There’s something about the expression people make when they first hear Kwasi’s music – “That guy’s from Latrobe Valley?” – and it is refreshing. Not your typical definition of a Gippsland musician, this young star is changing it up and making it happen. We caught up with him to find out more.
It wasn’t until I saw a live act in Melbourne, someone doing their own set, that I realised this – making music – was what I was meant to be doing. I have always had a strong interest in music and the urge to entertain people, but without a way to channel those passions I had no way to bring those interests to life. And from that first ‘hold up!’ moment it’s all been happening.
I’m pretty sure my sister and I were the only Africans around town when we arrived. Gippsland’s a decent place to grow-up; it’s smaller, you get to know the area and the people. And as long as you have an imagination, you can make your own fun. I used to kick about skateboarding and cruising to backyard parties with friends. By my late teens I needed more stimulation – I needed to find something creative that I could focus my energy on, at least so I didn’t start getting up to no good.
As a youngster I was exposed to some eclectic styles; Mum’s place: 1990’s grunge and metal bands, Dad’s place: soul, reggae and African roots music. It was through music that I came to feel my own sense of cultural identity as a Ghanaian man, a Ghanaian man from Gippsland. From hearing and absorbing these sounds I was able to create my own style, my own identity; freestyling, writing, recording, programing and producing – by late high school I was really coming into my stride.
For someone that has never seen me live or heard my music? Aesthetically, I’d describe it as thrash R&B/hiphop. It’s high energy, distorted and thrashy textures with smooth R&B melodies, combined with hiphop lyrical content. When I’m creating a beat, I usually search through sounds solo or with my producer, HFNR (Hugh Lake), until we find something that we both vibe with. We generally build the song around that sound. Music is like a conversation so it’s a matter of adding and subtracting the correct bits to get the right balance.
In 2016 I built the Cabin, a studio in my backyard. I’ve been writing and recording all my new music there and taking on clients’ work; providing production, recording, mixing and mastering services. I come from a freestyle rap background, which involves a lot of on-the-spot thinking and I like to keep that influence in my lyrics so they don’t become overcooked. Once I’ve decided on a beat, I like to get into the recording booth and record whatever is on my mind. This gets me into a more natural flow and gets the emotion down. I feel that your subconscious is more in touch with your emotions and that your logical brain can often get in the way of that. I may go back and tweak the lyrics at times, but imperfections aren’t necessarily a bad thing.
“It’d be great to put on more gigs in the Valley and showcase different types of music…”
I gain such different feelings when writing beats for someone else versus nailing a song for myself. It’s cool adding something to someone else’s work and collaborating with talented people is great, but creating something super tight for yourself brings a whole different energy as I know I can push the song as far as I desire and play it in my shows. On performing, all that’s running through my head before I head on stage is how I can bring crazy energy and get everyone in the crowd to thrash out!
The EP launch for my The Golden Voyager release sold out. My career is building, I am active, I am making music and it is being taken up. In five years time, I hope that I’ve made the transition to a full-time artist/musician. I’ll keep growing the thrash R&B/hiphop brand to the point that it’s known on an international level. I’ll be playing shows in different countries and collaborating with talented artists around the globe. I’ll have built a finer studio and be continuing to develop my sound. I’ve always had an interest in sound for film and may study this in the future.
Growing up in Gippsland I didn’t really see an avenue for music as a career, especially as the majority of my peers were learning trades or heading to university. To better foster young musical talent in Gippsland we need to show more young people that there are different pathways in life. The Internet is a great place for inspiration, but unless you see people around you embarking on creative careers, it seems like an impossible concept. It’d be great to put on more gigs in the Valley and showcase different types of music, but we also need to have enough people that will be interested in attending these events.
I think there are a lot of great musicians out there, but many of them never truly find their feet as individuals. I’m really aiming to put something together that has longevity and stands out from the pack. The best piece of advice I received in my pursuit of a career in music? ‘Don’t listen to the naysayers’.
Listen to Kwasi, soundcloud.com/soundslikekwasi or follow the Kwasi story online @soundslikekwasi and facebook.com/soundslikekwasi.com. Make sure you do your bit & get Kwasi more play on Triple J too.