Music cover art is one of the most interesting ways to capture the minds of an audience and has been a marketing tool for musicians since forever. That’s how ‘Secret‘ a song by Y’akoto caught my attention online.
The stunning image has Y’akoto in a black outfit, veiled with minimal accessories subtly portraying the artiste as one of Ghana’s best-kept secrets in music. And you can only imagine the excitement throughout my chat with the chilled and easy-going Y’akoto as we deep-dive into the backstory behind the single.
Born, Jennifer Yaa Akoto Kieck, Y’akoto is a German-Ghanaian Neo-soul singer who started her music journey in Europe, where she signed her first record deal with Warner Music, released albums, performed at sold-out shows, and went on tour across the continent. Upon returning to Ghana around 2018, Y’akoto released the Afro Neo-soul driven Obaa Yaa EP (2020) which was featured on France24, Le Monde, Pitchfork, Complex & N-TV amongst others.
In this exclusive interview with Melange Africa, Y’akoto bares it all, from her music life in between Europe and Ghana to her wanton fashion sense.
MA: What word best describes your music and why?
Y’akoto: I would describe my music as interesting because my music doesn’t sound like anyone’s music, especially the new single, it’s unique, so I think it will make some people curious to find out who I am.
MA: At the age of 13, you started a music band, how was that like, and what made you start a band at that age?
Y’akoto: I grew up with instruments and my parents encouraged me to play the piano and sing.
As a little girl I always dreamt of performing, so I couldn’t wait to be a teenager and get on stage to perform.
MA: Apart from your dad who else inspired you to do music?
Y’akoto: Music was inside of me, I remember being young and enjoying my parent’s record selection, from Fela Kuti, disco music, and soul music to hip-hop music did inspire me. So you see it is not just one particular person. Music makes me happy so I decided to make it my job.
MA: What career path would you have chosen if you did not become a musician?
Y’akoto: I don’t know how to answer this question because I have never thought about it. The best answer I can give is if I wouldn’t be a musician I wouldn’t be born and that’s the best answer I can give. It’s like I am destined to be a singer and a performer.
MA: Tell us how it felt when you made your first record. What was the feeling like when you heard it for the first time?
Y’akoto: I can’t describe the feeling. I was very young when that happened and I felt very humbled, like a dream come true, and blessed. It is an amazing feeling to hear your song on the radio and see people dance to it.
MA: What was the music scene in Europe like?
Y’akoto: I feel like the music industry in Europe offers structure and allows musicians to work and be working artists. It was an amazing experience that prepared me for releasing my music here.
MA: You were making a name for yourself in Europe. What made you move to Ghana?
Y’akoto: I moved to Ghana because I had never released music here in Ghana before and I had never worked in my own country so I was curious to know how Ghana works as an adult. I spent most of my childhood in Ghana and then moved to Germany. I always swore to myself that I would one day return. I feel that as a mixed race, you have to know both sides of your identity and explore if you get the chance, so I saw it as a challenge to come down here, shoot music videos, and make friends. Moving here has been an exciting experience, difficult but rewarding.
MA: How has the music industry treated you so far?
Y’akoto: I have had great experiences with Ghanaian artists and creatives. I am also into Ghanaian music at the moment, currently a huge fan of Black Sherif. I’m very proud of what he is doing for the Ghanaian music industry. It is very exciting to watch people take over the world and be part of it in a way. I have a lot of friends in the industry and to see how shamelessly and unapologetically they promote their music is very inspiring.
MA: What surprises you the most in the Ghanaian music scene?
Y’akoto: Ghanaians not making money off the music being played on the radio surprised me the most. Ghana is a huge radio country with a lot of radio stations but musicians don’t get paid for their songs being played on the radio.
MA: What is the backstory behind “Secret” and why Jay Bahd?
Y’akoto: My inspiration is to always be honest and poetic. I always feel honesty is the best poetry and I wanted to talk about relationships in a way that is real. Jay Bahd because I like his voice. It is different from mine and I just thought it would be a perfect match.
MA: What inspired the look of the cover of your single “Secret”
Y’akoto: I am a big fan of the Addams Family. That influenced my look for the cover. I also like veils and the color black.
MA: Does your music influence your fashion sense? And how will you define your fashion sense in general?
Y’akoto: For sure, my music is who I am. And my fashion sense is dependent on what era of music I find myself in. I would say my fashion sense is playful, mysterious, and unique.
MA: What’s the first thing you consider when choosing an outfit?
Y’akoto: My mood, I have to represent my mood, so if I am in a mellow mood or I want to protect myself from bad energy, I go for dark colors and if I am in a playful or happy mood I go for bright colors.
MA: What item of clothing makes you feel confident when taking the stage and in real life?
Y’akoto: To be honest, I don’t have a preference, as long as it looks good and represents who I am, I feel confident.
Enjoy Y’akoto’s latest single ‘What Made You Think’, produced by Grammy-nominated producer Nabeyin and engineer IRKO.
Thelma Quainoo is my name, and my pen name is Miss Anowaa. My zodiac sign is Aries, and that alone will tell you I am a bubbly soul. A writer and an aspiring public relations practitioner. Find me on IG as @miss_anowaa. #beyouloveyou