How did you discover music and how did you start playing?
I started with music when I was very young – I was 11. I was born in Kumasi, Ghana, West Africa. My mother had a pito (traditional local drink) place where musicians often came to play. At night, when everyone was asleep, I would sneak into the bar and play the kologo (a traditional two-stringed guitar from Northern Ghana) for hours. My mother scolded me for waking people up, but that didn’t stop me and I kept learning to play.
The next instrument that piqued my interest was the siniak, which is also the instrument I play in King Ayisoba’s band. One day he came to Kumasi and wanted to meet me – by that time I was fairly well known, people were inviting me to play at various events. A friend brought King Ayisoba home and he suggested we play together. Since he was playing the kologo himself, he offered me to play another instrument – I agreed and so I became part of the band – we travelled a lot and had gigs in Africa, Europe, Asia.
But while I was in the band, I continued to play on my own and one day King Aishoba said to me, “You have a lot of songs, why don’t you release them?” His producer heard them, liked them and so I released my first solo single. Then came the album “We have one destiny” and now I’m on tour to promote it.
What do you prefer – playing solo or in a band?
I like both. But when I play alone, people can hear my message. People can see you. When I’m in a band – they hear other person’s songs.
What are you singing about in your songs?
The topics I write about are usually social and political. I have a song about the political situation in Ghana – about how presidents change and power is not forever. It’s the same with everything – I’m playing now but one day I won’t be there and someone else will come and take my place. Life is like that, you do something but the day comes when the power goes and someone else replaces you.
Or the way we destroy nature and pollute the environment. We have to stop this in Africa. If we fail, our children will suffer in the future. We are cutting down trees, rivers are drying up and temperatures are rising – we need to think about the future.
Another song on the album is called ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right’. It is a song about forgiveness and how African politicians should take care of restoring peace on the continent. There are wars, famines, droughts. People are suffering and emigrating. Along the way, many die – in the desert or at sea. Africa is a rich continent, there are gold deposits, diamonds…
But people get nothing out of it unlike politicians…
Yes, the politicians take all the resources and forget about the people. That’s why it’s important for children to go to school – education is vital. In one of my songs I say, ‘If you want to be president, you have to study. But you don’t want to – then how will you become president?”
Another song on the album, “What a man can do, a woman can do better”, is about women and their power…
I wanted to ask you about that song. Women have always had to fight for their rights, and lately there is a new upsurge of this movement. What do you think about all this?
Women are working hard, they are now in leadership positions – including in politics. We see it in Liberia (where the president is a woman), in Germany and in other countries. It used to be in Africa that every political position was supposed to be held by a man. Gradually this is changing. I think it is time to give women a chance. That’s why I created this song.
So you really believe a woman can do better than a man?
Yes, I really believe it because I’ve seen it. In Kumasi, when I have come home at 11pm, I have seen women still working. And when I have asked them why they are still here so late, they reply that they are the only ones working in the family and they have to pay their children’s school fees. And so after these conversations, gradually the idea for this song came into my head. Then came the invitation to participate in an event on women’s rights and that’s when I introduced the song for the first time.
Some people might not have agreed with me. I’m a man, but I really believe in the message of this song.
When you create music, which comes first – the melody or the lyrics?
Sometimes the instrument itself calls the words for me. Sometimes I play in my sleep. I dream the words, wake up, and almost in my sleep I write down on my phone what I remember. Then I go back to sleep and the next day I start working with what I’ve written down. Then the melody comes and gradually everything finds its place.
What inspires you – the people around, the travels? Which artists inspire you?
I like and listen to different styles of music, but mostly reggae. Bob Marley is one of my favorite artists. When I listen to his songs, I just feel how good they influence me. Reggae can have strong messages just like collogue music that tells stories from life.
I also like Brenda Fassie, an artist from South Africa, but really reggae is my style of music.
During the concert in Sofia you mentioned several times that you were happy. What makes you happy in life?
The way, for example, I like this country. People here respect each other – they came on time for my concert – that shows me respect. In Ghana, if someone tells you to come at 2, you’ll go at 6 for sure (laughs).
I’ve been watching the city, walking around at night and I like the quiet. There are no people on the streets, it’s peaceful.
So one can better hear themselves…
Yes, exactly! When there is no noise, you sleep peacefully, you dream well. I like Sofia. I have no idea about the political situation here, but I liked the people I met very much.
You’ve got a big tour coming up in Europe – on your own and with King Aishoba’s band. Are you working on new songs while you travel?
Actually yes. I have about 15 unrecorded songs already. Some of them I will record in Bulgaria with local musicians.
I hope to release a new album in two years, if I’m alive and well. I don’t believe in releasing new songs/albums all the time. I want people to have enough time to listen to my music, to get into its messages. If you release something new every year, people won’t have that time to really understand you.
Tell us a bit more about the music scene in Ghana. Are there a lot of people who play the kologo, which is more of a traditional instrument?
Yes, there’s a new wave of musicians playing that instrument now and it’s becoming more popular. Young people prefer hip-hop, which is the trend everywhere in the world, but older people like the kologo. The instrument you see is special to me because I created it myself.
And one last question – watermelon or melon?
I personally prefer watermelon more. 🙂
You can hear Ayuune Sule on the 10th of September together with King Aishoba’s band in First Studio of BNR at the invitation of the radio festival “Alarm Punk Jazz”, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary. More information about the event can be found here.
interview and photos: Sofia Hussein for Dinya