Belinda Nana Ekua Amoah, popularly known as Mzbel was born and bred in one of the slums in Accra, Ghana known as James Town. From a nobody and with no silver spoon in her mouth, Mzbel, while hustling and trying to make an honest living for herself stumbled into music and went professional when a producer noticed her voice and decided to invest in her talent and the rest is history. In an interview with Bukola Edah of Encomium Weekly, Mzbel, which simply means Miss Belinda, recounted growing up in the slums and surviving on instincts and how life is treating her now as one of Ghana’s best Hip-life female celebrities.
It’s been over 10 years you have been in the music industry. Can you walk us through the high and low moments of your music career?
Okay! Let’s start with the low moments and that will be when people judge you without knowing who you are. They judge because of the costumes you wear, and because of some small mistakes you make, they call you names and insult and even if you try to make things right, you are still not given the chance to do that. Also, my low moments will be those times I was nominated for the Ghana Music Awards and the panel for the awards go on TV and not discuss why I’m in the category, but will rather discuss my stage craft, costumes, and lyrics and tell the world how bad I’m a bad influence to the youth, and still say people should vote for their favourite artistes… I mean, at a point I decided not to be a part of it, until recently when we solved the issues. One day, I was performing at a university in Kumasi and the crowd were so excited that they didn’t want me to get off the stage. Before I knew it, they grabbed my leg and pulled me into the crowd and the people on the stage were also trying to pull me back and before I realized, I just collapsed and I woke up in the hotel room with a nurse and a doctor by my side. One of my low moments was also when I got attacked by armed robbers in my house and the media rather than consoling me, said I brought it upon myself because of the way I dress and the lyrics of my songs. How does that attract armed robbers to the house, it’s really sad,. The fact that I came into the industry with a bold and different style doesn’t make me less of a person. Judging me wrongly and tagging me with negative names affected a lot of business for me. I don’t want to get emotional, so these should be enough.
And how were you able to move on despite going through all of these?
You know back then social media was not as common as it is now. So, it was very difficult to get a platform to explain or defend or try to do some damage control, you just ignore and try to do more good music so that you can cover up…but after a while, they will stop talking. But one of my high moments was when I first performed in New York, USA. It was at Ghanafest some years back. The crowd was so crazy about Mzbel and I could see the ladies crying and screaming and wanted to touch me, coming close to the car, you know, and I was kind of confused. Because I was young and it was all new to me. It was interesting and when you get on stage to perform, you don’t know where the energy is coming from, just because people show you much love and appreciation, and before you start singing the song they just took over the song and it was really interesting as one of my high moments.
What was the motive behind your hit song, I be 16years which also ruled the airwaves in Nigeria back then and won you so much fans?
Basically, when I recorded 16 years, there was a time in Ghana when rape was very common, and there was only a woman who kept talking about it on radio, so I decided to do the song to help preach the problem. Because the fact that somebody is young does not mean you should take advantage of her. I also wanted to encourage the young ones that if someone touches them in a wrong way, they have to be bold enough to say or report it. But unfortunately, when the song came out, there was a like and there was a hate, and some people still found some negativity in the song, asking me what am I talking about and it over shadowed the message in the song. It was so sad. But basically, I did the song to support rape campaign.
How will you describe motherhood, though you had adopted three before giving birth to your own biological son?
It’s different from what I used to think it was. I thought it was just waking up in the morning, making sure the children have eaten and have gone to school, thinking it’s not a big deal until I had my own. I mean, it was stressful, the depression alone is just… you know my baby, for instance, is crying and I don’t know what is wrong with him and he can’t tell me, or he suddenly develops high temperature and I don’t know what to do, because I’m a single mother as well, but it is a wonderful experience, because when every thing is calm and I watch him sleep, I get emotional and ask myself, if he is truly mine(laughs). It’s fulfilling and it makes me appreciate and love my adopted children more and make me appreciate their mothers, because I never really cared before. Although I took them from people, I never cared if their parents or family come to see or check on them, but after I had mine, I made sure I invite them once a while to come and spend time with their children. Now, if I leave the house to work, I keep calling the house to check on them. So, motherhood has really changed the way I think, react towards so many things and even the way I dress has changed a lot. I used to hang out a lot every weekend, go on boat ride and do all sorts of things, but now, in my spare time, I want to be with the kids and help with their homework and watch cartoons with them. So over time my priority has changed. And it is a very good experience.
Looking back at those days how does it make you feel now that you can afford to live a comfortable life?
It makes the hustle real, to come from James Town and reach this level. I don’t know how it happened. And that is why I always want to go there and educate the people there and tell them that the fact that they live in James Town doesn’t mean it is the end for them and they can be anything if they can be serious with their education. I help provide some basic materials they need and also help boost their confidence. Because I believe if like 15 successful people come out of James Town, they can also help other people and by so doing, the community will become a better place. A lot of activities go on like, teenage pregnancy, bleaching of the skin, because at a certain age, after I finished high school and was waiting to gain admission into the higher institution, I was young and I felt because I could speak a little bit of English I have to enhance my beauty and I took up to bleaching. And nobody cared, because that is the tradition there, once you can afford it.
If I can come in here, why do you dress seductively in most of your videos?
The people, who launched me into this industry, were not show-biz people. They were just some people with money and recording studio and just wanted to invest. So, I came up with my first album and they allowed me to be myself and have fun. I was very young and naïve, a girl from James Town with a huge opportunity. There was no plan, nothing, so I went on stage with anything and how I felt like. And people started tagging me with sex, and most of the pictures were carelessly taken, so I have been tagged with some dirty image. But recently, I try to rebrand and be decent and it became worse. People started insulting me, “You are boring,’ ‘What are you doing,’ ‘are you now doing gospel,’ etc. So I realized even if I go into full time church business, people will still tag me what they want to tag. So, what we did was to rebrand and made sure that the sex appeal is presented in a descent way, and also worked on my costumes.
What was the experience like for you when you were in Nigeria and your song being played in almost all the radio and TV stations?
It was interesting and a lot of fun and fulfilling to know that I live in Ghana and my song was so popular in Nigeria and people can also sing it and even do their own version of it, it was awesome, My God! I remember once on TV and people called to comment and praise my work. It was really good. But my fans should watch out for my new songs.
What is your advice for the young ones out there who want to excel in their various chosen career?
It’s not an easy life out there, especially if you are a female. Basically, they need to take their education serious. Education is number one, so you can understand what you are doing and you are able to express yourself and be confident. Once you possess these qualities, the rest will just fall in place. But if you have no idea of what you are doing, then people will take advantage of you, and you will make a lot of mistakes that correcting might be very difficult.
– ADEBUKOLA ADENEYE-EDAH