"People are really trying to get their stuff on deck, because the boat is moving and we’re packing people on it and if you don’t come, we’re going to leave."
To borrow some slang from the 1990s, Ghanaian soul singer Efya is “all that.” She’s able to combine the comfort soul of India Arie, the fashion-forward, idea-driven electricity of Janelle Monae, and the pop-R&B ascendancy of Keyshia Cole. Jazzier songs like “Getaway” and “Cigarette” show off her grounded, emotion-filled depth side, while she’s able to fly off the charts as the female counterpart to hit-making male artists like Sarkodie and M.anifest on songs like “I’m In Love With You” and “Asa.”
The debut of her first proper album, Love Genesis, has been long delayed. In our interview, Efya mentioned that she is extremely hopeful for a December release date. We discussed what that album might entail, where she’s come from and where she hopes to go in the future. It involves winning and we’re going to be there rooting from the sidelines.
Which came first, singing or loving soul, jazz, and pop music?
Definitely singing, because I learned to sing in church. It kind of was, like, a lot for me. Everyone was talking about how I had such a different voice. Sometimes I wouldn’t go to church because it was a lot of pressure, but I loved singing. My mom helped me a lot because she exposed me to a lot of stuff. As I was grew up, I started to figure out how I wanted to sound.
When did you decide music was going to become your career?
After going to university. I went to school as a professional musician. At that time I was in a group, so it was much more work. I attended The University of Ghana. It’s not a music school, but there’s a music department where you can learn. And it’s in Accra, the capital.
Do you write your own songs or do you work with people?
I do both, but when I work with people, those are the ones that become the hits. I like that, because that means I can learn from them. I’m not stubborn. I can sit and listen if someone has suggestions, because I believe in growth. How can you learn if you don’t grow?
You do more soulful material, but also pop R&B. How do you navigate both worlds?
In this generation, it’s beautiful that there’s an opportunity to shuffle genres. I’m glad that I can do both and still stay soulful. Because some people go pop and then they never come back. But what I want to be able to do is do soul, but then also pop and reggae and even techno. And that shouldn’t hinder me from singing the way that I want to sing.
How long have you known Sarkodie?
I’ve known Sarkodie for a long time. He went to Legon [The University of Ghana] too, but I didn’t really know him like that. A few years ago, he approached me about working together. We became very close friends. Whenever we do a song together, it becomes a hit!
What’s the energy in the Ghanaian music industry?
Well, everyone is hungry. We are seeing that you can make money and that people can become seriously famous and that your dreams can really come true. So people are really trying to get their stuff on deck, because the boat is moving and we’re packing people on it and if you don’t come, we’re going to leave. Everyone is on their toes and I’m trying to win. Because you can get on Channel O or make it to the EMA’s [MTV Europe Music Awards] and win! It’s beautiful to have the opportunity to show the world that you deserve to be on this platform.
It seems like your album Love Genesis has been set to be released for a while.
I can’t wait. It’s been a long time coming. We’re about to put out a mixtape called This Is Not the Album that’s a collection of the songs I’ve been doing. People didn’t understand why I didn’t have a proper release, because I was just putting out singles. But the mixtape is just going to hold people over until we put out the album.
What can we expect from the album?
It’s called Love Genesis, so there are going to be a lot of love songs. But then there are going to be things on it about what goes along with love, which can be hate or can be pain. It’s the big picture, which becomes the genesis of things. For as long as I have been in the system, I’m just now getting started.
Have you ever dated a musician?
No, no. The boys are scared. They say they’re intimidated, but I don’t know about that.
Did Love Genesis draw from your personal experiences?
Yeah. When you are in school, you fall in love. You break a heart here and there. And you learn as you go. You grow and you learn. All the normal things that girls go through.
Alexis Stephens (@pm_jawn) is a staff writer at MTV Iggy.