The Compozers are a young band whose music and live performances have been described again and again as “vibrant, energetic and memorable”. The quartet, which formed in 2008, includes Nana Ntorinkansah on Bass, Stephen Asamoah-Duah on the drums, David Akrasi on Keys and Keytar, and Charles Mensah Bonsu on Keys.
As the fourth installment of their highly acclaimed show A Night with the Compozers draws near, and after the release of their heavy weight Summer Mix, it was only right and a great pleasure indeed to have the boys for an interview with WPGM.
Thank you so much for being with me today, firstly I’m curious to know how you started playing your instruments?
Nana: I started from Church… Sounds like a typical story I guess… Majority of musicians start from church. I started by playing the drums and I developed an interest in Keys, bass and then keyboard. When I like something, if I can teach myself how to do it, I’ll figure out a way and start doing it.
Steven – Same really, from young I was just playing pots and pans, my mums pots and pans… then I started going to church… after church, [I’d] sit back and play around a bit, as I got older, people started to see … ‘Oh he’s got something in him’. From church to secondary school, to doing a few little bits here and there to where I am now.
I’m also curious to know how you lot met?
Nana: Myself and Charles went to the same primary school… we were really good friends. [from there] obviously he went to secondary school [before I did] as he’s older than me, lost contact for a couple of years and then reconnected at his church’s [youth] conference, then just developed an interest… [saw] the fun in playing as a collective, young people just playing all the different styles in music, started to become popular in our locality, amongst our friends and family, we started to germinate organically… 100% we weren’t just put together.
Impressive to know that you aren’t just instrumentalists but producers, music arrangers and music consultants. How did that come about?
Steven – It’s stuff we did naturally, it was second nature, without us even realising [You know]. Some girls do make up really well, and they do it on their friends… [they say] ‘oh you’re a really good MUA’.
You fit the role without realising, so with us, people come to us [saying] ‘oh what you think about this’… ‘how can we do this and that’ and that’s actually a service people provide professionally, as well as producing… [maybe] we will just sit down one day and be like ‘aw let’s mess around’ and we would actually put something together and we were [actually] producing music and arranging music.
That’s an everyday thing for us because, for shows, for rehearsals we have to arrange the music, for an artist, for ourselves, we have to actually sit down and piece music together.
You are all of Ghanaian heritage, so permit to ask this: Knowing African parents, more truth than just a stereotypical assumption, want us to follow the Doctor, Lawyer, Academic, Engineer path of life. How did your parents take on the idea of pursuing music as a full time career? And is that the case till now?
Nana – [laughs] I like how you coined that!
Steven – For me, literally from day one, they’ve had my back, from as little as 3, 4 years old… I’d probably have to buy a new drum kit like twice a month, cos they’ll buy it [and] I’ll break it, and then I got to an age where they could get me a proper drum kit, and then if i need to go places, even if it means taking time off work, or getting someone to take me.
He [dad] has always wanted me to play in a bad, always always, He always makes reference to Oasis, U2, He’d be like ‘Listen you need to get into something like this’… They’ve never forced me to be something, ‘oh you have to do this you have to do that’, especially cos they’ve seen the love and passion for what I do. My parents are like, ‘yeah this is what our child wants to do, why should we make him do something he doesn’t want to do?’
Nana – My case is very much the same. My parents always had really influential people around them seeing my music ability from a young age and they encouraged me to push my music in the right direction. In Church, my dad is a bishop, [so] there are different departments in church, sound and instruments.
I started picking up skills, and when we got older and got into the music industry, I realised that many people in high positions do not even know what we know from church as musicians. This has put me in an advantageous position. They just encourage me to keep my morals, and home training as it is a crazy world we are in, in the music industry, your mistakes are more blatant to see.
Being that your parents are christians, and your father is a Bishop for that matter, were you ever pressured or advised to go into gospel music?
Nana: yes [laughs] – loads of times, my personal perspective… although this may change later on and you might see me on the cover of a gospel album [laughs] but for now I believe, this is a career. It’s a career of the arts and in this career you have actors, artists and different directions you can go in. [And] you can’t tell a christian actor only act in christian films, you can’t tell an artist, only paint pictures of Jesus Christ, you can’t put someone’s creativity in that sort of nutshell.
We are all christians in the group so we try to make sure the music that we are playing it conveys some level of positivity, encouragement. In comparison to people who bible bash all the time… what people tend to take from us the most is how we carry ourselves, our lifestyles, how we relate with people.
This resonates more with the people than those who just go around shoving the bible. The lifestyle – that’s the most important thing. They’ll be like ‘Rah! This guy, he’s a lot more different than what we expected, asides all the success, there’s something consistent about his character’.
Fair enough we all listen to the same type of music. We are not even necessarily playing the most popular songs, so it’s not really about the songs. [It’s] what they are taking away from it, is the story, the story and the creativity?’ Every interview we do, every show we do, the first thing we always do is acknowledge GOD, because we didn’t get these skills or these talents by ourselves. We nurture them, but it didn’t come from us. With that, they (fans) always and continue to support us.
Would you like to share any challenges you confronted along the way from when you first started this musical journey?
Steven – Yes I will speak for myself, myself and Nana, we did a lot of work together playing for artists, so making the transition from being the musician (behind the scenes) to being the artist. It’s [like] a whole new different world it’s like we are doing now. We would be [the ones] back stage while the artist was doing the interview. Now our shows have become so much more hectic, that transition to that.
Dealing with the sacrifices you have to make as well, in the beginning you don’t really understand the sacrifices you need to make and why you have to give up so much but I think after a while… after finding your feet you understand.
Being the youngest in the group I found it hard not to go and out and chill with my friends how everyone else was out all the time. If they were going to this party, I had to be at rehearsal. [You know] you wanna be young and have fun but you have to understand and set your mind to say ‘look, this is what I have been called to do and whatever it takes I have to do, make that sacrifice put in that work’.
It’s a whole different world… the hours are longer, you have to eat sleep and breathe this literally like 24/7… Before it was like we turn up to rehearsal and we can leave after and we don’t have to think about nothing. [Like] Today for example, we went from a shoot to the studio to this interview and then we have to go back to the studio, where’s the time to breathe? Do you know what I mean? There’s no time for that no more.
In the beginning it is challenging, but I say it’s a good challenge… that we can take upon ourselves. At the end of the day, you know what you’re working towards.
You guys have performed at a catalogue of places, from Europe to Africa, what is the best and also what is the worst experience you’ve had during a performance?
Nana – The worst… we were playing at an event at South London. We had to do all the preparation on the day itself like soundcheck and all that. It’s a process that takes a bit of time… So we done all of that, the show started. They put us on as the first act. At the time we hadn’t had a name like that we were just ‘The Compozers’. We start playing, and after 3 minutes they start closing the curtains on us, [pause] it was emotional.
It happened because… well… it wasn’t a connection problem, because it was obvious the crowd wanted more, but it was the promoters and all these people who obviously aren’t really concerned with how good you are as an act, they just have to get their money’s worth off of everyone else they put on the bill, so that was a proper confidence killer, really annoying experience. But It’s good… it humbles you… as good as I thought I was through all of this, there are still ways that someone can [proper] remind you that you are still not where you need to be.
Steven – Okay one of our shows, our first headline show, during soundcheck , we were soundchecking the last songs, and my drum set literally split in half and I did not know what to do, as the show was to sart in an hour so I call any drummer I know in the area saying ‘Have you got this?’ [and I hear] ‘No I’m here, I’m there’ and I was like ‘Ugh!’. But i got to the end of it, something came through.
Another one… so we got this festival with Fuse ODG. We were packed and excited, and usually I have my drumsticks on me, but [for some reason] I’m looking around me, I can’t find the bag. No one has seen it, [but] I have to keep calm. When Fuse’s tour manager came and told us it was time to go on stage, I still didn’t have my drumsticks, this is 10,000 people, so I had to come clean and say I didn’t have them.
Thankfully there was this store of emergency supplies, so my manager had to literally run for his life to go get them. I told my band mates to not let anybody see this, because they’d be like ‘How stupid can you be to be without your drum sticks?’ Drummer turning up with no drum sticks, first and last!
Nana – [laughs] Trust, I’ll never let you forget.
In a place like Nigeria, where anything can happen, what do you do in the event of a power outage?
Nana- It happens all the time!
But… You can only wait, or carry on playing, for some of the instruments, eg the drums we don’t need electricity.
Steven – [So] We were playing at a wedding I think. The venue had one of those noise limits, so we went over and it [the sound] just cut off. But I think the crowd was so into it , they were actually singing the song , so I just continued playing [drums] and we were just like yeah it’s not gonna come back on so people thank you very much!
If you weren’t into music , what do you think you’d be doing by now?
Nana – Entrepreneurship. God being good to me [miraculously] I have the gift to persuade people to do things, to encourage people to do positive things [innit]. Business is set up to help people. I think I’d do [really] good in those sorts of things.
Steven – Same and also a social activist.
So what sort of issues are you standing for at the moment?
Steven – The rubbish going on… especially amongst the youth. It’s just getting ridiculous. Obviously being younger than them [band members], I think I see [it] more directly than they do.
I say this all the time – me hearing someone has been stabbed, it’s almost like i am immune to it… it’s almost like a weekly thing, but that shouldn’t be the norm. Why is that [even] normal?
Just helping young people, to go out there and do something with themselves.
What song out there, old or new do you wish you composed on your own?
Steven – [pause] In my whole career this is the best question I have ever heard!
Nana – Rah! Okay I know. That Michael Jackson song. ‘Human Nature’. What it takes to put that song together musically is crazy.
Steven – I’d say ‘Stay’ by Chicoria. Big Jazz song. You can’t be a musician and not know that song. Doing that, I would know what I have left a legacy amongst musicians. Second would be Rihanna’s ‘Work’ [laughter].
Nana – Yo! That surprised me
Steven – Such a simple song… lyrically and production wise, but the waves that song has created! Knowing that I have a percentage on that as a producer, I can kick back and enjoy my life. That song world wide is doing a madness, and the producer, whoever he is, is probably doing what i said I’d be doing. Just kick back and enjoy and the money will still be coming in! But I’ll get Rihanna one day for something else, something bigger!
You lot have put out a couple of mixes which are great, we’ve got the twists and turns you put on other people’s music, when are we going to get official original music from you?
Nana – The only thing we can’t give you right now is a date but probably the beginning part of next year. We’ve basically been living in the studio at least the second half of this year working on an EP/Album/body of work [1st part we were touring]. We are going to be featuring some really good artists as well so everyone should look out, it’s going to be a great piece for everyone to look out for.
Speaking of features, you guys have performed with another impressive catalogue of Artists including Wizkid and Fuse ODG, to name just a few, but if you could pick 3 vocalists anywhere in the world to work on your original music, who would you pick?
Steven – Stevie Wonder, Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande [laughs]
I like that. You’re an old soul that knows where the money is at…
Steven – They got the money right now. Stevie wonder is a legend, I got the mix!
Nana – I would say, Mariah carey, Chris Brown, Usher. Usher has been in the game for over 20 years for a reason.
Which one of achievement are you most proud of?
Steven – A Night with The Compozers. What it started out as vs what it is now, that is not how it was supposed to be. It was supposed to be a “friends and family show” literally about 200 people but it sold out to about…
Steven – Thank you! And that was our first show and we thought, ‘we must be doing something right here, people like it’. We thought, we should do a part two, and we hit the ball like far out. We’ve jumped from a 250 capacity venue to literally 10 times the size , 2000 people and leading up to that was just a madness.
We had a day (set) for the show, literally the day before the show i get a phone call, cos I was rehearsing with the orchestra and Ryan and Nana were both at the venue…
Nana – No… I was with you.
Steven – oh yeah and Nana gets a phone call to come down to the venue quickly and they were like ‘Steven you stay with them’. I was cool… not long after, I get a phone call to come down to the venue urgently, ‘get in a cab and come’. I get there and there’s police there and they’re like ‘you lot can’t do your show here’.
We’re like ‘what do you mean?’ This goes on [back and forth] but that didn’t stop us, we still came back to the venue on the day of the show as if we were still doing the show. Until the point where the police came back and issued a warrant, and said this show is not happening, ‘just go home’.
Nana – Imagine standing there telling 2000 people to go home! The reason is the tip off. We promoted the show so hard, that so many people from so many different areas on the internet were coming. But the event was meant to hold in a church building. Now obviously the church building doesn’t need to inform the police that an event is happening because they do church all the time. But because of the magnitude of the event socially, it wasn’t even over because of over capacity… it’s because it was ticketed.
The police needed to be informed to be prepared just in case anything was to happen. It was the last Saturday before Christmas and then Tottenham Football Club was playing on that day as well, so they felt that they were under policed if anything was to happen.
Bear in mind we were all young guys. We used all our money on this, it was so emotional it was about £15,000 worth of stuff down the drain, we had to recoup all that money within 2 weeks and put it back on as well as keep 2500 people calm in order so they could come back again so it was a really hectic (event). We were like ‘why is this happening’, what exactly is this for, but when we actually did the show, I saw that God has his reasons why things happen.
Steven – The show, the feeling in that building, speaking for myself it was indescribable. It was like ‘wow’. Okay despite the fact that this show got cancelled… on the day I know for a fact there was some guy shining his shoes, some girl doing her make up and straightening her hair getting ready to come to this then being told it’s off… but still came and if anything the numbers were more…
Obviously we’ve gone on to the third one now, we’ve played at a prestigious venue now and, the industry personnel now have their eyes on us due to our consistency, ‘These guys have continued this thing so what is it?’. To be able to keep such a show running ad getting bigger and better to me that’s a very proud achievement. Not to say anything else doesn’t surpass it but this is because it’s no one but the 5 of us.
After 3 shows, what would make the 4th different and more memorable for the fans? What should they be looking forward to?
Steven – It’s the 4th. Its bigger than 1 , It’s bigger than 2, It’s bigger than 3, It’s bigger than 3, 2, and 1!
A Night with The Compozers takes place on December 19, 2016 at the Shepherds Bush Empire, London. Grab your tickets here before it’s too late!
On a final note, here’s what the lads have to say to the fans:
“Thank you for supporting us, keep supporting us keep following us keep dreaming keep believing your part of the grind as well, it’s not just us!”
Interview by Davina Orikakhi