IT has been eye-opening and amazing speaking with Wiyaala…
about her upbringing and how she got into music. She talks with me about her mash-up mix of Better Treat Me Right, and how that came to be; whether we can see her on the road before the end of the year – she recommends a rising act to watch closely.
Wiyaala discusses her plans going forward and reveals how she spends time away from music; whether more material is coming down the tracks and whether she has a favourite memory from music so far – Wiyaala ends the interview by selecting a great track.
Hi, Wiyaala. How are you? How has your week been?
Seems like I’ve living in motorway service stations between promos, gigs and recording in Sheffield, U.K. So different to the roadside ‘chop’ bars in Ghana!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m Wiyaala; a Sissala girl from Funsi, a small village in the northern part of Ghana. I do something I guess you could call Afro-Pop or Afro-Rock. My songs Village Sex and Rock My Body will give you a taste of my flavours!
A mash-up mix of Better Treat Me Right is up. What is the story behind the song?
I’ve been on tour with an international all-female band GRRRL (like the Spice girls on crack) and U.K. producer Will Mount from What’s That Sound Productions saw me and said he had a song for me. So, I went to his studio and recorded Better Treat Me Right. A few remixes later we ended up with the mash-up mix. I went for it because “I’m not the kind of girl to sit here and wait for you to rescue me”. Where I come from, you don’t get rescued!
You are a big advocate of women’s rights. Have there been particular personal experiences that have made fight harder?
That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? ‘A big advocate for women’s rights?’ Look; like just about everyone else reading this, I’ve had to fight tough every inch of the way to try and get somewhere. Because I’m a woman, that can get you labelled a feminist. I love men! Ok; it’s true I’ve spoken out against child marriage and F.G.M. - which is still happening in some of our communities. But, who doesn’t, regardless of whether you are male or female?
Did your upbringing and childhood shape how you approach music and what you write about?
Of course! I was drumming in the church choir when I was four-years-old! My mum was a chorister. In those days, we didn’t have electricity and we used to sit under the moonlight as a community, singing; dancing and playing games. We were happy. I used to organise the kids to perform for the village chief. I’ve portrayed this life in my song, Siiko. I’ve added a twist to it. With Smartphones and stuff, we are losing some of this culture. I’m saying, don’t forget it. As well as enjoying modern technology, we should add it to what we used to have.
The other thing was the western influence. When I was about eight-years-old, I saw Madonna’s video of Take a Bow on T.V. The red lips, the pointed nipples; the bull…I knew then I could do what she was doing. It was motivational and inspiring for a small girl in the African village.
Might we see more material coming down the line?
Yes - for at least the next twenty-five years. I’ve got a new album due out very soon, Sissala Goddess. I’m also working on an E.P. with my Ghanaian brothers in Sheffield known as the Zongo Brigade. That’s going to include the LGBT Remix of Rock My Body. That song is fun!
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
I’ll settle for having my new album and E.P. out there. I’m a musician; from concept to execution. That’s all. The rest is up to the audience.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
Yes. Performing at Womad, U.K. My first big ‘white’ crowd. They totally bought in to what I was doing. If you get it, you get it. Case closed.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
Hahahah! I don’t listen to music! I make it! Sure; I hear music all the time. But, I don’t sit down with a spliff and a drink and analyse albums. I don’t have time for that! I’m usually wandering around the house or sitting in the passenger seat of a car on the motorway doodling on my guitarlele. Or, I’m designing and sewing my own stage costumes. Or shooting and editing little videos for social media.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Look. I’m sorry I don’t have this kind of fantasy! I’ll support any living musician of any genre or nationality on any stage anywhere in the world. We’re all musicians, give us a stage; some basic sound and lighting and our job is to entertain. I don’t make or want crazy rider demands!
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Be the musician you really want to be. Be yourself. Perform live at every opportunity. Do your thing, not somebody else’s thing. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Believe in yourself.
Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?
You can see me with GRRRL at RichMix in London on November 2nd. Then, at the Kin Festival in Bristol (also with GRRRL) on 10th November. Then, I’m back to Ghana and it will be Wiyaala in Concert at the Alliance Francais, Accra on December 8th. Then, I’m back home to Wa in the Upper West Region of Ghana where I’ll be organising the local Djimba World Festival which I started three years ago.
How important is it being on stage and performing? Do you love playing your music to the crowds?
It’s everything. I’ve been a live performer since I was three-years-old. I can never imagine a life without performing. I’ve done crowds of 70,000 in Morocco and crowds of ten at some venues. It’s all the same to me. It’s what I do.
IN THIS PHOTO: Dark Suburb
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Yes. Dark Suburb; a Rock band from Ghana. Start with I Dey Feel You Die.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I don’t. But, if I do, I like spending time with my mum and four sisters; cooking fufu and light soup with goat meat. We gossip, sing and dance and generally have fun.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Yes. Play the one I already mentioned above, I Dey Feel You Die by Dark Suburb. Thank you