“Imagine what life would be like if as a result of a global Pandemic and a system we have no control over, independent artists no longer had the means to release music.”
Mobo nominated artist M3nsa, real name Bondzie Mensa Ansah, has set up a kickstarter campaign to raise £20,000 in a bid to release an album, live EP and a documentary where he is in control of his own narrative as a Ghanaian British black musician and producer.
The self-titled album ‘Bondzie’, which means ‘speak up’, has been made to serve as a catalyst for young black artists and future African leaders finding their voice and is likely to inspire many independent artists across the globe at a time where the music industry is in a state of flux.
M3nsa’s ‘think outside the box’ attitude could serve as a step in the right direction for musicians who have lost funds due cancelled gigs during the pandemic and he is just a small percentage away from reaching his goal and the deadline is only a few days away (February 17).
However, it is all or nothing! If M3nsa does not reach the goal, the money is returned to the audience.
Why go independent?
Despite being offered numerous deals in the music industry in M3nsa’s career, he has had to turn them down due to the lack of freedom and expression within their terms.
Labels and executives have regularly tried to ask M3nsa to mould into their version of an “African Artist” instead of allowing him creative freedom to explore all of his influences which have made him the artist he is today.
He said: “Music allowed me to experience a whole world outside of what I was used to and bring that back into my art.
“I guess that’s why the way I navigate through different music genres makes it impossible to put me in a box.”
“I am considered a troublemaker for my refusal to conform, and even now, it translates to that recurrent undertone in conversations when industry executives suggest I make my music more digestible and fit in if I want to be ‘bigger’ as an ‘African Artist’.”
Mensa has been working professionally in the music scene since he was 16 when he produced for Reggie Rockstone- a legendary artist known as the Godfather of the Ghanaian musical style Hiplife.
He has since gone on to release groundbreaking works over the years as a solo artist and been part of many successful groups such as RedRed and FOKN bois.
After living in various countries and touring the world M3nsa has soaked in various cultures which have added to his identity.
In March 2020 all of M3nsa’s shows got cancelled and producing and releasing music became more and more complicated.
He added: “I had to say ‘no thank you, goodbye’ to a bunch of people who tried to make me feel like a Spotify Playlist was all I could wish for and that their offer for releasing my music was something I had to be grateful for because after all, I am ‘just’ a Black African artist who can’t aspire to much more.
To force otherwise progressive Black artists to serve power dynamics that keep them out of the important conversations is not how we come out of this mess.
“A lot of things started falling off. I had to grieve losing friends because Covid is real and takes a toll on you physically but also mentally.
“And then the Black Lives Matter movement started. Things became overwhelming and I had to press pause.”
During this time M3nsa kept working on this album “as if it was the only way to exist in the moment”.
And that’s how ‘A Live’ came up – a live session with four songs from M3nsa with an ensemble of Black African and Afro-Caribbean musicians at Gun Factory Studios in London under COVID restrictions.
The funding was awarded by PRS Foundation and it will be released along with the album should the Kickstarter be successful.
M3nsa has not released any solo projects this big for 10 years and Bondzie is set to make a real statement.
For more information, visit: www.kickstarter.com/projects/mensaansah/bondzie-speak-up/posts