What I’m Feeling: Part Two – Mapping Accra’s New Cultural Scene (August 2016)

As I explained last week, there is a lot more local content than just music that I’ve been feeling recently. So – as promised – here is my non-musical accompaniment to last week’s list. Again: those in the know will already know most of these, but – in the immortal words of Fela Kuti – “who no know go know”.

Cornfields in Accra

13419066_282892668718036_1329141475390550252_nIf you have not gone to see Cornfields in Accra – the annual end-of-year exhibition of the KNUST’s Painting and Sculpture Department – happening now until the end of August (ignore the flyer date: it’s been extended) at the Museum of Science & Technology (opposite the Tigo HQ) – you’re really, really, really missing out. And next time, don’t miss the launch: it’s always busy, but the artists are on hand.

The AccraWeDey Podcast(s)

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More than just listening to the podcast(s), I have watched the entire AccraWeDey movement for the past year or two, and – alongside Signatures and Swaye Kidd’s CulArtBlog (and each in different ways) – I really think they are the successors to what we were trying to do with DUST magazine back in the day: curating Accra in a manner that speaks as much to conscience and community as it does to style.

Others often focus solely on things that are shiny and largely inaccessible (think of all those write-ups you see in international newspapers talking about how Accra is the new cool, for example). They fail to capture Accra’s spirit and all the things that bring us together across all the other things that could divide us. Accra We Dey rise above all that to find depth, and I cannot help but be proud of their hustle.

Signatures Magazine

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At the launch of Issue Zero, Signatures’ co-founder – Jason Nicco-Annan – jokingly introduced himself as (being better known as) Julian (DJ Juls)’s little brother. I hope that mess is over now. Sure: Juls was in the mix, but every single page of Signatures jumps with the same attention to detail and eye for beauty, trends and movements that Jason possessed way before he was Associate Editor back at DUST. 

Issue Zero was a good test run. Having heard a few rumours, I’m very much looking forward to Issue One.

CulArtBlog

Ending the post-DUST troika is Swaye Kidd’s CulArtBlog. There is more than one Accra, and Mr. Kidd seems the man most in touch with the one that I inhabit. I am pretty sure CulArtBlog has covered every single artist I featured on last week’s list. And more. If you are looking for what’s going on in underground Accra, CulArtBlog is a pretty good place to start…

AccraDotAlt / The Chalewote Street Art Festival

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… and AccraDotAlt is a good place to end. About a decade ago, there were a number of us who each set out to shape an alternative Accra to the mainstream before us. DUST was a part of that. SoulNMotion was a part of that. PY Addo’s Bless the Mic was a part of that. The Kweku Ananse Show on Vibe FM was a part of that. There were many more, but of all us, the last entity standing – if not stomping – is very much AccraDotAlt and we have all thrown our collective weight behind Mantse Aryeequaye and Dr. Sionne Neely’s brainchild and all its cultural fruit: Sabolai Radio, the Talk Party Series, and of course, the big one… like winter in Game of Thrones, Chalewote is coming. Peep the AccraDotAlt Radio blog too: the artist updates ahead of this year’s event are pretty dope.

YoyoTinz

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The recent Sarkodie & m.anifest beef was the best representation of the evolution of Ghanaian hip-hop/hiplife/GH rap (or whatever you choose to call it) into a genre that has begun placing as much emphasis on lyricism as it does on its ability to move your body. It was no surprise when YoyoTinz hosted a talk on the topic: they are the outfit who have done the most to champion the genre – past, present and beyond mere promotion – into something that is dissected, documented and discussed.

The Studio

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Another creative collective who have my attention and respect is the one including photographer, Francis Kokoroko; illustrator/graphic designer Sena Ahadji; stylist Mawuli FudogloDJ Steelo; producer Yaw P, and more. Besides being better dressed than you, they have been curating some of the finest artists and talks of 2016 in the Osu-based studio around which they loosely operate.

The Nubuke Foundation + ANO Ghana

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One of my favourite art spots, Nubuke is all about recording, preserving and promoting Ghanaian art, and they have been supportive of younger artists and groups, including the Accra Theatre WorkshopEhalakasa (Alliance Francaise Accra gets a shoutout for doing the same). The last time I was there, I saw the latter half of one of the best ever performances I’ve seen by the force, talent and majesty that is Poetra Asantewaa.

That event was organized by Nana Oforiatta Ayim who – in addition to her cultural research work with ANO Ghana – has been doing a magnificent job of making Gallery 1957 more than just a commercial art space, but a home for excellent programming around the younger, fresher faces of Ghanaian contemporary art.

Nuku Studio + The Beyond Collective

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More than just taking pictures, photography is art too and there is probably no collective in Accra that is more of a testament to this than Nuku, whose workshops are as much about photography as they are about philosophy. Nuku’s Nii Obodai and Seton Nicholas also play roles in Beyond: a collective who have very much been in the business of setting new standards for art out here. I cannot wait for Beyond 3.

Bright Ackwerh + the Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Ghanaian Art

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Attending the unveiling of this year’s Kuenyehia Prize with Mrs. A-G a few months back, we wanted Bright Ackwerh to win but we didn’t think he would. His art turns many industry conventions  on their head. Besides being digital in creation, understanding Ackwerh’s work often requires an understanding of Ghanaian popular culture and whatever topics are trending on local radio/Twitter. His works are thus far more accessible to the ordinary than they are to the elite or to any (career) appreciators of fine art. Not unlike the FOKN Bois, Bright’s work makes you laugh as much as it makes you think.

I let out a shout when Bright was announced the winner. And I really have to commend the Kuenyehia Prize (and its founder, Elikem Nutifafa Kuenyehia) not only for having the vision to award Ackwerh, but also for existing in the first place; for finding a way to support contemporary art. Not for personal profit but at personal expense and for the sake of community.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Tea Baa + Cafe Kwae + The… Spot Just Off Spintex I Won’t Name

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The three food & drink joints I’m in love with at the minute, particularly on holidays. I have spent almost everyday of my summer break writing (and randomly bumping into awesome people) at Kwae. While Republic will always, always hold a special place in my heart, Dedo Azu’s Tea Baa has become the place I’m most likely to DJ at (heck, I’ll be even there next Friday 19th). Oh, and while you’re there, make sure to pop in to The Shop by Eyetsa next door: purveyors of very dope ish.

Dedo and I share similar tastes in music. More importantly, there’s no dancefloor at Tea Baa: great for DJs like me who play sounds from off the beaten track and who don’t want dancers complaining because we’re not playing enough Lil’ This/That or whatever the hell else is popping on Billboard.

(Update: visited Zen Garden in Labone last night, and I have a feeling they too will be chopping my money soon).

… and as for the Restaurant-I-Refuse-to-Name, I’m deeply torn about letting people know about it lest people flock there and it ceases to be the hidden gem that it is.

So here we are.

The Thing My Crew & I Will Launch Next Week

Hints above and below, but – as of the time I’m typing this – it’s not next week yet.

So you’ll just have to wait.

 

 

What I’m Feeling: the August 2016 Comeback Edition (Part One)

It’s been awhile since I did one of these.

Regardless, here it is: my monthly occasional once-in-awhile rundown of music that I’m feeling right now. Today’s edition is all local (to avoid clashing with something I’m a part of on another platform that will reveal itself in a week or so. I’ll update this post with a link when it drops). A couple of these are a little dated but – like I said – it’s been a long time. Besides, dopeness is timeless.

Warning: it’s pretty packed. Up next, I’ll do a non-music one. We’ll see if I can keep it up. Here goes.

Kuvie

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A couple of months back, I wrote my thoughts on how I thought Kuvie had low-key invented a new genre/subgenre of music or something. I would later see him do a live music set as part of DJ Keyzzz’ BeatPhreaks Live gig at Alliance Francaise, and it exceeded my already high expectations. I would definitely pay money to go see Kuvie headline. He hasn’t let up since then, especially on the named ‘Grind’: Vision DJ’s collaboration with Ayisi Ican (AI). One of my favorite tunes of the moment by my favourite producer of the moment under the auspices of one of my favourite DJs.

RedRed – How Far

The most important/topical/urgent song on this list. Awhile back, RedRed – the outfit consisting of M3nsa (who is still cedi-for-cedi the most complete Ghanaian artist in existence and needs to bless us all with another solo album ) and ELO – dropped a video with a live performance of what sounded like a sparse, next-level electronic rework of the Ghanaian national anthem. It got a lot of my people excited. After it finally premiered on Ms. Naa’s Ryse & Shyne – suitably on independence day – Malaka wrote a whole blog post about it. There was awhile there when I thought the lyrics would date because the President ‘solved’ dumsor bi saa.

False alarm.

VI Music

The admiration I have for Adomaa extends to her entire crew, really. VI Music is fast becoming less of a label than it is an entire creative movement encompassing Adomaa herself, and the collective dopeness that is Akotowaa, Robin Huws, Reynolds the Gentleman, Tronomie and more. More than just their music, I like the whole ‘squad’-ness of their operation and how they really are not about fitting into modern Ghanaian musical templates; even with each other. Their sounds are actually diverse as heck. No artist here sounds like the other. And even their artwork drips with attention to detail.

The Gentleman could be Ghana’s Wizkid. He sure has the energy (as anyone who was at the Afraba concert can testify). Unlike Wizkid however, he is also a producer, which might be why he sings about more than just how he wants to part with his money on account of someone’s ass/body/waist/dancing/whatever (And the occasional song about poverty. Don’t get me wrong: I love Wizkid. But daaamn… he always sings about the same things). I don’t know how my people will respond to that, but it works for me.

Robin Huwes is all about love, stripped-down acoustics and a genuine vulnerability rarely heard around these parts:

My (adopted baby cousin) Akotowaa beautifully blurs the lines between spoken word, rap, singing and the good old fashioned art of actual songwriting on IWITP. And I love it:

Adomaa’s brother (& my former student) Tronomie just dropped his debut track, ‘Breaking Bars’. I’m hearing Kwabs and Gallant influences (at a time when few musicians out here have probably even heard of those two): not a bad thing at all.

VI gives me hope.

DJ Juls feat. Mr Eazi x Eugy x Sarkodie – Teef Teef

It’s beautiful to see a good thing come together. Juls has been crafting this African-sample-heavy sound for years without getting the due he deserves. For awhile, I thought he’d left it behind to explore other (equally dope) sounds with his homeboy Mr. Eazi (their creative collaboration is to Ghanaian music what Martin Scorcese’s partnerships with DeNiro and DiCaprio have been to Hollywood). But then he comes back with this. Beats 1’s Julie Adenuga named it the sound of the summer and she’s right. If this is not on your playlist, you’re failing.

Cina Soul – Julor

I was late listening to Cina Soul’s brilliant single, only doing so after the homie Paa Koti schooled me to it and my mind’s twin, Debbie Frempong insisted to me that it features what may be the most flawless vocals she’d ever heard from Ghana. And then I learned that it was produced by Elidot’s former student, Odunsi and that it also features different-sounding raps by the man M Dot. Cina (who really is the sweetest human being in person) just dropped her EP, and while  I don’t think it quite matches the brilliance of this track, it’s clear that her potential is crazy. Watch this one.

IFKR ft. Odunsi – Omo Gbono

I should be mad at Ashesi’s finest two DJs – K3V and Franklin – for keeping from me the fact that their Major Lazer-loving asses are also creating original ‘afro-EDM’ tunes. But by the time that synth-y sound drops after the chorus, all is forgiven really. Fun track. I’m curious to hear what else they are cooking up.

Odunsi ft. Okuntakinte – Happy Hour

Odunsi is the future. There: I said it. I remember thinking this when EDWVN drew my attention to his tracks Nasty Horns and Nikki. Crisp production. Diversity. Imagination. The man whose influence is felt on the last two tracks I mentioned has also released an EP and my favourite cut by far is this one, featuring his (unapologetically controversial) Ashesi  classmate, Okuntakinte, who is on good form here.

Villy & the Xtreme Volumes – WMM (Wia My Money)

Villy has been owning Accra’s live music scene for a few years now. He reminds me of two of my old friends from London – Lyric L & Ty: artists whose live performances are so on point that they make fans of people who have never heard their music before. Villy’s EP Humanimals shows musical growth and this is showcased perfectly on this angry, Miles-Davis-sampling, African blues track, WMM.

African leaders: come take your subs… and bring us our money while you’re at it.

Worlasi

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Yoyo Tinz have been evangelizing about Worlasi for a minute and it’s easy to see why. Charisma, a unique style, lyrical depth and locally-relevant content that all Ghanaians can relate to all make Worlasi a contender. He shines on features, as he does here with m.anifest:

And – just like King Kendrick – he’s dropped an EP of unreleased tracks:

Honorary Mention

YG & Nipsey Hussle – FDT

Hardly local, but I must admit that it does capture a few of my sentiments on a topic of potential international significance. The part two featuring Macklemore and G-Eazy is on regular rotation in the Ankomah-Graham household.

Speaking of part twos, stay tuned for Part Two. Next week. Maybe.

#MyWritingProcess

My friend Fiona Leonard recently responded to a challenge by my partner-in-Ashesi-related-crimes, Kajsa Hallberg Adu to talk about her writing process.

Fiona in turn challenged three writers to do the same, and – for some bizarre reason – I was one of them. Personally I do not think myself much of a writer, so when a friend who you respect as a writer calls you one, it’s quite an honour.

So here goes…

What am I working on?

I am currently working a collection of ten short stories based on Ghanaian urban legends. I tried last summer and failed and since then, I have been waiting for another block of time within which I can write daily. Ashesi just went on holiday so that time is pretty much now. If I fail, Fiona has telling rights on one of the stories.

I am also in the middle of reorganising my blog around my various hats as a writer, DJ, lecturer and as an African.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

With regards to fiction, I am still discovering my writing voice and so I really cannot say. If people eventually find my writing imaginative and it makes them pause for thought though, I won’t complain.

As a blogger and freelance writer, what sets my work apart is that I am the one writing it. I come from a weird combination of backgrounds and experiences that make me a bit of what Ethan Zuckerman calls a ‘bridge figure’: able to look at my culture from both an insider and an outsider perspective.

Why do I write what I do?

Mainly because I enjoy writing. I am much more comfortable writing than I am speaking.

Besides that however, I write because feel like I have something to say. Everybody does, really. I am surprised by how many people send me messages after particular blog posts to say that I have said something they wanted to say. I honestly wish that more people would write.

How does my writing process work?

I have worked with people like Kajsa Hallberg Adu and Ato Kwamena Dadzie who seem able to write at the drop of a hat. I envy them.

Sometimes (usually early in the morning), I get a bee in my bonnet, and start writing out a plan. Then I get so caught up in the plan that I end up writing out the whole thing.

This works great for short write ups like blogs and such. It’s not a particularly great way to write longer pieces though. My challenge this summer will be to channel it into a daily writing ritual for completing my short story collection.

So that’s me.

My turn to pass on the four questions to three writers. Hmmm. I choose…

 

Event/Co-Sign: A New Image Through An African Lens

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Over the past few years, young Africans privileged enough to find themselves online have started not only consuming content, but also putting content online. To my mind, this is a good thing: the more of our own stories (please note the use of the plural here; stories) we put out there, the less likely it is that others will concoct any for us. More importantly however, we will get to know ourselves and each other a little better, and build the networks we need to in order to build this little continent of ours.

There is an event happening this Friday, organized by a team called AADAT! exploring how African photographers are actively taking charge of how their continent and its people are portrayed.

Panelists include Omar Victor Diop, Delphine Fawundu-Buford, alongside Ghana’s very own Nana Kofi Acquah, Sharifah IssakaOfoe Amegavie, and Laura Asimeng.

The forum will be hosted on Google + livestreamed on Friday, and also livetweeted through @aadatart. The great thing about this event is that you can participate.

If there any questions about the topic that you would like to have answered by the panel on the topic, all you have to do is:

a. Tweet your questions today at AADAT @aadatart (or send them through the AADAT Tumblr Ask Box: http://bit.ly/18WrUmu)

b. Tweet them during the discussion, as @aadatart will be livetweeting the whole thing.

Besides the photographers – each of whom I’ve been a fan of for awhile (except Diop, who I’m just discovering) – I will be following this event because of the involvement of two of my favourite young Ghanaians: Sharon Obuobi & Deborah Frimpong.

Sharon has been championing African art for while now in the form of ‘Auburn Butterfly’, an arts blog I follow that seems to have metamorphosed into AADAT!

Deborah, on the other hand, writes one of my favourite Tumblrs, Bittersweet, where she expresses some of the most intelligent opinions on life and faith that I’ve heard from any young Ghanaian.

Both are cool human beings very worth following.

>10 Questions: Ato Kwamina Dadzie

>Another day, another apology for not having blogged in ages. Got my laptop repaired though and I’m almost back online at home, so expect improvements in that department :o)

I finally sat down with Ghana’s most irreverent journalist (c), Ato Kwamina Dadzie and, as promised, I threw all your questions at him. Click here to listen to what he had to say. It was a 25-minute chat and it was both fun and informative, especially for anyone curious about challenges facing people chasing the news in Ghana. I was personally most intrigued by the journalists who taught him not to give a **** and his thoughts on political bias in the Ghanaian media.

I’m looking for a better way to post it to the blog besides Sendspace, so anyone with any ideas should let me know. We did the interview after work in the Joy FM news so you can still hear phones going off, Nathaniel Attoh furiously typing in the background and a couple of journalists engaged in a shouting match… sorry, I meant passionate debate in the background. It’ll take awhile to transcribe, but I’ll put up some quotables soon.

It’s good to be back.

>Interview: Questions for Ato Kwamina Dadzie

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It’s been just over a month since I started working in the Joy FM newsroom and one of the best things about the experience so far has been watching one of my favourite Ghanaian journalists in action.

Ato Kwamina Dadzie is hands-down the country’s funniest commentator. One listen to his newspaper reviews on the Super Morning Show, his Not-News segment on the Weekend City Show or a read of any of his blog articles should be enough to confirm this to anyone with any doubts.

Even better than all that though, Ato’s been kind enough to agree to an interview on this blog so I figured I would throw it over to you.

All questions welcome. No holds barred (I think).

>Co-Sign: Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women

>Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women is written , amongst others, by a friend of mine but I will try and write this without bias. Its intriguing title is largely self-explanatory but if your imagination is low on gas today then think of it as the blog version of all those necessary yet secret conversations African women (used to/still) have with their daughters when men are busy elsewhere.

Well-written, honest, deeply personal and actually serving a purpose, Adventures… is vying with Esi Cleland’s Wo Se Ekyir and cousin Whapibak’s Second Child, Last Born for my favourite Ghanaian blogs of 2009 (so far).

Highly recommended.