Today I am all about Black Girls Glow…

..the album is finally out! If you want to listen to contemporary Ghana, tune into this beautiful collaboration between Ghanaian artists Poetra Asantewa and Dzyadzorm featuring fellow creatives Adomaa, Ria Boss, Cina Soul and Fu under the name Black Girls Glow.

From the first time I heard of this creative collaboration and its lineup, I have been excited. These artists are fab on their own, but often when women collaborate, the sky is the limit! However, the world we live in; patriarchal and commercial structures, make it more common that women compete.  “BGG is a concept that aims to raise the profile of female artists locally, regionally and globally by highlighting and showcasing the brilliant and talented young female artists making waves in the Ghanaian entertainment industry. Black Girls Glow is based on the notion that musical collaboration is a uniquely powerful way to connect people across political and cultural barriers.”, says one of the two initiators, Poetra Asantewa. It is powerful! These Ghanaian creatives are connecting, and it is an immediate creative win.

It is a playful album and even has a track called “Child’s Play” that is like a medley of songs and rhymes we sing to children and concludes with childhood ending? My favorite song is the passionate defense for the selfie: “it is the house you go braless in”, “selfie taking is reclaiming the value of self-love”… The album is a bit cryptically called Mother of Heirs, perhaps the Black Girls Glow collective is envisioning the woman that ought to be respected? The mightly mother of our future children? The track “Mother of Heirs” charges “step aside for the mother of heirs” over suggestive beats, and in sarcastic verses, “silly girl”, “little girl” and “pretty girl” are contrasted with this mother. But could we not also respect the silly, pretty girl for her playfulness, her humanity? Can we women not self-love before we realize we might (also) be the mother of heirs?

The sound is rich, the content critical (and often funny), and I want to sing along, I want to dance! Today I am all about Black Girls Glow!

You can listen to the full album here:  https://soundcloud.com/blackgirlsglow

Seinabo Sey’s Statement at the #Grammis16 Awards Made Me Think

Swedish-Gambian artist Seinabo Sey has become a big star in Sweden over the last year with her big voice, straightforward songs, and performances in all the important places (even Conan O’Brian). This week, she was given the prestigious closing performance slot of the Swedish music awards, the Grammis. There she also won the Pop Award of the year.

I had heard of her performance, and this evening, I decided to watch the entire awards gala. After 17 awards, finally it was time: Sey is alone on stage, lit from a spotlight above creating a beautiful classical singer aura and start singing her song “Easy”. After the wailing intro, a row of black women dressed in all black walk in to stand behind Sey, more keep coming, and more again, they are so many they fill up the stage and one row also comes in just below the stage. Sey segways into the song “Hard Time” where the lyrics go: hard time forgetting/even harder to forget/before you do same/you might regret/ The women have a neutral or even serious look on their face and “just stand there”.

It was amazing! See for yourselves!

After the performance Sey has gotten the question of what she meant by the performance. To the Swedish Television Company, SVT, she said:

– Jag vill att folk ska tänka själva. Det är konst – det är ljud och bild – och jag tror att människor gör mer när de får tänka själva än när de blir tillsagda vad de ska tänka.

– I want people to think for themselves. It is art – it is sound and image – and I think people do more when they are allowed to think for themselves than when they are told what to think.

Such a great and educative answer.

Her performance was most definitely a political statement and watching the clip from Ghana what went through my mind was: “I have never seen that many black women at once in Sweden, but they are there, they are there to stay, they are all ages, all shapes and sizes, all types of hair styles (gotta love black women!), they are there, how are they treated? How does it feel to be black in a political climate of xenophobia and outright racism? How does it feel to be a black woman in Sweden today? How will my daughters feel if they decide to live there?”

Earlier in February, I heard someone (blogger Ebba Kleeberg von Sydow?) review the Stockholm fashion week and comment there was surprisingly little political commentary in the fashion when Sweden is going through turbulent times politically. I was happy to see that did not happen to the yearly show-off of the Swedish music industry.

To use one’s platform is a requirement. Well done, Seinabo Sey. 

See Lauryn Hill in Accra for GHS 10 ($3)

Screenshot 2014-12-10 16.35.23Best news todayis that the BBnZ Afro Beat Festival  (link to their FB page, their website has no info on festival) invites the general public to a music festival where US singer Lauryn Hill closes the show. 

Lauryn Hill was THE star when I was growing up and I once was in the same small college town (Athens, Georgia, US) as where she did  a secret impromptu show all while I was drinking cheap drinks as some sad place next door!

Now I have a second chance at seeing Ms Hill in concert. The cost? only 10 GHS ($3)! VIP for all three days is 150 GHS or $50!

These days few things are cheap in Ghana, so this made me surprised!

Find more events on ArtsGhana.

Artwork is a special tour poster I borrowed from @MsLaurynHill on Twitter.

How to summarise life in Ghana with high inflation: Someway Bi

IMG_4318.JPG

Since I left Ghana in mid-May, politically a lot has happened. Most of it makes me tired, I thought the meme above explains my feelings well. And it seems many other “middle income earners” feel the same type of despair, hence many Ghanaians dress in red every Friday as a clever protest about the negative developments. There are just so many issues…

The Concerned Ghanaians for Responsible Governamnce group have summarised the issues as:

“The erratic supply of electricity nationwide. The unreliable supply of potable water across the country. The ever-depreciating value of the cedi. Constant increases in taxes. Inefficient revenue collection. Very poor road networks. Constant increments in utility tariffs. Frequent increase in the prices of petroleum products. Government’s inability to make statutory payments timeously to schools, health facilities and other state institutions. Government’s inability to address labour-related issues on a timely basis. Government’s inability to exhibit decisive leadership in the fight against corruption. Government’s inability to kick out incompetent and non-performing appointees. The over-politicization of socio-economic issues along partisan lines. Government’s inability to create job opportunities for the youth and fresh graduates. Government’s inability to effectively regulate small scale mining (galamsey) activities. Improper administrative decisions taken by some government officials. Lack of proper communicative skills on the part of some government officials. The Non-Passage of the Freedom of Information Bill The Non-Implementation of the Senchi Consensus. Government’s inability to tackle perennial flooding in the capital city and elsewhere in Ghana”

– however I will in a subsequent blog post focus on the issue of rampant inflation.

For now, let’s hear some music: Ghanaian artist M.anifest just released this video that my blogging friend Efo Dela calls “a documentary about suffering” which also illustrates what Ghanaians go through – and their awesome attitude of still enjoying life. Enjoy!
 

Manifest and Efya’s New Music Video “Asa”

“Asa” means “dance” in Twi. Manifest is one of the most interesting artists in Ghana (and the grandson of acclaimed Africanist Prof. Nketsia, I recently found out from the grandfather himself at a book launch last month!). Efya is a lovely vocalist and the two compliment each other very well.

Really, art is what makes life worth living! After a heavy week, I am welcoming this trip into the world of clapping, rhythms and Ghanaian dance. Medawoase!

What We can Learn from Sister Deborah’s “Uncle Obama” Video

Over the last week or so, the music video of “Uncle Obama” with Sister Deborah has been moving round the social media sites like wildfire here in Ghana. Already from the title of the song, we can hear that it’s beckons attention and after just a few seconds of watching, we realize what kind of attention that is…( if you haven’t seen it,  and hence do not know what I am getting at, the next line goes “I like the size of your banana”…).

Everybody has an opinion about this song, some say it is cheeky or catchy, others say  it is controversial or that Sister Deborah should act instead of sing! I have also heard comments along the line of that artists with resources should have a message instead of just joking around.

Regardless of what you think of the song, I believe there are several things we can learn from this video.

  1.  It does not matter if the content is silly, if the video is of high quality, people will watch. Today the video has more than 235 000 views on YouTube!
  2.  We all love cameos. In this video, Wanlov, M3nsa and Mutombo (and some employees of a well known multinational, I have heard thru the grapevine) add to the flair.
  3.  If you are a skilled social media user, you can create a hype in days.

All of this could come together to create and promote many more Ghanaian music videos that actually gets watched world wide with very little effort. Another example of the same “silly song” phenomenon is the Korean Gagnam Style music video that I also cannot get out of my head… Again a premium production of a very silly song… The other day, a friend was saying how the local Ghanaian Azonto craze never really caught on in other parts of the world,but what if someone would do a high quality video, throw in some cameos and start hitting the social media sites. I have seen on Twitter that all messages mentioning the “Uncle Obama” song are retweeted or responded to, for instance. That goes a long way for creating a hype.

Finally, we can learn that people like silly dances they can copy, but maybe Sister Deborah went just too far there. I am yet to see someone copying her “size of your banana”-move. Or have I just been spending  too much time in the office?

 

Must See in Accra – Dobet Gnahore

On Wednesday Ivorian performer Dobet Gnahore graces Accra with a concert at the Alliance Francaise.

This energetic singer/dancer provided me with one of my best concert experiences in my life last time she came to town, so expectations are sky high!

Dobet Gnahore (MySpace, official website)has it all –  the music in her blood as a daughter in a family of Ivory Coast musicians, many amazingly beautiful melodies and songs sung with a versatile voice and  one of the most interesting and captivating stage presences I’ve ever seen – Dobet just rocks!

My high regard for this artiste grew when I heard that she graciously agreed to lend her music to the Witches of Gambaga film I wrote about earlier this year.

Dobet Gnahore, ladies and gentlemen. She is a must see!

Wednesday 23 March, 2011, 8.30 pm

Alliance Francaise, Accra

6 GHC/2 GHC for students

Photo credit to African Music Safari.

Dust Magazine Does it Again!

Contributors page including Kajsa HA

A new issue of the Dust Magazine is out! (you might remember I hailed the Dust Magazine last time it came out) And this time, yours truly is a contributor!

Other GhanaBlogging

A blog post of mine on page nine in DUST magazine

members contributing to this issue are Esi Cleland/What your momma never told you about business, Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah /Adventures from the bedrooms of African women and of course Kobby Graham is the editor of Dust Magazine.

The issue also has a beautiful cover photo of Ghanaian musician Ebo Taylor by Tobias Freytag/FAD and several amazing photo collages by facebook celeb Adisa Abeba (a Tema resident like myself!) – all in all, both pictures and texts well worth your time.

Of course, this time around I am slightly biased…

Three-end-of-week Events in Accra

Here are three upcoming interesting events that I thought you should know about:

1.       Thu 24 Feb Adventures in the Diaspora

2.       Fri 25 Feb Talk Parti organized by Accra[DOT]ALT

3.       Sat 26 Feb Ghana Planetarium Event

See details below!

Psst. I hope you have also heard about the Asabaako Music Festival, taking place on the Independence weekend on the beautiful Busua beach!

1. Thu 24 Feb 2011, Adventures in the Diaspora 7.30 pm at the Golden Tulip

Kindly join us for the 5th Adventurers in the Diaspora Series, with Seth Dei.

‘creativity and patronage’.

As with most parts of the world, our creative fields are under siege due to the lack of proper support on all levels. In Ghana, we are beginning to see the onset of a creative environment driven a new kind of patron  class, who see creativity as part of a civic and cultural responsibility. Mr. Seth Dei, a true adventurer epitomises this blend of entrepreneurship and the arts. he is partner at Blue Skies Industry, a pre-eminent agro-business based in several countries around the world, and is a dedicated art collector and financier of indigenous high -tech initiatives. his important work in the agriculture sector since 1992 has embodied corporate social responsibility, stimulating and sustaining numerous initiatives that have had ripple effects within and outside the agricultural industry.

As Ghana’s largest collector of contemporary art, his Dei Centre has become a home to art exhibitions and creative activities, as well as an incubator for numerous projects involving young professionals such as Cubicle Blu. Mr. Dei’s work has stimulated artists, students, young professionals to see themselves as ’cultural entrepeneurs’

with responsibilities to grow and publicise their ideas and thoughts. It is this democratic exchange of support and ideas that have propelled creative impulses into Ghana’s development agenda and generated innovative and context-sensitive ways of doing things. His insights on the role of creativity in his endeavours is inspirational and a model that needs to be shared.

We hope you will share the evening with us. See attached invite.

Food and Drinks will be provided by Golden Tulip and our main sponsor ATLANTIC GROUP.

For more information on and live streaming of AiD 5 and past events see our blog http://adventurersinthediaspora.visualsociety.com/

For questions, contact joe@constructsllc.com

2.       Fri 25 Feb Talk Parti organized by ACCRA[dot]Alt, 6.30pm, Passions bar, Osu (not far from Country Kitchen)

See this page for more info: www.facebook.com/ACCRAdotAlt

3.       Sat 26 Feb Planetarium Event

When: SATURDAY 26th FEBRUARY 2011, 3pm – please note the earlier start time

Where: The Ghana Planetarium

Theme: Comets!

Featuring:

3pm – Children’s activities

5pm – Activities for all – Night Sky presentation, astronomy videos/presentation on comets, Planetarium show and telescope viewing / “Globe at Night” constellation  observation (weather permitting). For full details of the  “Globe at Night” citizen science project which anyone can take part in, see http://www.globeatnight.org/

Charge: Adult – GHc 5 / Student – GHc 3 / Child – GHc 2

Please come along and join us, and tell all your friends, family and colleagues!

Directions to the Planetarium:

The GHANA PLANETARIUM is on OSU AVENUE EXTENSION.  That is the road behind Police HQ, and also behind Christ the King.

From Christ the King church/school, take the first turn on your right after passing Christ the King on your right.  The turn is signposted for Quality Distance Learning (QDL). Take another right where you see another sign for QDL.  The road bends round to the left and the Planetarium is on your left, in the same compound as Quality Distance Learning and Office Automation Systems.

Or, from Danquah circle, head towards Kwame Nkrumah Circle on the Ring Road until you get to Police HQ.  Take the slip road that is next to Police HQ, and take the right turn that is halfway up the slip road (ie you don’t go all the way up the slip road to the mini roundabout).

This road is Osu Avenue Extension.  Pass Cinderella’s Night Club, then you will find the Planetarium in the same compound as Quality Distance Learning and Office Automation Systems.  There is a large sign on the wall.

Just look for the giraffes!

Asabaako – Ghana’s New Beach Festival

I hope you have heard about Asabaako, Ghana’s new music festival taking place on Busua beach on the 5-6 of March 2011 ( yep, also called the independence weekend, and yep, I really said BEACH).

It all seems so lovely! Party on one of the most beautiful beaches of Ghana, friends coming together, creativity and arts, rooftop DJs, concerts with Ghana’s freshest acts and in between quick dips in the sea. Did I say I was going?

On the stylish and informative Asabaako website you can find more info, including accommodation and transport. They also have an Asabaako Facebook page and an Asabaako behind the scenes blog!

And what does Asabaako mean? Well, you just have to go to their website to find out!

This Is Africa – A New Culture Website

My friend Emilie pointed me to the This Is Africa site. It is a spanking fresh culture site that trumpets “Africa for a new generation!” and sports subheadlines like “city life”, “music” and “art&fashion”.

It looks great, slick and graphic in a very modern way. The page has a lot of cool links, for instance to the Ghana based (?) DJ and contributor Akwaaba Music / Benjamin Lebrave. It also features African artists’ music videos in a unique and cool format called The White Room – here Ghana’s Wanlov the Kubolor is one of the artists featured.

But then there is something that makes me suspicious: The website is designed for the specific purpose of connecting Europe a.k.a. “the West” to Africa:

This Is Africa is a media organisation that brings Africa and the West closer together via African contemporary urban culture.

As such, it is funded by the EU. It is managed from Amsterdam as the Director, Editor and Web-manager all live there.

So I cannot help but to ask myself: This Is Africa?

High Life in Stockholm

The other day on Facebook, I was surprised to see a friend in Sweden sign up to go listen to High Life, Ghana’s famous dance music, in Stockholm, Sweden. High LIfe is desribed by MTV’s Iggy blog as a:

“synthesis of European disco with Carribbean sounds and the influx of Reggae, Highlife is defined as uptempo, funky dance music that relies on synths for the melody. Vocals — often quickly-spoken lyrics that fell somewhere between rap and singing — have a whooshy, lo-fi feel to them.”

Further, the blog suggests,

“Ghanaian Highlife has been influencing every band of the moment — from Animal Collective to Pharell to crate-digging bands like Javelin that actually sample the stuff.”

Apparently, Ghanaian rhythms like High Life, and more recent Hip Life are really making way on Swedish dance floors. The event my friend signed up for, Klubb High Life, is described on the blog Swedish Palms. Under the heading “she be sweet like banana, she from Ghana”, DJ Cedi and Citizen Kofi (sic!) talk about their recent trip to Ghana. UPDATE: They have their own blog here.

“- Vi gjorde som Obama, vi drog till Ghana. Och det var verkligen sweet like banana, säger DJ Cedi.

DJ Cedi & Citizen Kofi är just nu i färd med att boka upp en klubbturné i Sverige och spela in debutmixtapet Gold Coast Rising – fullt med “top choice hits” från Accras dansgolv och freestyles och shoutouts från några av Ghanas största artister.”

“- We did like Obama, we went to Ghana. And it was really sweet like banana, says DJ Cedi.

DJ Cedi and Citizen Kofi (aka Märta Myrstener och John Airaksinen) are right now planning a club tour in Sweden and recording a debut mix tape called “Gold Coast Rising” – full of “top choice hits” from the dance floors of Accra and freestyles and shout outs from some of Ghana’s biggest artists.”

(My translaton)

It sounds great! Sometimes I wish homegrown music was described as confidently in Ghana, and in relation to nation branding, tourism, culture…Still, if you are in Stockholm, go shake your ass to some Ghanaian music at Strand 22-03 tonight!

And maybe some Ghanaian musicians will read this and think,

“First Sweden, then the world?”