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What is the Pinnacle of a Musical Artist?

To truly say you have reached your pinnacle means doing something so profound for yourself or the culture that measures up to a standard that life or art should mean to you or the people watching.

Life is full of phases, and as humans, we are conceived with insatiable needs.

As a young boy growing up, I had a lingering image that I just couldn’t get out of my head. Somebody, anybody, singing their heart out to music I had made. This image became more haunting when I was exposed to more good music. If I listened to a very good song; to me, a very good song was never mainstream. I would proclaim, in my deepest of hearts, that if I had made that song, I would have retired, instantly, happily.

I felt this way because I had zero belief in my musical skills, and I also knew it was close to impossible to make things that beautiful twice. Over time, this thought and unwelcomed honesty extended to ‘if I made something that one person enjoyed, I would be fulfilled forever’. One person screaming my music would be my pinnacle, my culmination, my forever.

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For me, it was just being heard. But what is the period in artists’ lives that they say to themselves ‘This is everything that I have ever wanted, anything beyond here is extra. Do they ever come to this realization?

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Sometimes, we downplay how much power music, and its propagators have – music has shifted cultures, broken stereotypes, made billionaires, provided comfort, built nations and the list goes on. So, to truly say you have reached your pinnacle means doing something so profound for yourself or the culture that measures up to a standard that life or art should mean to you or the people watching.

Artistic feats or achievements come in two-fold, the personal or the cultural.

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Pure Akan was able to touch both hems when he transitioned from Quabena Shy to now Pure Akan. Culturally, he put rap and Twi in a place that nobody before him had. Of course, hip life acts had been rapping in Twi since Reggie Rockstone. But nobody brought emphasis to the language as a medium of communication as he did. The intricacies, the layers, the Akan philosophies, and the ideals he preaches and the sheer bravery to rhyme with Twi and make it sound so good and meaningful in a language that eludes many, is Pure Akan at his pinnacle. As a person, he created for himself the freedom to manipulate the Twi language without restrictions and create a ‘home’.

Wanlov the Kubolor has reached his pinnacle at least three times in his career. He and his compatriot M3nsa, broke barriers with a pidgin musical (Coz Ov Moni 1 & 2), the first of its kind, and propelled pidgin music to great heights. Wanlov came onto the scene an outlier (a role he is glad to play), has walked barefooted for over 15 years and speaks unapologetically against bad governance [read as Ghana] through his music and on all the platforms he is afforded. He is currently leading the trumu revolution, fighting for Ghanaians with a different orientation to living freely in their country of birth.

Wanlov’s pinnacle is hard to measure or quantify. For him, this is just about living to his fullest, but for the people or things he’s influenced, this is everything. As far as we live in an unjust and single-minded system, this culmination will only evolve.

From the start, people rubbished Asakaa as noises from Kumasi. Five or so years later, Asakaa is still going strong, the boys are now recognized as the superstars they are. By the time Asakaa became household, they had already reached their pinnacle, they had shifted the culture in a way that local recognition meant very little – the music was there to show.

This is not to say you should only shift culture to reach your pinnacle, a younger me would take one person hearing my music as my culmination. Some artists reach their pinnacle on stage when they are performing. There are artists whose music is heard in the crannies of the world, in obscure cultures. Some artists reach their pinnacle through family, having a family and affording to care for and love them. Some musicians change their journey, from circular music to gospel to feel a sense of being.

Irrespective of how big or small you are, there is something unique to you or your journey that becomes your pinnacle. Others may be more documented, but it doesn’t invalidate your journey. By creating to reach your inner child, the 14-year-old you, you will find more reasons to reach new heights every day.

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