As told to Molly Sullivan | Photography by Mantse Aryeequaye
Nigerian Afro-fusion singer, Villy, describes his music as limitless – a free expression that breaks form and expectation. Inspired by a variety of artists, he blurs the lines between genres to create a distinct style that does not adhere to rules or guidelines. By combining rock, soul, hip hop, jazz and a consistent African influence, Villy has created a new sound that is accessible to all but firmly roots African music on the map. Accra got a proper feel for his music at last year’s IND!E FUSE.
Now Villy and his band (THE XTREME VOLUMES) have chosen to uproot and continue the music mission in Ghana, and they are not wasting any time. With a major concert coming up in a few weeks, we were happy to talk with Villy about Afro-fusion music, Nigeria’s wahala, and his move to Ghana.
ADA: What is Afro-fusion and why is it different from anything else out there?
Villy: Afro-fusion is the combination of different sounds – fusing African vibes together with different music – rock and soul. It’s a combination of different sounds to create something new and different. It’s only when you listen to it close then you know what I’m feeling. Afro-fusion is experimental.
ADA: Usually Ghanaian musicians are looking to break into Nigeria but you’re moving to Accra. Why?
Villy: Well, there is a good following of live music in Accra, live band music. Back in Nigeria we have more digital stuff going on. It’s DJs playing and people dancing. Here we have an acceptance for live music, and I made a decision that I wasn’t going to go all digital. I wanted something live because music is gradually fading away into something digital. Accra, Ghana has embraced that. So, why not launch a career here?
ADA: What has it been like connecting with Ghanaian artists and finding your way in a scene that’s different than what you’re used to?
Villy: They’ve been hospitable. I’ve been hanging out with a lot of Ghanaian artists. I’ve been hanging out with people like Kyekyeku. They’re all warm and welcoming, so I’m really looking forward to actually starting to work with them. I have some projects I need to finish, so I can’t really leave that and start working on something else. But I’m hoping and waiting for the day I do something. I’ve done somethings already.
ADA: People say you have Fela’s energy. How does that make you feel?
Villy: It makes me feel good, I guess. I just go up there and do my thing – all natural and enjoy myself.
ADA: What are your thoughts on African art and self -representation in the media?
Villy: I think we’ve been represented well, to an extent. More can be done. We can get better at showcasing. Because the content is there, the energy is there, the talent is there. But our problem is actually showcasing it to the world in a better platform. That has been the problem. See most of the time we get confused – we don’t actually know what the problem is. Then we go back and do more harm to the creativity when the problem is not showcasing what you have.
ADA: What are your thoughts on the current political situation in Nigeria and what people can do to be a part of the change the country needs?
Villy: I love my country, you know. Green, White, Green. The green stands for agriculture and the white stands for peace. We’re not seeing any of that – the green agriculture or peace. What’s going on in my country, it’s all political. I really don’t want to go into politics because I don’t believe in that. I’m not gonna come and sing one president down saying “you did this, you did that”. I’m just gonna come and sing the music and let people decide what they’re going to do with it. That’s my contribution. It’s a very sensitive line because you don’t want people coming at you for being a musician or being creative.
ADA: How do traditional knowledge systems and religion play into the everyday life of Nigerians?
Villy: Well, it has its good and bad side. Let me start with culture. Culture is actually a thing that people in Nigeria have let slip. I think they’ve actually forgotten about it because of westernization. But it’s a thing we once embraced and as a child when I was growing up I could see it – I felt it – but now it is nowhere to be found.
Let me tell you a short story. As a child, I found meetings on my street. Different kinds of meetings by women. They wear the same attire. They meet all together. They donate money. They sing, they dance, they chant. If anybody has a problem, they gather money together and they help them. That’s just an example of one culture that we’ve forgotten about. I don’t see that anymore and that’s really affecting the people of Nigeria in a very negative way because people are looking at this culture as outdated but its what we actually need.
In terms of religion, religion has eaten up the mind of my people. I don’t know why they can’t see it the way I see it. The way I see it is different. The way I see it religion is a self – okay, that’s spirituality. Religion is how you want to live your life. You shouldn’t have someone come and tell you “It is like this. It is like that“. It is how you want it. If you believe there is a God, it’s how you want to worship that God. You came into the world alone. But I don’t want to go to far into it because I’m still from a Christian family.
In the near future, I know I will have to make a statement on religion and spirituality. I know what it is and how it has affected my people – even me. At a point in my life I struggled to understand it for myself. I had to struggle with whether there is a god or not. Is there a Jesus somewhere? Is there a Mohammad somewhere? It was terrible because I was confused.
ADA: Any impressions on Ghana’s relationship with religion?
Villy: I think Ghanaians are under that same spell. In terms of culture, they display it but they don’t own it. You see it displayed everywhere but they don’t really own it. Ghana could say “this is our thing and this is what it is”. The whole of Africa is affected, not just Nigeria and Ghana. Under that spell, religion eats the ideas and makes so many people not able to think outside of the box.
ADA: Last one. What do you love about Ghana?
Villy: I love the women. I love the clean air. I love the surroundings. I have to go around Ghana before I’m able to say all I love about the place. But I’ve been to Accra and Busua. It’s lovely. I went to Busua and it was as if I was somewhere in the Caribbean. It was so nice and I believe there are so many other places like that in Ghana, so I have to see them. I love the food. I love the waakye and kenkey. Sometimes I get tired of it, but I love it. Ghana is a package. I see myself spending more time here than even back home.