Borrowing from today’s lingo, King is a vibe and his energy is absolutely infectious. Combining a dashing personal style with an affable personality, King aptly represents a new school of young artistes who aren’t afraid to explore and express every last bit of their art. He favours music as an ultimate art form through which he expresses himself, his experiences with family, life and love.
When I asked him to describe himself in three song titles, I didn’t expect these beautiful songs – Everybody Loves The Sunshine – Roy Ayers, Give Me The Night – George Benson & True Love – Wiz Kid.
He explained. “I’m a very energetic person and for as long as I can remember, Love was a very strong and present emotion for me. I grew up listening to afro and soul, thanks to my parents and it has a major influence in my life and the music I make today”
It was intriguing to learn that his dad is a prominent artist back home in Switzerland and his mom, a fellow creative as well who nurtured his creativity from a very tender age.
“I grew up in a very artistic environment where I was allowed to explore my own creativity from a very young age. Even though I grew up in Switzerland, I had a very strong connection to my African roots and culture. Family life wasn’t always the best but my parents made sure I always felt the love they had for me and my siblings”
Learning that he grew up in Switzerland sparked an interest in his upbringing. I was curious to know what memories he remembered from when he was little.
“My fondest memory from my childhood is the perfect story to describe the household in which I was raised in. I was about 5 or 6 years old in my father‘s atelier with my mom and a couple of their friends. I was given some paintbrushes, paint and a canvas to draw or paint what ever I felt. My parents and their friends then sat back, smoked some cigarettes and had some glasses of wine while discussing my brush strokes, colour choices and artistic flare. The piece of art I painted still hangs in the house of my parents today”
“Growing up, music always made me feel a different way compared to the other art forms I was interested in. I don‘t think there is any other art form that comes close to the depth in which music touches the soul”
I asked King to put into words how music makes him feel and it was short and simple. Limitless and Fearless. It is not a surprise that the Afro-Funk artiste feels this deeply about music. He shared his opinions regarding the significant differences between Ghanaian music and Swiss music. He made an assertion that the major difference is tradition. Ghanaian music still holds on to parts of traditional music, melodies and instruments. On the other hand, the Swiss people do not find it cool to be a part of their own traditional music.
At an impressive age of 15, King and his two friends created the Rap combo that went by JAS CRW in Switzerland which took off after a short while. They played sold out shows in their hometown and 10 years later, they are still hard at it. He recounted the experience of being in a rap trio as a beautiful one because he got to do what he loves the most with his brother by his side.
He added, “Being in a group requires a lot of compromising, which isn’t a negative thing, but sometimes as an artist, you just want to do what you want to do – without having to consider everyone else. In the least selfish way. What I did love about being in a group, was being surrounded by likeminded artists who can work together to create something beautiful, that you may never come up with by yourself”
The concept of this elusive, almost explicable connection The Diaspora feels with Africa inevitably came up. The artiste shared his truth about feeling connected to Africa for as long as he could remember and wanting to move back home when he was older.
“When I came to Ghana on holiday last December, I knew it was the place for me because it felt like home”
He added that he has always been into Afro music and in fact, his last EP “Greetings From” with JAS CRW was an Afro Beats project. He agrees that the sound could always be better and is willing to explore Afro music to it’s core.
He disclosed. “But of course, when you‘re living in an African country, the music hits different”
The Gravity singer values collaboration as one of the most important things for artists in Africa in general. He believes it is imperative to connect people from all creative backgrounds and promote each other for a collective win. He chimed that he’d realized that in Ghana, people prefer to work by themselves instead of working together and opening doors for other people which isn’t in his nature and he’s trying to make a difference by being different. He cited the rise of Amapiano, which he loves, in Africa as an example of the need for collaboration.
“My music is an authentic representation of my life experiences. It‘s raw, sensual and you can hear the influence of my inspirations like the Afro sounds from the 80’s to the 00’s, and the RnB and Funk pioneers” On describing his sound, the artiste didn’t mince words on his strong influences. His music is a masterful fusion of Soul, Funk and Afro and he hopes to blend into other genres of music with time. While King hopes to make music for a fun time, he also hopes his music would preach the message of self love and believing in oneself. He has no doubts his music would be bleed into the fabric of the Ghanaian sound effortlessly.
“I‘ve asked myself how Ghanaians would receive my music so many times over the past couple of months but at the end of the day, I believe that music is a feeling, and feelings are real and have no boundaries”
His latest project, Gravity, mirrors a representation of his lived experiences just like his other creations. That said, audiences should expect love, joy, heartbreak and harmonies in his upcoming EP. The EP would have a few songs with Ghanaian artists, which he knows the people will love to hear. He held out on the names for an element of surprise and I can’t wait to see who features on the project.
“Besides that, I‘m working a lot as a producer and songwriter and I am working with a lot of well known Ghanaian musicians. You’ll hear the songs that I‘m working on very soon”
King cited style icons, Lenny Kravitz and YG as his biggest style influences of all time resulting in his edgy mix of both vintage and modern aesthetics. “Fashion and music goes hand in hand. Fashion is just another way to express myself, just like I do with music”.
Listen to King Ketelby James debut single ‘GRAVITY’ here ;
Photo Credits: Mpho Mokgadi.
Words by Brimah for Glitz Africa.