Why do musicians risk it all? Daniel Yeboah, reggae artist and Sodexo employee at Sargent dining hall, says it best himself: “Music is life.” Even though he has worked at Sargent for the past 13 years, Yeboah started out as a musician and plans on always being one. Under the stage name “Atta Ghana Boy,” he is now a member of two different reggae bands, Hydro and Gizzae.
Yeboah, a native of Ghana, picked up his first instrument, the African drums, at age 5. Shortly after, Yeboah began composing his own music, performing vocals and playing the bass guitar. He also taught African elementary school children how to play instruments. Eventually, Yeboah became part of an African band, Super High Kings, and traveled all over the world.
“In '97 we went to Canada … Montreal, Toronto and then we came back to the United States, and we played Dallas, Texas, Chicago, Florida, New York, Atlanta,” Yeboah said.
It was after the concert in Atlanta, Ga., with the Super High Kings that Yeboah risked it all.
“When we finished the show the leader (of the band) said we should come back to Ghana before we get paid, but five of us guys decided not to go back because if we went back, the leader was not going to pay us the money we deserve," Yeboah said. "When the leader becomes leader, he wants to let everybody down. We decided to stay here, you know, and make a different life.”
Yeboah lived in Atlanta for nine months until he was asked to relocate to Chicago in 1998 by people in the reggae music business who knew of his work in Africa. Yeboah recalls this offer as “another big change” in his career. Risking it all was worth it in Yeboah’s case. The promotion paid his rent and provided him with a monthly salary.
“I started getting in contact with Jamaican bands and other musicians," Yeboah said. "I started surviving, you know."
One of the musicians Yeboah met upon arriving to Chicago was a Jamaican artist named Doggi.
“Doggi was a good singer (but) he’s dead. He’s gone now,” Yeboah said. “When I introduced myself to him, I told him I was a musician from Ghana. I said I can talk to some of the few guys I know here. Maybe we can pull some stuff together.”
Yeboah and Doggi, along with a few other reggae artists, formed the band called Hydro, which is still active. Yeboah plays the drums and bass guitar for Hydro. He is also drummer for the award-winning reggae band Gizzae.
Both Hydro and Gizzae perform a musical style called “roots reggae,” which Yeboah said incorporates “the fundamental rhythm of reggae music and more feel.” Yeboah said he enjoys reggae music because reggae “talks more about life, it talks about politics and opens your eyes.” Hydro and Gizzae play original music and covers frequently on the weekends around Chicago and the Midwest area, including Indiana and Missouri.
Monday through Friday, when Yeboah is not at a gig, you can find him near the desserts counter at Sargent. Yeboah concedes that his first love is music, but he is also passionate about serving others.
“I love to serve people … making people happy, providing and seeing the students happy,” Yeboah said.
He is also a fan of Sargent’s food.
“To me, all the desserts are good," Yeboah said. "Everything we provide is good stuff.”
Kofi Poku, Yeboah’s co-worker at Sargent, praised Yeboah’s commitment to being a chef and musician.
“Daniel is a good guy," Poku said. "We come from the same country. ... He is talented. He writes music, plays guitar and plays the drums. He even has his own music studio."
Although Yeboah balances two careers right now, he said he would like to move back to his home country of Ghana in the future and pursue only music.
“Music is always going to be me, you know," Yeboah said. "Music is part of me. You understand me.”