I don't exactly recall when I first heard the name Nshona. What I do remember is realizing that a string of very potent Ghanaian azonto jams were produced by the same team, which I knew included a man named E.L.. Songs like Keche's hits “Sokode” and “Aluguntugui,” Sarkodie and E.L.'s massive tune “U Go Kill Me” and their collaboration “Dangerous,” and of course E.L.'s latest singles Obuu Mo and Kaalu. That's a lot of quality beats coming out of one camp.
It took weeks of careful investigation to unveil the true mastermind. I don't mean to take anything away from E.L.—I think he is by a landslide one of the most promising artists out of Ghana right now, both as a producer and MC. But I was mistaken at first: he didn't produce the aforementioned hits alone, but rather fine-tuned rough beats conceived by Nshona and recorded in E.L.'s studio. As I found out, Nshona, aka Krynkman, aka Amadaa (meaning "ripe plantain" in Ga, the language of the Ga people of Nungua), had a chance encounter with E.L. first, who heard some of his beats and offered to work with him out of his studio. Then in late 2010, Sarkodie stopped by and heard the "U Go Kill Me" beat, which at the time was meant for another artist. Sarkodie flipped and wanted to record right away. The song was leaked before it was even properly finalized, and it became a hit instantly. This new guy Nshona was suddenly responsible for what would become the biggest song of 2011 in Ghana.
But nobody seemed to really know where Nshona had been recently. With all these hit songs on the radio, I couldn't believe nobody knew how to find him. That's the beauty of navigating the music world in Ghana and Africa: Sure, most people have a Facebook page or a Blackberry pin now, but not all. It's still possible to hear about a prolific artist but struggle to find the person.
Download: Nshona, "Blast Da Bomb Beat"
So it wasn't all that easy to track Nshona down. Even people he had recently worked with weren't sure where his studio was. Luckily, after many meetings with E.L. and his BBnZ Live crew, I bumped into Nshona at their studio, armed with nothing but his laptop and a huge smile. After months of asking around, I found myself ecstatic, wondering what crazy beats this guy was carrying around.
The first thing I found out is why it had been so hard to pin him down: Although Nshona and E.L. remain tight, Nshona decided to go freelance, to not only create and record out of E.L.'s studio but do it for and with different people. Since he doesn't yet have a proper studio of his own, he'll often bounce from one spot to the next overnight. After exchanging info at E.L.'s spot, we finally met at Nshona's home studio, a far cry from BBnZ Live's top-notch facilities. We were in the outskirts of Nungua, a fishing community in between Accra and the port city of Tema. The studio is in a tiny room within a regular family home, definitely nothing fancy, and definitely in an area I had never been to for music purposes. Not to say Nungua isn't an interesting place, but as far as I know, it hasn't exactly been on the map for music hits. Despite my misleading expectations, this was apparently where the magic happened.
Although I had finally found Nshona, the setting, the locale, the studio itself just made him even more mysterious. Nshona is a true hustler. He comes from little and he nurtures his talent to conquer the world. Not one to be shy about his music, he is well aware of his capacity to generate hits—and with guys like Sarkodie or E.L. constantly giving him props, he has the connects to back it all up.
Nshona struck me as a visionary, despite the hardships he came from. Unlike some of the other top producers in Ghana, and unlike many of the top artists, Nshona doesn't really have a back-up plan, with no family connects to fall back to and no higher education to guarantee him another job. Everything he owns, he earned by making beats. In my romanticized version, this is the perfect recipe for musical success: a person with deep artistic talent and no realistic alternative to making music, driven by a strong will to not go back to years of struggling.
As Nshona played his beats, I couldn't help but wonder: is this dude from space?! Nothing I heard in the studio was anything like any beat I'd heard in Ghana. His sound is much more raw and energetic, more reminiscent of kuduro, but with a more poppy edge to it. Bar after bar, I started day dreaming of a world where pop artists would be produced by him. I don't think I'm so far off. Nshona has so much talent and pure energy, I'm not sure what could stop him. So keep the name in mind, and check the production credits for Rihanna or Beyoncé in a few years… let Ga fishermen music take over.