The 27-year-old socially conscious singer-songwriter Ebenezer Yebuah, better known by his artist name, Mawule, learned at a young age that it is important to make time for what you love. His family moved to Denver from Ghana in 2000, when he was in fifth grade, and his parents worked countless hours to afford life in their new country. Yebuah quickly discovered the value of quality time, whether for family or cultivating passion.
When he was growing up, Yebuah joined the children’s choir, then the adult choir, at People’s Presbyterian Church in Denver, where his father worked as a minister. In song, the budding musician found solace from bullies and the struggle of assimilating into a new culture. By high school, he'd begun using music as both a personal form of healing and a way of relating to others.
“When I look at my music, I can definitely tell you the phase or different transitions and what exactly was going on in my life,” Yebuah explains. “Music was always my outlet and my form of healing, but I wrote more as empowerment for others. I knew that I wasn’t alone, especially with some of my friend groups, because we were all going through similar things. I had people that I could talk to, but my music inspired me to reach out to others and let others know they’re not alone.”
As the oldest of three siblings with two parents who were constantly working, he cultivated a higher level of maturity than the average high school student, he says. Yebuah’s father was a minister by morning and then would go to his second job after a brief nap in the early afternoon. The singer's mother would cook for the family during the day, spend thirty minutes with her children after school, and then go work the night shift as a cashier. Both parents would return around midnight and wake up in a few hours to do it all again.
The family cherished the time they had together. Yebuah says that through his parents' example, he realized there are other ways to express love and appreciation than through words.
“I tell a lot of people that in my family we don’t really say ‘I love you a lot,” Yebuah explains. “Everything that we do for each other says it all. Everything we do, the sacrifices we made for each other…is that love. [My parents] taught me what genuine love looks like: when you care for people or show up for people or are a role model for people.”
On Father’s Day, June 18, 2017, Yebuah released a music video for his song “Anything,” which was inspired by his father's hard work. The singer hopes the video shifts how people see single black dads. Although Yebuah is not a father himself, a lot of people he admires are; he felt compelled to share pieces of their stories in this video.
“You never really see the hard work that single parents put into raising a family,” Yebuah says. “I have a lot of friends who come from single homes and some have gone down the dark path and some have gone down the good path.... Overall, some of the positive males in my life that I look up to are single men. They do so much that no one really knows about, for their kids and their families.”
Each song on his most recent album, Chosen, including “Anything,” addresses social-justice issues, including poverty and sexual assault. Yebuah hopes the songs and his music videos ignite dialogue about these topics.
In his day job, Yebuah works with first-year students at the University of Denver as a resident director. That work inspired him to create a program, More Than Music. On May 30, Yebuah launched the 75-minute show. In this time, he performs five songs from Chosen, explains what inspired him to write them, and then poses questions students can discuss about the message of his music.
Mawule's latest music video was released on Father's Day, June 18.
Victor of Valencia
He says there is power branching out beyond fear and connecting with people on a deep emotional level in safer spaces, which he hopes to cultivate. Yebuah wants to expand his initiative to different college campuses nationwide in the future and open dialogue with even more students.
“I’m getting older but work with the same age [of students] every year,” Yebuah explains. “I see the same trend of students coming in every year with the same issues…. I realize a lot of the issues transpire because students don’t know how to care for each other. They’re all going through the same shit, but they don’t make the time to talk with each other, to connect.”
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His ultimate hope is that his music helps people realize they are not alone in whatever struggles they endure.
“No matter what success I obtain, I’m always going to stick to who I am and my upbringing and my passions and what I care about,” Yebuah says. “There’s more to [my music] than just my healing. I want to use it as a form for other people to relate and know they’re not alone no matter what issue they’re experiencing.”
Visit Mawule online to learn more about his music.