In Conversation with Soulful Ghanaian Songstress, EFYA.
Ghanaian singer and songwriter, Jane Awindor, better known as EFYA transcends the scope of Afrobeats in a romantic applaud to a genre so rigid in its rhythm and drum melodies that she dictates a whole new sound veritable on every body of work she puts out, be it features, refixes or her own music. She’s masterful on the beat without taking away from the heart of the genre by gifting it with a soulful melodic sweetness that fine-tunes the sound and inspires a whole other genre, Afro-RnB, shall we say?
Born and raised in Ghana, her musical palette was construed from sounds native to her upbringing like Highlife, R’n’B and Jazz with musical influences ranging from Daddy Lumba to Whitney Houston. These inspirations gave rise to a career that was boosted by familial collaborations with Ghanaian artists like Sarkodie, R2Bees etc, then opening the door to collaborations with Nigerian artists, and later worldwide recognition. Following her hit feature on Mr Eazi’s ‘Skin Tight’ in 2015 proved that EFYA was readying herself for a much bigger role to play within the industry. The chart topping single flew off the handle and set her international career in motion, following with a feature on Wizkid’s 2016 hit, ‘Daddy Yo’. Her sound and style moved on to promise more culturally popular styles that the Afrobeats genre has developed into over the years.
A Ghanaian beauty with grace and vigour, this is our conversation with the soulful songstress, EFYA…
How were your family dynamics growing up in what we imagine to be a creative hub, with a presenter mother in the public eye, and a film director father?
Growing up in my family was exciting; there was something always going on. We were either filming or shooting for a politician, and my dad was also a director at the Film school so I basically grew up at NAFTI (National Film and Television Institute) Ghana. They [my parents] were very musical too, my dad plays the guitar and my mom sings in a choir so all of those things attributed to my creative senses.
Growing up in Ghana, who/what do you recount as your biggest musical influences?
Even though I grew up in Ghana, my musical influences were mostly a mixture of Highlife, soul and RNB musicians from London and Ghana - I used to listen to Whitney Houston, Kojo Antwi, Amakye Dede. I love Highlife; it’s one of my favorite genres because we were brought up with a lot of Highlife music between Lumba and Ofori Amponsah whose music was very popular when I was growing up so I had influences from those kinds of artists mixed with the international artists that I used to listen to.
What incident sparked the first major break in your career within the music industry in Africa?
I would say my first break was definitely from Afrobeats, Afro-Soul or Afro-RnB and that song was Best in Me, then I did a song with Sarkodie that blew and also a cover of Duncan Mighty’s Obianuju and that is how I entered into the Nigerian market because the song was a popular Nigerian song.
Your music catalogue/discography spans over 6 years, what would you consider your personal breakthrough project or collaboration?
I think between my first mixtape which was ‘This is Not the Album’ we had a lot of amazing music on it. We put in ‘Best in Me, Little Things, Nothing’ and other great songs that I have written and performed but I would say that my biggest breakthrough song was the one I did with Sarkodie – ‘I’m In Love With You’ which is a very big song even now and this why I believe that we should try and make music that lives forever especially considering the fact that we’re doing African music that’s the focus of what it is now and I believe that we started something that has become big and I believe that African music is the biggest in the world and I am grateful to be part of this movement.
From Wizkid to frequent collaborations with Sarkodie, R2Bees, Mr Eazi to name a few, who is your favorite Afrobeats artist to work with and with whom do you have the best chemistry?
I will definitely say my favorite to collaborate with is Sarkodie. We have an amazing music chemistry and friendship and he’s always been a brother to me, especially when it comes to shows and representing in places. He’s taken me with him to shows outside the country so it’s always been a pleasure to be on stage with him; he is one of my best collaborators to work with.
From One Nation to Starboy, did the “shift” at all affect your sound and style, and who are you signed to now?
I definitely believe in growth. When we did the affiliation with Starboy we were still with One Nation. The shift didn’t really affect my sound because I would always sing like the way I wanted to sing like my voice would always decide what the sound would be so it didn’t deviate me from what is it I wanted to do but I believe in growth. I finished my contract with One Nation so I have signed onto to a new label, ‘Jutland’ based in London. We just did that so we’re moving on and finding new pastures to get to the level we want to get to and I believe change is good for every artist; it shows growth. I am really excited for my new journey with Jutland and I know we are going to make some magic together.
A lot of artists steer away from really singing on a track, as Afrobeats is not lauded as a highly vocal-centric genre, how have you managed to keep the romance and the R’n’B alive in the music, even winning Best Female Vocalist at the Ghana Music Awards 5 times in a row?
I believe that my voice is different, it’s always been and any time I sing, people ask where is that beautiful voice coming from and what I do when its comes to Afrobeats is that I maintain my style and will still sing soulful on the beat. Sometimes people say I sing too much because I am not supposed to sing too much on a number but I’m like what’s the point, and sing the way I want to anyway, showing my vocal prowess and still maintain the romance and the RnB in Afrobeats. I would say Afro-RnB and winning the Best Vocalist [Ghana Music Awards] 5 times in a row wasn’t easy but we are grateful for the inspiration we’ve given to every young lady that it is possible. You can do it, just stay true to yourself.
How has your relationship with the UK music industry transformed since your highly successful collaboration with Mr Eazi on Skin Tight?
Wooow the UK loves Efya and I promise them that we are coming. In the past two years I haven’t been able to attend shows booked for in the United Kingdom but I am promising them that from next month I will attend to all their Gingam [pseudonym] or Efya needs there. We are going to have our own shows and sessions there so hey, be on a look out for it!
Your most recent single with Mr Eazi titled ‘Mamee’ which is already making radio waves is a hit - do you believe the success of this song will equally measure that of your previous collaboration with him?
I mean we put out a song and hope that it flies as high as it can go and Mamee is doing really really well and you know I think as time goes on it’s going to be a bigger hit than it is now. I’m sure dropping a video as we are about to do will help the numbers go up. What happened with ‘Skin Tight’ was one of those things that happened gradually. We can make more music depending on how we strategise the promotion and everything and the hope is it’s surpasses whatever we have done before so I am just expecting the best, as long as we flying we might as well soar higher. You should go listen to it stream on Spotify to get the numbers high.
You have quite a vivid sense of personal style, from show-stopping hairstyles to colourful attires and bold accessorising – what has been your biggest style influence to date?
Oh I love to dress up for shows so when I‘m not EFYA, I am Jane, probably wearing some hip alternative stuff but I like to dress down switching from the Queen to a normal girl, however, the ultimate goal is to look good.
Your image, music and brand are very engaging, and exciting, what more are we to expect and see of EFYA in 2018?
I mean I like to engage with my fans so I do a lot of talking on Twitter and Instagram. I like to be engaging because the Gingams [name she calls her fans] are very very engaging. We are going to drop more singles and an EP - that is what we are currently working on. We will also do more travelling to meet some artists that I am interested in working with and just try to expand the EFYA brand as much as we can to the international market and grow. I believe in growth and I want to grow my music to a certain level where I can mix all the types of music I want to do. I believe as I meet more musicians I can learn from them on how to be better. The aim is to strive top be better than we are.