Music producer. Disc Jockey (DJ). Songwriter. Michael “Gafacci” Gafatchi has been involved with music for the past decade. His involvement has not been a passive one: he has been in the midst of it all, bearing witness to the sonic evolutions that has swept the music scene. Gafacci has been at the centre of these changes as well.
Raised in ‘La’badi (as he likes to spell it), Gafacci grew up surrounded by music. But, his interest earned a kick while in High School at Accra Academy. ‘’My childhood friend introduced me to Fruity Loops 8 now known as FL Studio’’, Gafacci notes. ‘’Since then, I have been doing this full time’’. Gafacci’s big break came just a year after he began work as a producer when he was approached to produce the Ghana BET Cypher in 2010; a move that even shocked Gafacci himself: Yo, that was unreal. Imagine coming into the game and getting the opportunity to do this in less than a year of learning how to make beats. I didn’t believe it’.
Having worked and produced tracks for D-Black, Chase, Dee- Money, Adina among others, Gafacci was also one of the proponents of the Azonto wave that consumed the country from 2010 to 2012. The dance music, with its origins from the area Gafacci grew up was so huge that it blew over across the West African Coast and into Europe; thanks to Fuse ODG’s song ‘’Azonto’’. The wave, however died before it could even become an established sub-genre.
Having dabbled with hip hop, R&B and other genres, Gafacci is currently seen as one of the ardent promoters of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) in Ghana. This interest has seen him grow his profile over the years by collaborating with producers like Mina and Eno Famous in Europe an also, DJing at various events across the world. This is aside handling his own production gigs like churning out remixes of songs by lacing them with EDM sonic inflections, releasing albums and also working with Bryte, one of the most exciting young artists on the EDM scene.
After following his exploits for a while, Culartblog reached out to Gafacci to pick his mind on a few issues about his craft, the emergence of EDM in Ghana, his overall views on the Ghanaian music scene and how the new enthusiasm seen on the creative scene could be exploited to further Ghana’s culture renaissance.
Read full interview below. Photos used courtesy Valerie Siba (header photo) and Enchufada (Photo used in article)
From which part of the world are you currently- what took you there?
I am home in Accra, Ghana at the moment on and its Independence Day today.
You are a known producer and DJ whose interest in music began during your days at Accra Academy. What inspired you to venture into music, what’s your story?
The need to be skilled at something but most part, boredom led me to this thing called music. It all began almost a decade ago when my childhood friend introduced me to Fruity Loops 8 now known as FL Studio. Since then I have been doing this full time.
Are you a DJ first or a Producer first- Which one did you learn first? Between DJing and producing, which is more enjoyable and profitable?
I learned production first. I can’t really tell what comes first because I enjoy doing both. Pharrell (Williams) once said in an interview (that): “It’s interesting to be doing something around music when you are a producer because that keeps you creative and active.” What he said in that interview stuck with me and unconsciously I morphed into a DJ/producer.
You began as a hip hop producer- writing raps as well before veering into what you do now. What occasioned this transition from a hip-hop producer to full-time afro- EDM music maker?
I wasn’t a hip hop producer. I am more like a fusionist. It’s just that I listened to a lot of hip hop music growing up that’s why my first go to artistes are those who rap or do hip hop. Also, ‘’Finish Line’’ was big and the song had like my “Gafacci Do That” tag on, unlike the many other of songs I worked on before that. I think that’s where the perception that I am a hip hop producer comes from. I don’t stick to a style.
It’s just that my creative-timepiece is always set ahead and I always think about the future. And I think that’s one of the things which has led me to doing the music I do now. You can tell I have always been like this when you listen to songs like ‘’Kpokpo Body’’, ‘’My Kinda Girl’’, ‘’Alomo Two Shots For You’’, ‘’Fire’’ and ‘’Adina’s ‘’Let Me Go’’.
Before we talk about some of the amazing things you have done in your career- Who is Gafacci, Where did you grow up, were you surrounded by music when growing up?
Gafacci is a weirdo and an ambivert from Adaklu-Ahunda in the Volta Region. I grew up in a vibrant and rich town called La”badi”. He grew up surrounded by musical instruments, vinyls etc. And always thought he will grow up to be a painter but music was like “hell naw.”
‘’Yo, that was unreal. Imagine coming into the game and getting the opportunity to do this in less than a year of learning how to make beats. I didn’t believe it. I even thought it was not going to happen till they shot the video’’.
I first heard your name tag on ‘’Lonely’’ by Chase (Forever). Instantly fell in love with the song. Walk me through how this joint was made?
So my big bro Chase, shout’s out to Chase he just lost his mom. My condolence to him. He used come pick me up from where I live in La to the studio. So a friend of mine was managing a studio in Osu so he asked me to come around and check the studio out. At the time, I was meeting Chase before my trip to the studio. So, we both went to check out the studio when he came.
At the studio, I jumped on the keyboard to mess around then I started playing chords on the keyboard and off the top chase freestyled the whole song. Later we booked a studio session at Waxi’s to record the track, modify some bits then we released it with Live360, which was a record label we both were affiliated to. The rest is history.
You did produce the 2006 BET Cypher featuring Sarkodie, Edem, Kwaku T, Tinny, Reggie Rockstone and Baby G. What was your reaction when you were approached to produce this ‘epic’ cypher?
Yo, that was unreal. Imagine coming into the game and getting the opportunity to do this in less than a year of learning how to make beats. I didn’t believe it. I even thought it was not going to happen till they shot the video.
‘’I feel like every time I make and put out the music that comes to me naturally, I am promoting things around me genuinely’’
You’ve worked with D-Black and Dee Money prior. You produced Dee Money’s breakthrough record ‘’Kpokpo Body’. This was during the period when azonto was huge. What’s the story behind “Kpokpo body” – and looking back, did we, as people, kill azonto too early?
I was disappointed by people who had their personal agenda against it. Back then, people would tweet stuff like “Death of Azonto.” It (azonto) was so influential in African pop culture that if we had/have custodians with the primary ambition to protecting our culture, this would still be a great opportunity and platform for every up and coming musician(s) who make dance music in Ghana and even in Africa. This is one of my views on some of the reason the Azonto hyped died to soon. The sound of azonto didn’t project the movement to the world like the dance did so I think when people got tired of dancing they moved on to the next thing.
Gafacci’s name is now associated with afro-EDM. You’ve become one of the genre’s ardent promoters. What is accounting for this- and what’s the similarities or differences between EDM and azonto?
I didn’t’ know about that. Wow! Thanks for enlightening me. You know, I just do the music I love. Growing up in Labadi, dance is part of everyday life. Also, being influenced from childhood by electronic music. I feel like every time I make and put out the music that comes to me naturally, I am promoting things around me genuinely.
Being from Ghana and seeing how much your music is embraced in Europe and elsewhere, do you question why Ghana isn’t embracing your brand of music?
I make music from my heart. I don’t make it for analytics. (Laughs). I am lying. I will love to rake in numbers. It could be that I am not in tuned with the scene here like I used to, which is something I have to think about. Every artist wants to be loved and as long as I am getting it, I don’t mind where it comes from. That’s a blessing I can’t question.
What can be done to make afro- EDM a thing in Ghana?
Is there a thing called Afro-EDM? If there is that’s awesome. Things that can be done to make the scene a thing are platforms, systems that oversee activities around that scene. Also having dedicated and informed local stakeholders and businesses who put the culture before quick buck will be the key to making the scene here sustainable because art never dies when genuine love is what drives it.
Every artist wants to be loved and as long as I am getting it, I don’t mind where it comes from. That’s a blessing I can’t question.
Your production style combines EDM elements and Ghanaian- specifically Ga rhythms. How important is it to create such fusion. What inspired that?
La, Family, Friends and Media. La: Is a Ga town; Family: My mom is from Gbese near Chorkor; Friends: Most of the friends I grew up with are from La; and Media is a no brainer.
Is Pharrell Williams still your favourite producer? Why him?
To me, he is one of the masters of minimalism; a lifestyle I practice but musically he knows how to make less seem more. Lastly, his passion for the culture motivates me to not be complacent.
You were one of the producers to work on Famous Eno’s EP ‘’Music For Clubs”. You have also worked with MINA Music and others. I’m curious to know how these collaborations happen Is it that they who approach you and what exactly is appeals to them?
Connecting with people who I like is key to everything I do. Famous Eno is my friend. We have been talking like two (2) years before we even put out a song. With Mina, we met on Facebook when she was coming to Ghana. She wanted to link up with artist here. Since then, we have been collaborating. Sometimes, I get approached by other artist who like my music. One of the things I do is, I don’t filter when someone reaches out to collaborate. I listen to every song that comes in a form of collab-request like it’s the song everyone is talking about.
‘’We need to tell our own story. We can document the continent better than any media outlet that’s out there. The survival of this Afrobeats craze depends on education and I already mentioned before’’.
Having worked both with Ghanaian artists and collaborate with non-Ghanaian acts, what are some of the lessons you’ve learnt from both experiences?
Working with Ghanaian artist, I have learned to have no expectations and be responsible for my career. With International artist, I have learned to be unapologetic with my art.
How can Ghanaians market our music beyond Ghana and also earn looks from people outside–I know the afrobeats/pop craze is helping, but what more can we do to push it further?
You have to ask Meister (on twitter hahaha!) We need to tell our own story. We can document the continent better than any media outlet that’s out there. The survival of this afrobeats craze depends on education and I already mentioned that before. We should recognise game and know when somethings don’t need to be treated as a trend. We must have long-term plans for creative people (artist, bloggers, designers, video/photographers etc) who make this afrobeats a thing to begin with.
Let’s say for instance, I want to go to a different continent for a summer tour to promote music and myself as an artist. I have to fund everything myself to make this happen but in other places I have been to, there are numerous funds that are accessible to creative people. So this is just part of the long-term plan I mentioned. We can take some tabs from artists like Mr Eazi.
Accra is regarded as a melting point for creativity- with many creatives collaborating on projects. What do you like about the creative scene currently and what leaves you shaking your head?
I like the alternative aspect and the sense for independence in the creative scene in Accra. It’s been like that for a long time but now, it looks like people know their own wave. The internet has made possibilities endless. We have creative people and platforms like Amarae, Bryte, Ayat, Ria Boss, Magnom, CulartBlog, Accra dot Alt, Mutombo, Nicol-Sey etc who are pushing a certain brand that will go a long way to serve this industry right in the future. The future depends on tolerance for diverse music. I don’t shake my head anymore because I am use to the things that will make me.
Looking at what you have been doing all these years, what has been the some of the high and low points in your career- how do you intend to use those experiences to help your growth and that of others?
High Points: Having the confidence to be an artist first before anything. It has shaped me into a person I never knew existed. I am a man of many skills now all because I pursued this career in music. Low Point: I don’t have low points in my career. Everything was a challenge and a learning experience for me. And how I intend to use my experiences to help other and myself: is educate people everything time I meet them. I do this a lot even if it falls on deaf ears. At the moment, the only resources available to me to use and to give to people are my experience and word of advice.
You recently tweeted this: ‘Music producers, Hunger and need for validation can make you repeat mistakes’. What did you mean by this?
Eh Swaye Kidd. You be twitter Police or what? Twitter Koti is not my adanfo (friend) (laughs). I think what I tweeted has a lot of meanings and one can make their own meanings. I tweet like that sometimes to my fellow producers especially the up and coming ones who follow me on the platform.