Whether he’s putting pen to paper, laying down vocals and harmonies in studios, envisaging his next visual story or walking out on stage to the sound of a roaring crowd – Stonebwoy’s mission remains the same.
He wants to awaken the African in you.
Stonebwoy has become one of the world’s most renowned dancehall and reggae exports from the African continent in the last few years by sticking to his core beliefs in all aspects of his art.
Whether that means borrowing Yoruba phrases for his latest hit single, or kicking it back with Focalistic in Johannesburg while plotting their Afrochella sets, Stonebwoy’s vision of a united Africa seems to come alive through his art.
Now, just over a month ahead of this year’s Afrochella festival (the biggest since pre-Covid!) the Ghanaian hitmaker is ready to extend his impressive album run. His last offering, Anloga Junction, was one of 2020’s biggest releases (and a favourite on Moziak!) and he’s begun the next chapter with the release of Gidigba – as well as a few accompanying visuals.
There’s a new project on the way, some bigger film ideas to explore and a some of Africa’s biggest festival crowds to entertain over the next few months for Stonebwoy.
While stopping in South Africa to promote his upcoming work, we caught up with the singer as he opens up about his plans and the overarching responsibility he feels to be a custodian of African Culture.
Stonebwoy – New Single, New Project and New Work On The Way
Moziak: It’s always great having you in town! How has your Johannesburg stay been right now?
South Africans are loving your brand new single, Gidigba! What’s the reaction been like from across the continent since the release?
Stonebwoy: It’s been dope, honestly! The initial response was already amazing, and then a couple of weeks later we dropped the visuals and they were also just buzzing online. So it’s been beautiful to see, more work to be done but we’re happy.
Moziak: This is a song with a Yoruba title, while you yourself hail from Ghana. Despite not understanding all the words, people are still enjoying the track – is this more evidence that music doesn’t have a language?
That’s the power of music. We can never all speak the same language, that’s the truth. If we’re going to wait until we all speak the same language before we can understand the music then we’ll be stuck listening to one type of song or one type of sound. But the truth is that music is a universal language. Once the rhythm is nice, the beat is hot, that’s all that matters and there’s always a message that can still hold the people’s mind.
Moziak: The same can be said about film, especially in Africa. It was exciting to see the short film you dropped for Gidigba. Your fans love how cinematic it is – what was the creative direction behind the idea for the visuals?
Stonebwoy: The idea came from me wanting to give a little more meaning to the song, but also detach it from the obvious flow of lyrics where people might expect it to directly portray what the lyrics of the song are saying. I really wanted to create a special picture that could give the story an even broader meaning beyond the literal sense.
We also worked on a BTS video for the film where you get to see how it all came together, but that’s more of a 30-minute doccie series. This is a project that’s really dear to my heart and it stands for a lot of things that I also stand for.
Moziak: Not only is that exciting for the fans (more content!) but it’s even more impressive to consider that you also produced both pieces. Have you always been this hands-on when it comes to your visual content?
Stonebwoy: It’s something I’ve always brought to the table throughout my career, I’ve always been very involved with my music videos especially and even writing the stories that are going to be captured. Little did I know that I should have been paying more attention to that side of things, because I’ve always had at least 50% input (or more!) into my visuals. But I never really regarded it as something to pursue more passionately. However, now I feel like it’s something I don’t have to fear or be nervous about, I can actually just own it and make it great. Now I want to look at co-writing and being more and more present in the visuals of my songs.
Moziak: The industry is heading in that direction – artists are telling their stories through short films, doccies, web series and other visual mediums. Is this going to part of your upcoming project?
Stonebwoy: I’m glad you said that because this BTS is going to be part of a larger story that I’ll be releasing in conjunction with my next album. If you remember Kanye’s Jeen-Yuhs trilogy, that’s exactly what I want to achieve in the sense that you’re literally watching the raw stories as they unfold. I didn’t want to script my story or make it predictable or anything, I want you to see how my life and my work is without any editing or filtering.
Moziak: Well since we’re on the topic of your next record – can you tell us know how it’s all shaping up and are you allowed to share a bit of a timeline indicating how soon it might arrive?
Stonebwoy: Yeah, Gidigba is just the beginning of an even bigger project. Sadly there’s not a lot of details I can reveal yet but I can give you this – we’re potentially looking at a March release! Hopefully by end of March we can get something to listen to. I wish I could tell you more about who’s working with me on it but all you need to know is it will be worth the wait, I’ve got quality musicians working on this project!
Moziak: Bringing it back to South Africa, you spent some time here for the Road to Afrochella – one of Africa’s biggest festivals. How did it feel to bring a little bit of the Afrochella culture to SA and do you hope to see a big Pan-African turnout at the festival?
Stonebwoy: It’s really positive right now and the excitement is already building and let me just tell you, it’s going to get more and more vibrant as we get into the month of December! This is the right time to be working on unifying the African culture and it starts with events like these, and music – like we discussed having no language and borders – and art, and food, and fashion and everything in between. So it’s such an important event for the culture and it’s just one of many that are doing this job in Ghana this year.
It hasn’t been around for as long as some other festivals but the impact it has had is absolutely tremendous and not just culturally, but what it’s done for the ecosystem of Africa too by uniting the people. I’ll always be a part of initiatives like this because I understand how hard we need to work to support one another. It is important for me to be a culture custodian
Moziak: We know you’re headlining this year, alongside Burna Boy and a number of Africa’s biggest acts – How do you prepare a set for a big-stage festival like Afrochella?
Stonebwoy: I believe that you’re supposed to work hard in the studio but work even harder on stage. Because that’s a different setting and energy. It takes a lot of craft to deliver the same song, but on another day and in a completely different way for people to still experience and enjo as if it’s their first time.
But trust me, I’ll be bringing the energy, I’ll be bringing the kind of atmosphere that makes people want to dance and just giving everybody a memorable festival day.
Moziak: …And can we expect to hear a couple of songs from the new album?
Stonebwoy: I won’t say too much, but yes! Just keep an eye out and I’m hoping to try out some of the new material for my fans!