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The Artist is Present: Efya Is Making Afrobeats on Her Own Terms

We caught up with Ghanaian star Efya ahead of her first New York City show.

It's Efya's time.


The Ghanaian singer has assisted some of the biggest  names in afrobeats on some of their most memorable hits, and has carved out a name for herself as one of the genre's standout musicians.  Most recently, the singer shined on Wizkid's "Daddy Yo," but now she's focusing on her own sound and we should all be doing the same.

Efya's soulful voice and jazz-inflected artistry put her in a lane of her own within the new wave of afro fusion artists from Ghana and Nigeria. Her debut album Genesis was a vibrant introduction to her talent, and with her upcoming album, Until the Dawn, the singer promises more soul and "a lot more funk."

We got a chance to speak with Efya ahead of her first-ever show in NYC and she spoke to us about her unique sound, her past and future collaborations, and how's she's preparing for "Efya time."

Read our conversation below.

OkayAfrica: What are you up to in New York City?

Efya: I came here to perform at a show. I'm working on some new music, we have some producers here, and DJ Tunez and my PR had me doing stuff with the guys like photo shoots. We shot a video for the last single, "Love," that I released for Valentine's Day. You know, preparations. There's always a next project we're working on.

OkayAfrica: And the next project for you is a new album?

Efya: Yes, definitely.

OkayAfrica: Is the sound evolving? 

Efya: It'll be a lot more funk. Like, you know, Bruno Mars meets afro-punk.

OkayAfrica: What producers are you working with?

Efya: We're doing a lot of stuff with Maleek Berry, it's a very different sound. Also, with Del'B and DJ Tunez, as I said earlier.

OkayAfrica: You just got signed to Starboy last year. How did that come about?

Efya: Wizkid and I have been friendly for a long time so I think it was just about You know, it was a timing thing. We have so much music together and it made sense to be on the same team. It was meant to happen. Work-wise, we work really well together and as you can see on "Daddy Yo" we had a lot of fun.

OkayAfrica: Congrats on "Daddy Yo." How did that collaboration come about?

Efya: I mean, every time I'm asked that question, I say we were in the studio and we were just vibing and that's how it was, you know. We had come across a lot of different kind of sounds and I wanted to try something different. That was the first time that I tried anything in that genre and I'm glad we did it.

OkayAfrica: There's been this explosion of afrobeats recently. How do you feel about the term "afrobeats"?

Efya: I know, right. I always wonder about it and I don't know who coined it up because the sounds are so different depending on where you're coming from and the language you're using, but I think most of it is because of the drums.

OkayAfrica: The drums?

Efya: Yes, because there's this thing about African sound where you hear it, wherever you hear it you know that's African. Mostly because of the drums. No matter where you send it to, now they're even mixing afro-beat with techno and that's awesome.

OkayAfrica: Would you call yourself an "afrobeats" artist?

Efya: Would I? I mean I do make afrobeats music, but I think, very soulfully. So what does that make me? An afrobeats soulful person? You know the kind of music we're making depends on the kind of vibe that we're on also. I would definitely say that I'm a singer but I don't mind mixing it with the genre because I'll just be singing, I'll be scattering on jazz. It's not something that I can resist. This is who I am.

OkayAfrica: So you're going to LA soon to record with Wizkid, right? Can you say anything about that, what are you guys recording?

Efya: You know, he's about to drop a very amazing mixtape which I've got some features on, so you know, just brushing things up.

OkayAfrica: So you feature on more than "Daddy Yo"?

Efya: Yes.

OkayAfrica: How many other tracks are you on?

Efya: I can't say. But you're going to love it. It's a very different vibe but you know, music is music. It's magical, especially as it grows and as it changes, so I believe that that's a great thing.

STARGIRL ✨🔋 X @okayafrica 🔋💫 x @patrickcupid ❤️

A post shared by Jane Fauzzier Awindor (@efya_nokturnal) on

OkayAfrica: Can you tell me about afrobeat nights with DJ Tunez? How did that concept come about?

Efya: I mean, since we officially became Starboy, Tunez and I have been working together on a lot of music because he has a very musical instinct when it comes to the kind of sound that I want to create now. He does afrobeat nights in New York and he was like, "we should just do a session,” and I was like, "yeah, just get a band together." I've wanted to do a live show in New York for a while and I think it’s the right time. We've been doing a lot of shows here in there for the past year. I did a show at Barclays and at Houston's Toyota Center too, so I think it's a great time to actually get a set together, play for 45 minutes.

OkayAfrica: Finally, what can people expect from an Efya show? 

Efya: It's very soulful, very vibrant. Just some music, some highlife mixed with afrobeats mixed with some soul, mixed with some jazz.

We'll have an Efya time.

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Artwork: Barthélémy Toguo Lockdown Selfportrait 10, 2020. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Goes to Paris in 2021

The longstanding celebration of African art will be hosted by Parisian hot spot Christie's for the first time ever.

In admittedly unideal circumstances, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be touching French soil in 2021. The internationally celebrated art fair devoted to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora will be hosted in Paris, France from January 20 - 23. With COVID-19 still having its way around the globe, finding new ways to connect is what it's all about and 1-54 is certainly taking the innovative steps to keep African art alive and well.
In partnership with Christie's, the in-person exhibits will take place at the auction house's city HQ at Avenue Matignon, while 20 international exhibitors will be featured online at Christies.com. And the fun doesn't stop there as the collaboration has brought in new ways to admire the talent from participating galleries from across Africa and Europe. The fair's multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings are set to excite and entice revelers.

Artwork: Delphine Desane Deep Sorrow, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery


The tech dependant program, curated by Le 18, a multi-disciplinary art space in Marrakech medina, will see events take place during the Parisian run fair, followed by more throughout February.
This year's 1-54 online will be accessible to global visitors virtually, following the success of the 2019's fair in New York City and London in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19 related regulations and public guidelines, 1-54 in collaboration with Christie's Paris is in compliance with all national regulations, strict sanitary measures, and security.

Artwork: Cristiano Mongovo Murmurantes Acrilico Sobre Tela 190x200cm 2019


1-54 founding director Touria El Glaoui commented, "Whilst we're sad not to be able to go ahead with the fourth edition of 1-54 Marrakech in February as hoped, we are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in Paris this January with our first-ever fair on French soil thanks to our dedicated partners Christie's. 1-54's vision has always been to promote vibrant and dynamic contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and bring it to new audiences, and what better way of doing so than to launch an edition somewhere completely new. Thanks to the special Season of African Culture in France, 2021 is already set to be a great year for African art in the country so we are excited to be playing our part and look forward, all being well, to welcoming our French friends to Christie's and many more from around the world to our online fair in January."

Julien Pradels, General Director of Christie's France, said, "Christie's is delighted to announce our second collaboration with 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, following a successful edition in London this October. Paris, with its strong links to the continent, is a perfect place for such a project and the additional context of the delayed Saison Africa 2020 makes this partnership all the more special. We hope this collaboration will prove a meaningful platform for the vibrant African art scene and we are confident that collectors will be as enthusiastic to see the works presented, as we are."


Artwork: Kwesi Botchway Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957


Here's a list of participating galleries to be on the lookout for:

Galleries

31 PROJECT (Paris, France)
50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom)
Dominique Fiat (Paris, France)
Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco)
Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal)
Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France)
Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA)
Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)
Galleria Continua (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy)
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom)
Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco)

Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy)
MAGNIN-A (Paris, France)
Nil Gallery (Paris, France)
POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria)
SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France)
This is Not a White Cube (Luanda, Angola) THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa) Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland)

For more info visit 1-54

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