Arts View

  • Opens in a new tab
  • Opens in a new tab
  • Opens in a new tab
  • Opens in a new tab
  • Opens in a new tab

Mar – May 2020

Elivava Tina Mensah

Elivava. Singing is more than just a way of life...

A native and resident in Ghana, Singer/ lyricist Elivava was born and raised in the city of Tema. She hails from New Baika/ Old Baika in the Buem Constituency. 

I can hear a lot of hustle and bustle when she answers my call.  It turns out she is at a music festival.  Calls between UK and Africa are not always crystal clear at the best of times.  I needn’t worry as she has a quiet place to go to for our chat.

The name Elivava is something that came to her through meditation and reflection.  The entry in ‘Wikipedia’ refers to her as ‘Elivava The African Gold’. 

As far back as she can remember music has always been prominent in her family.  Her grandfather had the responsibility of playing a ceremonial drum called the ‘Atumpani’ whenever the occasion called for it.  Her father was a DJ and artist promoter who took her around Africa while doing his job.  Her mother was the lead alto in Church.  Her mother’s passion for singing is something that enthused Elivava while she was growing up.

In a sense as music has always been part of family life she feels it chose her rather than any pivotal moment occurring where she decided to pursue a music career.  Aside from helping the family through a brief stint at small scale hawking when her Father’s business failed, all she has ever done is music.

I quiz her on the hardest thing she faced when turning professional and she reveals it is the same issue that still persists to the present day; the spectre of unwanted male attention in all its manifestations.

She goes on, it is something that can be overbearing and can have a detrimental effect on the female psyche.

Moving on we turn our attention to challenges that seem particular to music/ musicians in Africa. 

The scourge of ‘pay to play’ is something that is detested by musicians the world over.  This is no less so in Ghana.  She reveals artists pay DJ’s to play their music but the level of royalties never seem commensurate with air play.  She feels the whole system is opaque and is in need of root and branch reform.

Elivava also feels domestic music is not as appreciated as foreign music.  While some countries in Africa may have exceptions in terms of the home grown artists supported, she feels that in countries such as hers there is something in the national psyche that devalues indigenous artistry.

However, she is hopeful, as things are slowly changing but contends it is an uphill struggle.

It is documented Elivava suffered abuse as a teenager.  She has clearly not let that period and the damage it caused hold her back.  She is pleased that music allows her to have a platform on which to campaign for better rights for women and children.

Having known people who have suffered yet persevered and gone on to excel has bolstered her own resolve.  She doesn’t dwell on setbacks but seeks to learn what she can from them and move on.

She puts her money where her mouth is and donates a percentage of receipts from each performance to unemployed women to use as seed funding.  Recipients are required to provide progress reports and when/ where possible assist other women who were in the same position. 

She also sponsors children’s education and personally provides learning assistance too. Most of her intervention is focused on her village but she also operates in other areas where possible.

Returning our attention to music we touch on how it is evolving in Africa.  One of the things she is pleased to see is the collaborative approach that has been developing.  Artists working with other artists across the same nation or across Africa and at times across the world.  She believes this is a thing of beauty.

The creative spring is not inexhaustible and at times must be replenished.  Elivava does so by chanting and meditating.  She also likes to envelope herself in the natural environment by taking walks by streams and in woodland.

She cites the late Billy Holiday as her greatest inspiration and feels there are a number of parallels between their lives.  The voice, the legend that is Mariam Makeba is also someone that has inspired her.

Her new material will see elements of traditional songs from her village being woven into a contemporary framework.  In a sense she is going back to her roots to move forward.

It is clear from my conversation with Elivava there is a lot more she would like to achieve with and through her music.  It sounds like she has all the attributes and talent to get the job done.

Previous interviews are avaialbe here; archive

© 2020 All rights reserved – African Global Networks (AGN) – March 2020