There are two nations that are as inseparable from Afrobeats as it’s rhythms: Nigeria and Ghana.
These two countries, along with West African artists in the UK, gave birth to a genre that is now a global cultural export. And whilst we love to lift up and celebrate our Nigerian singers, songwriters and producers, it’s also gracious to acknowledge our Ghanaian cousins.
One of the Ghanaian musicians that has been a longstanding contributor to the Afrobeats scene is artist and producer Myx Quest. From his beginnings as a recording engineer in London, he has gone on to produce with a host of big name artists, including Solange and Wiley. His debut production album The Q Overdue received support from BBC Radio 1 and cemented him early on as a producer to watch.
As his career has progressed, Myx has explored music creation outside of solely producing. He was the artist-producer of the hit single Tingi Ningi, which featured Kelvyn Boy, Angel and Kimarne and premiered on Capital Xtra, one of the UK’s leading music radio stations.
Now, having completed his Bachelor of Music Degree in Composition, Myx is looking to take his artistry even further, incorporating the cinematic and dramatic into his work.
With his latest single No Apologies making waves since its release last month, we spoke to Myx Quest about the unique features of Nigerian and Ghanaian Afrobeats, balancing life and work during a global pandemic and how working with Mathew Knowles inspired his own business endeavours.
First of all, 2020 has been a mad year for all of us! How have you been coping with the challenges this year has brought?
It definitely has been a very unpredictable year so I’ve just been manoeuvring and adapting through it, that’s been my coping method and it’s working out ok.
You’ve been a prolific music producer and songwriter since the beginning of your career. Who have been some of your favourite artists to work with?
Wow, there are so many amazing artists I’ve had the pleasure of working with who’ve all brought totally different studio experiences…
For instance with Solange, Sarkodie, Wiley, Kelvyn Boy I hardly recall them writing anything on paper, they just go into the vocal booth, vibe out and create that way whereas say for instance with M.anifest is very intentional in his method.
Artists like Haidara and Lylo Gold bring an amazing experience from a songwriting and vocal production perspective.
Meanwhile artists like Angel who also produce music are cool to do remote sessions or even just record they’re parts themselves and send them right back for me to work on and that requires a level of trust and musical connection.
You’ve based yourself between London and Accra – do you find it easy to balance your life between these two cities?
It’s definitely not easy to find the right balance, especially now with all of the Covid restrictions and unpredictability of flights, border closures etc. But I have to just keep it moving as I always say!
As well as your music career, you’re also a successful business owner and entrepreneur. What inspired you to create Qirv Ltd?
Honestly one of the business models I’ve always been inspired by is the Virgin Group of companies, mainly because of the vast diversity of various industries under their umbrella such as Music, Aviation, Banking / Finance etc. Sir Richard Branson has always been bold about entering different industries and has still been able to keep the branding and integrity of Virgin clear and consistent. That’s goals right there!
Did your key role in the launch of Music World Entertainment International influence the way you approached your own business ventures?
Absolutely… It was an absolute honour to work with Mathew Knowles and the team, I learnt so much, particularly of how much it takes behind the scenes to achieve success in the music industry…
One thing I’ll always remember is how he would go into major label meetings representing Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams and would fight to make sure the marketing budget had the biggest possible pot. He would always try his best to divert and secure any possible funds but saying “put that into marketing instead.”
That’s where I learn the full power and importance of marketing, advertising and promotional budgets. I also learnt about the importance of the classification of artists’ genres and how that can completely shape an artist’s career… for instance just being tagged as Pop on a DSP versus RnB will completely expose that artist to completely different audiences which can impact negatively or positively.
You recently completed your BA Hons in Composition. How have your studies affected your musical style and process?
I went back to University to specifically study Composition which covered Orchestration, Conducting, Composing etc. in order to enhance my music production and writing. Though I was already a musician playing keyboards / piano I wanted to take my knowledge further. I’ve also always wanted to work with orchestras confidently and be able to fully read and write music as I believe it allows me as a creative to connect with other genres such as Classical music which I am also very influenced by as you will hear more in some of my music.
What was the inspiration behind your latest single, No Apologies?
No Apologies initially started with myself and M.anifest writing in my studio in London… I wrote some chord progressions which M.anifest then wrote to in the studio… Later that day B4Bonah also came to the studio as M.anifest called him to come through (I hadn’t met him yet) and he came with a local vibe which I felt was very unique and unapologetic. As M.anifest’s verse had referred to No Apologies and it really stood out and B4Bonah’s verse was unapologetic in itself, I wanted to elaborate on that point so I called Kimarne to later come to the studio to write and focus on that concept of being unapologetic about life. He then wrote the chorus and his verse based on that direction.
I then came up with the video concept with Creative Director Viennty within which we wanted to fully translate the No Apologies theme by making it bold, vibrant, colourful and more importantly celebrating our African culture in a fun way. In addition, at the time there was a lot happening globally with Black Lives Matter so we included our representation and support of that visually which Video Director Dego enhanced. I then also commissioned award winning spoken word artist Rhyme Sonny to write a speech about the concept which we used in the video.
Ghanaian artists have laid the foundation of Afrobeats music alongside Nigerian artists. What differences and similarities in the music from both countries stand out to you?
I feel sonically I can instantly tell the difference and that’s a great thing. While the Naija style Afrobeats clearly has its influence from previous genres such as Fuji and Afrobeat (by Fela Kuti), the Ghanaian Afrobeats has influences from High Life and Hip Life music which originated there. In addition, they also now influence each other, so Ghanaian Afrobeats influences Naija Afrobeats and vice versa.
There’s also a difference in the rhythm and core beat pulse which is quite interesting but that’s hard to describe in words… I could explain it clearer by playing or even clapping the different beat rhythms or even writing out the notation in music notes on a stave. However there are still a lot of similarities in terms of instrumentation, ie very similar instruments are used to create both sounds whether live or studio programmed, the tempos and lyrical content are also quite similar generally.
Have you got any plans for the rest of the year and beyond?
So the plan is to put out one more track this year so I need to get to that wrapped up… There are also a few other tracks I’ve done for other artists which will be on their own projects coming out this year so should be a busy rest of the year regarding new music God willing!