Stonebwoy has undoubtedly left his mark within the West African music industry. His BET win for Best International Act in 2015 could be viewed as helping pave the way for artists on the international stage while also seeing him collaborate with artists like Keri Hilson, Sean Paul, Burna Boy, Zlatan, Davido, and Diamond Platinumz.
Over the recent holidays, we caught up with him on his background, break out, representing for the continent and more.
Find excerpts below;
You have been able to create a niche for yourself in the music industry; what inspired you to go into music
Basically, I was that kid that grew up around music. I always had a talent for writing, poetry and art. My major influence was foreign material such as reggae music and I instantly had a passion for it. Growing up, what was popular in Ghana was hip life. Most of the artistes in that space sang in languages such as Twi, Ewe and other major languages. I am from the Volta region of Ghana so there was no hope of me being fluent in any of these languages.
How did you come about the name “Stonebwoy”?
My name is Livingstone. I remember doing my first radio appearance. I introduced myself as Stone to the presenter. He announced my name as Stonebwoy and since then it stuck. I have had other nicknames over the years such as Beam Nation, One Gad amongst many others.
You pride yourself as being the founder of the Afro Dancehall genre of music; can you explain how this fusion works and how you have been able to get listeners to explore this category of music?
I have come a long way and I have been inspired as well. Dancehall music was already in existence in Caribbean countries like Jamaica. What I do is to bridge the gap between the Caribbean and African sound to give it a different feeling and taste. My sound has become well known for being African with the influence of dance hall music.
At what point in your career did you start profiting hugely from music and what kept you going when you were not?
My motivation was my passion for being able to express myself lyrically and that was my fulfilment. It was down the line when my music became a commercial commodity that I had to fulfil certain financial factors to perform my duty. The bible says whatever you do, do it well. The reward was not financial at first but the benefits came later on.
As an African with an international presence; do you constantly feel the weight of representing not just yourself as an individual but the entire continent?
Yes, one man represents all and all represent one. If I carry an atomic bomb into a foreign nation, it is not only Ghanaians that would be affected but Africans as a whole.
How did it feel to win the 2015 BET awards for Best International Act?
It was a remarkable moment for me because it gave the Afro Dancehall category of music attention and it indirectly opened the space for a lot of artists in that space. Before then it was the typical afro beats that most people were familiar with.
The music industry is structured in a way that it almost seems as though for an African musician to be perceived as successful, there must be some sort of “acceptance or validation” from the West. How do you feel about this?
That is how the system is set and this has been the case since 1884 (the scramble for Africa). I am Pan African but being pro-black doesn’t make me anti-white. It is not just in the entertainment industry, every industry requires a certain type of validation from its ruling arm. In the entertainment industry, it has been seen that your people recognize you more when the West has laid a hand on you. Gradually we shall get to a point where we validate ourselves in a way that counts in the eyes of the West. However, I am not going to die for the validation of the West because they as well are out for what is majorly beneficial to them and not necessarily to the artist.
What has been your greatest challenge as an artist?
I am still climbing and there is always a challenge at every stage. But my major challenge has been the structure in the African music industry. You make music and it does not become your major source of revenue. You have to do shows and other things by the side before revenue is made.
So do you have any recommendations on how we can improve the structure of the African music industry?
We are all students and we have to learn from what is going good elsewhere. We have to learn from the European market. In Africa, there is a lot of pressure on the African artiste. They are more depended on than politicians and these politicians are the ones who make the most money. Artistes deserve to be better remunerated for their work.
You have collaborated with several top tier African artistes; what’s your vision for the African music industry?
I want us to get to a better place where we have one voice in the music scene; where we can use our platforms to speak against oppression whether it is political or against our democracy. Until musicians are empowered properly that is when we will be able to work for Africa.
How possible is it to have one voice even with the divisions within several African countries?
It might not be possible now but down the line, it can; the oppressor cannot be strong unless they are accomplices from the oppressed. In the business world, the ATM works for everyone. Money is a central language. Music can become a central language. My fans go beyond Ghana. We can use the power we have to communicate our music to people that know us. Look at the recent end SARS movement. Musicians and a lot of people in the public eye rose up against it.
You are the CEO of Burniton music group; how do you determine what projects or artistes to invest in? Is there any particular thing you look for in an artist?
I have to know a particular artist or project can go far and there is a potential of people loving them. Right now I am working on building the Stonebwoy brand to a different level. I am also trying to do some restructuring so that these artistes can have a proper support system when they are signed.
You have owned your space in the music industry and you have done exceedingly well for yourself. But I am sure there are certain artists you admire or look up to. Can you mention a few?
Certainly, different people inspire me, even artistes who are upcoming. I have also been influenced by people of different nationalities. If I name names, the list would be endless. People like Sizzla, Buju, Riley, Marley amongst many others.
What is your stance on artists taking a bigger role in politics and how does it feel when you have to take a stance on social or political issues that are not related to music?
There is politics in everything whether it is in the music industry or real life; whether you want to involve yourself or not. But no matter what you do, it is important you add your voice positively. It is important to get yourself equipped. I see musicians as servants. We have to use our voices for the benefit of the people.
The word Legacy might put some kind of pressure on certain artistes but with an artist of your calibre, I am sure you are not a stranger to this word. What do you want to achieve in the long run? What is that mark you want to leave as an artist or as a human in our world?
I want to continue to be me. To make music and leave it for generations to come. I also want to make an impact socially and be a hero for generations to come as well. As Africans, we have to stand together because the world is set up in a way that it seems like it is against us whether consciously or unconsciously.