Ghanaian-born Grammy Award winning producer, Paul Yebuah popularly known as Jazzwad has advised Ghanaian artistes to incorporate some amount of English into their songs to enable them hit the international stage fully.
The producer, who won the Grammy for his productions on Damian Marley’s 2006 Best Reggae Album Welcome To Jamrock which included Hey Girl and Beautiful which featured Bobby Brown, noted that it is important for artistes to do songs that their audiences and listeners understand and appreciate.
Speaking in an interview with Myjoyonline.com, Jazzwad noted that while it is good to do songs in local languages, the key to breaking into the world stage is to do songs in internationally known languages especially English.
According to him, “It’s good when the artiste sings in the local dialect but I mean if you want to go out into Europe, America, Canada [and] different parts of the world where it is only English they speak, then you have to make sounds with English words or [else] you [are] just going to have it limited to Ghana, Nigeria and certain places in Africa, it doesn’t go further.”
He stressed that, “If you want to be bigger than just being an African act you have to make your music accessible to be played anywhere in the world where that radio presenter or TV presenter or just a regular listener understands your words…it is key that you have your songs in English unless you want to be known only as a Ghanaian or African artiste.”
Asked what he makes of the argument that an artiste like Sarkodie, who sings in a local dialect, won a Black Entertainment Television (BET) award last year, Jazzwad noted that while the rapper must be commended for the award, the award was for his exploits in Africa.
“What BET Award did he win, wasn’t it a BET Award for African music? [He won] Best International Act for Africa and that is great for him to win that award but wouldn’t it be even more great if he won the Hiphop award overall?” he quizzed.
“When he won the award did he go on TV, was it televised that we could see that Sarkodie pick up the award on TV?” the producer further quizzed.
He also urged artistes to pay attention to their accents when singing and must also endeavour to produce tunes that can equally compete with any song internationally.
While advising artistes, Jazzwad observed that the media also has a key role to play in pushing Ghanaian musicians globally adding the country must “invest in your own.”
Paul Yebuah disclosed that he is building a relationship with the Ghanaian music industry and after listening to several artistes including Samini, Sarkodie, Edem, Stonebowy, Kaakie, and R2Bees, he wants to get involved in the industry “because I see the potential is here.”
“While I am here in Ghana, I have seen these talents, I have heard them and some of them I have seen their video on TV, I hear them on the radio all the time so I know they have the potential and image that can go international.”
Jazzwad said he wants to set up Jazzwad Music in Ghana to sign talented artistes to give them the needed platform to hit the international stage. While he is known for music, he wants to also venture into movies too.
He hopes to also facilitate collaborations between Ghanaian and some international artistes: “I have a link to every single Jamaican or British dancehall or reggae artiste. Just name any reggae artiste you can think of whether be Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Damean Marley, Shaba Ranks, Sizzla, Buju Banton, Sean Paul…anybody that is alive in reggae music, I know them so it wouldn’t be a problem to have a collaboration with them.”
Jazzwad and Grammy Award winning singer Alicia Keys
Paul Yebuah was born in London to a Jamaican mother and to a father who was born in London. His father’s father was born in Ghana and he hails from Dodowa, in the Eastern region.
According to him, his inspiration has always been music because his mother used to work for UK based Groove Music label and a British reggae band Azwad was signed onto that label.
The group, he narrated, used to rehearse in his godmother’s spare room which afforded him the opportunity to get a formal introduction to music.
He thought himself how to play most musical instruments including drums and keyboards: “I don’t know how to read and write music, I am self thought. I grew up around music so my inspiration I will say is always going to be music.”
Growing up, one major challenge for him was that, because he “wasn’t educated about the business side of [music] at that time so a lot of the time even in Jamaica and other places where I performed and made beats for other producers, maybe they realise I didn’t know about the business so the exploited my talent and kept me playing beats all the time.”
Those experiences, however, served as an eye-opener paving the way for him to become a better businessman in music and through that, in 1999, he introduced his own record label Jazzwad Music. Some of the artistes he worked with on his first production include Bounty Killer and Sizzla.
The first song he produced under his label with Capleton titled Bun Dun Dreadie was number one on the reggae charts in the UK during the first part of 2000.
Jazzwad has produced several awarding songs including Beautiful which he describes as “my most elaborate production till date because I got a Grammy award for that,” and getting that award “was a big achievement for me.”