By Emmanuel Daraloye
I got fully introduced to the music of Bisa Kdei in January 2023 through his new album, Original. This album comes after years of pockets of collaborations, and singles I had listened to. I became interested after the second spin of the album. I even wrote a review.
Born on March 19, 1986, Ronald Kweku Dei Appiah, better known as Bisa Kdei, grew up in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Since 2013, he has honed his skills, mixing Highlife with such genres as Afrobeats, Hip-hop and R&B. He remains an icon in that genre, and he’s currently taking the sound to international audiences.
Highlife remains Ghana’s cultural export, and artistes like Bisa Kdei have watered the sound in Ghana, with numerous tweaks and infusions, especially since the Afrobeats movement took a journey into the global space.
While on his promotional tour in Los Angeles, USA, I spoke with Kdei about his craft, journey, and plans.
Emmanuel Daraloye: It’s nice to have you here, Bisa Kdei. Congratulations on the release of your album, Original. You are a singer, songwriter, and producer. That’s an arsenal of talents. How have you been able to combine these alluring talents all these years?
Bisa Kdei: It only takes time and dedication to do this. If you love something passionately and it becomes your hobby, turning it into something else becomes very easy.
Daraloye: Original was released recently. Share with us the experience you had making this album.
Kdei: This album is actually different. I had fun creating this masterpiece. Because some of the songs are personal, I dealt with a lot of emotions. I also did a great deal of thinking. I wanted to tell a story, and so it took me some time to come out this way. The vibe was just different. I had to re-record most of the songs because I wrote them a long time ago and had to bring them back to life. I re-recorded others, too, because of the story behind them. I spent a lot of time in the studio, and it took me about four years to finally put everything together. I decided to record in different environments because I wanted something different. Asides the studio, I recorded outside while enjoying some fresh air, in the kitchen, and living room. I also had to travel to different places just to record. But it came out exactly the way I wanted it.
Daraloye: Although you collaborated with other artistes on this album, you were still able to show the listeners how exceptional you are. What factor do you think motivates the type of artistes you feature on a song?
Kdei: Before I write, I think of about two or three artistes I want to be on the song with. I always want tp feel like I’m in the room with another artiste doing it together.
Daraloye: For the new fans who might not know much about your story, how did Bisa Kdei get into music?
Kdei: I grew up listening to a lot of Highlife music. My sister used to sing in church, and my parents loved to sing at home as well. It became natural for me to want to do music. However, I started with rap music because I love rap. It however reached the point where I realised that wasn’t me. I then started singing. Highlife influenced everything.
Daraloye: You mentioned in the opening track, “New Chapter,” about the death of your mother. My sincere condolences. Eight years after her demise, how have you coped? How has her passing influenced your art?
Kdei: I was very close to my mom. The passing of one so close to you isn’t something that you can get away from. You just have to stay strong. I’ve been strong since; yet, there were things I had to talk about. I became a better person. I grew more focused in life and on family. This made me more creative because I now have so much on my mind that I have to share.
Daraloye: “Drink on Me,” your collaboration with Atlético Madrid’s Forward, Memphis Depay, currently rakes impressive figures on streaming platforms. How were you able to create such an iconic track?
Kdei: I’ve always wanted to do something with Memphis ever since he featured me on his album during the pandemic, so I created “Drinks on Me” with the thought of him doing something amazing on it. He didn’t disappoint. We were speaking over the phone when he sent me the verse. I could only wait for the moment of release to see how fans would react to it. The reception has been very great so far.
Daraloye: A concert to celebrate your 10th anniversary is scheduled to be held later this year. How does this make you feel? What should the fans be expecting?
Kdei: Honestly, I feel so great about it. I’m very grateful for how far God has brought me. I’m also grateful to my fans for bringing me this far. It’s going to be an exciting night with me performing hits from 2011. I can’t wait to sing along with my fans.
Daraloye: The scenic visuals for “New Chapter” have garnered positive remarks. Which other track(s) would be having videos off this album?
Kdei: I actually have a few videos to share soon from the album. I’m not done yet. My fans should expect more from me.
Daraloye: With more than a decade of experience in the Ghanaian music industry, how would you describe the experience so far?
Kdei: It’s been tough being a Highlife artist when a lot of people have the idea that the genre is for old folks. Still, once you’re in it, you’re in it. It only gets better with time.
(Listen to Original here.)
Emmanuel Daraloye is Africa’s Most Prolific Freelance Music Critic. He has over 500 album reviews in his archive.