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For Josh Blakk, The Guitar Strings His Way Of Life

Josh Blakk is a Ghanaian musician whose style cuts across many genres. His music covers themes of love and self-discovery. His open-minded approach to music-making and heartfelt songwriting resonate with his listeners. From as far back as Senior High School, he has experimented with various music styles and instruments. 

In 2023, he released his debut album O.N.E which eventually led to 3 Telecel Ghana Music Awards nominations for him, and an Apple Music spotlight saying he’s ‘Up Next’. After these wins, he returns to the music scene with a deluxe version of his debut album O.N.E which is a pleasant surprise for several reasons. It doesn’t end there for Josh Blakk. He will be travelling to perform songs from his new project in Amsterdam, Canada, South Africa and of course, Accra. In the meantime, he chats with The iMullar Network about his new album O.N.E Deluxe, his decision to pursue music professionally and his partiality to a particular stringed instrument. 

You’ve been making music for a long time. At what point did you decide to make a career out of it? 

I’ll say a long time ago. In Senior High School I was in a band. We used to go to different schools and places to perform—We played at Independence Square, we played for the president, we played at churches and prisons—and we’d be rewarded with food when we got back. So it wasn’t monetary, but that transactional element was present and it stuck with me. That was the point where I felt like I could make a career out of music. 


You seem to have a special connection to, if not a preference for, acoustic guitar. What do you think the reason for that is? 

I think it depends on what state I’m in. There was a time when I played only the nylon strings. Then I played only steel. There was also a time when I played just the electric guitar for almost two years. Before that, I wasn’t playing guitar at all. I was playing only the piano. In high school, I played the piano, the saxophone and the flute. Sometimes I played drums too, but it was after high school that I fell in love with the guitar and picked it up. No one ever taught me to play instruments. I just try to figure things out. People say I’m a multi-instrumentalist but I believe it’s just one. My preference depends on the state I’m in. It depends on the mood, it depends on the song, it depends on the performance. 

I see you on stage with your guitar a lot. Could that also be about convenience? It’s easy to stand upright and sing and play at the same time

Yes, that’s one reason too, but have you heard guitars? Have you heard what they sound like? They can do anything. They can sing, they can cry. They’re amazing. So maybe I’m a bit biased towards guitar. Who knows? 

Love seems to be a recurring theme in your music. What’s one important thing you’ve learned about love over the years? 

I believe that if you don’t have enough love for yourself, you’re lying to yourself if you think you’re loving someone else. You can’t give what you don’t have. One thing I always say is that it’s the person closest to you who can step on your toes, or hurt you, and it could be unintentional. So you learn to forgive and move on in love. Don’t expect that everything will be rosy, that there will be no issues – that’s not love. Yeah. Feels like a therapy session, right? 

The title is “O.N.E”. Do you pronounce it as “one”?

So it was supposed to be O.N.E but my friends and everyone else kept calling it “one” so we’re calling it “one” now. But it was supposed to be O.N.E which stands for Off No Effort. 

What is the message behind the title? 

You know it takes effort to stay in a relationship, in a marriage, and there are times when you need to be intentional and say “I don’t feel too good about you today, but I’m applying this effort to stay in love.” So there was this discussion about whether love requires effort. And I thought let me make a project that describes a love that doesn’t require any effort. It’s seamless, you know? So that’s how that title came about. 

Two songs on the album that have titles in Nigerian languages. ‘Iyawo’ and ‘Nwanyioma’. Can you speak on your connection to Nigeria?

When I was very young, I lived in Nigeria for two years or so, so I feel like I’ve always had a connection to Nigeria. When we were young, my dad was a preacher and sometimes his friends from Nigeria would come visit. I’ve always had Nigerian brothers around me, and then in a very crazy way, fate brought two Nigerian brothers MisterKay and Chi.Wav into my life. MisterKay is Yoruba and Chi.Wav is Igbo, I think. We’ve made so many songs together. Sometimes they think of something and want to sing it in Twi so I help them out with that, and sometimes I want some Yoruba in some songs, and they help me out with that. That’s how it’s been. 

If you had to describe O.N.E. and the Deluxe in one word, what would they be? 

I’m being tempted by so many words right now. Hmm, I’ll say triumphant. The deluxe was very explorative. I’ll say explorative, yes. 

I hear differences in the production of the Deluxe version of the album. Did you work with different producers? 

Yes, so with the first album, the production had a lot of live instruments. Even the way the vocals were mixed was very different. The producers on that one were me and Chi.Wav, for most of the songs. With the Deluxe, though, what I wanted to do was fine-tune it to make it sound like a deluxe version of something. Like “If you thought that was god, this is better”. That kind of thing. So we changed the genres of most of the songs, we added some songs that were supposed to be on the first version but didn’t make it, and I worked with a different producer – Bskute. So you hear the difference. For a song like 6 am in Amsterdam, there was no choir, originally, but for the Deluxe I got a choir to come in and sing. The last song on the first version of the album became the first song on the Deluxe version of the album. 

What inspired the song selections and the changes in the Deluxe Album?

I love to experiment. I don’t like being in a box. My team and I were talking about the deluxe album and we said okay we are bringing all these old songs and then adding new ones. I thought why not try something different, you know? When you’re going to buy an airline ticket to let’s say Amsterdam, and you see the options, you’ll see ‘standard’, you’ll see ‘gold’, and then you’ll see ‘deluxe’. There will be a clear difference between them. That’s what I was going for, and so far so good. People are really into the album. 

At what point do artists start thinking about a deluxe version of their album 

I think some people wait to see how well the project does, and others plan. It’s relative. I had already planned to release a deluxe version of O.N.E, but I have to say I was really happy about the success and progress of the first project because that was my debut, and to get three nominations off that? Wow. So yeah it just felt right to release the deluxe at the time I did. 

Let’s talk about your favourite part of the creative process for this project

The beginning. With Hankipanki, we were just talking, and then my guy said “Make we do am amapiano” and I realised I didn’t have an amapiano song so I said let’s run it. He played the chords, I started singing and I said “Chale quick let’s do it”. I can’t explain it but there’s just some feeling you get when you’re about to create. It’s sensational. There are so many different energies on the project; it’s not just mine. So that’s what I’ve done right: collaboration. 

The album hasn’t been out for long but is there a song people are feeling right now? And did you expect that song to be the one to resonate with people?

Hankipanki featuring Ric Hassani. One of Ghana’s popular YouTubers made a reaction video to the song so today my phone has been blowing up! I feel like when we were making the music, we had that feeling.


You’re on a winning streak: 3 TGMA nominations, a deluxe album release and on the same day Apple Music spotlights you as the next big thing. How are you feeling? 

Words can’t even describe it. I looked in the mirror and I was like “Bro, you deserve this” because we’ve been working for so long, so having this opportunity for people to hear my songs and share them and experience them? It’s amazing. I’m over the moon. I remember the first time I saw the nominations. I was like “Bro? No. No.” 

You’ll be back on tour next month. Amsterdam, Canada, South Africa… Which songs are we dying to perform? 

So I have a repertoire. I have a set list that includes most of the songs on the deluxe album, two songs from the first project and then two unreleased songs that I always perform. We’ll be focusing more on the deluxe album. Also, we have a show in Ghana on 29th June. For most of these shows, I’m being invited to perform. Like for Afro Fest in Canada. So yeah, winning streak, and I’m grateful to God. 

Artists talk about how performing, doing live shows of their own and opening for other artists has impacted their careers. Would you say the same? 

Definitely. The Canada show is happening as a result of a show I did in Ghana last year at Alliance Français. If you ask me, I prefer performing to releasing music. I order playing shows and having people around. I live for the stage. I’ve loved it ever since I was young. 

What would you like to say to your audience? 

Thank you to those who have been patient with me over the years, waiting for me to release a body of work. I finally did, and they’re streaming and sharing the music. I love them and I’m grateful to them. Every day I gain a new listener. Thank you again, stay with me, and let’s keep growing together. 

Written and Interviewed by Raphaela Rockson

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