The idea that an artist can’t possibly fit into many roles has been the subject of long-standing debate in the entertainment industry. Mostly, actors who make a transition to film directing are greeted with harsh reviews by critics.
Recently, when the music producer and engineer, Appiah Dankwah (Appietus), was featured on the track and music video of ‘muje baya’ by 5Five, many told him to stick to his comfort zone, although Appietus had been nursing this singing talent for a long time. The profile of Okyeame Quophi as an acclaimed musician, radio presenter, television personality, composer, music video producer/ director and entrepreneur perhaps puts this debate to rest.
As the name Okyeame (linguist) suggests, Daniel Quophi Amoateng also known as Okyeame Quophi says he knew very early in his life that he was cut out for all aspects of communication and entertainment. When asked the reasons for which he took a break from his once blossoming music career he replied “I had my own focus. I had my own vision. I told myself that when I got to about 30 I was just gonna leave active stage work because it is just too tedious and it doesn’t let you stay at one place. You’re constantly on the road looking for the next bread”. Okyeame Quophi’s decision to rest his vocal cords and assume a more stable life paid off when, at 30, he got married to Nana Akua (Stacey) with whom he has three children. He has also founded Emklan Entertainment Unlimited record label and Emklan Motion Pictures.
In many ways, Okyeame’s response to my question suggests that for most successful artists, there comes a time when they must decide whether to continue living the life of a “gypsy” or rather settling down to a more quieter and stable life. Those who choose to explore other talents would obviously end up more accomplished like Okyeame Quophi. This decision, I guess, is a matter of choice and focus.
Since retiring from active music, Okyeame Quophi has produced/directed and edited countless music videos for the likes of Nana Acheampong, Ofori Amponsah, Joe Frazier, Kofi Nti, Kofi B., Grace Ashie, Reggie Zippie and many other artists. For one who says he stumbled on the techniques of creating music videos, Okyeame Quophi seems to have taken this talent very seriously. “I always say that I almost stumbled into video. A friend of mine actually made me realise that the interest was there just that I hadn’t sparked it yet”, Okyeame said. I have been privileged to work with Okyeame Quophi in television and happen to know of his strong Pan-Africanist views and beliefs. When I asked whether Afro-centric themes and concepts were mostly reflected in Ghanaian music videos and films, Okyeame answered in the negative saying “We’re all trying to be Europeans. I’m part of the problem so I know where to start on the solutions.
Being part of the problem is not my fault. We were all brought up in a particular way and our thinking as Africans has been neutralized. Now we’re thinking more global than African ”. He suggested that the music video business was just like any business and that the director of a video was often compelled to satisfy the demands of his clients. Okyeame said in many cases, the artiste would approach the producer/ director with a basic concept, and if the producer wasn’t able to influence the artiste with his African ideals, then the producer would just have to carry on with the wishes of the artiste.
He added that DSTV and Channel O had done well by encouraging Africans to show what Africa was about in their native videos, but said “it’s not holding because not too many people are interested in that. It takes a few people who are conscious and conscientised to be able to produce material like that. On the whole, our presentations are much more European than African. Funny enough, all the international awards go to people who are conscious of their environment, but not too many people realise that this is why they won or excelled. We’re growing so we’ll get there”. For his part, Okyeame Quophi tries to artistically reflect African themes in his videos by the use African symbols, locations, dance routines and appropriate costume. However, he says “the music will give you images in your mind and you, as a technical person, will have to convert those images to let people see what you’re thinking”.
Currently, Okyeame Quophi hosts ‘The Drive’ on Rainbow radio and also doubles as Programmes Manager. Talking radio, he said “I see a lot of the standards dropping, but then again what I’m interpreting as drops in standards could also be the ‘news age’. I quite remember you could sit on the radio, and you had to be too careful with your choice of words and even to communicate the easiest of things you had to go about it in a particular way. But now it’s like just sit there and speak your mind, and people like crazy than careful”.
Okyeame’s general view is that radio has changed for the better. If given an opportunity to make changes in the industry, he said he would try to establish a clear distinction between a radio presenter and a DJ. “People get them mixed up all the time although today some radio DJs have married that with the presentation. If they have good communication skills, they play music, they put it in the mix just like the nightclub would do and also read LPMs. I feel that clear differentiation should be there; that this is a presenter and this is a DJ. DJs don’t even talk. They just make sure you have ‘x’ amount of music to satisfy you, and presentation comes with its own yap and this should be clear”.
Another area of the creative arts and communication that Okyeame Quophi has been heavily involved in has been the scoring of music for films. In this regard, he has created a theme and background music for filmmakers including Kwaw Ansah, Abdul Sallam Mumuni, Leila Djansi and many others.
On the question of how easy or difficult it was to be married to another tv personality, his wife, Nana Akua (Stacey, of Music Music on TV 3), he said their relationship was “the easiest he’d come across in the world. Nana Akua understands me. She’s there for me. Doing hiplife and all this hipop comes with many challenges. As you may have seen on television young girls looking for a break, some very vulnerable would virtually throw themselves at your mercy. Nana knows this, but she’s able to leave me like a loose dog because I think she knows the kind of person that I am.
I exercise a lot of restraint and I have a lot of self-respect so she’s a lot more comfortable. Sometimes we start the production around 11 pm and you’re back at the house around 4 am. She’s coped with this for almost 10 years”. Okyeame believes that the fact that his wife has also been involved in productions has made her more understanding of the situation. Occasionally, one of his children would ask “Daddy, where were you? I woke up and you were not sleeping”. To this, he would jokingly respond “you’ll grow up”.
Contributing to the debate on whether there was anything wrong with an artist being ‘jack of all trades’, he said “as human beings, we’re very versatile. Certain situations would demand certain actions, and the people that are most successful in this world are the people who don’t question what caused the change, but rather their reaction to the change is what really matters. When need be and you think that there is a new way, you don’t box yourself”. Okyeame Quophi said an example was the case of Appietus who had always been a singer but didn’t have the courage to show the world that he could sing.
He added that the music producer and engineer recently realised that the entertainment industry needed some spicing up, and so he added his spin (‘Appietus Language) to songs thereby carving a nitch for himself and in the process shooting the songs he featured in up the music charts. “This doesn’t make Appietus any less a producer, he’s just adding to himself and this is a natural progression. It doesn’t matter who started the trend. Dr Dre has been a music producer for years, but Dr Dre also has albums. Brian McKnight is a pianist by profession, but he sits and records an album to become an artist. Everybody got to know Mel Gibson as an actor. Look at the fine director that he has become. I don’t see anything wrong with it”, Okyeame Quophi concluded.