Ghana’s Gyakie on working with Nigeria’s Davido & Omah Lay, and her journey to continental stardom

By Shingai Darangwa
Posted on Friday, 2 September 2022 15:58

Gyakie (Photo supplied)

Ghana's Gyakie, once on the path towards a corporate career, happened on a chance moment to make music. She hasn't looked back since.

“Yesterday, I had a very good meal at the hotel restaurant,” says Gyakie, with a Nando’s chicken wing in hand. “I ordered steak, fries and a bottle of wine and when they brought the bill I was like: ‘Is the wine included’? Wow.”

We’re at the Sony Music Entertainment Africa offices in Johannesburg and Gyakie is famished so we’re grabbing a bite before we sit for our interview. As she dishes up, the Ghanaian star jokes that things are so affordable in South Africa that she might just move here.

‘Girl next door’

Throughout our initial interaction, Gyakie and I exchange banter and share Amapiano playlists as she explains that she can’t wait to party it up and get an authentic South African experience of the genre. It quickly becomes evident that she’s that ‘girl next door’ who just so happens to be a hugely talented African superstar.

With the aid of a strong and disciplined team, the 23-year-old has come from nowhere to become one of Afrobeats’ hottest new acts.

Her journey began in 2019 when she linked up with Nigerian producer Sosa and recorded her debut single ‘Love Is Pretty’.

Prior to that, having studied international business at Kumasi’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, she had expected to pursue a corporate career.

Instead, despite her initial low expectations and her feeling proud to have recorded a song, ‘Love Is Pretty’ did surprisingly well, thrusting her into the national spotlight. More than anything, she was surprised by how much people loved it. “They wanted to hear more, so then I was pushed to do my second song, ‘I Never Like This’, which in Ghana was my biggest song ever. It’s a full twi song, I sang it in my native language. That was the song that got me on people’s lips.”

Continental fame erupts

A year later, Gyakie shot to continental fame with her smash hit ‘Forever’ off her five-track debut EP, Seed. ‘Forever’ was written and recorded during the lockdown in 2020, she recalls.

“I remember I was listening to so many beats, just writing songs, and I chanced on the beat for ‘Forever‘. The beat was so special, I just felt people were going to fall in love with it, but I didn’t know that it was going to be my breakthrough song. I never even thought about it, but I believe the promotion and marketing that went into it was important. We pushed that song so well and so it did deserve the kind of recognition, which it got.”

She quickly followed that up with a remix featuring Nigerian Afrobeats star Omah Lay and it became one of the biggest singles across the continent last year.

When we reached out to his team, apparently he was in love with the song already

Gyakie and her team had Omah Lay in mind from the moment the idea for a remix came to mind. “We believed he was going to sound so perfect on it. When we reached out to his team, apparently he was in love with the song already, and so he just wrote his verse so quickly, then I think the week after that I went to Nigeria for [a] promotion for the song.” It was during this visit that they decided to shoot the music video as well.

From the moment it came out, ‘Forever Remix’ has been a hit with music fans across the continent and beyond. Currently, it’s sitting on a whopping 30 million cumulative audio streams and over 34 million music video views on YouTube.

“Everything just worked out so smoothly,” she says, as she recalls how she felt when Omah first sent his verse. “I remember, vividly, when he recorded the verse and sent it over; I was at a restaurant about to eat this popular local dish in Ghana called fufu and light soup. That’s actually my favourite dish. As soon as my manager told me that he had sent the verse I immediately lost my appetite, I did not touch the food. I just said: ‘Please, we need to go now, let’s start working on it’. I left the food, that’s how excited I was, and it was worth it because everybody was just in love with the song all over again, so the remix was like a whole different song from the original.”

Versatility in the music

As far as why she believes her music has caught on so swiftly and seamlessly, Gyakie says she thinks people are in love with how different her style is. “I would say that the kind of music I do is quite versatile and people actually love me for that. That’s the comment I get a lot from people, so I believe it’s the versatility because I jump on every genre of music; I can do every genre of music, and people always talk about how deep my voice is when I sing, but when I’m talking I don’t sound like that.”

It’s been a month since she released her latest project, a six-track EP titled My Diary. “I’ve been working on My Diary for the longest time,” she says. “It took me about 10 months since I dropped my last single and […] everybody was just anticipating. It took [a] long [time] because I was putting the EP together to bring out the best for the fans. I put my entire heart and soul into the project.”

The EP is a cohesive body of work with the standouts being ‘Something’, ‘Fire Away’, and ‘Flames’ featuring Davido. Originally, the EP wasn’t meant to have any features, but during a trip to Nigeria a few months ago, she and her team found themselves at Davido’s house.

“I was just playing him some unreleased songs,” she says. “The song that he actually featured on wasn’t on the initial EP. He listened to the song and decided to bless the project. When he heard ‘Flames’ he said that’s the song he’s going to do and that song has to be on the EP. I ended up experiencing him even recording the verse there and then. I was just mind-blown; it was just genuine love for the song.”

This encapsulates how her career has been so far — people just genuinely love her music.

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