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How Ghananian singer, Essilfie, won two grants in a short span of time – A story of pleasant surprises

How Ghananian singer, Essilfie, won two grants in a short span of time – A story of pleasant surprises

Maame Esi Essilfie

Maame Esi Essilfie, a Ghanaian singer/songwriter whose music journey so far has been one of pleasant surprises has just won not one, but two grants from international organizations. The first grant came from the British Council through her Creative Enterprise Support Programme while the other was won from the organizers of the Gold Block Party

Essilfie has built a very strong network and community as an artiste, and is well known in Accra as one of the city’s most promising acts so it comes with little or no surprise when we learn that she applied for the British Council’s programme just because she wanted to further build her network.

‘So, I applied through a link I saw. It was actually sent to me. The video was sent to me by a friend. They made a call for artists to come and be trained by the British Council. And they said it was a Creative Enterprise support program. They didn’t really state whether it was funded with money. But I just assumed that a program organized by the British Council would be educational. And that maybe we would get to network with some amazing people. That was my initial idea and reason for applying – that we would network with very big people in the industry who could be of help.

I signed up, and the process was not difficult at all. All we needed to do was to make a short video, fill out some forms and then, await response.’

In the time when she was awaiting response from the organisation, Essilfie kept on working on promoting her recently released project, Tori’s Lounge, and its lead single, Aben Woha in which Cici Yeboah features. Never known to possess a slack hand, while in this business of taking her music to more ears, Essilfie later learned that she had gotten a response.

‘I later learned that I was selected. But before we were even selected for the main program they did a workshop first where we were introduced to some of the business things in the industry. We spoke about the basics pretty much. Streaming, et cetera et cetera. There was a representative from Spotify, a representative from Twitter, as well as a musician, M.anifest

We did that before they selected about sixty people to undergo the main training.

 During this training, some of the meetings were physical while some were Virtual. And we were supposed to be present for all of them. I guess they were watching us. And also, with the virtual ones we were supposed to be commenting and engaging. So, I guess those who didn’t engage were automatically removed or disqualified from getting the grant.

I always participated. I kept showing up.

The good part was that they were also giving us money for like data just to continue the video course. And we were also given a free course on Music Business.

 So, we did that for a couple of weeks. Between physical and virtual for a couple of weeks. For a couple of weeks. Later on it was announced that they had halved the sixty selected candidates to thirty. Then later on they said they’d select people for a grant. But they ended up extending the number to ten after further deliberation.

 Yeah, so here we are.’

In the process of the programme, after the grant was announced, Essilfie made sure she was letting the process get ingrained in her, and with that her natural talents of interacting with people and managing her conversations with them began to naturally show.

‘It was actually fun. I felt like people thought I’d get it because of my participation in it. I just felt it. Because people kept reaching out to me and just asking me when the next dates are, when the emails… I’m like, why me though? Do I seem special to them or something?

But yeah, I felt like people, not the moderators but more like the people. They were making me feel like the leader kind of.’

Essilfie giving a speech during the showcase

The programme in itself wasn’t as “too professional” as Essilfie thought it would be. It in fact helped her hone more of her creative skills. The best part of it for her however was when she was assigned a mentor.

“We had sessions where we were freestyling as well. Just getting into the creative mood, networking and all. I think it was very productive. And I’m glad I was part of the top ten. There was a period that day when they got us mentors and that has really helped. Because the lady that I was given, she’s called “Echoes”. Her real name is Delise Nwago. I’m sorry I can’t pronounce the name… I think it’s a Nigerian name.

So, she’s based in London. She’s an artist based in London. She makes alternative music. Which is very different from the alternative music we make here in Africa. She was super helpful. 

Prior to the programme I was already feeling overwhelmed with my music. I had been overwhelmed with everything going on and I was just trying to find balance. She kind of cleared my mind for me. It was twice a week. Twice a week. We were talking, talking and talking. She actually made things clearer for me. And that was the highlight of everything that we learnt.

I felt like most of what they were saying was stuff that I was doing already personally. I mean like the other things they’ve been teaching you were things you know but the mentorship felt like something different. 

Also, I think I need to mention that there were things that I was already unconsciously or subconsciously doing, but the programme just made me put it to mind that “ohhh this is why I’m actually doing this”’  

By sharing her experiences from the programme, it is easy to predict that Essilfie’s artistry would take a more positive turn due mainly to the fact that she has gained new insights into how to approach making her sound, art and personality stand out in the industry. Speaking on most of the positive things she has taken away from the programme, Essilfie says…

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‘Well, I was very… You know because I’m mostly independent, my mind has been everywhere and anywhere I want. But now I know the priorities to make the music and to actually pass the right channels, collaborate and actually have a team. And because of the training I was able to build a team. I was able to come together and get people.

I have come to the realization that I can’t do this alone. I need people backing me, supporting the dream till we actually start making some significant amount. Also, I need studio equipment.

I now prioritize my goals, my investments. Like what exactly I’m going to focus on. How to promote my music better.’ 

‘The programme has also made me figure out my values as a musician. I always knew what I stood for but I didn’t think it’d help me get my fanbase or it would actually help me find my people. So, I realized that my vision, my values are especially what would make me get better fans in the long run.

Also, the fact that I was doing things without even knowing what I was doing but I just did them. Now I realise that I know what I’m doing, and this sort of provides me with structure.’

Attending the British Council’s Creative Enterprise Programme is an experience Essilfie will always hold close to her heart. She expresses this without mincing words.

‘I felt so happy that I got it. I don’t know if I deserved it because there were so many other people in the programme, why should I be selected over all these talented people. And it’s not like I am more talented at something. They just weren’t chosen.

Right after winning the grant from the British Council, Esilfie playfully applied for another grant from an organization in charge of an event called “The Gold Block Party”. She won it too. Lucky right? Here’s how she did it:

‘That was just like a challenge and me just shooting my shot. And I didn’t think I was going to get it because it was like the most random thing ever. I was so shocked because I learnt I had gotten it on the day of the event.

The challenge was ‘Post a snippet of your song and stand a chance to get connected to MTV Base, Yfm Ghana and perform at the Gold Block Party, and also you can win three hundred dollars’.

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