Diana Hamilton – Ghana’s Gospel Queen

Juliet Fletcher talks with the multi-talented, multi-faceted Diana Hamilton, one of Ghana’s most loved female gospel artists

I’m about to share with you an extraordinary interview with the fabulous Diana Hamilton. Despite our virtual interaction on Zoom, the absence of cameras highlighted the remarkable impact of her voice, the clarity of her story, and the insight gained from exploring her online presence. In over two hours of conversation, it became evident that Diana Hamilton is an exceptional artist within the gospel scene, evidenced by not just her music but her three-million-plus following on social media.

AN INTRODUCTION

Allow me a bit more time in this introduction, as if I were on stage making an announcement… Diana Hamilton, a mature female artist at 48, stands as a testament to a multi-faceted individual – married, a mother, medical professional, singer, songwriter, entrepreneur, business owner, couture designer, charity campaigner, and an international performer. Without further embellishments, let me convey how excellence can be achieved and sustained over decades when one runs in their God-assigned lane. This piece might be your first encounter with Diana Hamilton but, under grace, it certainly won’t be your last. Join me as we delve into the world of the Diana Hamilton Experience!

DESTINY, PASSION & PURPOSE

Juliet Fletcher (JF): Diana, could you share details about your background and how your journey in gospel music began?
Diana Hamilton (DH): I was born in Kumasi, Ghana, the third of eight children in a family deeply dedicated to the Church. My parents, Felix and Comfort Antwi, were dedicated to church ministry. My father was a praise and worship leader who then became a pastor and then an apostle in the Church of Pentecost, founded by a Scottish missionary named James McKeown. My musical journey started at 13 as a backup singer for renowned Ghanaian gospel artist Francis Agyei. Later I pursued nursing, driven by a genuine care for people which is the foundation of my ministry. While training as a State Enrolled Nurse [SEN], I met my husband, Joseph Hamilton, who was training as a doctor. He also knew me as an active singer, so he was familiar with my music passion.

JF: Didn’t you see music as steering you away from all that medical training?
DH: It wasn’t a detour; rather, my nursing journey complemented my music career. My husband and I, both in the medical field, had a clear vision for our unified work when we moved to the UK. Even amidst challenges, our strong marital bond allowed me to pursue my ministry. In 2007, my first album was produced by David Obeng Ennin, a friend known to me and my husband. David knew about my singing too, and I recall when he met me at the training school gates and said: “I’m gonna wait until you finish your training and I’ll make your first album.” And he did! This marked the beginning of my solo ministry.

MUSIC STYLES, TEAMWORK & TOURING

JF: Your diverse pursuits, including music, design and charity imply a significant team effort. How does that collaboration work?
DH: Surprisingly, it doesn’t require a large team. My core team comprises of my husband, Joseph; David Ennin (now my road manager); and Charles Koranteng of 316 Media, who is my manager.

JF: Do you mean the man fondly called Uncle Charles, known for the African Gospel Music and Media Awards (AGMMA) and as a broadcaster of various radio shows on quality platforms?
DH: Yes, he’s played a pivotal role in my journey. Other key contributors include Sam Blankson in videography and photography, and Felicia Gyan, my PA managing administration. They form the backbone of my team. We seek out supporting subcontractors for various aspects, and the commitment from everyone remains unwavering.

JF: Your music, described as Contemporary African Gospel, showcases a unique blend. How do you differentiate it from traditional African gospel music?
DH: I’d say, contemporary African gospel music fuses Western popular music with African rhythms and lyrics. It transcends geographical and cultural boundaries. In contrast, traditional music centres on indigenous instruments and local languages, often tied to specific cultures or regions.

JF: Well, tell me how does your music band work for you?
DH: When I am in the UK, I have a UK band and singers, who are continually prepped with all my songs. For Ghana I have two bands – I just call them my PL Crew: one for the north of Ghana and the other for the south. Then a brass section.

JF: I am amazed at your brass section. I have watched your videos. They don’t use sheet music to play.
DH: My music director in the UK would write out the sheet music for brass. It was good of course, but the feel and expression was not the same. These amazing Ghanaian players imbibe my style and just play in harmonic unity!

JF: I see you’ve released a single ‘Shout for Joy’ with UK-based artist Wole Awolola.
DH: Yes, I used to release albums. I found that with albums many of my songs were missed or overlooked, so I started to release singles with and without videos. I found each song received more traction. At a suitable time, I would compile them into albums. It’s much more effective.

JF: That’s interesting because in all your videos I can see everyone singing along, knowing the lyrics. A lot of your songs are in the Ghanaian language.
DH: You say that and I’m surprised. Many, if not most, of my songs are sung in English or a combination.

JF: Has that been an issue? Are you hurt by my question?
DH: No, not hurt at all. I just see it as a point of education. It’s clear we are in worship and praise, and people just get to know and feel who is the centre of our joy and adoration.
JF: I agree. I feel quite deprived and ignorant that I don’t have a second language and find remembering African lyrics and names difficult. In any case, I rejoice because we are of the same Spirit and knowledge. It’s apparent.

JF: What about being signed to a record label? Have you ever wanted that, or don’t you think you need it?
DH: To be honest I don’t know what it means to be a signed artist; I’ve never been offered a recording contract. I’ve just carried on with all I do proficiently with God’s help and my dedicated team. It’s working!

JF: Your annual tour, ‘The Diana Hamilton Experience’, has gained significant attention. Can you shed light on its origin?
DH: It was conceived for my 10-year anniversary in 2014, held in London and in subsequent two cities in Ghana. It has become the annual tradition. Unfortunately, 2021 saw a pause due to lockdown. The sold-out shows feature my big-band line-up and my meticulously dressed ensemble. I design their clothing through DHbyDH.com, a clothing design company I co-own with my sister.

FULFILMENT IN MUSIC, MINISTRY & MOTHERHOOD

JF: That’s amazing. You had to give up nursing and now… (Diana interrupts me)
DH: Oh no! I’m still a practice nurse and my husband is a practice GP in Kent where we live. We both fulfil our passions for people. The Diana Hamilton Foundation reflects our commitment to social causes. It focuses on health promotion and education, aiding those with potential but insufficient resources for tuition or medical needs. We are currently completing a five-storey building for students. The Diana Hamilton Foundation is a registered charity in Ghana.

JF: Fantastic! I’m just wondering what you do with all those beautifully designed clothes. You need a house just to store them!
DH: Actually, we are contemplating holding an exhibition and hopefully raising money for our Foundation, as some of the clothes are really unusual and not everyday wear. It’s like a burden and we want to do something practical and useful with them.

JF: They are amazing. I think you should contact The V&A (Victoria & Albert) Museum. They might be interested in their cultural relevance, and the original materials are astounding.
DH: That’s an interesting idea. Thank you.

JF: Balancing music, ministry and motherhood – the three MMMs – must present challenges. How have you managed these roles?
DH: Now I always pray: “Father God, order my steps. Cause me to meet the right people from places I least expect.” And I just expect that to happen – and it has. Guided by faith and supported by a committed husband, I’ve followed the path set for me. My nursing practice and influence in the community align with my identity. With God and a consistent team for over 20 years, including my husband, I’ve navigated the three Ms with fulfillment.

Explore Diana’s songs, websites and videos, and mark your calendar for her next event. Immerse yourself in ‘The Diana Hamilton Experience’, just as we have in this interview.

Visit www.dianaantwihamilton.com

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