News / Africa

    Young Entrepreneurs Search for Stars in Ghana

    The eighth in a series on Africa’s Rising Stars

    Crew and friends mug the camera at Celebrations, a club where Moonlight Café produces RSVP, smaller entertainment venue featuring new artists. (Courtesy Moonlight Cafe)
    Crew and friends mug the camera at Celebrations, a club where Moonlight Café produces RSVP, smaller entertainment venue featuring new artists. (Courtesy Moonlight Cafe)
    Kobby Koomson co-founded Moonlight Café to reach out to young underground artists and discover new talent in music, poetry and the spoken word. Koomson and his partner, Sydney Sam, believe that creativity must replace financial gains as the main driver of entertainment.

    “Our primary focus is to change the face of entertainment in Ghana and Africa in the medium term,” says Koomson, “because entertainment here has become more of a financial thing than for the sake of the art.

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    “People go into it because they have talent and they want to make money. It doesn’t come with the desire to do better than what is already there. There is less creativity.

    “So we are trying to bring back the feeling of creativity in entertainment.”

    Moonlight Café is born at the University of Ghana, Legon

    It all began three years ago when two college freshmen, Koomson and Sam decided to turn their love of music and poetry into a public show on their university campus. And with a shoestring budget they pulled out of their own pockets, Moonlight Café was born.

    Koomson describes he and his former college roommate, Sam, as lovers of music and poetry. “I used to sing a little when I was in high school and I used to dabble in poetry, too,” Koomson says.

    • A popular rapper, M’anifest, was named best rapper at the 2012 Ghana Music Awards. He sings for an enthusiastic crowd at Monlight Café event at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi.
    • The Legon branch production crew posing with Moonlight Café Ghana founders Kobby Koomson (far left) and Sydney Scout Sam (second from left). (Courtesy Moonlight Cafe)
    • Singer Vanessa performs at the Season 6 show in the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. (Courtesy Moonlight Cafe)
    • A girl from the audience dances with emcee Titus at the Season 6 show at the University of Cape Coast in Cape Coast, which opened the group’s tour of Ghana.
    • Crew and audience mug the camera at Celebrations, one of several clubs where Moonlight Café produces RSVP, a smaller entertainment venue featuring new artists. (Courtesy Moonlight Cafe)
    • Eva sings at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi on the Season 6 tour. (Courtesy Moonlight Cafe)
    • Shim performs rhythm and blues and soul music at the Kumasi show sponsored by the production company Moonlight Café Ghana. (Courtesy Moonlight Cafe)
    • A rapt audience in the social science auditorium at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. (Courtesy Moonlight Cafe)
    • Singer Vanessa performing at the Season 6 show in the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. (Courtesy Moonlight Cafe)

    One day they talked about getting start-up capital to do a show. Sam had some money to get them started. They talked about creating a platform for showcasing new talent that would be popular on college campuses.

    They registered Moonlight Café with the student club at their school. “We do it for the students as part of the student club, so we don’t need to go outside campus to get any permission. If we need we get it from the school authorities,” Koomson says, “we are good to go.”

    Quickly they recreated their model on two other Ghana college campuses and with teams of organizers on each campus they spread the word to audiences and potential new performers through social media and on public radio.

    Koomson and Sam had ambitions beyond their college campus and Moonlight Café was quick to be reproduced on two other campuses across the country. Through social media and public radio, teams of organizers reach out to far audiences and potential performers.

    “We have teams on every campus we operate on, so fundamentally the teams on campuses go around doing publicity for the artists who sign up.”

    Moonlight now looks for new stars

    “What we did in the first two years was to put on performers who are already known,” says Koomson. “Popular and famous artists who get people to come to the shows.

    “But this year, we have realized that the show itself has gotten to a point where it gets people to come either way, so we are dropping the whole concept of using star artists.”

    The new strategy is to focus on the upcoming artists so that we can build and develop their talent much better. Now they hold auditions for all of their new performers.

    “It’s really social media that help us reach them,” Koomson says. “From time to time we go on radio shows and they help us go on the air to get new artists.

    “And as long as the art is good and the talent is there.”

    The duo helps to create the branding for new artists and their shows to give them more exposure in the growing Ghana entertainment industry. Koomson and Sam want to change the face of the country’s entertainment industry.

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