The name may not ring a bell if you are not a keen follower of music in this country. But to music industry insiders, she is the soulful, charming singer who had been there to back nearly all the top acts in this country until a couple of months ago.
She has now taken ‘centre stage’ with the completion’ of her debut, an album aptly titled ‘Elivava’ (I live forever) and she is more than glad that her days as a backing singer are over.
“As an apprentice, you must graduate at some stage and be on your own. I have discovered what style of music appeals to me and how to approach it my way,” Elivava (real name Tina Mensah Gbevi) said in an interview with The Mirror.
Tracing her steps in the music industry, Elivava said as it was with most musicians, she started singing in the church.
After recording an album with the Sanctuary Choir in the early 1990s as one of the group’s lead vocalists, the studio engineer commented on her good voice and encouraged her to come to the studio from time to time to serve as a backing singer.
She did that, met a lot of artistes at the studio and did some backing vocals.
But she took a break in 1995, though she continued to sing at church.
Her interest in studio work was whipped up again by a cousin of hers who introduced her to Ekow Micah.
She backed him on a recording and went on to sing for a legion of Ghanaian artistes, including Amandzeba, Afro Moses, Rex Omar, Sidney, Samini, VIP, Atongo, Kojo Antwi and Ekow Alabi.
During her studio gigs, she met a jazz pianist, composer and arranger called Charles Duwor (popularly known as Fafa) who encouraged her to take interest in jazz music.
In the course of immersing herself in jazz, she undertook thorough vocal exercises and learnt to be on her own as an artiste.
Elivava collaborated with Charles to come out with an 18-track African jazz album and they also performed in jazz clubs across the country.
“After doing backing vocals for some time, 1 thought to myself that 1 could not go on doing that all my life. I needed to move on from there because 1 can write songs and” sing well,” she stated.
Elivava set herself a task to write enough good material to fill an album and the result is her maiden collection.
“Whenever I sleep, I wake up with a new song. So 1 love sleeping,” she said.
According to Elivava, it took five years to come out with the album because “I had to research and come out like myself, not like any other person.
I believe if you are convinced enough to do something, you must strive to bring some striking difference to it,” she noted.
The self-titled album contains 10 songs, eight of which she wrote herself.
The titles are: ‘Welcome to Elivava’, ‘Save Them’,’ ‘Love of a Woman’, ‘One Nation’ and ‘What will be will be’, which happens to be Elivava’s favourite.
The other songs are ‘Ce Pa Ca’, Kobla’, ‘Bumi’, ‘Yiko’ and ‘Goodbye But Not Forever’.
The songs are contemporary African music fused with Western style, explaining why Elivava described her music as having a ‘world music approach’.
Explaining, she said, “Music is my passion. It is what I love to do but it is business at the same time. When I do Ghanaian music, I would also want it to be pleasant to other ears so that people of different nationalities who hear it will like it and go for it.”
She said she would like to portray Ghanaian music in a way that would make it have an impact on the international scene.
A native of New Baika in the Buem District of the Volta Region, Elivava’s parents are Matthew Gbevi and Beatrice Agbontor.
As a child, she did not picture herself becoming an artiste.
“I was more into collecting pieces of cloths from dressmakers and cutting them up to sew my own fanciful things. I also loved making dolls. My parents thought I’d be a fashion designer,” she recalled.
All that has changed now and she says, “My album is a gift to Ghanaians and all musicians. To all those I have backed, I want them to know it was a privilege and to thank them for the learning process.”
The album will be launched next month. Elivava intends to tour Africa and other parts of the world after the launch to show Ghanaian culture in a different light. She is very confident that her performances will leave positive impressions in the hearts of her audience.