Five Questions With Stonebwoy
Afro-dancehall sensation Stonebwoy, whose given name is Livingstone Etse Satekla, does not show signs of slowing down any time soon. He’s been on the move, travelling and getting his business together even throughout the global health crisis. One of his most recent stops was Jamaica, before heading to the Dominican Republic and New York, where he will be shooting a music video with reggae crooner Etana. Stonebwoy’s first time on the island was in 2016 and he has been here about five times since then – making connections with his Jamaican reggae and dancehall contemporaries. “It’s always a great trip even though, most times, it is just for work,” he told The Gleaner. “So, unfortunately, I was only there for three nights, about 48 hours to get what I needed to be done.”
Stonebwoy became the first Ghanaian to perform at Reggae Sumfest in 2018, one of the concrete piles hammered in the bridge he is forming between Jamaica and his home. He said, “Reggae and dancehall is nothing without its people and its roots, so we have had to also be a big part in conveying the music, art and culture – that is important.” He has since expanded his catalogue of collaborations with a number of Jamaica’s popular acts to include Khalia, Kabaka Pyramid, Beenie Man as well as Tarrus Riley, Jahmiel, Agent Sasco and Tifa, and anticipates more new releases later this year following a productive trip. He is still riding high off the success of his album Anloga Junction, the fourth studio album under the Burniton Music Group on which his collaboration with Jahmiel titled Motion is featured. The video was released exactly one week ago and is steadily climbing in views. At the same time, Stonebwoy is promoting the release of his single 1GAD. In this week’s Five Questions With Stonebwoy speaks about his recent trip to Jamaica, decentralising music culture by making connections, spirituality and family life.
1. What was your impression coming into Jamaica this past trip?
One thing I must say, the Norman Manley International Airport was so empty and the health official, oh boy, they were really strict. Once I got off the plane, before even reaching the hallway I was already being questioned what the purpose of my trip was. I was like, ‘I’m coming in for business’; and I had no worries because my tests [for COVID-19] were negative. Everything possible was written down on paper – there were no two ways to go about it – and then before exiting immigration they put me on that app. It was still a nice trip, even with Jamaicans keeping to curfew. I mean, you see where rules are broken here and there; after all, there are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part, I see we are all in this fighting the pandemic. People are respectful of individual beliefs and opinions. On the history side of it, Ghana and Jamaica share more than we know and we, the musicians, are helping to show this through our collaborations.
2. So, you’ve never been to the island for the purpose of vacation alone?
It’s short visits; well, most of the time, with a packed schedule of work. I never been on vacation as a casual visitor, but there are places that I have seen and heard of in Negril and Ocho Rios that I would want to go to. One day when this coronavirus thing has died down, I will take my family – my wife, who is a doctor, and my children, my daughter, who is about to turn four, and my boy, who is two years old, who are currently being homeschooled in Ghana.
3. How do you balance your personal life as a public and global figure?
It is what life is made of; growing older, I mean you have to choose to get more responsible, and a lot of people do not understand it. When we say we have settled down, it doesn’t mean you stop moving, but you settle. Things are just put in different perspective to be the man you want to be; you have to put things in the right place. When you’re young the room is scattered about, but now you know to put what needs to go into the wardrobe, into the wardrobe; and what needs to go in the freezer, into the freezer. And with a lot of lessons and experiences to strengthen you, yes, because what is life without mistakes, and what is love without genuine mistakes? And I am a big believer in doing the right thing, I am responsibly married with two children and it is a beautiful purpose for living. I have looked back and wondered what was my purpose, but now, every time I think about what I do and who I am, I look at my purpose.
4. Who is the better cook, you or your wife?
That’s 100 per cent my wife. While in Jamaica, Buju Banton treated me to some niceness. The first time I came to Jamaica, I tasted fish [tea]… or [I] think it was chicken soup, but either way it was good; ackee and salt fish and rice and peas, too, but I think I am super used to my African dishes. Fufu, palm-nut soup and the peanut butter soup served with banku (a corn and cassava dough cooked in hot water). When I am travelling, I miss them. We need to get these dishes back in Jamaica!
5. Would you say you are spiritual or more strategic in the way you manage your music career?
Well, both. God is at the head of everything. Because of Him I had a great 2020. I am a very spiritual person – see in my song Putuu, which means ‘Pray until the unexpected unravels’ — I don’t know if it was because of the pandemic, but I find I pray a lot more, and for this freestyle production I was singing in tongues for most of it. I continue in the chorus motivating people in the Ga language to solemor which means ‘pray’, in the chorus, and right now we are praying for the crisis to subside so we all can get back into full action. As musicians, we still have to be creative while sending conscious messages. On the strategic side, my album is still very fresh, with singles Nominate, featuring Keri Hilson, and Activate with Davido doing excellently, and so the next album is en vogue. It may be mostly singles this year, and we’re starting with 1GAD dropping today. I’ve said it, I am a true believer of God’s divine purpose for mankind … from conception to inception to conclusion. Music is a spiritual journey. Even though we may be trendy and fashionable, we must still promote the consciousness of it and do that consciously.