In Talks With Stonebwoy: “I know that my core fans already understand my diversity”

Afoma Andrea

By Afoma Andrea

Afoma Andrea

13 Jun 2022

An Afro-dancehall pioneer, Livingstone Etse Satekla aka Stonebwoy is what we call a visionary. Dipping his toes into the waters of Dancehall, Highlife, Pop and Afrobeats, the Ghanaian superstar should be viewed as a direct influencer for the current Afro-fusion wave. “At this point in my career onwards, I’ve been able to harness different parts of Stonebwoy, which is the Dancehall side, the Reggae side, the Highlife side, the Afrobeats side, however, you may call it ”, he quips. Indeed, carving out an unconventional path for himself, Stonebwoy belonged to no genre island. By focusing on creating his own niche sound in his early years, Stonebwoy understood the important link between uncomfortability and relevance for an artist.

Whilst there were a few questioning glances from fans on his latest exploration on new track, ‘Therapy’, he remains unphased in his decision. “I know that my core fans already understand my diversity. So it’s not gonna be a thing that they’re holding on to not to grow with me.”

When in the presence of Stonebwoy, you cannot help but be enthralled in his words. His speech flows like a rhyme filled with words of purpose and his iconic laughter will awaken one’s spirits.

Ahead of his performance at City Splash festival, we caught up with the Grammy-nominated star to speak about his global Def Jam deal, the importance of quality control in music, the Year of Return and much more.

Are you in London at the moment?

Yeah, I’m here in London but for more than a collaboration, just putting in the work. Get some ‘collabs’, prepare yourself for recording. Ultimately, I’m here for Sunday, which is City Splash Festival on Sunday, big thing! That’s the focal point of the reason why I’m here and then everything else has to be made to fall in place.

In fact, I should’ve started by saying congratulations actually, on your deal you just signed with Def Jam. I think for us fans it has just been amazing to see your progression in your career.

Thank you so much for the support over the years as well.

What do you say to people who are looking at this is like comeback.

Oh, I never went anywhere! I understand because it’s been a while since I released a song. It was between six to seven months I hadn’t dropped anything which is quite unusual of me. You know, that pattern was a hidden under the fact that I dropped an album in 2020. Yeah, so trust me before I dropped the album as well, I’ve had only a few songs out. So it’s the same thing that I’m doing but people don’t seem to realise that I’ve taken time lately to drop the records because I believe in the song so much. I know that this has to take time to grow just like a natural course you know. Once upon a time you have a baby, the next minute, you don grow to become a big person. You have a take time and obey the process. So dropping a song like this is also going to probably take another month or two. Maybe I’ll drop between now and the next song will be quicker from the last time. I needed the album to sit down, I needed people to take time to assimilate what the songs are about, you know, and have time to also focus on – just leave the grounds to follow a little bit.

With the landscape of music right now, it’s very fast. Singles are being pushed out week after week. There might be a clash with the fans. How are you going to deal with that reception from the fans?

All right, I think dealing with that reception depends on who the artist is, your mindset and what you are probably going to put out. Just like you refer to the last question that would I see this as a comeback. Like I said I gave a long while before I dropped the song. We all understand that we’re in times where songs drop every day from artists. Yet from my calibre of artists, I drop when I have to drop not because the system is demanding of things to be dropped. I mean, I wouldn’t know where I’m going. It’s also alright for a lot of people to drop songs because now, every new day a new artist comes out. A new artist adds to the crop of artists that already exist in the world. Not only is it going to increase the number of songs that come out but then now it’s going to depend on quality. Last the test of time, because as fast as they come, that’s how fast they sometimes leave. So basically, I would always focus on dropping a song, taking time to let it grow, not be in a rush to always bring another – bring another. Even so I have a lot in my catalogue. My catalogue has grown from a cat to a lion, so you can go check it out.

Let’s get into your latest track therapy. Quite different sound to what we usually. An evolved sound I should say.

Exactly! What would you have expected? Like I mean, you’re the one that’s questioning but I need that answer to be able to give the truth. What would you have expected? Specifically, what kind of sound would you say would have been the normal to be expected?

It’s hard to explain, the only way I can define it is the Stonebwoy sound. You have your own genre in my opinion.

Which is right!

We hear the Dancehall aspect but we also hear the Highlife aspect. The Stonebwoy sound differs a lot from the general Ghanaian music sound.

I’ve got my answer thank you. It is the same Stonebwoy but an improved one, like you said. What it is, is that at this point in my career onwards, I’ve been able to harness different parts of Stonebwoy, which is the Dancehall side, the Reggae side, the Highlife side, the Afrobeat side, however, you may call it. People have accepted that gracefully, you know, so further on, I’m about to know get in quote – “comfortable”. I’m about to now get very seated and be able to just churn it out freely. I was confident enough to go for rhythm like this and (sings lyric from Therapy). I think it’s not something that is unexpected from Stonebwoy, except you didn’t really understand that this guy can probably do an unexpected. The difference – Should I say the difference? The uniqueness is rather that it is swinging on on a western court. You know, the song is swinging on western courts so that they can appeal to a wider audience, apart from the one that we’ve always serviced. So that’s the only difference as far as I’m concerned. New phase, if you have to say it. A Stonebwoy new phase, if that’s how you want to put it out, I’ll take it as well.

I’ll say a new era for sure. What message do you have to the fans who don’t want to sit on this train to this new era of Stonebwoy?

It’s all right, we all need the foundation and we need the roofing sheets. You know, it’s very very important for every building to have the foundation, you need the middle belt, you need the roof to finish it. The foundation will remain, I don’t need the foundation to want to be on top of the roofing sheet. So those who are holding on to the old Stonebwoy, thank you very much, keep holding on to it because it is your hold that is letting other people add on to it. It’s as simple as that but guess what to be more, you know, outside of the building structure example. It’s a fresh breath to want to take a new you know. You know, this same artists that you’ve held on to the whole time has proven to be a diversified artist. So I know that my core fans already understand my diversity. So it’s not gonna be a thing that they’re holding on to not to grow with me. They’re actually proud of the fact that they have an artist who can evolve every five years.

I have an issue with general fans where I feel they want to box their artists

Thats right

Your visual for Therapy was stunning! I’ve noticed that a lot of your visuals are actually quite stunning. Are you involved in the creative direction of your videos?

Yeah, thank you very much. It’s true. All of my visuals have have been carefully planned. Even to the levels of execution that we can execute, I can tell you that we have not been able to reach the level of execution that we want. Especially from the expression point of view, of what we want to express. I can tell you point blank that we’ve not even been able to actually, you know, get the resources, not resources as in money or anything, but what you want to really express. Its like leave it for next time, or you have to do that in a movie. Therapy for instance, my team knows we have gone back and forth, like, okay, we’ll do it this way. Then we realise that we can’t do it the way we really want to do it. So we have to keep it like actually a music video and just leave it to flow. So you know, make sure that we’re able to get some depth that would have added to that visuals to make it like a movie. Then we go to the best we could, so when it comes to visuals, I’m always involved because I started to write plays before I wrote music. I love to envision stuff in my mind, you know, so I’m always a part of that though as beautiful as it is, it’s gonna get better, it’s gonna get crazier, trust me.

I know, you said you’re gonna be taken months but hopefully that means we are still going to get projects or something this year with visuals attached.

[Laughs] For me, I’ll drop a song every day and my following would love to hear a song every day. It is not feasible. It’s not it’s not realistic. It’s just like you want to give birth every day. It’s not realistic, you know. So as much as we have the music, we’ll make sure that we serve it well so that they fulfil their purposes. Yes, like when you give birth to a child, you have to watch them so they can fulfil their purpose, often, to an extent. Not just leave it abandoned and next one coming and bang that. Now, thats the reason why it might take some time, but it’s not going to be you know, it’s not going to be too stretchy. So much so that we lose the touch. That’s not what I’m talking about. So there’s a project coming, the next album is going to be mad! I’m telling you, like, everybody who loves music and appreciate the music. Davido is a good friend of mine, he posted a tweet one time and said he’s gonna you know enough of the songs that moves the feet, there are enough of those songs that can move your feet. Interestingly, there’s no song that you can’t dance to, no matter how slow is running, you know. So this time, we’re going to do music that people must appreciate and mess with the craft. So expect a bit more of those kinds of styles on my album, crazy songs you can dance to and think with and enjoy. You know, it’s coming pretty soon. I think hopefully next year, probably by the end of the- I don’t know, I can’t set the times but I know out of the songs that everything is aligned to drop.

First time I heard your music was in 2012 but I believe you were there before that so you are a veteran of the scene.

[Laughs] A veteran.

Do you feel like you get the respect that you deserve from fans and peers like?

Don’t respect Stonebwoy and die, is a easy ting dawg you get me. [Laughs]. Yeah, man, so I can say I’m a young veteran you get me. In the sense that I’ve been doing this for a while. From a young age, I dropped my first single when I was 18 or 17. You know, I’m very fresh, but I’ve just been fresh for a long time. I do get the respect that I command and deserve. You can only get the respect that you give and command. Globally that’s how it works. So if you specifying that respect, I get my respect. I give mine and I get mine and I take mine when I have to take it. So respect check.

I’ve been watching your past interviews for a while. I just wonder how do you deal with the media when they want to involve themselves in regards to your privacy?

Thank you very much for the question. the media would always always be nosy because the media needs news. They got to find news that will be worth reading, find news that is worth while of listeners, viewers and subscribers, so they’re going too deep to find them. The interesting information that can raise eyebrow and lift your ears up is the one that is leading the market already. So it is in their nature to come to my privacy and they always do that. So much so that they sometimes forge some headlines to make it look like it’s a private issue, but it’s not. Go and read but they have told you lies once you have subscribed. So how do I deal with these things is that I try as much as I can to keep my family very private, because people might want to capitalise on certain vital family issues and want to bring them outside to create their own content and all of that. So I make sure that I’m stern and I’m firm, when it comes to protecting my family information and perception. That’s how I think I stay they will always want to come into it but yeah, sometimes you just give them a little news. You just tell them what they want to hear. You know, then just move on. You don’t have to feel like indebted to answering any and everything.

Lets dip into politics for a moment. As an artist, do you ever feel worried sometimes when you touch that subject?

Really the meaning of politics is just the management of the affairs of a country or whatever. Truth be told, whether we like it or not, there is politics in everything we do but when I use my music to talk about correct pertinent issues, affecting us as humanity it becomes sensitive. These are areas and topics that government is using as management to fix, address, solve and manage. So when you speak about these things, and it intends to highlight on a downside, you should know that you will be disturbing some big heads in the room. You have a voice, and you’re using it to speak. Doing music that will solve disrespect is great, but music that would bring attention to many, many, many serious issues[pause]. The people in government and in politics and in power, they are people who have been given the mandate by they themselves willingly standing to collect the mandate to work for the people. There is a need for us to highlight and push and remind them of the positions they play and the duties that they have to deliver. That’s what I use my music to do as well because what will be the use of my music? To make beautiful girls dance? To make some bad man, bossa gun finger and some hustler feel their confidence. We have to let the government know that we are also here watching how things are going and it’s us who have to speak about it anyway. I think this is something we don’t do well enough. Like you were saying we are nosy to private affairs of individual people who have the right to live like that or not, it’s up to them. Instead of using the media to highly speak about the music, the content, culture, the development, governance, we are all sometimes, you know, losing it a little bit. We feel that we should not be concerned. Well I am, Davido is and so is Wizkid and Burna. We have to speak on behalf of the people. That’s it when it comes to me using my platform to send about delicate political or governmental issues. These are not even just governmental issues but humanitarian issues.

We’ve noticed the rise in international attention to Ghana. What’s your feelings in regards to that?

Yeah man, Ghana has been getting a lot of attention and the music as well has been getting attention too. This is not going to be the first time, we are only grateful to God to be in this era at this moment, continuing that process of existence as people of Ghana. I think in our era we have also added a lot to what has been, particularly myself on the musical grounds has broken a lot of ground and implemented a lot of things that is still inspiring. To the individual, I think they feel proud about it and they would also always want to have someone who’s like them, or somebody who they can claim to also fly the flag high when it comes to culture, entertainment, arts and sports. For every country and every nation, the thing that actually makes it easy for the world to relate and see us is our sports, entertainment, arts and culture. It’s not really about the policies and politics because those ones are behind the scenes. I think the government has put it together nicely to do the ‘Year of Return’ which actually bust through the window and now is beyond the return, so on and so forth. I think it’s a great time for the individuals and the impact it has on them must make them proud. There’s high expectations of them to also understand the scope of what it takes to hold on to support the arts to continue to reign for them globally. That is where I think there’s a high need for knowledge in understanding the individual role in adding to the bigger picture where you’re consistently also reporting for the country’s image and the attention that it’s getting.

Okay let’s go back to your music. For 2022, what is a Stonebwoy fan supposed to be looking forward to this year?

This year is going to be crazy! The reality is that ‘Therapy’ is giving them the therapy[laughs] and is massaging their backs. It’s put them in the right place. When the next one hits them and they are ready to jump back onto the dance-floor and be jumping jumping whilst they listen to education and listen to songs that will make them laugh. Love songs and everything, I’m going to drop it. Now we are massaging ourselves nicely at a Stonebwoy spa. The massage is going deep tissue, chiropractic, you know the therapy is on. So Therapy for now and then the rest is coming. Crazy big tunes, big bangs!

For the UK fans, when are you going to come back and give us a full show?

You are too much I like your expectation for me. This Sunday we’re going to murder the place at City Splash. Everybody come through tickets are sold out already. Head out and look at what is going on so next time when I come through, you guys come through as well. So we’re going to put it together I think next year we’re going to come. I’m gonna go on a European tour in July, August so all my UK fans just take a train or a flight for the therapy. Then when I come home, we can have the full meal. On Sunday I’m gonna perform Therapy for the first time here in London and I’m excited about it. I can’t wait to see all my fans. All my Ghana foundation, all my Nigerians, my South Africans, my Zimbabweans, my Gambians. I could go on and on and mention all the African countries you know what I mean. Chad, Madagascar, Morocco, everybody make sure you guys come out and represent wave some flag. Let’s keep the culture burning imagine one day you can’t hear Afrobeats anymore because everybody moved to rock and roll [laughs]. Let’s keep the support coming, one love, I can’t wait to see you guys.