All images by Elisa Palazzo.
In the heart of Toronto, tucked in the city’s tallest buildings and busy streets, a chapter of musical history is about to be written. Universal Music Group, a legendary name known for its entertainment excellence opens its doors to welcome Ghanaian musician and global reggae-dancehall sensation, Stonebwoy.
On this sun-kissed morning, it is evident that this day is not just marked by the arrival of an artist but also a musical journey which embodies the essence of capturing creativity.
As Stonebwoy approaches the entrance and is greeted with warm smiles from the Universal Music staff members, my mind makes a quick drift to how interesting his musical journey has been. Real name Livingstone Etse Satekla, his journey into music started in 2009, even after realizing how talented he was while growing up. Today, he is one of the most successful names out of Africa and arguably tops that list in Ghana.
Following the three-year gap since his previous project, ‘Anloga Junction’, Stonebwoy again found himself inspired to create ‘5th Dimension’ released earlier in 2023. “I wanted to create a more developed, refined and clearer sound of all sources of my inspiration,” he says. “I see myself as a man of many styles who represents for black people.”
Stonebwoy speaks with his eyes focused on mine. That attribute alone answers most of the questions I have planned to ask him, as they speak a lot of confidence, paints a man who has had to work his way up and is really just grateful for how far he has come in his journey. All of these, properly reflected in 5th Dimension.
Driven with the purpose of portraying the diversity we have as black people, the ‘5th Dimension’ album was made with an intention to inspire everyone. As we dove into the inspiration on this work of art, I could not help but be enthralled by his words. “I take from the table, add something to what I take and leave something for the future generation to take from.”
Curious on the creative process of the album, the singer starts off with his iconic laughter to my question which lights up the room. “Sleepless nights and tears sometimes”, he reveals.
“We had to select from 60+ songs to fine tune a direction. Label, management and everyone on the team was present in our selection of songs”.
However, he also shares with me that despite the whole team being present, the thought process had to come from him. “None of these industry executives are Stonebwoy at the end of the day. So it all comes back to me”.
He draws on those past moments by acknowledging how those recording sessions have shaped him. In his own words, ‘I was opening my mind to unfamiliar beats but also still remembering to put myself there unless the purpose will be lost. That alone was a moment for me”.
As if aware of my next question, Stonebwoy inquires which of the songs on the project are my favourites. I let him know my bias for ‘Therapy’, probably because of how seamlessly Oxlade and Tiwa Savage fit into its flow, and ‘Secret Lover’, another exciting feature with Dexta Daps.
Generally, 5th Dimension is star-studded, with featured verses from Angelique Kidjo, Stormzy, Davido, Oxlade, Tiwa Savage, Maphorisa and Dexta Daps. The album shines of an artist who has clearly crafted his sound as “the selection of these collaborations were natural and intended to complement the vision. It was not premeditated as each song shows that”, he says.
“It was about what they can contribute creatively, not about technicalities or numbers which they control. Material matters to me.”
Manodzi, which features Beninese legend, Angelique Kidjo, is a highlight from 5th Dimension and Stonebwoy’s favorite track on the album. “When Angelique’s verse came, it was so surreal for me as this is someone I have always looked up to as a mother.” Adding to this, his excitement on talking to Jamaican superstar, Shaggy was a moment unforgettable to Stonebwoy. “These are some memories that felt and still feel too good to be true for me”.
“I take from the table, add something to what I take and leave something for the future generation to take from.”
Speaking on his first time in Canada, Stonebwoy expresses his experience in the metropolitan city, Toronto. “Canada has always given that subtle vibe and it is important that everyone knows how culturally receptive it is. It opens up for people to coexist and create art forms which are broad and diverse.”
Reflecting on how touring has contributed to his exposure especially as an African artist, Stonebwoy shares with me his connection between his art and the world. “Touring is key”, he says. “It helps in the transportation of our sound, culture and art to the world. I always tell people that you will remember how you always feel but not necessarily what they told you. That is the impact of touring.”
Representing Ghana on a global stage, it is safe to say that Stonebwoy is not stopping anytime soon. Upon asking him about his upcoming collaboration with Canadian-Jamaican artist, MC King Cruff, he says:
“It’s a blessing to work with the new generation who have tapped inspiration from forefathers such as Bob Marley. I am happy to contribute my quota too, especially coming with that merger of African and Caribbean blend.”
The evolution of Stonebwoy cannot be missed as he is showcasing a different side to his craft. With reveals of more shows in Canada and more North American tours, more music and a really bright future, the world has definitely not seen the last of Stonebwoy.