Not many churches can boast of their local choirs becoming a national asset. But, the Global Evangelical Church can because of its Bethel Revival Choir. In fact, the Kotobabi, Accra, based singing group became an instant hit in Ghana with their Akpe album in 2018; since then they haven’t looked back.
The group won the hearts of many Ghanaians with their unique style of doing music – remaking and modernizing common traditional Ewe Christian songs into great records.
Bethel Revival Choir won multiple awards between 2018 and 2019 at both the 3Music Awards and the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards.
The group has gone on to release a number of original songs of their own, performed on big stages alongside some of Ghana’s gospel music giants in the country as well as featured in a peace song project “One People, One Nation” by popular Ghanaian dancehall artist Stonebwoy during the 2020 general elections to preach peace.
It seems like anything Bethel touches turns to gold and the choir’s upcoming record, ENYO, is no different.
It seems like anything Bethel touches turns to gold and the choir’s upcoming record, ENYO, is no different.
Recently, David Asiwome Boahini, Manager of Bethel Revival Choir spoke with Africarticles.com over the phone to share all about ENYO, how it was inspired, Bethel’s unique style of music, the group’s relationship with Joe Mettle and an update on “IN HIS PRESENCE”.
On the story behind Bethel Revival Choir’s soon-to-be released record, ENYO…
DAVID: ENYO is an Ewe language which basically means ‘He is good’ as in God is good. So that’s the meaning of ‘Enyo.’
Another thing I’d like to put across which a lot of people don’t know yet is that, if you’d recall, sometime last year before Covid struck, we were preparing to record our third album. And we had to put it on hold. Hopefully this year we’re working to record the third album. And by God’s grace the third album is titled Enyo. So it’s divine that at this point in time, we are releasing Enyo and our next project will be to record the album so that is the whole story about Enyo… all we are trying to say is that God has been good.
We’ve been in existence for like more than 20 years. We are just a local church choir and so we didn’t really seek to be in the limelight like God has made it. We were just in our own corner trying and doing our own thing…trying to put together some songs for Ewes.
We just realised that the industry was more dominated with other languages, especially Twi that is Akan and we have some few Ga songs and some few Fante songs. And we realised that from our side of the country – that’s the Volta region – we didn’t have a lot of ewe songs. But Ewes are great composers. If you really want to look into the industry, you realise that most of the industry guys are connected to Ewe in a way. They’re either Ewes or connected to the Ewe lineage in a way. So you’ll notice that there’s a lot of talent from us; and we have a lot of songs…a lot of local songs which we sing in church, in our homes and all that but there’s this challenge where by it’s just known to us – all the songs are just known to us alone. So that was what awakened the spirit in us that ‘Okay, let’s put it out, let’s try and modernise it a bit, let’s try to put some touch to it a bit.
Prior to that, we have a programme we’ve been organising called ‘IN HIS PRESENCE.’ We started it in 2008; so every first Sunday of the month we have this Praises and Worship concert that we do. And it gave us a lot of exposure, a lot training, we were able to build ourselves, to build capacity, to learn how to perform on stage, how to comport ourselves, how to manage a big stage and all that. So through all these, over the years we were able to put together some songs and we were also able to write some of the songs which came to us – some of them during rehearsals and some of them during ministration of the Word at church and all that. So we decided to put these songs together and put the local ones (the well-known ones) also in there and put something out there – something standardised out there which can be known as ewe songs so that when anyone googles, when anyone goes on any online music store and wanted Ewe songs they’d have standardised Ewe songs which can also serve people’s need. So that’s how the whole thing began.
We recorded our first album the ‘Hallelujah’ album, then we recorded the second album which is the ‘Akpe’ album and now we’re just putting things together to record our third album because we already worked on that last year.
So all we are saying is that God has been good. It has not been easy at all, especially when the Akpe album came out and we weren’t prepared for all the fame and extra work it had to come with and all that…but God has seen us through. The Bible says His plans are not our plans and in His own time He makes all things new, so we just decided to heed to His calling. Probably this is the time for us to also serve not just Ewes but everyone in every corner of the world with our type of music. So this is the whole story about Enyo and the reason why we are naming our third album Enyo because God has been good to us.
On how easy or difficult it was putting Enyo together and who the song writers are…
DAVID: I’d say it wasn’t difficult at all. In fact, it was one of the songs that came naturally to us. During one of our rehearsals we were able to put it together and make something out of it. So everything just came naturally. Our Music Director, Henry Datsomor, he’s a great writer; he put together the verses and did the arrangement as well for us. So it wasn’t that difficult. So with music…one thing about us is that, we try to get the rhythm, we try to get the chorus then surprisingly the verse just flows. So it was so easy arranging everything.
On why Bethel didn’t record and release the album long ago when they had already worked on it before last year…
DAVID: If you remember, as I said earlier, all plans were in place to even record the entire album before Covid happened. So that means that we worked on the songs two years earlier. So Covid only delayed it. And the reason why we also held back is that we like to have kind of an experience – we will prefer to always have audiences coming to worship than we just doing a song and a video and putting it out there. We want to have them our audience still involved. So that was one thing we did with the Akpe album. When we were done with organising the songs on that album, we started singing them in our local church so a lot of people knew how to sing the songs already. So that was one thing people kept on saying, that the Akpe album was lively because it looked like everyone knew how to sing the songs.
That was what we did. That’s our strategy. We don’t want to just go out there and sing or just perform; we want to minister and we want you to join us in the ministration. We don’t see it as very effective when we stand on stage and we’re singing a song and you are just looking at us because you don’t know the song and it’s the first time you’re hearing it. It doesn’t really blend with our spirit. We want you to be so involved…and we are worshipping together even though we are leading. The atmosphere is unique when you do that. So it was one of the things that made us hold back a bit because we still wanted to insist on having the audience. And so we were waiting for Covid to leave us but as we waited, we realised there were other things that we could do as well. So even though we are set to release Enyo and even release a video as well, hopefully when we’re recording the third album we will do another version of the Enyo which will be live during the album recording.
On the message they seek to communicate with Enyo…
DAVID: The simple message we want to communicate is that through hard times, through good times, God is always good! He’s never left us, He’ll never leave us and He’ll never forsake us. God is always good. So, our simple message we want to put across is that always trust Him no matter what you’re going through. Covid came but we still trusted Him; Covid is still with us but we still trust Him. We still trust that in all circumstances, He is good. He has never failed and He will never fail us; He’s always got our back. So just put it in your mind that God is good. That’s basically the message – HE IS GOOD!
No matter how hard life is, no matter how difficult things may be, God just wants us to let you know that He is good and His love endures forever. He didn’t say His love endures for a while or for an amount of time but FOREVER.
On their going casual (guy-guy) in ENYO…
DAVID: Hahahaa… One thing we try never to forget… Someone will say ‘Never forget your first love.’ So one thing we never forget is our robe. You’d realise that in all our videos, one way or the other, the robe is in there. So even though we are dressing, in quote, ‘guy-guy’ you will definitely see the robe in there. Basically what we want to do is that we want people to know that…you know, usually when people hear that you are a choir they feel that you should look like that typical kind of choir, you know what I’m talking about. But we want to debunk that idea. We are Bethel Revival Choir, we are a contemporary choir; we don’t just do maybe say worship songs or praises songs. We can do all types of music. That is how come with Enyo, we decided to do it in this kind of hip-hop form. So that’s the whole idea. But yeah, even though sometimes we can be so cool, so nice, soft on stage and all of that, we have that other aspect where any type of music that will glorify God, we can do it! So we want listeners, our audience to have a variety of us, so that you don’t take our album and you’re listening to it and it’s just maybe a particular rhythm or genre that just runs through. No. We want to create a different “confusion” so that you hear the song and someone tells you, “It’s Bethel Revival Choir;” and you go like ,”Wow! They can do this, too?” So that’s the kind of impression we want to create. We want to be all round. Every type of music, we can do it.
On when ENYO is coming out after whetting public appetite…
DAVID: Ermm…hmm… the release date? I’ve had a thousand of these messages flooding my phone over this past few weeks and I’ve been trying to dodge it. Funny enough, I always tell people I’m waiting on the Holy Spirit. But surprisingly I try as much as possible not to just set out a date. I try as much as possible to also pray about it. We all come together to pray into the song first. That is one aspect of us that if doesn’t happen, the song won’t go out. We need to lay hands on the song and pray into the song. If that is not done, it can take a thousand years, the song will not go out. At least, so far as I’m in charge the song will not go out. So currently, that is what we are doing. And hopefully, very, very soon the song will go out. For the song, it’s ready… the video is ready, the audio is ready. Everything is set! Obviously you know the stage we are at – praying into the song. So very, very soon.
On Bethel’s relationship with Joe Mettle and his impeccable singing of ewe songs…
DAVID: Hahahaa… You see, one thing about Joe and I’ll always say it anywhere I find myself. Joe is a smart guy! And I always tell people that Joe has this anointing on him that is spectacular, it’s very unique; and Joe has served. Of late we find a lot of people trying to rise, trying to do something in the industry and unfortunately it’s depressing when you realise that they’re not even willing to serve. Joe has served so God has blessed him. He’s blessed and he has this unique talent… Joe can sing in any language; just give him the song. He doesn’t need to know how to speak the language. Just give him any song in any language. He doesn’t really need to know the language; just give him the lyrics, give him the basic guidance, how to pronounce certain words. He will sing the song for you like he even knows how to speak the language – impeccably. So that is Joe for you. He doesn’t speak Ewe. He speaks just one, one. Yes, broken Ewe. But he sings so well that you might think he is an Ewe. It comes naturally to him.
A lot of people don’t know this about Joe and Bethel Revival Choir. We have been friends for more than… I think since our existence…for more than 10, 15, years now. Joe has constantly honoured invitations to lead during our “In His Presence.” He never declines our invitation anytime we call him. There are certain times he is even leaving the country but he’ll want to quickly come around, lead and go. We have this relationship that goes as far back as when he was with the late Danny Nettey. Our music director, Henry, once directed Danny Nettey as well, so that bond had already been there. And so Bethel is more than friend and family with Joe Mettle, that’s the kind of relationship we have with him.
On the number of songs on the Album…
DAVID: We had as many as 25 songs when we were trying to put together the Enyo album, but trust me, we are not releasing all those twenty-five songs.
Emm…At most, we’ll do thirteen. And even that is a lot.
On Bethel’s unique style of music…
DAVID: That’s what God’s has called us to do. Our main aim, especially where we are coming from…the Global Evangelical Church…our main aim is to evangelize and that’s what the choir too has been tasked to do. So we evangelise through music.
And you know, Ewe is a unique dialect and as I said earlier the industry is flooded with a lot of Twi, Ga and Fante dialect songs but we didn’t really have a standardised Ewe song; so we set out that, okay, this is the song we are going to do, and we’ll stick to it. We’ll always make sure that the Ewe dialect also stands out when we are talking about gospel music in Ghana and gospel music across the world. We set out that we are taking up this task and this is what we’ll continuously do and even our descendants who will come after us will do also. This is our task, this is what we’ve set out to do. So it’s just our way of also contributing to the gospel of Christ, but we have decided to constantly and intentionally do songs in Ewe. Even though we might do some other songs in other dialects, our focus is still on bringing out the Ewe songs that are hidden in all parts of the world; try to modernise them a bit, put them out there, make them so simple for people to sing even if they might not fully understand them.
One of our motivation was that, we realised that at a point, we had so much Nigerian and South African songs in our system. You go out to town and you hear someone blasting some South African song here, some Nigerian song there and they don’t even understand the words, but it ministers to you so much. That’s exactly our aim. That you don’t need to understand the Ewe language but it will minister to you.
Just recently, about two weeks ago I think. I got a notification from our YouTube comment section. There was this lady from Malawi who wrote us a very long message. She doesn’t understand Ewe. She said she had not heard the language before and had not even heard of the name of the language before. But she said she was listening to our new Agbadza Song medley, the recent one we have done, and she said she just couldn’t resist it – the song was just ministering to her. It ministered to her so deeply but she doesn’t understand a word. So when we see some of these comments, these feedback, it feels like you’ve given us the world as a gift. So that’s basically why we have chosen this style. And I’m saying this on record, that in future, even if I’m not around, this is the path those who will take over from us will follow. This is what we promised God we were going to do; this is what God has called us to do and we’ve accepted it wholeheartedly and we will commit to it. And every other fringe benefit that comes afterwards like the fame, popularity, the accolades…for those ones they are just “jara.”
Providing an update on ‘In His Presence’…
DAVID: Yes, I recently had a meeting with the team concerning it. ‘In His Presence’ is coming on live anytime soon. Now I have two dates in mind and so it can be like right now, right now or in a month’s time. Everything is set, just that, you know, we live in a country governed by laws. And we are a Christian organization and so there are certain things you do you want to be the pacesetter, the example; you don’t want to be the law breaker. Yes, we’ve had calls asking us and pushing us to restart it. We’ve had extensive discussion about and we are even done. ‘In His Presence’ is coming back anytime soon and this time we’re coming big. And as usual, we do ‘In His Presence’ for free; we do not charge anything.
On what is unique about the members…
DAVID: One unique thing about Bethel is that we have a lot of people who sacrifice. We may go for programmes and people will ask “how you are coming?” And by the time you’ll realise, there are cars lined up – individual cars. People are willing to fuel their cars and take us to these programmes. So we have individuals who are willing to give out their personal items, personal belongings just to keep the group running. And it’s something I really admire about us; we do a lot of things for the group. There was once I said in an interview that none of the members of the choir is paid like other groups do. We even pay dues; we still pay pledges and other commitments but none of us is on a payroll. But we do what we do as though we were paid for it and that’s one unique thing about us. The commitment is one hundred per cent.
I tell people that you shouldn’t always expect cash as reward. Even the Bible says you need to sow a seed. I’ve had several relationships with other people in the industry and it is not because of anything related to cash, but because of the seeds we have sown. The type of relationship we have built from the onset.
I wouldn’t mention names but you’d be surprised to know that we’ve had all these big, big gospel ministers bless us on our stage at ‘In His Presence’ and when you attempt to give them something for even fuel, they may even threaten not come again if you do.
They are not even willing to take a penny from us. And it’s all because of the type of foundation, the type of relationship we’ve built for ourselves. So that is what keeps us going.
Covid hit us a bit and things were tough. But even in the difficulties, people were still supporting with the little that they had just to keep the group running. It’s all about doing what God has called you to do no matter what it takes and He will always come through for you. And He has always done it; He’s always been coming through for us.
On persons Bethel Revival Choir would like to say thank you to…
DAVID: Yes, yes, sure. First, I’d like to thank our church the entire Global Evangelical Church worldwide; and the Global Evangelical Church, our parish… the Trinity parish at Kotobabi. I’d want to also thank the senior pastor and his associate, Rev. Babaneto and Rev. Freeman Atsu. They’ve been very very supportive. And all the church, our patrons, our coordinators, the executive board, every member of Bethel Revival Choir; they’ve really, really been supportive.
And coming down to the Enyo song, I can’t even try to skip any names because they’re a lot. My sincere heartfelt thanks to Joe Mettle and Reverb Studios. Most of our audios are done at Reverb Studios. They are always there, they are always supportive. There are certain times you call them last minute like, ‘Chaley, I need to do this thing.” And they’re always there. The sound engineer Kakraba…he’s always there. I remember when we were recording the audio, Kakraba wasn’t in town. He was tired from some previous weeks’ works and was taking some time off; we got to the studio and Kakraba was there. I was like, “Ah Osofo, this one too you want to kill yourself?” Then he said, “If I don’t do it for Bethel who else will do it?” Chaley, these guys are so, so selfless. Mrs. Appiah, Kakraba, Michael… these guys are wonderful people and we’d always want to work with them.
And I’d also want to thank our international instrumentalists… Ludoh Sena, Owuraku ans Skiddi. They’re always there unless you don’t call them. These guys are like the hotcakes when it comes to the best instrumentalists in Ghana at the moment you can go to, to give you a different taste of your recording. And they are always there for us. Even sometimes they do it for free. They are really not interested in the monetary aspect. They are just willing to do and even overdo. They’re more than family and they are very good. I wholeheartedly recommend them. They very easy going and you can work with them.
And I’d like to thank everyone who has supported in one way or the other in financing, in equipment, it’s been wonderful. And then Zion, the gentleman who shot the video, he is the same guy who shot our Akpe album video. Zion is one incredible guy that I’ll always want to work with. That guy works at the speed of light. We shot this video and within 24 hours the next morning, this guy had called me to tell me he was done with cutting. Unbelievable. And his works are so good. He lives all the way in Takoradi but this guy can come down to Accra, come and shoot videos, come and help in production and go back. Sometimes, he doesn’t even charge us; He says Bethel is his family. Zion is a great guy. He is extremely on time. I will always recommend him, for your best videos. He has a great future. I see him doing big things. As for Zion, he is our official video guy; everywhere we go, he will always be with us.
I just want to thank everyone… all the bloggers, industry players, Nii Noi, OB Nartey, Koomson is my personal person. I owe him a lot. And all the radio stations.
On his final words and message to the public…
DAVID: I’ll keep saying this everywhere I go. It doesn’t take a click or a blink of an eye to be at the top. It takes a lot of hard work. Almost 80% of the choir members are either workers or students. So no one is really free but they’re still able to make time, come for rehearsals, come for all night; it takes a lot of hard work, dedication and togetherness to get to the top. And when you put in all this, you’d be surprised, when your time comes God will just elevate you. It is not magic but God will just elevate you. What I want to say is that it is not easy at all. But keep working hard. Keep on being you and craft a unique you that no one can compete with. And God will transform you into a mighty warrior that will amaze you yourself.
Then another thing; I’ll keep saying this… never forget people who help you. People who’ve been through trying times with you. Keep a very good relationship with everyone as much as possible. Be able to identify relationships that will help you and the ones that won’t. But those that will help you, never forget them when you are up there. So this is my little advice to anyone that will listen to and/or read this interview. Thank you.