As Ghana celebrates its 66th Independence Day today, we choose to recognize a son of the soil whose breathtaking cinematography and storytelling leave a lasting impression on anyone who watches. His YouTube channel has allowed people from all over the world to experience the lives of everyday heroes on the African continent - from street food vendors in Accra, to fishing villages in Cote d'Ivoire, and even remote communities in Kenya. His work authentically tells the tale of the hard work, perseverance, pride, joy, culture and positivity that reigns within the continent. Join us in an in-depth interview with Fred Dahe as we find out more about his journey and how he plans to have an everlasting effect on the people and communities he comes across.
1. Fred, you are a man of many talents - photography, videography, photo and video editing, coloring and marketing, just to name a few. Take us back to that time in your childhood (or adulthood) when you realized this was what you wanted to do.
From childhood, I didn't see myself working in the photography/creative field as an adult, but I did like photography. I used to have this small camera that I took to school. Everywhere I went, I captured every memory around me and shared it with people. They appreciated the pictures I took and it made me happy. But what I saw myself becoming, and what everyone around me saw me becoming, was a computer engineer. Because I also had an interest in it. Growing up, I was assembling computers and I was building machines for people here and there.
But, there was a bit of a mix up in my courses. After high school, you must pursue a course where you either study XYZ to be a filmmaker, or you study XYZ to be a computer engineer. I ended up picking the wrong course which meant I would not have access to the computer engineering degree I planned for. My mom and everyone else were so worried.
Eventually, my mom came to me and said “Oh, instead of sitting around the house here and there, your photography lab is big. Why don't you try and make it a profession? Study it at the university. If there's a course, I'll pay for it. Try and see if you can study it.” That was when I started looking through and saw NAFTI - National Film and Television Institute of Ghana. Fast forward, I enrolled in film school and a few months down the line I started discovering my interest in it. I thought, “I can build this; I can get to this level.” And the idea just started growing, until I am where I am today.
2. You were already an accomplished cinematographer and filmmaker working with brands and companies to create content for them using your skills here in Ghana. What made you decide to get into the content creation space of your own on YouTube?
Originally, YouTube came into the picture when I wanted a platform to upload my film and photography portfolio. Google Drive was too much because you have to pay for the cost, and if you send your work via Instagram or other social media platforms, the quality is not maintained. I needed a platform where I could share my high quality work with clients and people who didn't live in Ghana but are still interested to see my work.
So I was using YouTube, but it wasn’t for the public. One day though, I was on a job working as a videographer for a YouTuber from the UAE whose brand travels the world as well. We ventured deep into the countryside of Ethiopia and spent some days among a community creating content. Throughout the journey though, there were certain things I realized were happening that I didn’t like - whether it be the storytelling style, the perception of the people, how they were being described. The whole concept felt weird and outdated and I wasn’t happy.
The part that struck me the most was when they wanted a thumbnail picture with kids from the area holding guns. It is quite common in their community as a source of protection of their culture. And even though they had the parents permission, I refused to take the photo. The people had been very nice to us. They showed us peace and gave us good care. I felt it didn’t speak well or represent what the people had done for us. Needless to say, the content creator and I didn’t end on good terms by the end of the trip, but when I returned to Ghana, I asked myself a few questions and I realized some things.
I went to Ethiopia because I'm talented, I have the skill set and I have my own equipment. Why should I bother following these creators and be creating for them, when they will be turning our position? I have the look. I am a people person. I can relate to my people much better than anyone. So why don't I take the camera, stand in front of it, and then start being the voice of my people? So I did. While working on another project I did the first video and posted it. Everyone liked it and I kept getting good compliments. It did well on twitter and ever since then, people have been in love with my content.
I feel proud because I feel like I'm representing my people in the light they want to be represented in. And so far, so good. YouTube has been a good space for me and I think I'm telling their story effectively.
3. How long have you officially been a YouTuber and how has your channel evolved since you started it?
February 2023 marks two years of my YouTube journey. I have seen my channel grow gradually since I uploaded my first video in 2021 and it has the potential of growing so much more. My concept of coming to the YouTube space was not to create content for the sake of a trend. I'm not living the life of trend. I'm living the life of legacy. I want to leave a legacy. I want to have an impact on people. I want my content to stand for what I represent, which is the continent of Africa and seeing the continent progress in a positive light. 4. Your work is stunning. You really capture the authentic culture and diversity of the continent through your cinematography and storytelling in your videos on YouTube. Why is this so important for you to do?
Society, culture, memories, our lifestyle, our food all mean a lot to me. And not capturing it well doesn’t represent what I stand for. I believe what I am doing is a work of art. And every art piece needs to come out very refined, effectively communicate a message, or it should drive change. I try to invest much of my time into what I do, from the storytelling to the kind of equipment I use to the choice of music. Every little detail counts for me because it is what makes my story, it is what stands for my identity. It is what makes me different from other people.
If I don’t capture a culture right, or a society right and I misrepresent them, how do I differ from other people who are coming into the space and don't understand the culture? The main purpose of my whole channel is to preserve our history, our culture, our lifestyle, and to make people appreciate it and promote peace and unity among us. So every piece I put out there as content from the continent needs to speak that volume of a powerful story that I want to share with the world.
5. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since joining the YouTube content creation space?
As I mentioned earlier, bad news does well on YouTube, the internet or social media in general. I'm not intimidated into doing just any type of content to lead to something that is trending. Instead, I want to set a look and feel that does well yet doesn’t follow the trend. This has been a little bit of a challenge sticking with that kind of vibe but from where my channel stands right now I count our success as a blessing.
6. What has been the biggest highlight for you?
The biggest highlight for me so far is the fact that every piece of content I put out there seems to impact the people whose story I tell. One that stood out of the many is when we went to the Northern Region of Ghana, and I created this video of a lady who does groundnut Oil. That video only has about 3,000 views. In the video, the lady wanted investors to come into her space to help her expand - help her buy raw materials, help buy her products and buy equipment so that she can upgrade her work. And ever since I clicked to upload the video, people have been reaching out to her in droves. She calls me every single day to say thank me for visiting my space - “Because of you, my life has changed”.
She used to work a nine to five and two jobs at the same time while doing the groundnut Oil business. But ever since I released the video of her, she quit her job and now she's working full time on her groundnut Oil business. She’s exporting to the US, exporting to other countries, as well as taking care of her family and many others. So, to see my content bring this kind of impact into society and put a smile on people's faces is a very, very big highlight for me.
Aside from that, I know everyone who watches my content comes out very excited and they’re proud to be African. This is the ultimate goal for me and I am achieving it gradually.
7. Is there anyone who has been of inspiration to you on your journey? If so, who is it and why?
Wow. Yes. I have a couple people who inspire me actually. Where do I even start? There are people who inspire me who are not in the creative space. Then, I do watch other content creators and feel like I learn from them but also that I can do much better. I watch other creators and feel like oh, maybe I should try this to be in this position. But the main inspiration comes from my mom. It also comes from the people whose life story I film. Their perseverance, their spirit, the fact that they have less, but they are happy. Their definition of riches is their attitude towards life and it’s very bright and beautiful and comes with a lot of positive energy. I feel like all of these things together are enough to keep me going and serve as my inspiration.
8. Of all the trips around the continent you have taken so far, which one has been your favorite and why?
I think this is the most difficult question I always get when I do an interview because every country I visit is my favorite. They are all different communities, different people, and every society in Africa, every country and community you come across, is unique in its own way. But personally, what stands out currently in my mind where I still have strong memories of is a place called Abidjan, Cote d'ivoire. We went there for 1.5 - 2 months and we travelled 16 hours from the capital to some town, then we went somewhere deep down into the rural areas. We then spent almost two weeks with the people. We went fishing, we went farming and a lot more activities with them. And the lifestyle of these women over there was just so stunning. It was beautiful. I just truly enjoyed the people's energy.
They were happy people and we didn't have to introduce ourselves or talk long, for them to accept us as family. I always get this when I visit other African countries as well. I’ve never been rejected in any country so far, but I think it is the bond that we established while we were with them in this village that makes it beautiful for me. I still have flashbacks. There is a video I made of them where we went fishing and how these people were in the water and not afraid that a snake could pop up from anywhere or they could break their foot or something. They didn't care. All they knew and wanted was to see what they could put on their table for the day. And they were happy to do that. At the end of the day, they got what they went fishing for and it was beautiful.
9. Where do you see your channel and your Fred Dahe brand in the next 10 years?
I definitely want to see this channel grow into more like an NGO or a voice. I mean, it is already the voice of the people. It is speaking for the people, speaking for society, representing society. But ten years from now, I want to be able to use my platform to sell small scale businesses. I want to use my platform and my channel to be able to put people into school and transform lives. I want my channel to be big. Not just with numbers, but big like a brand or an NGO called The People's Creators. The People's Creator that is feeding and taking care of society and sharing people's story and giving people joy.
10. What’s next on your travel agenda? Where can our community anticipate to travel with you?
I'm currently in Kenya right now and have been for two weeks. I'm looking forward to visiting Uganda from Kenya, and if time permits, I will possibly do Tansania and see how best I can play around with that trip too.
One thing about my trips is I don't have a solid plan where I know that at the end of this month I’m going to this country or I'm going to that country. I just follow my spirit and also my financial stance within that period of time. I travel with a huge risk, which is traveling with all my savings and not caring what will happen. Believing that either before the end of the trip or when I come back, something else will occur that will allow me to take care of myself again. In terms of the future, the idea is to do at least ten African countries before 2023 ends.
11. How can we follow your journey? Share your socials and the best way for anyone interested in supporting your cause to reach out.
The first thing you need to do is subscribe to my YouTube channel, hit the notification bell button where you get notified every time I share a video. Try to stay interactive with the kind of content I share on my YouTube and support the people that need the help. Oftentimes people do come online to ask for help for maybe martyrs or someone who is doing a business or starting up something and they find themselves trapped somewhere. So I find support like that very necessary.
Sometimes I do crowd funding for my trips which I haven't officially done yet, but sometimes people also reach out to me and say okay, I can support you in this way.
Follow me on Instagram as well and feel free to hit me up and reach out. I'm also flexible in helping you out when you want to visit any of these countries that I've been to. If you live in the country I am visiting, I am always open to who can help me connect and be connected as well. But you guys are always welcome.
Thank you Fred for your vision, your skills and your contribution not only to Ghana but to the African continent. You are working to change the narrative and make a difference in your community, your country and leave your mark on the world. We are proud to share your story and to continue to do so in the future. Don't forget to follow Fred on his journey throughout the African continent. You won't be disappointed.