10.09.2011 Opinion


By Amy Ansong (Afromusion/Sankofa Radio/AfrikanPost)
10.09.2011 LISTEN

Everyone encounters people who are rare and extraordinary. There are people who merely come and go, and then there are those one or two people who you briefly encounter, but yet they stand out the most in your mind. Sarkodie is among the latter, a rare and unique person with the ability to captivate even the most unsuspecting individual.

A few days ago, I was afforded a unique opportunity to meet, greet, and follow Sarkodie as he prepared for his first concert in the nation's capital, Washington D.C. Sarkodie, Ghana's King of Rap, was in town to show another nation his skills and ability. It was his first time in the U.S, his first time in D.C, the first weekend after Hurricane Irene, the first week after the first major East Coast earthquake, and his first time sitting down for an in-depth behind the scenes interview—Sarkodie was intertwined in a lot of “firsts”.

As I walked down the long and majestic halls of the hotel in which he was staying, I finally reached my destination, knocked on the door, and was greeted by three men: DJ Mensa, another young man, and Sarkodie. Surprisingly, Sarkodie was standing in the back of the group, very innocently and somewhat reserved. Sarkodie is an observer- he mentally soaks up everything around him, similar to the way a dry sponge soaks up water. With this being our first meeting, it is safe to assume that we were both mentally cautious of each other. I didn't know how far I could go with my questions and he didn't know what I was going to ask and how I was going to ask my questions. What I did find out very quickly is that he is a man who does not waste words- he says what he means and means what he says, so you better pay attention.

Lesson 1: Sarkodie does not waste his words
The most noticeable things about Sarkodie are his voice and his eyes. His voice is as rhythmic and fast-paced as his freestyle. As he talks and says simple things about his childhood and work, it's almost like he is singing a tune due to his naturally melodious and relaxing voice. At the same time, it is quite fast. 'Do you ever bite your tongue when you're rapping that fast?' One word reply: “No.” Sarkodie, dressed in a very simple black outfit and chain, seems shy, in terms of his off-stage presence, but he is not afraid to look you dead in the eye. Sarkodie talks directly into you, with his piercing eyes, which in a way have a hypnotic effect. His glare is so intense that if you are not careful, you will forget what you are saying and lose your train of concentration because it is so direct, as if he is tapping into your inner consciousness. But everything about Sarkodie is intense. Sarkodie wants to know how long the interview is going to be and has issued a reminder that he needs to get some rest before the concert. Sarkodie is serious. A joke is cracked. No laugh from Sarkodie. More intense staring. Sarkodie is intimidating and intense. If anyone knows how to make anyone nervous, it is Sarkodie.

Lesson 2: Do not waste Sarkodie's time
Born and raised in Tema, Michael Owusu , a.k.a “Sarkodie”, was his mother's fourth child, out of five children. Sarkodie attended Achimota Prepatory and Tema Methodist Day Secondary. During his early days of rapping, Sarkodie looked up to Obrafour, another Ghanaian rapper. “Obrafour was someone I followed when he came out. He's a good rapper,” said Sarkodie. Sarkodie began writing his own songs by the time he reached Class 4 and found himself inundated in the world of rapping and rhyming. After receiving a certificate in Graphic Designing from IPMC (Tema Branch), Sarkodie delivered shocking news to his whole family. “After IPMC, I got a job working for a billboard company but I did not take it. Instead I was thinking about the studio. The moment I see computers and a studio, I get inspired,” Sarkodie stated. Inspired by the studio, Sarkodie broke the news to his family that he wanted to concentrate on making music instead of working a “normal” job. However, Sarkodie assured them that he'd pay the bills with his music, he just needed time. According to Sarkodie, “wherever your heart is, is where your treasure is” and he knew his heart was in music. Free from employment responsibilities, Sarkodie was free to make music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Lesson 3: Sarkodie knows what he wants and goes after it. He is not afraid to take risks.

Sarkodie's family has always been a musical family- his mother is a singer, along with his little brother. “My family is fun,” Sarkodie states matter-of–factly. Not only is his family fun but they love music, and according to Sarkodie, “my dad LOVED Michael Jackson.” In fact, Sarkodie received the birth name of “Michael” due to his father's adoration of Michael Jackson. There is only one Michael Jackson. And there is only one Sarkodie. Learning that Sarkodie was named after Michael Jackson led to the discussion of names, and the importance of names in regards to success. How important are names? Very important, according to Sarkodie. In fact, the name “Sarkodie” was an intentional name Sarkodie picked out for himself. The name “Sarkodie” is not part of Sarkodie's birth name at all. While growing up, Sarkodie's father had at least two friends who went by the name “Sarkodie”. Sarkodie realized that both men had the same name and were also very wealthy, so at a very early age, Sarkodie equated the name “Sarkodie” with wealth. Sarkodie revealed that he “loved the names Antwi-Buasisako and Sarkodie. There's something about that name.”

Talking about Michael Jackson, an artist whom Sarkodie also admires, seemed to relax him. The more he talked about music, the more relaxed he became. Eventually, Sarkodie insisted that I show him my moonwalking abilities. My moonwalking abilities were never discussed because it's not worth bragging about, but Sarkodie insisted that the moonwalk be done.

Lesson 4: Sarkodie is quite convincing and persuasive. He is also very direct and precise.

The moonwalk was 5 inch heels… but it was done-without any Michael Jackson music playing in the background. 'Hey Sarkodie, are you going to show me your moonwalk skills now that I have shown you mine?' Answer: No. 'Not at all?' Answer: No.

Lesson 5: You can not make Sarkodie do anything he does not want to do. Period.

Sarkodie is quite funny. As time goes by, he becomes funnier and funnier, adding to his already unique character. Now his radiant Colgate –like smile is apparent and his intense glare has softened a bit. When asked about the progression of his career, Sarkodie states that he did a lot of free shows in the beginning, at secondary schools, and other places all over Ghana. “The first interview I ever did was for 4Syte TV. They were the first people to put me on TV. The first time I appeared in a video was with Edem. He did a song that featured me approximately 3-4 years ago, and it was the video for the song entitled, “U Dey Craze.” When asked about the first time he recalls hearing his song on the radio, a slight grin appears on his face as he gleefully recalls the moment. “ I was at the barbershop, when all of a sudden I heard “Baby” (with R2Bees). So I kept it to myself.”

Managed by Duncan Williams, Sarkodie's first major show was Joy FM's “Night of the Stars.” Sarkodie points out that he didn't have an album or a song when he was asked to perform, but he took the stage confidently with his freestyle. It was the same freestyle he was showcasing all over Ghana, the same freestyle he had used to “murder” 25 MC's on a local radio show. “You do know what murdering an MC is, right?” Yes. “Wherever you are coming from, you capture the place first and then you move forward,” says Sarkodie. “Fans have to remember you. I want to go international, but I know my limits. Daddy Lumba is a star because he is unpredictable and not that accessible.” Just like Daddy Lumba, Sarkodie is not that easily accessible and far from being predictable. It seems like Sarkodie is releasing music every week- it is very hard to keep track of all of his songs and collaborations. On his computer, Sarkodie displays the various soundtracks producers have sent to him, all awaiting lyrics. In the beginning, Sarkodie would write down the lyrics to songs and get the beat later, but now, due to his success, there is a large supply of beats awaiting his rhythmical freestyle magic. Sarkodie frequently verbally stamps his songs with the phrase ”1 tyme for your mind”. What does that mean? It's simple. According to Sarkodie it means,”you don't have to hear me twice to believe that I'm good.” Sarkodie is confident.

The D.C concert is Sarkodie's second stop on his U.S tour. He is slated to go to Boston, Colorado, Atlanta, and other U.S cities in the following weeks. Having already performed in New York City, Sarkodie expressed his observations about his U.S fans, stating that, “people here in the U.S are more hyper because they are hungry and they have never seen you perform in person. And surprisingly, the people here know all the words to all of the songs.” While in the U.S, Sarkodie is being managed by TM Entertainmentz. The CEO of TM Entertainmentz, Terry Masson, a strikingly handsome man, stated that he got into the entertainment business because he “loves music”. TM Entertainmentz has been responsible for Sarkodie's overall well-being and seems to be setting high standards, keeping Sarkodie on schedule and ensuring that he gets to his events well rested and prepared. It all goes back to Sarkodie's statement: wherever your heart is , is where your treasure is.

Around 2:10 am, Sarkodie was in his hotel room, preparing to take the stage at the D.C concert which was occurring a couple of floors below him. Although the room was packed with people and their random conversations, Sarkodie was not paying attention to them- he was in his own world. Surrounded by speakers, a computer, and an empty Jamaican pineapple juice bottle, Sarkodie was sitting with his back up against the corner wall, listening to Tracey Chapman. Amidst all the noise and commotion, Sarkodie was literally singing a duet with Tracey Chapman's timeless song “I'm Ready” , and it was breathtakingly beautiful. Sarkodie marches to a different beat-his own. Sarkodie, known for his fast rapping abilities, was just as prolific of an artist singing a slow uncomplicated song.

When the time came for Sarkodie to perform for his fans, he stood a couple of feet back from the main entrance. While all of the members of his management team and security were busy discussing issues, once again, Sarkodie did things his own way, running on to the stage with a microphone in his hand, thrilling the fans with his high energy. Dressed in all white, from head to toe, a cross chain, Adidas sneakers, and dark tinted sunglasses, the stage only contained him and DJ Mensa- that's all it needed! DJ Mensa and Sarkodie performed live (no lip-singing), giving the audience an intimate show to remember. With the microphone in his left hand, Sarkodie randomly chose songs to perform, because he has so many chart toppers. The crowd knew every single word to every single song and DJ Mensa and Sarkodie kept them entertained the whole time. The show ended with Sarkodie bringing fans on to the stage to display their Azonto-dancing skills to his hit song “U Go Kill Me”. The D.C crowd was well prepared to show Sarkodie what they were made of, and boy did they bring it!!

After the concert ended, Sarkodie took a few pictures with some of his fans, and headed back to his room. Back in his room, Sarkodie plopped onto his bed, and stared at the wall. When asked what he was thinking, the sneakerless and sunglass-free Sarkodie replied in a coarse voice that he was simply thinking about the show and preparing himself for the next one. As a kid, Sarkodie had two main dreams: to become a doctor and to become an artist. Music was his third dream. If Sarkodie is this great at making music, which is his third dream, imagine what kind of doctor he would have been if he had stuck with his original dream? In the words of Michael Jackson, Sarkodie is a “bad” man, who is “workin' day and night”, “making a change” in the music world, making everyone “feel real good” “knocking us off our feet” ,and has all of us “ rocking the night away” and “shaking our bodies down to the ground” with his lyrical prowess. As long as Sarkodie continues , and doesn't “ stop till (we) get enough” then “the way (he) makes (us) feel” will continue to be a “thriller”. There is nothing common about Sarkodie. All the words in the dictionary are incapable of capturing the essence of Sarkodie because he is more than just an artist- he is a living icon.

Fun Facts about Sarkodie:Favorite T.V Show: Keeping up with the Kardashians

Favorite Food: Rice and Egg Stew
Fill in the blank: I can not do without: Music
Favorite Sarkodie Song: Life
Song that shocked him when it became a hit:Borga
Performers he would like to collaborate with: Jay Z and Busta Rhymes

Stay connected with Sarkodie:Official website:

Twitter: @sarkodie
Facebook: Sarkodi Obidi

Written by Amy Ansong (Afromusion/Sankofa Radio/AfrikanPost)

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