She has a great voice and her performance on stage is comparable to Angelique Kidjo and the late Brenda Fassie. Sherifa Osman Gunu is an artiste who can’t be ignored. The energy with which she performs on stage puts her in a league of her own. The fact that her songs are indigenous also makes her style worthy of praise especially beyond the borders of Ghana.
While on stage, Sherifa tends to be lost in her performance, but in the comfort of her home she’s your average homely wife and a mother. Asked whether she would trade her role as a mother with the glitz and glamour of showbiz, she responded “having a baby is a blessing; your job going on well is a blessing. I see both as a blessing. I don’t think my job will stop me from having a baby. Right now when I get another one, I will thank God”. Sherifa says with the strong family ties she has, her siblings are always around to take care of her daughter when she has to travel abroad for a performance. Contrary to the lifestyle in entertainment where female performers postpone child birth until much later in their life, Sherifa thinks this trend may not be a good idea as everything in life has its time. “I wouldn’t advice any female artiste to say let me put this one aside for now. If it comes, receive it in the name of God. Without the baby, there will be no breast milk and no woman will have a baby without breast milk. So when you have the baby, God will double your ways in your job as well”, she disclosed.
As a performer who has only had her first child, Sherifa has learned some valuable lessons from motherhood. Sharing these lessons with me, she mentioned that she had learned to be more patient, to love people she has never known before and to be more careful. “Taking care of a baby you learn all these things. Even if you never had love in you, you will learn to love because when the baby falls down you feel hurt. It is a very good experience, and this love extends to other people”. Sherifa said her husband, who is also her manager, makes her life as a performer bearable. Osman, her husband, studied business while in school and so is able to cross all the t’s and dot the i’s when managing her. Unlike his wife who is outgoing, Osman is a very quiet person and also kind-hearted. He gives good advice and equally receives advice from her. He also accepts good and bad times in life, she added. For Sherifa, their life together couldn’t have been any better.
Talking about the uniqueness of her songs, she said the fact that her songs were mainly sung in the ‘Dagbanli’ dialect made her stand out. She added that “if you find yourself in Tamale and you listen to the radio, the songs you hear makes you think that you are in Mali or some other place”. On the topics she normally chose for her songs she said the theme that cut across all the songs she had composed was peace. “If you listen to all the songs that I compose it is about peace.
Whether the song is hip-hop or high life you will hear the word ‘Yum yi taba’ (love one another), and this is because I really mean it”, she stated. Apart from singing about peace in her songs, Sherifa says she likes to sing about different aspects of humanity.
In much the same way as I had seen and heard Angelique Kidjo passionately talk about humanity and politics, Sherifa was passionate when she spoke about the need to respect and embrace people from different ethnic, religious and political affiliations. She said, “many people come to the city from all over Ghana to hassle. So when you see them do not think they are not human beings because they are carrying things or pulling trucks. No! They are very important. An example is the boys who gather scrap. Now Ghana is busy building big houses, but nobody has bothered to ask where the iron rods and aluminum comes from. The scrap builds mother Ghana, and it comes from these boys. They don’t come to carry guns, they come to sweat and use their strength! We should accept one another as one people”, she stated.
Nobody will doubt that Sherifa’s on-stage performances portray her as a woman who is made of steel. But away from the spot lights, Sherifa admits she’s the kind of person who is easily touched by good and bad things, and that she’s sometimes reduced to tears by just watching movies that show people to be suffering. “It is shameful that sometimes I will be in the middle of people watching a movie and at the end my face will be full of tears”, she said. All this makes her believe that she was born for a purpose, and that this purpose is for her to use her talents to bring about peace and to bring people together.
Being a talented singer and performer, I asked her whether artistes who had just one of these talents would be at a disadvantage. Sherifa mentioned that all artistes were unique in their own way, and that it was very possible for people to enjoy the performances of artistes who may not perform in the manner that she would normally do on stage. She believes that in show business, there are those who are naturally talented and those who have to learn in order to deliver to an audience. “I don’t write my music down. I compose straight. Even in the studio, if I come to record and I’m asked to write it on paper, I become confused. I just like to sing from memory and I never get the lyrics wrong”, she revealed. Her advice to young people who aspire to be successful performers is that they become passionate about the industry, and not desire to be in it because of the glamour and fame.
Sherifa’s recent stage performance at the just ended Miss. Ghana event had a pleasant twist when she featured an all-female band. Asked what may have influenced her choice, she says “they are always in the system and yet nobody uses them. I hardly see them on stage performing. I like to prove the point that women are equally good and must not be rejected. Our best performance is yet to come”.
In the business of showbiz, things don’t always go well for the artiste during a stage performance. A glitch could be anything from poor sound quality to some personal emotional issue which affects the mood of the performer while on stage. For Sherifa, her moment came quite recently when she had to perform with Sarkodie at the National Youth Achievers Awards event. The feedback from the microphone did little to help. She had earlier seen a clip of four innocent Nigerian students being burnt alive, and this didn’t help her mood either. Sherifa apologises to those who were at the event as the performance she put up that day may not have reflected her true self on stage.
Sherifa is due to launch another album, and says it will be on the issue of peace. Her aim this time around is to preach peace in Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire and Sudan and to extend this mission to all other countries that lack peace. As far as collaborations with other artistes in Africa are concerned, she desires to collaborate with the afro pop singer and songwriter from Mali, Salif Keita. She says the singer has influenced her life since childhood and so she hopes to work with him someday. As one who has a record of singing peace songs, it is her hope that the impending elections will be peaceful. She said “I will seek any platform from any political party to sing my song to the millions of people they will gather. I am not coming to perform to support any candidate; I am interested in performing for the people to deliver my message of peace after which I will move away. NDC, NPP, CPP whichever party, I would advice their followers to love their parties very well, but on December 7th, they should make the elections peaceful”, she concluded.