Kwami Kafui coined the term artivist. He identifies as an artivist and is recognized as one. When explained, an artivist is “an activist for art.”
His love for the arts was not a direct translation of talent neither was it as a result of some desire to pursue a career as an artist. He realized some time ago that he had a knack for recognizing and appreciating quality art, and helping those who have the gift to produce it.
From writing and directing plays for church to writing and directing songs for musicals, he realized how passionate he was when he saw a friend with immense talent not doing anything about it. “It bothered me,” he said. “Like it gave me sleepless nights. It was a headache for me. I realized I had a passion for the background in the arts, and just making things happen. I make things happen, by God’s grace. I can’t stand when talent that should be seen or heard hides under the rug.”
Kwami graduated from the University of Ghana with degrees in English and Theatre Arts. After his national service, he had a plan. A plan that turned into the Amped Show. This was a show designed by the youth and for the youth, concerning issues the youth would normally not be interested in. His passion for the arts could not allow him to leave out music or poetry, so the Amped Show made room for that. Artistes such as Adomaa, Tronomie and Robin-Huws of whom he had heard years before, were all on this show. Little did he know they would be the building blocks for the record label he heads now.
Vision Inspired Music is a record label in Ghana that has been operating for almost 2 years. It was Evans’ brainchild, built together with longtime friend, Joseph Akwasi, one of his closest friends and the first artiste the label produced – Adomaa. Kwabena Owusu-Adjei, a business developer and close friend of the VI family came on officially as the fourth founder later on.
In his own words, the story behind the name Vision Inspired Music came about when…
“We were discussing as partners and stakeholders, and we were playing with the various ideas and words that fell under what we were trying to do. We are a company that believes in vision, and there’s so many things we see that we believe other people haven’t yet grasped, and won’t, until we show them. We are doing that gradually. So we were playing around a lot with words like Vision, Helm, etc. My partner Joseph Akwasi then came up with the brilliant idea to call it Vision Inspired Music, which would double as VIM! Because we are young people coming with full force, a lot energy and zeal, and so many different great ideas. We are full of VIM and we are coming with VIM! Will this change as we grow older? I doubt it. We will always be young at heart.”
The vison which inspired the label is simple.
“We want to give all forms of music the platform to thrive, especially those of the so-called alternative genres. There’s so much talent in Africa, but not many want to risk exploring their art if it isn’t mainstream, because of course, they have to eat. But if some of us can break through, can change paradigms, can be successful while staying true to the art that comes most comfortably to us, then we show others that it can be done, and that there is indeed room for all of us.”
“I’m not against popular music, I find that people think I am,” Kwami adds quickly, laughing. “Popular music here can be considered dancehall, Afro pop, Afro beats, azonto, etc… and there are artistes and songs I enjoy from these genres. They are not my favourite genres, but I like them. But what I’m looking for is some diversity. We don’t all sound the same, and we all don’t necessarily have the same tastes, so create an environment conducive enough for all forms to thrive, so we have alternatives.”
A big part of VI Music is providing an alternative to what is industry prevalent, and making this ‘alternative’ ascend to recognizable status, enough to be given the respect it deserves, and have the corresponding value attached to the alternative, so the people who create this can actually thrive off it. The label also wants to contribute to a healthier professionalism and general upsurge in quality in the music that’s put out there.
“There are so many levels to music making, and some of the most timeless songs (not all, there are a number that don’t follow this) didn’t just get written and recorded in an hour for example. The best artistes in the world didn’t get to their level by being slack professionals.” Kwami explains, “In as much as art is being made, and how it relies a lot on inspiration and feeling, some level of professionalism is required. It’s a full time job.”
To make sure the company is striving for better every day, VI Music focuses on songwriting and artist development as well. The dream is that they will be among that crop of African creatives pushing the envelope on professionalism in art, and taking quality level to the highest possible level.
“We dream of being a huge and highly regarded record label not only in Ghana but throughout the world. We dream of being approached by top Hollywood studios for music scores to film, soundtracks and sound design. We dream of having our artistes make impact the world over. We dream of the VI family being able to expand to different countries, taking on different talented artistes from there, especially in the alternative scene, and making them blossom. We dream of adding to the wave of the new sound from Africa – a confident, self-aware, unashamed sound. We want to be pioneers of this as well. We dream of our art becoming so influential that, we, as part of a larger collective of new thinking young African creatives, are consulted on policy issues regarding our industry and even further, on how we can use our influence to cause social, political and economic change. We believe the field of the arts has so much power to go beyond the box it’s been placed in. We aren’t MERE entertainers. We have the power to affect thoughts, impact events and change lives through art. It’s a dream to see our influence grow to that point.”
Coming together, collaborating and putting in combined efforts are key things Kwami believes in. He elaborated saying, “Too many outfits want to do things alone. I don’t believe in that. I believe in drawing from each others strengths to push a collective agenda, rather than trying to get the glory or credit individually. Synergy is everything.”
When asked how he felt about the New Age Music and the directions its sound can take, he answered saying,
“There are boundless opportunities for New Age Music.
There is so much creativity, so much more of a sense of daring and bravery, and a growing consciousness of self-awareness and claiming our identity, owning our stories, and quite simply doing our own thing… and it reflects in our music.
Odunsi is an amazing artist and producer doing amazing things, Lindsey Abudei amazes me every time I listen to her album, Paapa’s second project was ahead of its time, Worlasi’s mixtape should be enshrined in our music history… A.I. is on another level… just listening to what some of these guys are doing shows there’s really no limit to where we can go with our new sound and new found expression. I think we should continue to experiment and not be afraid to try new things.”
Conversations about music had no end when we spoke with Kwami. We asked him about the December’s VI Concert, the idea that sparked it, how they fought the odds bring such an event to life and the dream for the concert going forward. Kwami also shared his thoughts on how the label plans on curating a global stage for VI music acts to be seen. Here’s what he had to say.
“Music IS a universal language. In English, Twi, French and many languages there are borrowed words or expressions. They all form part of the language. It’s the same for music. I can still be African and make music that’s African, but take some elements from classical music or trap if the art calls out for it. We can experiment and expand the range of our sound while still being us. Diversity does not mean dilution.
We’ve had an eventful 2 years with regards to the VI Concert. The first year was for Adomaa. We learnt a lot, made associations, figured out how the industry really worked and how to place ourselves in it. The second year was for the other acts, because now we’d learnt something, and we wanted to showcase everyone else, and see the reactions.
Now that we’ve successfully out-doored those we CAN work with for the time being, and have continued to put out content from them, it’s time to properly give the people a full taste of their talents. As a package, the show gives everyone the chance to hear some of their favourite tunes from the year, as well as new material, live on set. They also get to enjoy the show with amazing guest features.
One major bonus for the timing, is that it’s Christmas season and as such, there’s a big festive element. We just want to give people , a very memorable experience and something to savor. The odds as always remain resource based. Finding money to do this. The amount of money we need for our stuff is never at par with the money we make even, so we always have to be creative. But we have made it work, and right now are prepping for a night to remember. Going forward, would like this to be yearly, and to sort of crown the year. Would like to explore different venues, and make it bigger and better each year. As the artistes grow, so do we, and vice versa.”
We present to you Evans Kwami Kafui Offori – a passionate fellow with the world in view and at heart.
“I love words, I love film, I love music, I love theatre, I love dance (though I can’t dance to save my life). I believe life would be such a beautiful picture if we painted it with these things every day. I believe in God and purpose, that everyone is here for a reason, and that there’s enough space for every single person to flourish in their field once they work hard on their gift. I believe in spreading positivity. There’s already enough negativity in the world, spread through the media especially, and since art is where I find my solace, I don’t want that negativity to seep in. I believe in the inherent capabilities of every single human being, that given the right conditions, the potential that can be uncovered is unthinkable, and that endless possibilities can be achieved once this happens. No one is better than another. We just need to be given the right environment to flourish from the very beginning. I also believe in the power of art, as a type of alternative way, a third way, to achieve social, economic and political change/development. I don’t have anything personal against politicians and economists. I only believe these systems to be flawed. I believe art however, can offer another way to get where we want as a nation, in tandem with the politicians, economists and everyone once the right structures are devised to suit us as a people, and represent who we are, where we are from and where we want to go.”
Follow the sounds of Kwami’s vision :