By JR Valrey, the Minister of Information
In late July ‘21, I was honored to be the road manager for the Tony Toni Tone’s “Timeless” Tour, which also featured singer Keidra On Stage, to Panafest in Accra, Cape Coast, and Elmina in Ghana, West Africa. Although it was my second time to Ghana in 3 months, on this trip, I learned alot about the nation’s history through Panafest. I also learned a lot about the Ghanaian music industry from working primarily with Keidra and the members of Tony Toni Tone, while they were rehearsing, recording, interviewing, and hanging out with legendary HipLife artists Yaa Pono, Afro-Beat phenomenon Chayuta, the legendary West African Afro-Beat and Hip Hop producer Mix Master Garzi, and others. So I am kicking out a new series of articles, starting with Keirdra On Stage, that will document the voices of the musicians from Ghana and the U.S. talking about their Panafest experience, as well as their experience with working with one another during this this year’s historic festival. Keidra On Stage opened up for Tony Toni Tone, and was the only musician to travel from the US, besides the Tonies, so I figured that we would start with documenting her feelings about the Timeless Tour.
JR Valrey: How did you feel about Africa before you performed at Panafest 2021, opening up for Tony Toni Tone in Ghana?
KeidraOnStage: Before I performed at the Pan African Historical Festival aka Panafest 2021 I was a tad bit nervous because, honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. Growing up in Oakland, California and growing up the way I did my peers and my family members knew nothing about our real roots. They’d make fun of African culture. We just knew our ancestors were taken from there. We didn’t even use the word ancestors. It’s still fairly new to me as an adult, because growing up, my family never relied on “our ancestors”, we depended on God and God alone. I was exposed to the poor parts of Ghana, the dirt roads, and people struggling barely getting by. When I arrived not too many of my childhood assumptions were off, but I suppose this is only because of the part of Africa I traveled to this time around.. I plan to see the other areas really soon, though. Overall Africa for me was not too bad of a culture shock since everybody looked like me. lol..
JR Valrey: How did the Panafest tour make you see Africa differently?
KeidraOnStage: It honestly had a lot to do with how I viewed Africa. My mind was set on things I wanted to disentangle in my mind from childhood. Aside from that, I thought I’d be coming and going, as I pleased. I thought I’d be eating, sight seeing, and learning as I please, but I was in the whirlwind of a tour that left me no choice but to be grateful to be a part of it. I always knew music meant so much to Africa, but to see how they loved American music just as much as their own, blew me away.
JR Valrey: Where did you perform in Ghana? How did Ghana respond to you?
KeidraOnStage: I performed once in Ghana in a city called Cape Coast. The Ghanaians and visitors from other places enjoyed my set, although I was dealing with more than one discrepancy prior to hitting the stage. There were a few issues with the music I brought with me, music I thought would be perfect to perform, to display my diversity, was no longer appropriate. So I had to change it up 15 mins prior to me getting on stage. So that led to me ultimately not getting a soundcheck like everyone else. I got on stage and attempted to render 3 selections. My second song stopped on me approximately 35 seconds in, and the DJ went right into the third selection. Thank God, it was my mental health awareness song because I was able to convince the crowd that what I was currently going through on stage was little to me, because it’s all about your perspective; which was the meaning behind my mental health song. Yay me! But to answer your question, I think they responded respectfully and were very sympathetic, while grateful to be exposed to a different kind of music.
JR Valrey: Can you talk about the many different interviews that you did in Ghana? What did they ask you?
KeidraOnStage: I had a few interviews in Ghana. In one interview, Tony Toni Toné was the special invited guest to unveil a picture of Dave Chappelle. I enjoyed that event, because I admire Dave Chappelle not only because of his celebrity, but because of the work he does on the continent of Africa. This was a party at Akwabba360. It was a real dope experience. Another interview I enjoyed was at Visnec Radio, where I did a few radio drops, talked about my album that I’m currently pushing, called The Keidra Kollection (available everywhere). And that was a lot of fun. We also visited Esi Sutherland-Addy, the Chairperson of Panafest Foundation and the Board of Trustees. Although, I wouldn’t quite call our meeting with Ms. Esi an interview, but it was sort of like one, because we were able to question one another and pick each other’s brain on how Africa and Black America felt about each other. I’d like to add that to my roster of interviews. I had a really great time getting to know how Africans view Black people in America.
JR Valrey: Can you describe some of the Ghanaian artists that you worked with or plan to work with in the future?
KeidraOnStage: One artist that I didn’t get the chance to work with, but it’s in the plans, is Ghanaian sensation Chayuta. She’s so gifted. We shared the stage at Panafest. I met her mother, grandmother, personal band leader and producer Mix Master Garzy. Another artist is Yaa Pono from a city called Tema. We actually performed together a song he had already recorded with Tony Toni Toné for Panafest. Yaa Pono has die hard fans where he’s from, and his ability to control his fans was astounding. Yaa Pono and I finished a song that I had written, not too long ago, titled “Hold Me Down”. We plan to shoot a video really soon. Time was pressed for us during this visit in Ghana, so we couldn’t shoot. I respected the fact he was also wrapping up his own album, and was on the road, and in the mountains for those matters.
JR Valrey: What’s the story behind how you got the very popular Ghanaian Hip Hop artist Yaa Pono to feature on one of your songs? How did it come together?
KeidraOnStage: Actually JR The Minister of Information thought it would be a great idea to collaborate with him. I understand why, because the track I had was so smooth and it actually had this almost reggae islander feel to it, and with Yaa Pono and his really strong African eccentric accent, who else for the job? Or should I say feature? So we did it, and we worked really well together. He’s very passionate about his work. I admire that, because I’m the same way.
JR Valrey: What song did you film a music video for in Africa? What was it like shooting a video in Ghana with a Ghanaian videographer?
KeidraOnStage: I have a mental health awareness song that I recorded, a few months ago, called ‘Get up Get up’. I also performed this song at Panafest. I wrote this song with the hope to help people like myself get over beating themselves up, for their past mistakes, and changing their perspectives around their current situations. So I shot a video for that. Africa was the perfect place, and the timing couldn’t have been any better. Eric filmed my video, and JR helped to direct it. JR also helped with the treatment. Eric was super dope.
JR Valrey: What was it like being on tour in Ghana with the internationally known music group Tony Toni Tone? Can you tell us about one of your biggest moments off of the stage on the tour?
KeidraOnStage: Oh my God, sharing the stage with Tony Toni Toné was the experience of a lifetime, a passion of mine and a privilege. They’re so professional and gifted. I was blessed to be a part of this movement/tour. One of the biggest moments was getting stage performance advice from D’Wayne Wiggins, himself. I definitely took so many notes.
JR Valrey: What did you do when you weren’t dealing with music in Ghana? What was your favorite thing to eat out there?
KeidraOnStage: When I wasn’t doing music in Ghana I was sightseeing, trying to stay in touch with my loved ones back at home, with all the bad phone service lol. I went to a few places like the Black Star Monument, the slave dungeons, and the mausoleum where the first President Kwame Nkrumah was laid to rest, alongside his wife. I visited hotels and restaurants. One in particular was in Elmina, by the ocean, called Mables Table. They played really dope music, and had some great eats. My favorite thing to eat was the red snapper grilled fish.
JR Valrey: How could people keep up with you online?
KeidraOnStage: My Instagram is “keidraonstage”, youtube, SoundCloud, every social media platform is KEIDRAONSTAGE
My email is email@example.com