“No matter how hard your single jammed last year or how tenaciously your auto-tune anthems clung to the Billboard charts… if you can’t ascend that stage and leave it sufficiently scorched, you’re not taking my ticket money…” - Eli Tetteh, “Rhymes & Rip Offs“, DUST Magazine (March 2011)
Hiplife is moving away from the days of ”Yo! Mic check one two! DJ! Play the next track! Track three! Track three…! ” Many artists are still complacent though, relying on people knowing their songs at live performances. Why not give the people a little bit more though?
The performers I respect the most are those who are able to mount a stage and get you moving to the songs you don’t know. It’s a rare gift but – besides having amazing music – a large part of it is to do with showmanship, and it requires a little bit more than what may have worked for you during Records Night at your old boarding school. If you pull it off though? Even those who don’t know you or your music will be scrambling out of your concert to buy it.
My father says Ghanaian music changed completely after Geraldino Pino and his band came to town. Pino was a Sierra Leonean musician who was playing around the same time as Fela Kuti. I was once told that he invented the afrobeat sound that Fela would later perfect, but Dele Sosimi corrected my misconception. Pino did, at the very least though, influence Fela on his journey to become (in my eyes) Africa’s greatest ever musician.
Dad tells me that Pino played his first ever Ghanaian shows in Kumasi. Few really knew who he was initially. However, his band were so good that, by the time he got to Accra, hype had preceded him and tickets were completely sold out.
His Accra performances lived up to the hype and, afterwards, secondary schools across the country lined up to form school bands trying to emulate Pino’s James-Brown-Meets-African sound. The way Dad tells it, those performances changed the face of music in Ghana.
This Saturday, Blitz the Ambassador will be playing Alliance Francaise. Right here in Accra. I’m pretty sure it’s for only five cedis too [CORRECTION: turns out it's GHc8... still pretty damn cheap though]. Friends of mine who have seem them play abroad tell me that Blitz and his boys are incredible live performers. His album (which I have already raved about on this blog) struck an amazing balance between hiphop and classic Ghanaian highlife. It already sounds live and so it should be quite an experience hearing his band, the Embassy Ensemble, playing it gani-gani.
Accra is already experiencing a bit of a live music resurrection so I am not expecting a revolution. It would however be cool if kids are inspired by Blitz’s particular blend of hiphop and highlife to experiment more with older, less-synthesized highlife. I’m not saying that everyone should start sounding old school. There are several ways to flip it though. Kweku Anansi and DJ Juls are two of my favourite Ghanaian producers and both make amazing beats that sound both fresh and classic.
Blitz will be joined onstage by Afro neo-soul sirens, Les Nubians (who also feature on his album), the Grammy Award nominated duo best known here for ‘Makeda‘ and their remake of Sade’s ‘Sweetest Taboo‘ (featuring the Roots), as well as ‘Temperature Rising‘ (which featured Talib Kweli). Topping it all off are Blitz’ old friends (back from when he was called Bazaar), VIP. The boys from Nima have been killing it since their recent return to the music scene. I saw them perform ‘I Think I Like Am‘ on Big Brother and their energy was crazy.
All that. For only eight cedis. Chale, Saturday night at Alliance may be one for the history books.
See you there.
It’s Africa Union Day (or African Liberation Day) today and I’ve decided to work from home – Joy FM staff often have to go to work on holidays. I have the luxury of being able to work wherever there is an internet connection though…
… and besides: it’s a holiday. I love the fact that we have so many holidays in Ghana.
For AU Day this year, we in Ghana are celebrating what would have been Kwame Nkrumah’s centenary and there has been a raft of events around this theme.
Seems many people didn’t know about last night’s Independence Square concert featuring the likes of VIP, Amandzeba, as well as headliners Baaba Maal and Richard Bona – one of the best African artists alive, in my personal opinion. I hear Femi Kuti couldn’t make it because he didn’t get paid in advance (Ghanaian artists, take note).
Anyway, my friend Nana Akua slipped me the schedule for the rest of the celebrations. Some plays will be happening at the National Theatre @ 6.30 pm for the next few nights. I caught the first showing of ‘Nkrumah Ni…‘ and really enjoyed it: well played and thought-provoking.
25th May: ‘The Fall of Kumbi‘ by Mohammed ben-Abdallah
Performed by the National Theatre Players
26th May: ‘Nkrumah-ni… Africa-ni!‘ by Femi Osofisan
Performed by Abibigromma (School of Performing Arts, Legon)
27th May: ‘The Fall of Kumbi‘ by Mohammed ben-Abdallah
Performed by the National Theatre Players
Today’s celebrations look like this:
WREATH-LAYING AND FLAG-RAISING CEREMONY @ Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park (8.30 – 10.00 am)
KWAME NKRUMAH CENTENARY COLLOQUIUM (cont’d) @ Accra International Conference Centre (11.00am – 5.00pm)
11.00am SESSION 5: AFRICAN UNITY AND BEYOND
- Ama Biney, “The Contribution of Kwame Nkrumah to Pan-Africanism and Internationalism, and its Contemporary Relevance”
- Issa Shivji, “Kwame Nkrumah’s thought in the evolution of Pan-African Ideology”
- Horace Campbell, “Towards an Africa without Borders in the 21st century: The Inspiration of Kwame Nkrumah”
2.00pm ROUNDTABLE 2: SESSION WITH VETERAN FREEDOM FIGHTERS
4.00pm CLOSING CEREMONY
Statement of the Colloquium
- Yao Graham, Member of the Kwame Nkrumah Centenary Colloquium Planning Committee
- His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, Vice President of the Republic of Ghana
Oh, and in July…
6–8th July: ‘Children of The Land‘ and ‘In the High Court of Cosmic Justice‘
Dramatization of Poetry
Hope there’s something in there for your enjoyment.
>Two years ago, my best friend told me she was heading off on a bus full of fellow academics to Burkina Faso to watch the latest films our continent has to offer. I was gutted I could not go (work…) and told her I would make the trip to the next FESPACO two years later. Didn’t happen (work…), so here’s a report from the ever-reliable Beeb instead.
I miss African cinema.
No offence to Nollywood, Egya Koo and friends but I wish there was a balance here between the mini-series that pass for movies these days and more artistic African fare by directors like Kwaw Ansah and the late great Ousmane Sembene (or the recent FESPACO winners who represent the next generation). Launches of the latter used to be major events back when I was in Mfansipim. Today I find it shocking that I am more likely to find rubbish like Beyonce and Rihanna or mediocre titles from Hollywood here in Ghana than I am to find Tsotsi, the first African film to score big at the Oscars. I am still in shock that people thought Beyonce was good enough to warrant a part half, much less parts 2 and 3. A series of childish and unimaginative catfights between two spoilt, noveau-riche, wannabe-Nollywood Ghanaian girls, Beyonce was not clever, artistic or entertaining.
Two more years and counting…
Okay, okay… so the title is a bit misleading (just a bit).
Yes: Bush’s former pet dove was caught on stage at the Africa Rising Festival in London last Tuesday with Nigerian hip-hop group, Olu Maintain, doing the Yahooze and making speeches about how Africa’s time has come.
I’m just glad that African street music is getting some international shine. Many out in the West actually think that the average African actually listens to what they call ‘World Music’. With genres like Naijja Pop, Hiplife, Kwaito, Rai and Bongo Flava dominating airwaves across the continent?
More importantly though, “Co-lin” – perhaps the only person (formerly) in the Bush administration with some international credibility (I said some…) left – has thrown his apparently considerable weight behind Barack. Now before you dismiss it as one black man simply endorsing another, you might want to read his reasons. Reminds me of why I used to admire him more (before the whole ‘WMD in Iraq’ debacle).
Good moves, Colin.
UPDATE (20/10/08): The disappointing (but sadly expected) Conservative response.
>Sorry for the silence: been knocked out recently by a deadly combination of cold and malaria.
Anyhoo… two things to tie you over until my next post (smallest time…):
For people in Ghana:
An invitation to come out and enjoy an alternative to the norm tomorrow night at Rema’s Bar in Osu (follow the link & click on View All Events for details… or send a text to 0246625622). Yup: I’m DJing, which means underground soul, afrobeat, Yo! MTV raps, funk, new jack swing, broken beat and anything besides the usual.
For those of you not lucky enough to be in Ghana:
A link to a recent edition of my underground soul radio show on Vibe 91.9 fm (drop me a line if you want a tracklisting). It’s quite a big file, but it’s worth the wait (imho).
Gonna start putting these up every two weeks.
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