I�m Not Giving Excuses! Diana Hopeson

Veteran gospel singer, Mrs. Diana Hopeson, does not agree with anyone who thinks her music career is over � simply because she has not released any album for almost a decade now. To the past Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) president, she has neither quit singing nor abandoned the music industry which has taken all her time since 2007. Mrs. Hopeson, who rose to instant stardom in 1993 as Diana Akiwumi, was elected MUSIGA president in 2007, succeeding Alhaji Sidiku Buari. Prior to that, she had served as MUSIGA�s second-vice and first-vice president for a term each of four years, before finally becoming its president for another four years. In an exclusive interview on Tuesday, the Gospel Artiste of 1993 (ECRAG Awards) explained to The Spectator Agoro that, her seeming hibernation on the music scene was as a result of her multiple engagements by the same industry. �When I want to release [an album], I need a whole time to do it,� she said, explaining that serving MUSIGA for 12 years also did not allow her the time to be record any album. She said even after handing over in 2012, she had been involved with the industry in various �policy and decision-making� capacities, all making it difficult to work on her 10th album. The plethora of engagements, she mentioned, included serving on the boards of MUSIGA and the Ghana Music Awards (GMA), and as her husband�s deputy at the Centre for Peace & Reconciliation � which trains Christian leaders on peace, mediation and counselling. Mrs. Hopeson said she was also involved with the US-based �Youth With A Mission,� by which association she left to teach Events Management for three months at Hawaii, after leaving MUSIGA. �So through and through, I�ve been involved in decision-making and policy stuff of the music industry; it is just time that has eluded me a little to do a new album,� she said. Excuses? On whether she was not just using her years with MUSIGA as an excuse, Mrs. Hopeson described the MUSIGA president�s job as very daunting, to be recording songs whilst in office. �No, I�m not giving excuses, at least not with the experience I gained in that office,� she said, adding: �But I sing and play every day on my own. �For me, I believe that before the public heard my voice, I was always singing in His presence and so though I�m not releasing albums now, I still train every day in His presence. That, to me, is the most important thing. Definitely, I will come out.� Newer industry challenges Mrs. Hopeson said though she was open to suggestions about engaging a songwriter towards her next album, she had actually never lacked songs or the ability to write them. In fact, she said, �I still have a lot of new songs, and I never lack that. The talent is still there, but of course, a lot also goes into releasing an album that needs proper preparation.� She explained that unlike previously, technological advancements today have altered trends and practices in the industry that �things in the past no longer apply.� She, for instance, cited the transition from the distribution of songs on cassettes, to online and CD. �These have brought other dimensions which require time, monetary and some technical understanding to be able to properly distribute an album so released.� Recollection Recollecting how distribution patterns have changed over the years, she observed: �When we started, it was a matter of cassettes; then came CDs and DVDs, and now music videos. �Those days, music videos were only a post-production consideration which you decide after you are done with distribution. There was only one TV station and radio, so people will hear the song no matter the distribution strategy. �But now, music videos require different investment. There are also countless TV stations, which you have to pay to get your video aired,� she said. �Not everyone also watches TV, so you need to get the videos into formats accessible on the internet and on mobile phones.� The situation, she indicated, had further been compounded by the relatively smaller market size of Ghana and Africa, compared to that of the United States. �I sometimes get sad when people try to compare us to those in US, a market which is bigger than the whole of Africa. We have also not been able to distribute our works beyond Ghana.� Humble beginnings Mrs. Hopeson debuted on the gospel scene in 1991 with the album He is Lord, but it was her second in 1993, Yeyi Waye Daa, that won her international acclaim. �Billy Graham [Ministry] even wrote to me that year that they wanted to use my song for their satellite evangelism programmes, and the BBC also featured me in an interview that lasted 45 minutes,� she recollected. In 1995, Mrs. Hopeson composed Yesu Mo, a very popular song which was later re-recorded by Kweku Gyesi), and a host of subsequent others, including Happy Birthday for the [email protected] celebration in 2007.