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Music of Friday, 24 December 2010

Source: Hi Newspaper

Kojo Antwi: I Have Not Spent Xmas With My Family For The Past 19 Years

Just a year on the low side of two decades of entertaining Ghanaians on Christmas eve, music maestro Kojo Antwi says: “My 19th edition would be extra memorable”

To reveal why, perhaps he only needs to tell us about 'the first five minutes', since he thinks “that's what makes my every 24th December gig unique”.

So whether he's dropping from the overhead lighting bars; cracked out of a giant shell; riding on a sparkling white horse; appears in a boxing ring with Freddy Meiwey; whisked from under the stage on a romantic bed with the ex-president, J.J Rawling's daughter; or being hauled on stage by eight strange Chinese (as in the 2009 edition), Kojo would always leave a statement on the minds of Dec. 24 die-hards (me not excluded), whether he has a new album to perform or not.

At his Airport residence, he spends 4 hours with Hi's Verus Nartey in an interview initially meant to exclusively discuss December 24, 2010, turning into a typical probe of the music industry. We bring you the first part this week. [Second part in Hi January 12, 2010 edition]

Hi: You just said you have not celebrated Xmas with your family for the past 19years; that's like a lifetime, what do you mean by that?

Kojo: You know I produce December 24 by myself and that entails a lot of work. Preparation for December 24 gigs start about 45days prior. This means until December 25, I would be on the road until I

have made families of my fans satisfied. I've gotten so used to it that if I don't do December 24 in a given year, I'm going to be sick.

Hi: But you didn't fall sick in 2002 when you did not do December 24 Concert; but Daddy Lumba did?

Kojo: That year, you'd realize I was equally exhausted because I had to produce Daddy Lumba on December 24th. Apart from that year, I have always done my concert except on one occasion when the National Theater was closed down for renovation, and so I had to do December 24 in Kumasi.

Hi: Speaking of the National Theatre, have you not overdone the place, why not try a bigger space say, the Stadium or Independence Square?

Kojo: I have checked all the venues and places that can be turned into venues and I'm sad to report to you that I'm yet to find a suitable place. There's nothing I haven't done at the National Theater but then again where else would have the right environment, acoustically. I hate performing too far from my audience because it doesn't make me feel right on the stage, and that's why I haven't tried the stadium, I know I can fill the stadium having done this for 19 years. The Accra Int. Conference Centre can take a little more people that the National Theater but one can't compare the two because of the lighting bars, stage space, backstage, dressing rooms and even the orchestra pit, etc, making one have quite better options at the National Theater. I tried the Accra Mall in 2009 when Ofori Amponsah was using the Theater on December 24. Maybe, I will try the Oxford Street at Osu on my 20th anniversary.

Hi: The theme for this year's concert is 'Rock the Planet'. Judging by your rehearsals, the 24th December Magic may be in

the theme.

Kojo: Probably. For the first time, I will be doing what is popularly known as “copyright”. When I started in the band, I used to perform songs of other major bands/musicians. Occasionally when I'm in Europe, I do lots of such performances. But I don’t do that here. At 'Rock the Planet', one would see me perform some of the biggest tunes that have rocked the planet in our generation. Talk of my mentor, Bob Marley's “One Love, Jon Legend's 'Imagination', the Stevie Wonders, Michael Jacksons…And Kojo Antwi's 'Nkomode', 'Dadie Anomaa' etc.

Hi: This year you have a big sponsor in the name of Vodafone. Why has it taken you 19 years to attract a major sponsor to a concert brand we consider bigger than any in the industry (may be, after Ghana Music Awards).

Kojo: Interestingly, it might be that we were not taking the right marketing/ approach or some of these big brands thought Kojo Antwi was too big to be approached. I must commend Vodafone for their interest in helping sustain our music industry and culture for that matter. Vodafone sponsored 4Syte Music Video awards and I have no doubt they will do even better in future. When you talk of Vodafone in the U.K, it is huge and they know the value of music.

Hi: Speaking of Vodafone (and a telecom outfit for that matter); let's clear this once. Did you demand that Glo paid One million Ghana Cedis before you endorse the brand? Rumour is that they thought that figure could sign 15 artistes hence dropped you. Also, were you approached by MTN? Do you see your future with Vodafone? Are we going to see December 24 painted all red'?

Kojo: A very loaded question, indeed. Yes, Glo approached me. But I don't remember demanding GHC1M. Not to say, that's beyond my charge. Dealing with endorsement, I, of all people should know the risk involved. I remember asking for specific demands including creating a special music catalogue on that network (if they came), so my fans could go there and listen to all my albums, but not put a few Kojo Antwi songs in a big sea of other products. Also, I asked that December 24th concert be sponsored automatically by that brand because, commercially it would be difficult for another company to sponsor my December 24th Concert, knowing I'm fully branded. MTN did not approach me to endorse the brand; the discussion was rather about MTN wanting to celebrate/honour me.

For Vodafone, they are only sponsoring my 2010 concerts. I'm not sure of the future with Vodafone. Yes, we will brand the hall red, but not the stage area because with every Dec. 24 gig, there are specific concepts that we wouldn't like to be disturbed; aside that sponsoring brands (like Vodafone) may also have specific brand rules to adhere to.

HI: When I mentioned an interview with you on Hi Newspaper page on Facebook, many wanted to know your relationship with Yvonne Nelson, and what you think about the direction of our young musicians of today.

Kojo: I'm sure they were asking because of Yvonne's appearance in my video, “Adiepenaa”. When I decided to do a video for that song, I wanted a strong character who could interpret the song better. I picked Yvonne because I saw that character in her and when she was approached she was very professional. She would be on set prompt plus it took the director less effort to get what we wanted. It is so sad the media is bashing her now for her problems with the movie authorities.

Speaking of young musicians, I see huge potential in Sakordie. He may not have won the 2010 MAMAs but I know he will get there soonest. His pace, taste and style of rhythm; and has unique lyrics that everyone can relate to, but not everyone (musician) can do.

Hi: On the December 24 show proper, you have a surprise female artiste from Uganda. Also, V.I.P, Nana Yaa, Efya and Jon Gemaine are all performing. Why else do you think this year's would be your best so far?

Kojo: That's not all; I have a surprise performance with another local female artiste. Also, you have to wait to see what Jon Gemain is planning to dish out to Ghanaians with live band for the first time and you would say he is wasting his time on TV. I may have had bigger names in previous editions but I can say this very one may be my best so far”.

Tickets to Kojo Antwi Dec. 24 at the National Theater were released Tuesday at GHc65 for the V.I.P (ground floor) and GHc45 for the balcony. Both entitle entrants to free drinks. We hear there are unadvertised V.V.I.P tickets for Ghc100, which attract even special treat- including front row seat and unlimited drinks.

In a tour format, the 13-album superstar has seven big concerts scheduled as follows: Takoradi, Akroma Plaza (18th. Dec.), Accra (Dec. 24), Miklin Hotel, Kumasi (Dec. 25), Hotel Marjoriey, Tema (Dec. 26), C. N. C Sunyani (Jan 1, 2011) and Vision Hotel, Berekum (Jan. 2, 2011).

[Hi finds out during a secret rehearsal that the female artiste Kojo was referring to is Becca. In the final part of the interview, we move away from December 24 and ask him what five things he thinks

authorities should do to change the direction of Ghana music for the better, plus what legacy he's leaving behind. He has a music school/ recreational center for young folks who want to learn to play the instrument, coming soon. Plus he thinks who ever forms the next Government of Ghana must create a full Ministry for the entertainment industry. All in the final part of Verus' Interview with Kojo Antwi in the January 12, 2011 edition of Hi]