Music is a universal language that Kojo Antwi speaks fluently. As one of the 2010 nominees for Best International Act at this year’s BET Awards, the Ghanaian musician is a natural when it comes to making music. “Ghana is a nation with a lot of different rhythms and growing up you can’t escape that,” says Kojo, sitting comfortably inside the Social Media Lounge at the BET Awards. “In Africa, you are bombarded with different rhythms from different tribes. I’ll say that I didn’t find music, but music found me.”
Dubbed “the Maestro” by his fans, Kojo is the type of artist who takes his art seriously. He calls his art “a duty,” something that has a higher purpose. “We are mainly storytellers. For me, as a West African artist, that’s our communication. At home, our grandmothers and grandfathers would tell us stories where from that we would learn what not to do and what you can do. We sing songs to elevate, educate and entertain.”
Today, Kojo has traveled all the way from his country in Africa to enjoy his first time at the BET Awards, a show that he is looking forward to seeing. Surprised when he hears that Prince will be performing, Kojo says he grew up listening to Prince, and is looking forward to seeing Queen Latifah, whose movies he watches frequently.
Though he is from Ghana, Kojo is very familiar with Western culture, and the American hip-hop of today. Actually, he draws an interesting parallel between hip hop and what he believes is a deeper connection to the motherland. He explains, “you see, the African culture is where lyrics are very important. As Black people, we used music during slavery. When we were not allowed to read, we were allowed to sing, and we communicated through music. Back in Africa, when a king dies, you just don’t go out there to announce it; you take a drum, beat it and from the language you know something has happened. I see that in rap music. There is a lot of code and language where you have to be in that setting to understand what is going on.”
For Kojo, there are many similarities between his music and American hip-hop. But with hip-hop’s recent focus on commercialization, Kojo points out the distinct difference between the two, understanding that with great music, comes great responsibility. He explains, “Here, record companies make you feel like it’s all about you and what you can get. In Africa, a musician has a duty to the community.”