Ghanaian Afro-dancehall and reggae star Stonebwoy visited Jamaica earlier this year for the Island Music Conference, and he made headlines with an impromptu freestyle alongside Shaggy, Sean Paul and Wyclef Jean. But for the 36-year-old, the trip was about more than just performing — it was a pilgrimage.

Arriving in the capital, Kingston, just a week after the US release of the biopic “Bob Marley: One Love,” the singer linked up with the Reggae legend’s grandson, Yohan Marley, to record new music for Stonebwoy’s forthcoming album. The session was the Ghanaian’s first visit to Bob Marley’s iconic Tuff Gong Studio.

“I’m inside of a legendary monument, and this is a monumental situation right now,” said Stonebwoy as he laid down his tracks, seamlessly alternating between English, Jamaican Patois, and Ghanaian Twi, riffing off other collaborators in the studio.

“It’s emotional, man,” the visibly affected singer said during the session. “It means a lot. I feel like I’m surrounded by the spirits of those who built here.”

“Once upon a time, Bob Marley was probably sitting in the same spot that I am sitting in,” he added. “It’s like a world reserve for music, for consciousness, for somebody who stood up for humanity in his music.”

Jamaican sounds take root in Ghana

Very few have propelled Ghana’s dancehall movement to greater heights than Stonebwoy, whose real name is Livingstone Etse Satekla. He is not only one of the most renowned Reggae and dancehall artists across Africa but he also commands the respect and admiration of Caribbean audiences.

For Stonebwoy, there’s nothing strange about a Ghanaian having such a deep affection for music forms that originated in Jamaica.

“As an African, I can relate to anything Black outside of Africa, then it’s ours, it’s for us, and we all share it,” the award-winning artist explained to CNN.

“The influence of the motherland is significant in the formation of Reggae, dancehall, and Caribbean music styles,” he noted, likening the storytelling and style of these genres to Highlife, a West African fusion of traditional rhythms with jazz and calypso.

“It’s the message of the style of music that influenced me to go the direction I did,” Stonebwoy said.

“Highlife music is definitely a style of music that also tells a lot of conscious stories, just like reggae.”“We can relate, and we love each other’s journeys,” he added. “It’s time for us to continue to bring it together in order to sing one song, like Bob Marley said.”

While at Tuff Gong Studios, he recalled that the first Bob Marley song he ever heard was “Three Little Birds,” a childhood favorite of Stonebwoy’s often played by his father.

“The Rastafarian communities were in their primes during those times, in the eighties and nineties, so there was that movement across the whole of Africa that was indulging,” Stonebwoy recalled.

“And then, of course, the music flew over to support the ideologies and cancel out apartheid, so like there was an influx of consciousness.

“The energy in which the messages were delivered was so captivating to my heart.”

Inspired by his idol, Stonebwoy embraces the “One Love” ethos, which transcends Marley’s song title. Rooted in Rastafarian beliefs, “One Love” embodies a profound message of hope, unity, and universal love.

In 2023, Stonebwoy was part of a “Buffalo Soldier” remake on Marley’s posthumous album “Africa Unite.” The album reinterpreted Marley’s classics with Afrobeats rhythms, aligning with Stonebwoy’s aim to spread peace, love, and unity through his music.

“It’s all about one love, Blackness, and Africa,” he said.

Uniting the Black diaspora through music

From Afrobeats to reggae, Stonebwoy has worked with musicians including Rick Ross, Beanie Man, Shaggy, Keri Hilson, Russ, Davido, and Angelique Kidjo, shining brightest when mentoring emerging artists.

He has also hosted Ghana’s BHIM Festival for seven years, showcasing African-Caribbean music. Each year includes a cypher for upcoming artists to showcase their freestyle skills, reminiscent of Stonebwoy’s own beginnings at the Kashari Level rap battles on Adom FM two decades ago. And he has consistently supported other artists, even those not signed to his Burniton Music Group label.

“There are a lot of people that I helped release singles, et cetera, without any formal agreement whatsoever,” he said. “I have my platform for everybody.

”As much as Stonebwoy has accomplished, he still hopes to do more, including eventually collaborating with Rihanna and Taylor Swift.“I know it’s going to happen one day,” he said.

Until then, he has his eyes set on making sure the sounds of the Black diaspora continue to dominate worldwide.“We have a certain kind of message, a certain kind of tone, a certain kind of voice, and a void to fill,” Stonebwoy explained.

“When you have a seat at the table, you really do have to work at it and go grab it because just like the greatest of greats have ever come and dominated and inspired all of us, the same way we also have come and take a place.”