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    M3NSA: The Man & the Mangoes

    by accradust.com
    posted Saturday, 15 May 2010 09:28| 1 Comments

    “Mensa is back again/ To drive the world insane/ Everything I do is a result of hard work/ I don’t ever complain…”

    Agyuma is similar to the Musician who wrote it. The bass-heavy track may take cues from Lil’ Wayne’s hit, A Milli, but Mensa twists any American influences into something distinctly Ghanaian, with local references including taxi drivers and ‘Dangbeleshie‘ (a scissor kick).

    Over a decade has lapsed since hits like ‘Bra Yen Sa’ and ‘Bibini Ba’ made Mensa one of hip-life’s early stars. He has spent much of that time abroad, but Mensa feels the distance has actually strengthened his music:

    “Being away, I actually started appreciating Ghanaian music all over again, going into music Ghanaians were making in the 60s and 70s, paying attention to my Dad’s music.

    He’s a lecturer in music and he’s always been about palm wine highlife, traditional music, folklore and things like that. Now I’m understanding the value of it all. I’m trying to inculcate it into my music. If you listen to chords and progressions in palm wine highlife, it’s pure jazz. Yet it’s still original and unique.”

    Mensa feels Ghanaian music – hiplife in particular – is in transition at the moment: “Ghanaian musicians are very intelligent. They can talk about anything no matter how plain it is and still make it artistic and enjoyable.

    But it’s important to be able to make music that ten years or twenty years down the line, I can speak to my son and say “this is what I was doing when I was your age and I still think it has some relevance… a place in history.” You don’t want to just make generic crap, but we seem to be into that. It’s a phase most industries go through. We have so much to offer though. The American thing has been done. What else have we got to bring to the table?”

    “My music, for now… let’s just call it music from Ghana. It has a lot of jazz, soul, hip hop influences, but its essentially Ghanaian music.”

    While he’s been away, Mensa has been popping in and out of the country working on his album, No. 1 Mango Street. He says it is dedicated to Ghana: “I’ve done the whole European thing and America and all that and I just feel like I want to represent Ghana in a different light.

    To make music valuable again. Musicians don’t realise what their potential is, especially coming from Ghana.

    We have a sound that the rest of the world has not been privy to. I think most musicians now are making music for the next quick buck. That’s why everybody’s jumping on this hiplife generic sound, but there’s so much more they can tap into… Living here and seeing how people react to authentic music from Ghana or from Africa.

    People hear Fela Kuti and they are like “Wow! This is actually beautiful music.” How come we don’t hear enough Fela on the radio in Ghana? It makes me appreciate the music all over again and I try to take a page out of that book and bring it into my work.”

    Mensa named the album after the only address he has ever lived in Ghana. “I have the fondest memories of growing up there. As a teenager leaving, coming back home. Leaving the country, coming back home. Going to boarding school, coming back home.

    And then as an adult, going back to the street to see how much it has changed and how much it has not changed. It’s pretty much all my influences and experiences growing growing up there and everything around it.”

    No. 1 Mango Street features classic Ghanaian band, Osibisa, as well as Nigerian singer Ndidi (to whom he’s married) and Samini: “Man, he’s great to work with. The texture of his voice. To be a producer and an artist, to me it’s such a blessing. Recording his vocals, his work ethic.

    The guy is focused, man. It’s an inspiration to me. I kinda took him out of his comfort zone with that song.”

    Mensa’s journey has been a long one. Today, he is a complete artist who rhymes, sings and produces his own work as well as those of other artists like regular conspirator and fellow Adisadel College old boy, Wanlov the Kubolor. It all started when he started playing piano in church at the age of nine.

    His first musical memory was a classical recital gone wrong. He had practiced for weeks but once he hit the stage, he could not remember how to play. He started and stopped ten times and his best friend even joined him on stage to offer her support.

    Most people might have given up, but strangely this experience made Mensa more determined than ever to show people his potential. He eventually played the song. He is philosophical about the incident: “I think I had all the bad experiences when I started… got them out of the way.”


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