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An Interview With Fatau Keita, Ghana’s New Pride And Joy
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An Interview With Fatau Keita, Ghana’s New Pride And Joy

Picture of Maria Iotova
Updated: 13 January 2017
The global religion crisis, Africa’s abundance of culture, and the tribal wars are among the matters that Fatau Keita is touching upon with his music. Fatau’s first album, Selina, is named after his wife who passed away earlier in 2015, but in it, Fatau builds a brighter world.
Fatau Keita live at Alliance Francaise d'Accra | © Gerard Nartey
Fatau Keita live at Alliance Francaise d’Accra | © Gerard Nartey

We don’t particularly like boxes, but for the sake of communication, we say that your music falls under World Music (please correct us if you disagree). We would like to know, where do you get your inspiration?

Yes, you are absolutely correct. I sing and write a world fusion, though my inspiration is a sheer interpretation of my life history and personal experiences. I am a Dagbamba — it’s a warrior tribe from the Northern Region of Ghana with a rich musical tradition of drumming and dancing. We ask for the serenity of the deceased, honor our chiefs and encourage the alive to ‘live well’ rhythmically and melodically. Also, I am influenced by my hometown deities. Every Dagbamba town and even household has its god, and certain gods will help people with certain problems. Talented singers such as afro-beat Fela Kuti and Salif Keita inspire me too — they are my musical heroes.

Which is your favorite song from the album?

It’s ‘Tie Kumm.’ It talks about helping one another for the successfulness of the African heritage. Let’s stop gossiping about others, and instead focus on ways to become better people. Then, we will be able to positively promote the African culture. That’s why I insist in accrediting the good African leaders such as Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Haile Selassie, Steve Biko and Marcus Garvey.

Who are the other contributors behind this album?

I am certainly happy that I am given the opportunity to answer this question because I would like to thank my band — the Naawuni Bie Band — and the German musicologist Dr. Marcus Coestner who has curated the album. As part of its cultural collaboration with Ghana, the Goethe Institut has funded the album and has immensely supported its promotion.

Fatau Keita live at Alliance Francaise d'Accra | © Gerard Nartey
Fatau Keita live at Alliance Francaise d’Accra | © Gerard Nartey

How would you describe the Ghanaian audience?

When I speak to people who have listened to my music, they all have the same reaction of awe. They say that the music genre I am playing is a big surprise to them, which I completely understand, since they are so used to the music that the local radio stations impose. My music is a blend of traditional and modern.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a musician? What profession other than being an artist would you practice?

There is a deeper passion inside me along with my history and culture that have always driven me towards singing and song writing. I am a former tennis player, but my heart has always been pursuing music, and I remember writing my first song at the age of 16. I have been thinking recently that I could be a farmer or that I would love to be a NGO director. I am actually planning to continue my education and study farming alongside further musical studies.

For someone who wants to visit Ghana, what are your recommendations?

Definitely to visit my three favorite bars in our capital city, Accra: Goethe Bar, Piano Bar and Republic Bar. Eat pounded fufu with palm nut soup and tuo zaafi with dried okro soup. Come and see me and my band live (laughing) and discover the richness of the African culture that is in our music, dancing and instrumental playing.

Finally, where are your next steps taking you?

Currently, I am working hard on the videos for the songs of Selina, and my next big thing will be a promotional tour with my band outside Ghana. Once the schedule is set, it will be out for people who are interested in finding out more information. I have also started working on my next album.