Her name, Snoti, means “God’s time” in Kru, one of the languages of Liberia, where she was born. If you are a believer, then you know that when God’s time has come, nothing can stop it. That is the attitude the Minnesota-based Liberian-American singer and songwriter has carried with her over the years, as she has worked to build a career in music.
“As a musician, your goal is to just always do your music fulltime,” Snoti says.
After a long journey that has had a number of detours and obstacles, Snoti’s resilience has finally paid off. She has released another song, a single named “Get Away,” which she describes as “a sassy break-up song.”
“It’s something that a lot of people can relate to,” she says, though she is quick to point out the song is not autobiographical.
Her road to the musical career she dreams of, however, has not been a smooth one. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has had a heavy toll on earnings of performing artists across the world, has been even more unforgiving to up-and-coming ones like Snoti because they rely heavily on live performances for their development. But artists are finding ways around it, says Ben Obi, a British-born Nigerian-American, whose Minneapolis-based company Savannah Street Music produced Snoti’s new single.
“The pandemic has affected their performances, but I have this motto that as a business person, you have to continue to evolve,” Obi says. “Even though it’s a very nasty thing, it gives some people the opportunity to really reinvent themselves. Your mission must be to continue to educate yourself, evolve and change, and develop new ideas. So, really, I see the pandemic as an opportunity.”
Obi himself has had to reinvent many times as the music industry has changed tremendously since he moved to Minneapolis from England in the 1980’s and founded his company to cater for African artists. In the nearly 30 years Obi has been in the business, the industry has changed from vinyl, to cassettes, to CDs and now online streaming. His business has survived because he learned to adapt to the changes, he says.
“If I stayed the same way I was 20 years ago, I would be dead as a businessman,” Obi says.
He now uses his decades of experience to help underrepresented artists like Snoti find ways to navigate through the challenges to make their music careers successful. Obi advises artists to look at their music as the advertisement arm of their brand – as “a means to an end, and not an end in itself.”
“The physical containers that you put music in don’t necessarily sell anymore because really, a CD is just the container,” Obi says. “Find your brand, whatever it is. It could be lipstick. It could be water or whatever. Use the music to attract the people who might say, ‘You know I really like Snoti. Look at the African prints she wears. Where can I find that?’”
That is the message Snoti seems to be heeding. She is building her online with social media channels, which already have thousands of fans attracted there by the video she shares of her music.
Snoti, who came to the United States when she was 11 years old, credits her family for her early interest in music. She grew up around family members who loved to sing at gatherings, she says. Soon, she began writing her own songs hoping to one day become a professional recording artist. But as an African immigrant, acquiring higher education took precedent. She put her dreams on hold to study journalism and communications at the University of Minnesota. After graduating from college, her musical ambitions took the backseat yet again as she went to work fulltime because she felt she needed to put her education to use.
“After a while, you realize that it’s not about utilizing the degree,” Snoti says. “It’s about doing what you care about.”
In 2015, she decided to go into music fulltime. Like many up-and-coming artists, she began by performing at local venues and community events, including at the African Awards, an annual gala produced by Mshale. Through her participation in the Twin Cities’ African music scene, she crossed paths with Obi and later began working with him to produce her music. “Get Away” is the first song they have released, though Obi says they have recorded several others that will be released later.
“Get Away” is a pop dance single that sounds almost too upbeat to be a breakup song. Snoti says that was intentional. She wanted to combine the upbeat spirit of the music of her African heritage, and the pop and R&B styles of the American culture she has grown up in. The producer sent her nearly a dozen different beats, and the African-style guitar and drums influenced her final choice of beat, she says.
“I thought it was something that was different from what we’re typically hearing now with top music,” Snoti says. “And that’s what I try to do as an artist – something that is different and unique.”
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that “Get Away” is Snoti’s first single. It is the first single she worked on with Ben Obi of Savannah Street Music. We apologize for the error.