If there’s one great thing the internet has done for artists, it is the grain of confidence it has handed them to be whoever they want to be; creatively speaking. For the few brave ones who find happiness in playing the game from the outfield, their decision is often rewarded by the number of fans who genuinely appreciate their creation. Like their label ‘alternative or ‘alt’ artists signify, they often than not eschew the trappings of mainstream music; which include creating music that panders to what the ‘masses’ and the market want.
Over the years, the music scene has witnessed the emergence of a crop of artists who are sticking to their own style – usually born from the music that shaped their childhood. Even though they stray and adopt certain musical trends associated with mainstream music, they are excellent at flipping the style to feed into whatever they are creating; thereby owning the influence or trend. Alternative music acts like Cina Soul, Worlasi, Ria Boss, Robin Huws, Amaarae, Akan, Maayaa, Eli Muzik, Delasi, among many others have, overtime, cultivated a critical, formidable and supportive fan base who patronize their art with the enthusiasm of a new convert.
BiQo falls within the category of artists mentioned earlier. A gifted singer and producer, his latest EP: the 6 track “As We Blossom And Wither” combines the tenderness of soul music; the breezy, stirring tone of good old jazz, and a sprinkle of traditional Ghanaian folk music.
BiQo, born Stephen Sackitey Biko Okletey, was drawn to singing like most artists: his parents were not only music lovers, but musicians as well. ‘My dad sings, my mum was a part of the choir. My siblings sing as well. I have a rapper brother’.
A graduate of the University of Ghana Business School, he decided to venture into music making during his second year at University. He released his debut, ‘’Deft EP’’ in 2014.
‘”As We Blossom and Wither’’, a four-track EP dangles between life and its mottled shades. For BiQo, the title signifies the ‘’series of ups and downs in every aspect of my life and the lesson is that resilience is all I need’’. The poetic title of the EP ‘depicts the same concept of humans having several highs and lows in a lifetime and that’s the only way they grow’.
On whether he conceived the EP as a four track project from the begining, BiQo explains: ‘I wrote and recorded a little more than 4 songs but the most relevant songs to the concept of the EP made it”.
The concepts of “As We Blossom and Wither” are excellently portrayed by way of ‘’stories about dreams, growing up and this trip called life. It reflects the realities of BiQo –and by extension, many others’’.
The sonic attributes of the EP, along with the personal narratives shared on it piqued my interest, leading me to finding out more about the artist behind the work. I was therefore, excited when he agreed to do this interview when I put forth my suggestion.
BiQo shares insight on how the EP came about; the idea behind it; sharing a stage with Nigerian singer, Adekunle Gold; and why he finds ‘solace’ in music.
Talking to a few friends, it came across you are not known within the mainstream space. Can you tell me who BiQo is?
I was born Stephen Sackitey Biko Okletey. I grew up in Odorkor. I had my basic education at Meadow Basic School in Darkuman. I attended Accra Academy then continued to the University of Ghana Business School.
Does the fact that people don’t know you, despite being one of the talented guys out here bother you?
It does sometimes but all I could do to help myself is to keep moving as they catch on the vibe. (Jee gidi gidi)
How did you get involved with music? Did you come from a musical family? Was anybody an artist?
I’m from a family of music lovers, my first contact with music was my dad’s sound system. My dad sings, my mum was a part of the choir. My siblings sing as well. I have a rapper brother.
‘As We Blossom and Wither’. How did it come about- what inspired the project and the title?
The project sprung from a realization of the nature of life. In the sense that I had experienced several series of ups and downs in every aspect of my life and the lesson is that resilience is all I need. The title also depicts the same concept of humans having several highs and lows in a lifetime and that’s the only way they grow.
I’m sure you recorded many songs- or was the idea always to keep this as a four track EP?
I wrote and recorded a little more than 4 songs but the most relevant songs to the concept of the EP made it. I recorded 6 songs within the period but two were dropped out because they didn’t fit in perfectly.
Listening to the EP, I picture a man staring in the mirror and inspiring himself. I’m a right on this conclusion?
Yes you are on the right path. The project is one of self-reflection. One that exudes hope and VIM to self.
On songs like ‘Brick By Brick’; ‘Don’t Cage The Bird’ (a favourite) and ‘To Be A Man’, you come across as a man who’s both patient and yet, in a haste. How did you reconcile these two positions?
The reconciliation of a position that presumes patience and haste came across from experiencing both as a young adult who wants to trust the process but, at the same time, wants to be sure he’s doing enough to get to his goals/dreams.
You also borrowed from your personal experiences on some of the songs. How comfortable or otherwise is it to put a bit of yourself or story on songs? What happened to self-censorship?
My goal of making music is to create experiences so I’m excited anytime I have to share a bit of myself on a record. That even makes my art more believable and relatable to the listener.
On ‘’Don’t Cage The Bird’’ you said: ‘The world is my home, Can’t you see?’ Can you throw light on what you mean by this lyric?
I don’t see no limitations as to what I can achieve as a human being and I’m ready to go anywhere, work with anyone at all in the world to achieve my goals. I am free to dream and explore.
Considering today’s musical scene where afropop is dominating, hearing the jazzy feel of ‘’AWBW’ was quiet interesting-or brave. What attracted you towards that direction?
I create what is true to me. The whole feel of ‘’AWBW’’ is mellow and that’s my persona. I’d express that on any genre I touch.
What songs/ artists were you listening during or prior to making this project?
I was listening to a lot of Asa, K’naan, Nico and Vinz, Mensa and Richard Bona during the period of creating AWBW
Tell us how the creative process went or came together?
Some songs were created from the scratch in the studio with Ansah and Liquid. Others were developed from random melodies created during jam sessions I had back in school.
You fall under the New Age Artist category. How has the nature of music – making and distribution- in this era impacted on your career, both positively and negatively?
The new age of music creation and distribution has both pros and cons. The pros can be the fact that there’s ease in creating and monitoring statistics of your distribution. The cons can be the fact the live music isn’t relevant as before.
What does music mean to you, first as a person and an artist?
As a person, music is my solace- where I run to when life gets overwhelming. As an artist, music is a means to express myself and give back to society and make it a better place. I stand with Wanlov in creating awareness of sanitation.
You recently shared a stage with Nigerian singer Adekunle Gold. How did you become a part of it and how was the overall experience for you? What stuck with you on the night?
He was introduced to my music by a friend and he loved my sound and live performances so he invited me on board. The experience was one of learning as he shared some insight with me after the show. I learnt that your delivery as an artist depends solely on you no matter which tools you have available.
If you have the power to fix anything within the music sector, what would it be and why?
I’d love to create a standard platform for artist to get their material (audio and video) across the TV and radio stations. There are lots of awesome content out which don’t make it to public notice.
What’s your candid position on Ghana music in particular and African music in general within the global music space? Can this new found love for African sounds be sustained or it’s a passing fad?
I believe African music is crossing borders and that’s amazing. It’s a great time to be an African musician.