African American Studies
Interviewer: Dr. Jane Edward, Kojo Ampa, Kareem Salifu, Dr. Mark Niason
Summarized by Sheina Ledesma
Kontihene is a Ghanaian Hip Hop musician who has lived in the Bronx since 2004. Kontihene describes his own music as being Afro-Pop or Hip-Life because it combines lively beats with traditional Ashanti folk music from Ghana. Kontihene grew up in Ghanaian town called Kumasi with his parents and two sisters. His love for music developed at a very young age. By age ten he was already writing poems and songs that discussed his family life. Encouraged and mentored by a local musician named Tommy Weireeda, Kontihene learned how to channel his feelings through his music. Raised as a Pentecostal, Kontihene attended church on a regular basis. He described his church as worshipping God through music. His church sang and played instruments like the gin bass, African drums, the congos, and tambourines and Kontihene always rushed to the front pew to be in the action. As he grew older his love for music developed into a true talent. Although his mother wanted him to become a pastor, Kontihene could not ignore his passion. In secondary school he began to skip classes so that he could record in the studio and work with other artists on his music. Despite speaking Twi, an Ashanti dialect, Kontihene wrote much of his music in the official language of Ghana, English, so he could reach out to all ethnic and tribal groups of Ghana. He also continued to focus his music on real life events that included family issues, social issues, and political issues that faced all people in Ghana. In this way, Kontihene believed he could touch topics in people’s lives that ordinarily, were not culturally acceptable to discuss in public in Ghana and use his music as a tool for social change.
Over time, Kontihene and his family moved to the United States however, the move did not stop him from pursuing his musical career. Today, he still enjoys a successful career in the music business by producing Ghanaian music, which he then distributes to the Ghanaian Diaspora around the world. He also continues to work on his own personal musical work and hopes that he can release something in the near future. At the moment his greatest concern is that he is first able to truly grasp the issues that face Ghanaians and other groups in the Bronx so that he can accurately explore these topics in his music. He does not want to focus solely on Ghanaians though as he is a strong believer that we are all children of God. He would like to consider all people.
Kontihene is very close with his mother and sisters who currently reside in Virginia and was very close to his father until his recent passing. Despite never having finished University in Ghana, Kontihene does not see this as a challenge. He believes that “every disadvantage can be an advantage for you”.
Kontihene. November 10, 2009. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.