Photography & Interview by: George Qua-Enoo
“What became of the Black People of Sumer?” The traveler asked the old man, “for ancient records show that the people of Sumer were Black. What happened to them?” “Ah,” the old man sighed. “They lost their history, so they died.” – A Sumer Legend
History is important, the only way one can retain history is to remember the old days and celebrate it. With that comes renewal and inspiration to create a bright better future. His name is Kojo Easy Damptey and he is a Ghanaian, an African, black and proud, you can call him a Renaissance Man.
This year Kojo Easy Damptey is bringing us Renaissance Music 2.0 at Homegrown Hamilton on August 14th – 15th. The two day celebration will start with a Hip-Hop showcase on August 14th, followed with a Soul Music showcase on August 15th.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Accra, Ghana. From the chilly mountains of Akropong to the cool breeze from the shores of Cape Coast I learnt all the Ghanaian traditions of love, family and the ideals of being a communitarian. These foundations never left my mind, heart and soul even when I had to leave Ghana for the land of maple syrup, hockey and banter around the weather.
For the time being I call Steel City, Hamilton my home, better yet Art City, where art is the new steel.
I personally enjoy your music. The first time I listened to one of your albums, it really resonated with me. Your lyrics are poetic, they are deep and it’s about social justice as well. Where do you find the inspiration for your songs?
There is an old Akan saying that “art has a functional and communitarian purpose. It should inspire people to live in their cultural understanding.” This statement encompasses how and why I create art. I believe art should express what people feel, the struggles they face, the emotions they can’t explain. When art does that then people cannot only connect with the lyrics but it can also inspire them to create change.
Social Justice is a huge part of all aspects of my life, I believe its important because as a black person living in a world framed by the West. Social justice gives me an outlet to talk about the injustices I see in my community and in the world in general.
Let’s talk about Renaissance Music. How did this come into being?
I have been making music in Hamilton for close to a decade, in my past dealings with other musicians who would identify as people of color; there was a sense that there was no major music festival or event where they could showcase their talents. Having heard this same story over and over again. I decided it was time to create a music festival that would cater to those needs. In 2014 I decided to start Renaissance Music 1.0. The idea and name harkens back to the Harlem Renaissance that spanned the 1920s. The Harlem Renaissance was a movement that gave rise to Black cultural, social and artistic expression. It is my hope that we will be able to replicate that same fire in Hamilton in order to create a movement where Black, Brown and Red artists can express themselves, culturally, politically, socially and artistically.
Some people say Hamilton already has Music nailed down with other major music festivals. What makes Renaissance Music different?
Renaissance Music is different on two fronts:
1 – Renaissance music is the only music festival that celebrates and pays homage to African and African Diaspora culture that has played an important role in creating music genres around the world including but not limited to Hip-Hop, Soul, R&B, Afro beat, Highlife and Afro Jazz.
2 – Majority of the artists that perform at the festival reside in Hamilton or make music in Hamilton.
Anything else we should expect from Kojo Easy Damptey in the coming year?
Since the release of my debut album “Daylight Robbery” I have been touring with my band and we have been working on some new tunes for the sophomore record, which will be called “Giants”. We will probably take a break from touring in the winter to record the songs, thereafter, the plan will be to release it next year.
The sophomore record ‘Giants’ will be different from the debut in that it will be heavily influenced by Highlife music from my home country Ghana and Afro beat from Nigeria. So stay tuned in the meantime visit my website at www.easythepianoman.com to join the mailing list.