but we did find a way around it. There was a lot of talking and a tantrum. That’s all I can say.

Ever been frustrated to the point of considering quitting?

I win or I learn. I can’t seem to think about quitting. Whenever I get frustrated, I move on to the next task ahead or find a means around it. But, I made a joke about quitting one time and Bryan said “it’s too early or it’s too late” so I guess there is no coming out of this until we win.

How will you judge the GH music scene at present? Both the good and bad

Have you seen the new crop of artistes? Ghana music has always been good. The attention on these talented guys was just not there but now I think it’s looking really positive. That’s good but that’s not to say we can’t always do better and push good music and these guys.

Good ears, negotiating and having links are skills worth having, any other thing?

Being tolerant even if that’s not who you actually are. You need to be, as well as having a good relationship with people, not use people for your gains. Give credit where it’s due. Always stay in touch and connected.

Do you feel like your gender impede your work with these artists?

Not really. Until I call or meet with a person, most don’t even know my gender and they get excited when they find out. I have been asked what I did to either get a feature or a favor because of my gender but the thing is I have been fortunate to have come across serious minded people (guys especially) that are all about work and mind their business. I believe I am putting in effort so nothing really obstructs me. If something doesn’t work for me I move on from there.

Being a PR is work on its own. How do to juggle both?

(Sighs). I go do my 9-5 as a PR but I am an A&R every time and every day. I just make time to fix in that every free chance I get. It’s tiring because my PR job is in another region and most times, the music business requires me moving around. The good thing is A&R requires communication and my PR instinct comes to the rescue all the time.

Do you help in writing songs for your artist?

No, except when bigBen wants to fix in some Twi then I have to translate his English verse to Twi. Aside that, both artistes are really good with everything they do musically, from writing to producing.

Which artist would you love to work with Reasons?

Wow I have a tall list, basically every artist in Ghana because we intend to do this for a long time. From mainstream to ground up so long as the sound fits. Wiyaala, Mensah, Mdot, Edem, Kubolor, Sark, Teephlow, Worlasi, Akan, Efya, R2bees. They all have been consistent in what they do and definitely artiste from other countries for sure too.

Aside music, what other things attract you?

Books. My favorite author must be John Grisham. First book I read by him was “The Client”. I wanted to be a lawyer before and even more so whenever I read his books. But yeah I read everything.

What do you think some of our artists need to improve on so as to compete on the global level.

They should keep the same energy they started with. They obviously don’t have the same resources with artiste elsewhere but they do have the content and will to stay pushing. There is no point in slowing down if you really want to compete worldwide. The hunger they started with needs to live.

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7 Responses to “SPOTLIGHT: Meet LYZA, The A&R Working With Your Favourite Artists”

  1. Asabea

    Lyza my girl😍. I had to smile several times cos I’d imagined you use some of your usual terms here. Nice interview 👌🏿

    Reply

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