Incorporate English into your songs to penetrate world market – China-based musician advises

China-based Ghanaian gospel musician, Ishmael Philemon Ackon, known on stage as Bro. Philemon, has made a passionate appeal to musicians in the country to try and incorporate the English language into their songs to get the needed mileage.

According to the musician, failure to do so will deprive musicians in the country, the needed push to fully making it into the global market.

With the debate ranging on as to whether Ghanaians should stick to composing songs in the local dialects or do so in the English language, the gospel musician believes that while it is important to incorporate English words into the songs, Ghanaian musicians should make sure they maintain the African rhythm.

Speaking in an interview with, he noted that the greatest barrier facing Ghanaian music is “the genre. We try to follow trends and when you follow trends, the ear sometimes gets tired of the trend.”

He also explained that, “We try to [only] localize our songs like always in Twi. When you look at Nigerian music, Nigerians have their own language yet mostly they sing in English because they want to cut across.”

Most Nigerian musicians, Bro. Philemon, noted “are trying do songs in English but with African rhythm,” they are therefore cutting across – penetrating the global market.

“We cannot compete with those people who have their own genre of music. If you try to go exactly the way they are then it’s going to be very difficult for you to get there. It’s possible for you to break through but it will take time,” he stressed.

With only one album – M’asan Aba – to his credit, he won ‘Artiste of the Year (Asia)’ at the 2013 Africa Gospel Music Awards in the UK and also recently won ‘Collaboration of the Year’ at the 2013 Ghana Gospel Industry Awards organized by Adom FM.

Bro. Philemon believes that Ghana’s music is unique and complementing it with some amount of English will do the country’s musicians some good.

The ‘Me Bo Wodzin’ hit singer started his professional music career in Ghana in 1997 but moved it to China due to his business ventures in that country.

Doing music in China, he explained, “is good but it is not as home [Ghana] because you don’t have the wider audience in China as you have here [in Ghana],” but nevertheless he is making some gains and he is currently embarking on a couple of projects that will “make me have a wider audience in China as I’m going to record Chinese songs,” and more English songs.

He believes that singing in Mandarin “could be accepted because it amazes them [Chinese] to see black man speaking Chinese. That’s what makes it attractive to them. We’ve had concerts in China and we sing Chinese songs and it always amazes them.”

Currently, Bro. Philemon is in Ghana to embark on an extensive campaign to vigorously market himself and his music more to the Ghanaian audience because he has observed that a lot more people know his works but not the person behind them. He is also rebranding to suit a wider market – including Nigeria and South Africa.

Back in China, he is a member of a Christian band Freedom 61, based in Shenzhen, China, and they engage in evangelism and series of Christian activities. Story by Ghana | | Ernest Dela Aglanu (Twitter: @delaXdela / Instagram: citizendela)

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