‘It’s created with a big red love!’: the ultra-inspirational music of Ghanaian star Black Sherif

‘It’s created with a big red love!’: the ultra-inspirational music of Ghanaian star Black Sherif


In the past, it was known as Christmas. However, the Ghanaian government designated 2019 as the “year of return,” extending an invitation to African Americans to return home. This led to the rise of Detty December. Africans, British-Ghanaians, and others from the diaspora quickly joined in, resulting in a vibrant annual gathering filled with music, parties, and cultural discussions everywhere, all the time, with an energetic atmosphere.

The primary event is AfroFuture, a two-night festival held in a stadium that draws in over 40,000 attendees. It was there that I had the opportunity to meet the talented vocalist, Black Sherif, after his captivating and high-energy performance. While he is a noteworthy figure in the Afrobeats scene – even catching the attention of Africa’s biggest star, Burna Boy, who wanted to collaborate on a remix of his song “Second Sermon” – Blacko, as he is affectionately known, does not consider himself an Afrobeats artist. According to Nana Kwasi Wiafe, the creator of the Very Ghanaian brand and stylist for Beyoncé’s “Black Is King,” Blacko’s music serves as a bridge between the youth and older generations. He effortlessly combines the traditional sounds of Ghana’s highlife with modern influences like drill, reggae, and rap that inspire him. However, trying to categorize his music becomes irrelevant when Blacko starts to sing. His voice is powerful and captivating, whether he sings in Twi or English.

That voice has ensured him considerable recent success, including performances at the Mobo awards, Wireless festival and a BET award for best international flow, and he’s now forging further links with the UK – his new single features British pop singer Mabel and in a few days he’ll walk at London fashion week. It feels incredible, he says, “understanding the influence my craft has on people all over the globe”.

Blacko, whose real name is Mohammed Ismail Sharrif, was born in the mining community of Konongo-Zongo in the Ashanti region of Ghana, known for its abundant gold reserves. At the age of 10, his mother, who worked as a seamstress, left to work in Greece. This separation deeply affected Blacko, and he still longs for his mother’s presence. His upbringing, marked by constant movement, heavily influences his dynamic and expressive storytelling. He strives to be completely open and honest in his work, viewing each song as a form of theatrical performance. He often refers to it as “drama in a voice pipe.”

The main character, typically portrayed as him, reflects on his mistakes, most notably in his popular song “Kwaku the Traveller.” He sings, “Of course I made mistakes! Who hasn’t? Hands in the air… no one!” In another song, “Yaya,” the line “I am considered unlawful in my own town, in my own city” expresses a feeling of detachment.

Blacko, a psychology student at the University of Ghana, openly shares his struggles without feeling ashamed. By doing so, he validates similar emotions in his listeners who may have avoided introspection. In his latest single, released on his 22nd birthday, Blacko sings a soothing tune to himself, acknowledging the pain in his heart but assuring that he is doing well. This sentiment is comparable to Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” where she defiantly proclaims to be sleeping well in the face of adversity. Blacko’s celebration of simply being okay is especially meaningful in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the growing issue of mental health among men.

In his latest release, Fallen Angel, the artist sings both parts of a beautifully melodic and introspective conversation with himself: “You choose to be controlled by your imperfections / Will you remain down? / I aspire to see you succeed … one thing I have come to understand is the importance of caring for my loved ones, and that is my only wish for you.”

‘I try to make people’s days’ … Black Sherif.View image in fullscreen

Smallgod, the producer of the track, shares that it was made with a strong passion and love. The message behind it stems from a profound part of Blacko’s soul and connects with all individuals, regardless of their religious beliefs. This light is what everyone is searching for.

Although Blacko’s work often tackles difficult subjects, hope remains a prevalent theme. He strives to warn others about the challenges of life while also offering solutions to overcome them. His pure heart and discerning nature are evident in his careful choices of where he goes and what he does. At just 22 years old, he possesses a remarkable level of intelligence, beyond his years. Unlike some, who may not understand their own actions and rely on others for guidance, Blacko is knowledgeable and self-sufficient.

Due to his warm, gentle, joyful, and genuine demeanor that aligns with the Ghanaian persona, both Blacko the bloke and Blacko the artist are greatly adored by people. “I resonate with this!” he exclaims. “I always stay true to myself and strive to bring joy to others.”

He covers the expenses for meals for underprivileged children and medical costs for struggling mothers, while also offering guidance to the numerous youthful versions of himself that he meets. He explains, “I communicate with them as if they were my equals, because they should understand that life isn’t always easy… it doesn’t get any simpler. I am honest with them, sharing my own struggles and everything else. I tell them, ‘Look at me, keep pushing forward.’ I love it!”

At AfroFuture, the atmosphere is filled with positivity as Blacko showcases his dancing and singing abilities. He ends the show with a powerful mantra, continuously repeating “Oil in my head, everything I touch is blessed, all I see is blessings and no man can stop this” like a preacher, and the crowd enthusiastically responds in unison.

“I have a creative process where I associate my music with colors,” he explains. “Oil in My Head, for example, is represented by white and blue because it has a rejuvenating effect. Whenever I perform it, I am reminded of a prayer and I embody it by going outside. This song holds personal significance as I feel blessed and anointed. With a pure heart, I believe that everything I touch will turn to gold.”

Source: theguardian.com