At some point, it is impossible to deny that change has come to your life, because things that are impossible to ignore suddenly become consistent occurrences where you couldn’t have even fathomed they’d be before. For me, that change came through Vision Inspired Music, especially in 2016, when I became particularly active both within the formal record label space, and out of it.
In 2015, I was kind-of-a-spoken-word-dabbler. It was a casual thing. A few people knew me. It was okay, I had minor attention. However, in 2016, I became one of the spoken word artistes. (Or at least that’s how it felt. The tons of people who have no clue who I am may beg to differ.) I don’t even think I can finish listing all the ways I realized this was true. I became somebody whose name, when put on a poster, actually had the potential to attract people. I became someone with one of the coolest spoken word videos people claimed to have seen from Ghana (Anti-Indoctrination). I influenced people to write. I had poems and blog posts dedicated to me. The thank-you-for-this-piece messages on my social media pages became longer and more heartfelt. While casually listening to the radio, I’d hear my name, and some Ghanaian poet or the other giving me praise or a simple shout-out. Then lo-and-behold, I brought myself with “spoken word on beat” with IWITP, the response to which nearly made me leave social media because I was so overwhelmed. (The follower numbers on my pages won’t reflect this because quite a lot of the attention came from people who don’t follow me and probably won’t either.) But perhaps what got to me the most was all the random people I didn’t know from Eve or Adam meeting me in both likely and unlikely spaces, freaking out like “Are you Akotowaa?!” and sometimes even asking for a picture with/of me. Listen. I’m not used to this. I don’t ever think I’ll get used to it. And it happened like, all year.
To top everything off, at the end of the year, I dropped my first ever major spoken word project, Solitaire EP, and that is when I saw that I have fans. Paa. I don’t even know where they came from. I don’t know why they like me like that. But the support I received pre-Solitaire was insane. As in, it hadn’t even dropped yet. They hadn’t even heard it yet, oo. But my goodness, my fans showed up for me in a big way. Especially on Twitter. ❤ Let’s not even talk about post-Solitaire drop reception. The number of times my Twitter crashed should already tell you something.
And yet, now that all this (2016, Solitaire etc.) is over, I have something to more or less publicly admit to myself/confess. I am tired. I have actually been tired for a while – specifically of performance. I am not exactly sure what about performance I am tired of. I admit that 2016, despite everything, was tough for me psychologically. There was, of course, the fact that for the first half of it, I was in a deep depression that I’m only just fully coming out of. That high school experience is probably one of the most major things I will always want to block out of my mind for the rest of my life. Like, it only hit me this week, after experiencing my healthier, non-miserable self for a while, what an absolute effing mess I was.
After graduation, VI Music took center stage in my life. I think I see the problem now; work with VI was a diversion of focused energy rather than actual rest. Of course, it was a focus on something I actually liked and wanted to do, and it gave lots of spice to my life. I love Adomeezy, Ekko, Tronomie, Robin, Rey (when he’s not stealing 48 chocolate bars from me) and Souza! Yet, by the end of the summer, it felt like I was being required to perform every day or every other day. It felt too like there was nowhere I went outside of my house that people didn’t recognize me and that was exhausting. And of course, when strangers recognize me, they recognize Akotowaa the performer more often than Akotowaa the human being – which they really can’t help and I don’t blame them for – but on my part, I think it turns me into a social performer as well, because I end up wearing the character of Akotowaa the performer even when I’m off stage. Exhausting.
Don’t get me wrong, though; even though I didn’t recognize my need for rest then, I still wouldn’t change a thing about how everything post-graduation went down for me. Except VIM Concert, which I shall get to in a minute. I think all of what happened had to happen to set the Akotowaa ball rolling so that I could rest. At this point, I am pretty sure that if I get quieter, I won’t simply fade to inaudibility. (Yo, that was an Ephemeron reference. Did you catch that?) I recognize the need for rest even more fully now and the clinching factor was…The VIM concert, on 23rd December 2016.
My manager-bae, Ekko, who is also VIM CEO wrote a long-ass emotional blog post about the effect the concert had on him and how audio art got him out of it. However, here is what the VIM Concert did to me: it deflated me. I had what I think was the worst performance of my life, doing “Dear God” off the Solitaire EP with Tronomie. That was an embarrassing nightmare. I won’t go into details about circumstances leading to its potential to have been terrible and how it could have been avoided; those I have gone over in my head and with VI already. But for the performance itself? I couldn’t hear the music. I couldn’t speak on the beat. I stopped and started several times and still couldn’t keep the beat. In my opinion, Tronomie flopped way less than me. He sang off key, but at least he was bloody on the music. Anyway. I blocked it out partially from my mind after I laughed it off with Tronomie when our sets were done. I was frustrated, but I socially performed for the rest of the night. Then when I got home later, unable to sleep because of the still-fresh jetlag, I had the biggest breakdown I’d had in months, between 2am and 6am. I tweeted a bunch of classically depressive-Akotowaa stuff during this time, and I’m embarrassed about that now, but God bless @PaapaMusic for helping me through it all in my DMs. He’s such a wonderful person. I’ve developed new respect for him since then.
That breakdown was a highly exaggerated compounding of all the tiredness. I hadn’t been feeling the thrills of performance in months. Not since mid-summer. Even the few performances I did in campus settings when I got to college, though they certainly gave me a reputation, did not really give me joy. In fact, the night before the VIM Concert, I had a conversation with my manager about my discomfort with performance. So to come back and have a performance composed of faeces just threw me off the edge. In the moment, I thought I wanted to retire. What I needed, however, was a break. Retiring is silly. I know I’m a good performer who has the potential to be an excellent performer, and I know my words and art impact people. So I will continue to grow into an excellent performer. Just…after I rest. 🙂
A while ago, I made a comment on Twitter about how when one is multitalented, one’s life will have seasons, and that is okay. It is. So for me, as far as I can see, the year ahead of me is the season of Ivana Akotowaa Ofori, the writer. Much more than it is for Akotowaa, the performer. The fact that I’m more or less in a year-long exile from Ghana only aids this agenda (yes, Accra, you won’t see me again until December. I only just left but I miss you already).
I intend for 2017 to be writing-intensive. Who knows how many novel geneses, novellas, poems or even spoken word pieces could come out of this? An anthology could be born. Heck, another spoken word project may even get lyrically conceived from beginning to end. Who can really tell? To those keeping tabs on me through primarily social media, I’m not really sure how evident this change of focus will be, since writing is such a solitary act and I’m not yet sure how much of it I’ll share. In fact, I don’t even know if all that I’ve said about how my life was in 2016 was evident through social media. The important thing is that I specially feel these changes in my own life, so it’s all good.
OMG. I talk a lot. But I’m also on a 10-hour plane flight as I write this so I get time waa.