You Know Say Money No Be Problem: The Real Sarkodie
Sarkodie, one of the African Continent's most beloved musicians hangs with the Applause Africa team for a spell to talk to us about his childhood in Ghana, his music, upcoming projects and how he is
When I first heard Sarkodie (pronounced Sar – koh – dyeh) flow years ago, it was like finding a diamond bracelet while playing in the sand. He was featured on Stay Jay’s Sue and his bars gleamed above the rest of the song. His delivery was soulful. He was music without the melody, a force without the noise. Like many of you, I would play the song back to back, holding my breath for Sark to come in. Fast forward to summer of 2014 when Adonai took Africans the world over by storm. By this time, Sarkodie had already won 32 awards for his singles, albums and collaborations with other artists. The Continent loves him. To date, Sarkodie has nabbed 48 award wins and nearly 50 nominations, including wins from the Ghana Music Awards, Nigerian Entertainment Awards, MTV and BET international music awards. The Diaspora loves him too.
Meeting Sarkodie at Harvard was exactly what you would expect: the girls flocked to him with the fawning smiles and doe eyes of die-hard fans. A cloud of would-be groupies floated around him just waiting for some of that star essence to rub off onto them. But once we had him alone in the interview room, he was just your distant cousin from the next town over: humble and full of smiles, passionate about his country, his people, his family and his music.
Applause Africa: What are some of your favorite memories of growing up in Ghana?
Sarkodie: My beginnings were not too fun to be able to pick the favorites out. In between the hard times that I was going through—I was moved away from my mom… we were five and I was the only one out, the rest were staying with my mom, where the happiness was. The only time I felt that joy within me was when I saw my mom. After four years, she came to visit me back in school, and she would pop in once in a while, just to check on her boy.
AA: Why do you perform in Twi?
Sarkodie: I’m not rapping just for rap’s sake. I’m carrying a message. Too bad for people who don’t understand it, but—when the emotions are in it…I know people that I look up to who I don’t really understand what they’re saying. Someone like Youssou N’dour from Senegal and Angelique Kidjo. I don’t really understand what they’re saying, but it touches your soul when you listen to them. And that’s what I focus on. I just believe that if you maintain that emotion, and you don’t change it…if you’re real to yourself, someone will relate to what you’re doing.
AA: What were some of the most surprising awards you nabbed?
Sarkodie: The MTV best hip-hop artist. It was really tight, because normally when they do that in Africa it’s mainly between a Nigerian or a South African—I’m not throwing shade, but that’s just what it is—but it was really surprising when they mentioned my name. It made me feel as though I had the whole Continent behind me.
AA: What are your plans for 2016?
Sarkodie: I’m working on a lot. I actually signed two artists, whose songs I’m going to release this year. And working on few apps to help people back home make money from music. That’s the situation back in Ghana, we’re really going through a hustle trying to make ends meet from music. That means if you’re not hot or you’re not performing, you’re not eating. But I think if you have ways that people can stream your music, and download it, even underground artists can pay some small bills. I’m actually working to give back to what made me Sarkodie today.
AA: What is your advice to young artists who may want to be the next Sarkodie?
Sarkodie: Just make sure that you’re lost in it. I call my career…it’s like swimming. When you get into the water, you don’t necessarily have to check where you are at that point. Just get lost in it. At the time that you touch the finish line, that’s when you know that you’re done and you just succeed.
Sark loves his Continent and his people passionately. He also spoke to us about Ghana’s upcoming elections, saying that he wants to see Ghanaians really listen to the candidates and understand who they are and what they stand for before casting a vote. He wants to see Ghana thrive, because after all, Ghana is his “favorite place to be.”
Video produced by: Oluwaseye Olusa
Interview by: Adeola Adejobi & Ololade Siyonbola