What if doctors could sing health into the ailing bones of patients? What if all we needed for medication was a beautiful voice? And what if it’s likely that these questions can move beyond ‘What ifs’? What if they are actually possible? In my heart, they become even more probable as I meet Dr. Esther Annan, the medical doctor who doubles as the singer, Kukuletta. I want you to meet her too and wonder along with me. In this interview, I present to you – KUKULETTA!
Dr. Esther Annan, how did you come by the name Kukuletta and what does it mean?
Kukuletta is derived from ‘Kukulette’, a pet name, my auntie preferred to call me by. My auntie was Kukua and for her, adding a ‘lette’ would qualify my Kukua as little. So Kukulette stands for little Kukua… the ‘ta’ bit at the end is to give it a Spanish touch which would otherwise give people an idea of who I am and my love for the Spanish language and culture.
How did you get into music?
Music has been a part of me for all my life. My earliest memory of myself actually singing was in primary school, so I usually make that my starting point. I was in a trio and we would sing at ‘gospel rock shows’ in school and stuff like that. In Senior High, I was part of an all-girl quintet. We would gather during break and just sing and drum our hearts out. It was so amazing.
In the university I joined POP choir. Joining them had been my dream ever since I attended the ‘launch’ of their album, dubbed ‘Onua’ as a kid. In first year medical school, I was placed among the ‘frontliners’ for the mass choir’s yearly concert, ‘Interllecto’. After the ministration My POP choir MD, invited me to join a jazz group. I believe that was where it dawned on me that I had a gift. My MD was Dr Eyra Tamakloe. But the ministry actually started when I joined an outreach group named EYO (Excellent Youth Outreach) in which I was the only girl as part of an acapella group of 5.
In 3rd year medical school I decided to buy a guitar of my own with money I had saved. The first song I composed was with that guitar. I have since composed over 20 more songs, just waiting to be recorded. When I started composing, I didn’t have Kukuletta in mind, but as I continued to write, it just didn’t make sense to keep the songs to myself. These lyrics had to be shared. I knew nothing about branding etc then… all I knew was that the name Kukuletta sounded cool. So that is how it all started – a decision to record all the songs I had written to reach the ends of the earth and to make God known by all means.
What kind of music do you do?
Basically gospel. However I wrote a wedding song for my brothers’ wedding which I still classify under gospel because God created the institution of marriage
I also wrote a song for my dad which was played for his hearing first on his birthday and now made available to all super cool fathers; for that I would classify as inspirational.
Do you write your own songs?
Yes I do. I penned all the singles I have released so far, however I have a few I will be working on in the near future that were written by others.
What inspires your lyrics?
- Who I am writing about or dedicating the song to; in this case, God and family.
- Personal testimonies and the thought of reaching out to people with my words.
How does your singer’s mind work? Which one comes first when you are composing, the beat or the lyrics?
It’s usually beat before lyrics. I can say over 70% of all my songs were composed that way. Most of which I got in super happy moods (I hardly compose when sad). So I’d probably be playing a known progression or singing some other song in worship and then voila, something new comes in! Some were totally unplanned. Others however were planned and those happen to take more time. Lol. There’s been a few that I wrote first though. Other times, I feel a tune spark and I just ran along with the words.
What are some of the songs you have released so far? Could you share the inspiration behind them?
- Thank you – ‘Thank you’ is one of the songs I totally didn’t plan for. I was developing one of my songs and the lyrics of ‘Thank you’ just arrived in my mind. I was in a joyful mood so the words kind of express how I felt at the moment.
- Sound of love – I wrote sound of love in med school and I got the lyrics down way before I got the tune. I believe it was after one of my EYO meetings where I was trying to put something I had learnt down and it just translated into a song.
- The wedding song– as the name suggests, this song was written for my one and only brother, for his wedding as a gift. It was first recorded in a ‘room studio’ in med school. I was then in 5th year and my sound engineer, popularly known as Nii Chemical was in final year and we did the recording in his room. It was amazing and I guess that was my first studio experience.
- Me kaekae – Written for my dad’s birthday in 2014. I re -recorded in 2015 and released as a fathers’ day song.
Do you play any musical instrument too? Do you think it’s essential to be able to play an instrument as a musician?
Yes, as mentioned earlier, I play the guitar. My theoretical knowledge in music isn’t the best but knowing how to play an instrument sure helps to know the theory. You just know you can’t sing certain notes in certain keys.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I listen to a wide genre; from Pop, to Jazz to Rock to Highlife…as long as the words make sense and are not profane or ‘anti-Christian.’ I don’t like loud music though, so I would choose anything over Hip Pop, and Metallic and stuff like that.
Who is your favourite musician/singer?
Currently, it’s Jamie Grace because she plays the guitar too and was a motivation for my learning.
How much do the songs you listen to influence your own compositions?
A lot…a whole lot. Not to sadden anyone’s heart but I grew up listening to more white music, rather than black music so I don’t exactly compose like the typical style expected. I am wordier. I can run so many words in a line, whereas one would have expected just a few that carry enough information.
What you listen to also molds you as to how to sing, your diction and even the techniques that you employ. So I am still open to learning new and amazing stuff.
Tell me about your approach to voice training.
Hahahaha…ok…so before I met my manager which was about 2-3 months ago. I wondered why the heck people blew so much air in their mouth and did all those funny sounds in the name of voice training. It totally pissed me off but frankly it helps… hahaha… so I got a few videos on it from him and I am currently using them and they really help. I am hoping to be a better singer with the theoretical knowledge. Please continue praying with me that I might be more consistent. Otherwise, I just sing when I wake up or feel like it in the room, bathroom or at rehearsal.
Why do you sing?
I sing because it’s one of the easiest ways to express myself. I find singing easier than talking. I sing because it’s a beautiful gift and I like the twists and turns and what can be made out of different notes.
How difficult has it been to breakthrough as an upcoming musician? What are the challenges you face?
Okay so this is where I start giving off testimonies. I seem to have had help every step of the way. And I talk about help in terms of people investing and volunteering to help take videos, sell records, even help with advertising. I won’t lie, you do have to invest but it’s encouraging to have people want to support you even when they haven’t seen everything you are capable of. It is just God’s grace. I am just so blessed. Key people have been my Producer Ike Duodo, my manager Eben Sowah and friends like Kwabena Nkrahene, Augustine Annan Holm, Candice Kpanga, Doris Agra, EC12one Tv, Gospellinkonline and Praise Catalogue. I know God will never forget such people who truly understand ministry and friendship.
How do you see your music career in the next 5 years?
I see my songs having a farther reach and people yearning to know more about who inspires me…. The Christ…. I see outreaches and support to the underprivileged through this ministry
Does your profession as a doctor conflict with your work as a singer? What are the challenges you’ve faced combining the two?
I wouldn’t call it a conflict. I’d rather say it’s demanding. Personally, I had no idea how involving music could be till I made up my mind to make it a profession. Frankly, I know how crazy working as a doctor can be – imagine doing a 24 hour shift. But this step makes me really respect other professions too. You shall not reap what you haven’t sown. The bigger the dream, the tougher the struggle to attain it.
‘If it must be done, it must be done well’. I like challenges and dislike mediocre works so I try, I really do try to give off my best. So it’s really not enough to just rehearse but I personally have been pretty much involved in the managerial aspect too which is really the big deal. Thank God I’ve found a manager now. Definitely makes me think less.
What do you think of Ghana’s music industry?
I’d start by commending the individual artistes we have in Ghana. As Ghana is rich with gold, so is the land rich with talents. However, the music industry as any other in a developing country needs quite an amount of work and I personally believe if one is not self-motivated or doing music for ethereal reasons, one would just be frustrated and there goes the talent with it.
In your opinion, what is the essence of music?
I can’t imagine life without music. I am starting to appreciate why Lucifer grew his horns. Music is that phenomenon that can make you cry and at the same time make you laugh. It can make your muscles twitch even when you haven’t issued a command. Music is possessive and the brain probably pays more attention to it. ‘Why can’t I remember that poem but this song will just not leave my head even though I hate the lyrics?’ Someone might ask.
I think music is a direct way to connect with the emotion and hence it can feed you positively or negatively. It can depress you and it can heal you. Music therapy may even be used in medicine for autism, alzheimer’s disease etc., but in terms of ministry it is mainly to reach out to people about Christ.
Interview by: Kwasi ’Sei, Writer threesixtyGh