"I want to show that I am African and proud"
Yogendra Ahimi is a folk-root musician from Ghana. Born as Isaac Yaw Owusu Ahimi he later changed his name to Yogendra. His “yogic” name as he explains it. He was 17 when he bought his first guitar, it did not even have strings. Yogendra has though since then managed to compose his own songs. His new album African Child is about his childhood and his present life.
How do you feel about your upcoming album African Child?
Well, I feel great about it. It’s my first album so I’m of course a bit nervous a as well. But I feel that it had to be done. You can’t truly express your mind unless you voice it out.
You sing in quite many languages. Is there a reason for it?
I sing in Twi, Ga and English. I love to express my Ghanaian culture as the proud Ghanaian I am. It’s about making your roots known. Not trying to hide anything. Language play a big part in this process. We are so influenced by foreign culture that we forget our own. Instead of letting others tell me what and where I’m from, I myself show who I am. I think that I can show my roots even if I infuse my mother tongue with English.
Why are roots so important for you?
I want to show that I am African and proud. You know, many Africans feel bad when they compare the standards of living here to Europe’s. They wish they were Europeans. But you can’t choose your roots. Being African means a lot to me. We have so many different cultures that we should cherish, not being embarrassed about.
Where do you find your inspiration?
From so many things. Other songs, my life, what I have been through so far. Many people inspire me too, both in good and bad ways. It cuts across.
I grew up listening to so many different genres and found much joy in highlife, boogah highlife, palm wine music, reggae, country and many many other genres. My dad had all the records from Kwaw Mensah, ET Mensah, Bob Marley , Eric Donaldsons, Daddy Lumba. They were so many I can’t even mention all. These artists express themselves so well to rhythms that are danceable but also easy relaxing to.
I want to do the same with my music but it’s challenging. It’s hard to put down your feelings when you have to revive them again. It’s not easy at all. Especially with the bad memories, it brings me down. As if I’m feeling them all over again, you see. It’s painful but also challenging. But I think that it’s necessary to let other know that they are not the only one in this situation and that they aren’t the first to feel like this.
When did you start playing music?
I bought my first guitar when I was 17 years old. I worked extra to save some money. I couldn’t afford a new guitar then, you know. I saved every coin. I used to closely look at my money and ask myself if it really was mine, hahaaha. Being a young boy trying to make ends meet, it’s difficult. I bought the guitar second hand by a man who imported goods from overseas. I think I paid 10-15 cedis. It had no strings and pegs so I had to get that too. But I was so happy.
What does music mean for you?
It’s my life, my breathing and all about me. I can’t live without it.
What do you do when you don’t play music?
Well for now, nothing else. I’m always at the studio. I have no life except music. But I like painting and writing poems. I also practice Sahaja yoga here in Accra. I live with my mother so she cooks everything for me haahaa. It gives me a lot of time to work with my music.
Since this interview African Child has been released on iTunes under a new title, Hakuna Matata.