His music hit Ghanaian charts in 2016, when his song ‘Mercy’ (produced by Vacs) catapulted him to the top. The hit that gave him international exposure followed soon after: ‘Tomorrow’ (produced by Kuvie). Darkovibes, also known as Andrew Paul Nii Amu Darko or 'Cool Paul', brings an alternative sound that wasn’t very common in Ghana yet.
A new sound
He's part of the Alté music scene; alternative music from Ghana and Nigeria. A scene that is often described as more than music, Alté is a lifestyle. Though Alté artists bring a distinct and new sound (that one often described as wavy, a mix of hip hop and highlife) Darko doesn't box it: “We just switch beats and do it how it feels to us”. Darko's songs can be fast and energetic, but also chilled and relaxed. Lyrics are smooth blends of English, Twi and Ga. When you ask him about his music he’ll tell you it’s ‘feels’ - “because it’s about our feelings”.
To many, Paul is one of the first artists that put Alté music on the map in Accra “I wouldn’t say I’m the first. I have a lot of friends who are creating music from which I learnt a lot”. At his young age he already collaborated with big names in the Ghanaian music industry, artists like Omar Sterling (R2bees), Joey B, Edem, Efya and Magnom. His latest collaboration, Bless me, was with Ghanaian artist Kidi. Two weeks ago he released a new solo single, Different (produced by Uche B) with amazing artwork of Ghana-based painter Midichi. He’s also part of a group that is at the forefront of new popular culture in Ghana: La Meme Gang. Darkovibes came, Darkovibes saw and Darkovibes is conquering.
Darko by Seth Aryee
Blue hair as a style trademark
It’s not only the different sound that drags one’s attention to the Alté artists, there is more to it. Artists like Paul (and Amaarae whom I talked to earlier on) have a style and carry an energy with them that's different. With Paul the most recognisable feature of his presence must have been his hair. He might have been the one who introduced dyed (and bleached) hair trend on men in Ghana . “I get bored easily, so I play with my hair a lot”. He even got his nickname because of his hair; it used to be blue, always. At every Instagram post of his look he always added the blue dolphin emoticon in the caption; Cool Paul was born. Today, it’s his mood, again ‘feels’, that influence the design of the hair. “Most people like the blue, but I love the baby pink and green”. He puts his hand on the back of his head and starts to talk about the shape in his hair: “these are the olive leaves, shaved in the back”. The look he has during the interview wasn’t the initial look; he was supposed to dye his current blonde look into another colour, but he was late for a shoot so there was no time again to dye it.
The importance of style
To Paul, style is important for artists “People want to be like us, so we have to dress a certain way that feeds their aspiration, if we don’t, we can’t influence or motivate them. Style is a way to make people want to be like us". His personal style is a mix of styles and items. He combines second hand clothes with Ghanaian cultural items and (inter)national brands “My environment and the old folks influence my style - their sense of style and the way they contrast colours”. We talk about the colonial past and the lack of freedom Ghanaians had those days. That times have changed in Ghana we see in Paul’s style; experimental, hard to box and ever changing: “it’s just feels - I wear what I feel like wearing”.
His style is eclectic and unpredictable, but besides the hair there is one other consistent style item: sneakers and canvas shoes. “I love Nike and Vans..." Paul laughs when saying it "Did I mention Vans?” Limited editions of Nike Air Force 1’s and the SKA’s (Skepta’s Nike Air Max) are part of his wardrobe. “I love high fashion too, I like Gucci, Louis Vuitton- I like what Virgil is doing there”. But don’t get it twisted, he mixes; Paul loves to thrift. Accra has a large second-hand clothing market, Kantamanto, where he goes to shop himself, and he has sellers call him when they have an item that might suit his style. “Kant…, everything is there o - that’s where I like to shop.”
Style isn’t just a passion; when music was slow in the beginning he worked as a stylist, styling and dressing artists, producers and reality stars “I was working with a lot of different people, behind the scenes at different shows”. Through his styling gigs he got to know a lot of people. Though style is important to Paul, music is his main passion: “Music makes me happy, I love to create and speak my mind, say what’s in my heart”.
Darko by Seth Aryee
What can we expect next? “Plenty of music and more collaborations- with interesting Nigerian and South African acts”. Want to know and hear more on Paul? Check out his Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Music for sounds and Instagram or Youtube channel for visual content.
Images: Seth Aryee
Interview: Carmen Hogg