In a world of injustice, social misconceptions and daily struggles of people from different ethnic backgrounds, it is always a relief to find individuals who channel their voices for change through the power of their art.
From music, to dance to aesthetic works, art has and will always be one of the strongest forms of expression for people.
A firm believer in the need for peace and harmony in his community, Reggae artiste Cojo Tee uses his musical talents to preach his message to all who would listen.
YEN speaks to the Ghanaian-born, U.S-based musician who describes himself as an advocate for social justice, and uses his cultural roots from the Ashanti Region to influence his lyrics.
He has been dubbed the ‘new reggae sensation’ with hit singles such as ‘Babylon on the Run’ which was inspired by the tragic events surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin, and the afro-pop song ‘Adjoa’.
But let’s start at the beginning.
Born in October 1962, Ike Tee Ewudzi started his life in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, before he moved to New York in the United States.
His appreciation for reggae music started in the 90s when he met the Ivorian reggae sensation, Alpha Blondy. Cojo Tee recalls how that meeting changed him and steered him towards a love for reggae music.
His own experimentation with singing and songwriting in the reggae genre was the first piece in assembling his path down a musical career.
“I chose reggae music in particular as a medium to educate and also serve as a voice for the voiceless. I have for a long time observed the same status quo in our African society, where poverty has become a lifestyle for certain people either by fate or by deprivation of the system. This has made people become prisoners of conscience and in their own bodies. I came into this business as a social advocate,” Cojo Tee tells YEN.
However, after going through the motions of your typical everyday Joe, Cojo Tee put more effort in his music and launched himself in 2013.
While earning his Masters Degree in Organizational Psychology, Cojo Tee through his extensive study realized he needs to do more for his people.
He believes it is about time Africans stop being the ‘consumers in the society’, who are fed everyday instead of going all out to create their own opportunities.
Heading towards his Music Career
Starting out with small gigs at occasions and events, Cojo has risen steadily to shows in collaboration with the Mayoral Office and other non-government organizations or associations, such as the veterans association.
Detailing how far he has come since his first show at the Yonkers Library Auditorium, Cojo tells YEN: “I passionately sing to create awareness for now. I have also have a couple of shows in Toronto where I sang for schools and also participate with Blakk Rasta in the 2014 world reggae festival in Toronto Canada.”
A career in music is certainly no easy feat and Cojo Tee has had his own fair share of ups and downs. He sees himself as a world class artiste someday and admits to being selective with his performances.
Quite understandable, as the reggae genre tends to not have a wide audience base in many places. Cojo states his desire to stand out pushes him to not find shortcuts to success.
And that means working hard at his trade regardless of how long it will take. His motto? “Nothing comes easy” and he lives by these words everyday.
What does his music mean? Cojo Tee, a very religious person believes in using his music to promote love and harmony, and bringing people together.
“I always allow my situation and that of others to be a bridge towards creating a human environment in the realm of empathy. I want to make an impact in society, even as I struggle everyday to be a better person whoever I meet. I believe in a good name, not riches.”
Every artist has his inspirational roots starting from the greats and Cojo Tee is no different. From Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah to JJ Rawlings, Nelson Mandela to Barack Obama, Cojo Tee is motivated to never give up in his dreams and keep pushing forward.
When it comes to the music legends that have influenced his artistry, Cojo named Bob Marley, Lucky Dube, Alpha Blondy, Osibisa among others.
For his ‘Ghanaian Flavor’ as he puts it, Cojo enjoys the different tunes and rhythms that the likes of Shatta Wale, Bisa KDei and Samini bring to the music scene.
(VIDEO: Babylon on the Run by Cojo Tee)
Every artiste looks towards the days ahead as they mark their dreams; Cojo hopes to stand out, and up above the rest. He seeks nothing short of world class in his musical pursuits and is pushing through the boundaries to get there.
“The future is very bright for me as I am preparing a package for the world and my fans, something totally different and with a class of its own. I don't want to be a copycat, thus the reason why it has taken me so long to get there. If I still feel I need more time, I will wait for the right time. To me, it has always been better or never. I don't want to be in anybody's class. I want to have a class of my own.”
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