Published Jul 23, 2013To hear Kae Sun (born Kwaku Darko-Mensah Jr.) tell it, creating new album Afriyie wasn't planned as much as it was preordained. While elements of spirituality and humanism had previously peered through — in a perhaps palimpsest fashion — in his earlier musical work such as 2009's Lion On A Leash, Afriyie sees the Ghanaian-Canadian singer-songwriter's transcendent outlook laid bare.
"In Ghana, everything is seen through a spiritual lens. I moved away from that when I was younger because I thought it was uncool to let that show through your art and music. But later on I discovered that music is a spiritual thing."
In his native Ghana, studying at the musically renowned Achimota School in Accra, and then thrust into a multicultural milieu by moving to Canada in his teens, informed his current eclectic "West Africa meets the West" approach to music.
"It's a tricky one," he says, of defining his sound. "It's soul music, it's reggae music and it's folk music. It's a little bit of hip-hop in terms of terms of the MC delivery and lyricism. It's music that I absolutely love and can relate to."
First known in Hamilton (where he attended McMaster) for his hip-hop-inflected music, it was moving to and performing in Toronto and where his spiritual conviction and veneration to soul and folk music (think Sam Cooke, Bob Marley, and Ben Harper) fully revealed itself. Afriyie, translated, means "successful outcome" and the ten-track project aims high — tracks like "Heart Healing Pulse," "When the Pot" and "Dzorwulu Junction" resonate while defying categorization.
"That's how I see the world. It's a matter of growth, courage and confidence. This is what I am and this is what music means to me. So it's just taken me awhile to embrace that and just let it show," he says. "It's about embracing that perspective going forward."