Q&A by Bonnie Ophelia

The Artist Bringing Global Sounds to the Accra Alte Scene

Amaarae is a 25 year old multi-talented musician and English Lit major hailing from Accra, Ghana. Experimenting with music from an early age, the singer-song writer, producer and sound engineer travelled a lot as a child. Spending most of her time between the states and Ghana, she proudly claims that her time in Atlanta influenced her writing style, telling us “I’m very inspired by southern rappers and just southern rap music in general.” However, she firmly credits Ghana as the core to her inspiration:

“Ghana taught me how to fuse my culture with all the things that I’ve learnt from all over the world. The core of everything I do, like the drums are always African, and that’s because it’s the core of who I am. Then everything else on top of it is just a diaspora of my mind and experiences.”

Now a growing force within the Ghanian music scene and starting to make waves across the seas, Amaarae’s unique sound, which combines an experimental mix of Neo-soul and African drums, is getting her the attention from the likes of Gilles Petterson. Just hit play on her album Passionfruit Summers to experience her buttery soft vocals singing thoughtful lyrics challenging the boundaries of social constructs and intimacy.

So let's start by saying who you are, where you're from and what you're known for?

I’m Amaarae. I’m a singer-song writer, producer and sound engineer from Accra, Ghana. I was born in the Bronx but spent a lot of time in Atlanta, Georgia. I grew up between Ghana and Atlanta so I move around a lot, but Ghana is home.

How would you say living up in America and Ghana has influenced your music differently?

When I lived in America I lived in Atlanta, so I’m very inspired by southern rappers, and just southern rap music in general. That’s a huge influence on the way that I write, but I think Ghana taught me how to fuse my culture with all the things that i've learnt from all over the world. The core of everything I do, like the drums are always African, and that’s because it’s the core of who I am. Then everything else on top of it is just a diaspora of my mind and experiences.

How would you describe Accra to someone who hasn’t been?

Accra is vibrant. Accra is full bursting with energy, but it also has this really really amazing calm to it. It has so much to offer but its not bustling like New York like where everyone is on the go. In Accra everyone is friendly, you can stop someone and ask them a question and they’ll attend to you, or go out their way to direct you to somewhere you don’t know. I think it’s interesting, it’s a nice vibrancy, but it’s very mid tempo, every body is just chilling theres no stress.

Can you tell me about the Alte movement which is growing in Africa right now?

I think the individuals who could best define the word 'Alte' and the movement in an authentic way are its originators, BOJ and TeeZee of DRB. However for me, 'Alte' is just a bunch of kids who are into books, fashion, photography, music, art, or any form of expression. We were told mainstream platforms can't promote our culture because it wouldn’t sell. Now we’ve broken those boundaries and almost all the alternative artists are being covered by the New York Times, Fader, Complex, Notion etc.

The Alte movement is young. We’re punk rock, we don’t give a fuck. We pushed and they didn’t listen, we pushed back again and they push back but finally when you start to break the boundaries they’re interested. You’re like, I tried to tell you about this 2 years ago!

Whats your earliest memory of travel?

So, I was 4/5 years old. I remember I had on a white long sleeve polo shirt with a red sweater tied around my neck, blue slacks and nice loafers. My brother and my mum had on a similar outfit and we were travelling to the UK for the first time to see family. I can’t remember the flight or trip but I can remember our outfits.

The videos for Fluid and Spend Some Time are beautifully executed, does the process always start with a strong vision?

When I write songs I don’t have a vision of how they’re gonna turn out but I do have 100% input in all my videos.

For Fluid, I can’t take all of the credit. My road manager in Ghana, Mutombo, shoots a lot of my videos and also produced 'Spend Some Time'. We'd already shot one video but management didn’t like it (my manager is my mom) and she refused to give any more budget. So, Tunbo was like I’m gonna put you in the bath, add a bunch of different coloured paints in the tub and we’re just gonna shoot and cut, shoot and cut... that was Fluid!

Amaarae's Guide to Accra

Photography: Bonnie Ophelia

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