As the British Ghanaian musician prepares to release the video to his track Murda, he explains why afrobeats is all love in 2017
“Murda is aggressive to achieving, to the positive energy in Africa right now,” says Mista Silva of his latest tune. We’re in a south London photographic studio, a stone’s throw from where he was born and bred, and getting ready for today’s Nataal shoot. “Things are on the up, Ghana has had a peaceful election, the youth are gaining the cultural opportunities that we have in the West and social media is helping to connect us all. Let’s express love and be a progressive community that helps each other. That’s what Murda is all about – embracing inclusivity and coming to kill it.”
With his iPhone plugged into the studio’s stereo, the musician’s baritone flow resonates around us as the song’s contagious bounce and the message it delivers becomes clear - murder negativity, not the next man. Having debuted on The Fader late last year and received serious airtime, he releases the video imminently. Watch this space.
Born Papa Kwame Amponsa, he grew up listening to his father’s high life records and his brothers’ garage and grime MCing. After getting into “hype and madness… bad things on the street influenced by crime”, he finished school outside of London, and started getting more involved in the music scene. He then spent over a year with his extended family in Ghana, which proved formative. “I’d only been for holidays before so it was great to get to understand the culture and lifestyle better and appreciate the privileges we have living in the UK. That changed my mindset when I got back home,” he recalls. “I also performed at an open mic night and found a studio where I could experiment.”
He began to evolve his sound to embrace both British and West African influences, and it worked. “My parents always told me that if you’re going to do something, then go in wholeheartedly. So that’s what I did. I followed the music and things started popping off. Other parents would tell mine ‘Our kids are tuning in to your son making African music on the radio, being a bridge between Ghana and Britain, and encouraging them to be proud. At first it was a struggle but as the success came, they believed in it.”
“Let’s express love and be a progressive community that helps each other. That’s what Murda is all about – embracing inclusivity and coming to kill it”
His first afrobeats releases in 2012, Full Vim and Boom Boom Tah, combined the attitude of funky house, the edge of grime and the party spirit of hiplife to offer up music in tune with the azonto craze that was taking over at that time. These hits and others such as Now Wats Up? were hyped as much by BBC1Xtra as by the Guardian and saw Silva help build the afrobeats audience in the UK alongside the likes of Fuse ODG and DJ Abrantee.
Then a deal with Polydor in 2014 took him off course with the mainstream-leaning single Green Light. “Dealing with a major is like dealing with a stubborn girlfriend. You’re trying to tell them you want to do this, they say you got to do it their way and if you don’t like it then tough. It’s frustrating but they got the keys that you need,” he says, smiling. “It was a stressful time and the A&R wouldn’t try for my sound, so I stepped out. Thankfully I had good friends around me who steadied the ship and gave me the confidence to continue.” Silva came back strong with the storming EPs Let It Off 1 and 2 putting wind back into his sails. “Fans were like, ‘You haven’t left us. You’re still here, our king, bringing back these sick sounds.”
More recently he’s been busy touring with Mike Skinner & Murkage Dave's Tonga Balloon Gang and releasing grown up tracks such as Lifestyle and #OMG (On My Grind). He’s also upping his lifestyle game thanks a support from Nike and independent labels such as Crooks And Castles and Jo Benga. The rest of the year holds more singles, an album and the official launch of Fresh 2 Def Entertainment, which encompasses “parties, events, all things entertainment and positive energies”.
In short, 2017 is going be murda, for him and for many. “This is the second wave of Afro music in the UK happening now. The next generation of artists, like Koko Funds and J Hus, are coming through and guys like Drake are picking up the sound. All the work we’ve been doing on the road, on the underground, has allowed this to happen,” he says. “This year is going to be big for the African community as we push our culture properly through fashion and music. It’s time for the world to take it on and I’m one of the people to spearhead that.”