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It was an unremarkable Friday evening in June. I sat across from my road manager – the same guy who told me beer tastes better when someone else is buying – at a local bar. It’s a bar with no signage that we affectionately call “the garden”.

To call it a bar is generous. The garden is, at best, a spot: an unassuming gritty place with plastic chairs, almond trees, an inexpensive sound system, a kiosk, and most importantly for the clientele, cheap booze. On any given evening you will find a random mix of disenchanted elderly men with a distaste for sobriety, and young men with a penchant for staying low-key.

Half the people are too intoxicated to care I’m there and the other half give me friendly dap, shout a line from one of my songs and keep it moving.

The sound of young Ghana, Afrobeats, dominates the playlist at the garden, alongside tunes from our regional cousins in Nigeria. It wasn’t always so. On this unremarkable Friday I’m reminded of this remarkable feat: we have achieved a prolific music scene without a formidable production infrastructure, or the presence of big record labels which can dole out a recording budget to young artists. Underneath the predominantly Auto-Tuned vocals are young voices that want to be heard.

I understand too well the burning desire to have your voice heard even without the backing of a traditional label. About 2005 I had just graduated, with a now dusty economics degree and a tonne of musical aspiration but little knowhow. I took matters into my own hands. Piece by piece I accumulated second-hand recording equipment off Craigslist. My apartment became my studio and in 2007 I released my first album, Manifestations, to much acclaim in Minnesota. Sometimes creativity is simply making a lot out of a little. I smile so broadly when I see my younger compatriots in Ghana adopt the same do-it-yourself approach.

Truth be told, from quaint Saltpond to big city Accra, creative spaces are neither fancy nor spiffy in these parts. Dancefloors are ruled by tunes toasting the glamours of life, tunes that are made in small, bedroom-sized studios, often with broken-down air conditioners rather than platinum discs decorating the walls. Optimists will muse at the irony, cynics will scoff and call it a cruel joke. Both factions would have to acknowledge that a lot of music is being made, regardless.

Our parents’ generation often humblebrag to us about how it was in their day. The plethora of highlife bands, legendary club nights at the Ambassador hotel (now the plush Mövenpick hotel), or how AB Crentsil and the Sweet Talksrecorded their 1978 record Party Time in Hollywood in Los Angeles. And of course they had Osibisa, who were regulars in the charts, and easily the biggest Ghanaian band of all time. Yes, times have changed. They can question our competence but they can’t begrudge us our will and zeal to create in a climate where music is regularly consumed but there is little support for it financially.

I moved back home three and a half years ago after a 10-year sojourn in America. I have not only felt the restlessness of youth here, simmering and festering, I’ve lived it. Frequent power cuts alone (unaffectionately called dumsor) have made music more expensive and frustrating to create. Yet there is an increasing cadre of young hopefuls who invest their lives in creative ventures.

Take, for instance, the Chale Wote street art festival: a colourful yearly arts extravaganza in the heart of Jamestown, a historical neighbourhood along the Accra coastline more famous for its boxers. Chale Wote is an edgy, inclusive and bold initiative that invites artists out of the periphery and encourages young people to unapologetically indulge in homegrown art. Conceived by a pair of visionaries, Mantse Aryeequaye and Sionne Neely, Chale Wote has emerged despite the absence of a big budget.

Art is not a luxury, it’s our identity. It’s our message in a time capsule. It’s our inspiration to break from the humdrum, to know that we can shatter the ceilings of possibility and the frustrations of our daily routines. We’re in desperate need of inspiration to develop our homeland. We want more. No – we need more. We can no longer just cling on to the glories of the Osibisas, El Anatsuis, Ablade Glovers and other greats. We must contribute to shaping the look, feel and spiritual essence of our homeland.

Granted, we have some things to sort out. We’re a generation seemingly more obsessed with commerce than with art. After all “e be art we go chop?” (loosely translated, this pidgin English means, “is it art that will feed us?”). I know many young entrepreneurial visual artists, musicians, fashion designers and filmmakers who make work on shoestring budgets that is magical and can transcend borders.

As I was about to leave the garden my song Forget Dem came on. A group of young guys sang along as loud as they could, eager to let me know they recognised me. I smiled, appreciative.

I contemplate giving them a peek behind the curtain. If only they knew that the song they hear on the radio, which accompanies the music video they see on TV, was recorded in a tiny ghetto studio in Tema. How dumsor rudely interrupted our session, how super producer Killbeatz rented a generator in defiance of the power gods. But I don’t. After all, when it comes to being an artist in Ghana, “nowhere cool” – our way of saying the grass isn’t greener on the other side. Still, we power on, fuelled by passion. Oh the joys of being young, restless and creative in Africa. No stopping us now.

Guardian/Manifest

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Kuami Eugene fortells current troubles with “Wish Me Well” – WATCH!

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Jointly-produced with Willisbeatz, Kuami Eugene’s latest song, “Wish Me Well”, appears to have anticipated his current woes —specifically, for claiming in a GH One TV interview, that he wouldn’t partner Patapaa for a song because the latter’s sound was too “noisy”.

Eugene has since apologised for the statement, stressing that his comments may have been taken out of context.

Visuals for “Wish Me Well” were directed by Rex:

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Hear Teephlow tout his lyrical aptitudes on “Red Velvet”

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Teephlow touts his lyrical aptitudes further on “Red Velvet”, his latest offering. Produced by Elementbeatz & Kopow, the hiphop number sees the rapper also honour fans and other supporter of his craft over the years.

Teephlow is current holder of the VGMA “Record of the Year” laurel.

Listen to “Red Velvet here:

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YOU DO ALL! Samini joins Deon BOAKYE on new reggae offering

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Deon Boakye’s got his first blessing from Samini on a song. “You Do All” is Deon’s latest cut with an official video to it featuring Samini. It was produced by Peewezel and video was shot by Jwillz.

Deon Boayke was introduced by Samini in April this year during Vodafone Ghana Music Awards 2018 as the newest addition to the HighGradeFamily.

This first cut is a manifestation of the journey Samini promised the young musician, Deon Boakye.

The official video is due to hit the screens this week.

Listen below:

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“Could this be Love?” ponder R2Bees in new collab with EFYA — WATCH!

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Afropop duo and BET honourees, R2Bees, mull over an age-long question: how can one tell if a set of actions constitute love or a futile undertaking? And who better to tap than chanteuse Efya, who has sung about the concept throughout her career?

Produced by Killmatic, the song is carried on  a lean R& B swing, and sees Efya bounces back the question Mugeez’s poses in the hook —and delivered in a troubled wail — in  the exact same words: “could this be love, is this forever? Or ebi say I dey waste my time, you dey waste your time?/ Are you loving me, or just for pleasure? Or ebi say I dey waste my time, you dey waste your time?”

On his part,Omar Sterling —the rapper half of the duo — relates in a sobering session — profound worship for a lover, admit to “falling deeper”, while at the same time digesting antipathy that often characterises love —and the compromises thereof, rapping in part; “I put my trust in you, put my hopes in it/ I put my heart on my sleeve, put my soul in it/If you ever break my heart, that will be all for me/ but I’d rather die for you than live with somebody”“girl you’re picture perfect/ is this picture worth it/ could this be love or a bitter lesson?”, “even when I’m right, I try to be the bigger person”.

Could this be Love is released under R2Bees Entertainment. Get it on iTunes.

Watch the accompanying video, directed by BABS below:

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STATEMENT: Shatta Wale apologises for “unpleasant exhibition”

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For an “unfortunate display of obscenity” that was “mistakenly posted” by an associate on social media Tuesday, June 19,  and a fit of diatribes targeted at media personnel for republishing the video, controversial dancehall singer, Shatta Wale, has expressed remorse.

A statement, dated June 20, and signed by the singer, pleads for pardon from his family, fans, record label, and corporate Ghana for the shameful act and embarrassment that it may have brought to them.

Furthermore, the statement sees Shatta (born Charles Nii Armah Mensah) reiterate his brand as being “a law-abiding one; one that will not do anything untoward to bring it and its partners into disrepute”.

“The brand would also not do anything to affect the sensibilities of the large following and support it commands.” he adds. Read the full statement, published on his Facebook page:

Meanwhile, his latest single, “Man Like Me”,  is out now:

 

 

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Ko-jo CUE & Shaker, Mr. Eazi named for upcoming Ms. Lauryn Hill tour

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BBNZ rappers Ko-jo Cue and Shaker have been named alongside global music icons as Talib Kweli, Nas, Busta Rhymes, A$ap Rocky, SZA, and an array of other top artists for Ms. Lauryn Hill’s ongoing tour to commemorate 20 years of the release of her groundbreaking debut; “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”.

The album, published in August 1998 by Ruffhouse/ Columbia is considered as one of the most influential bodies of work by in modern times. A fusion of Neo-soul, hiphop, and R&B, the album birthed such hits as “Doo Wop (That Thing)”, “Ex-Factor”, and “Everything Is Everything”, going on to win five Grammy awards from ten nominations.

Ko-jo Cue and Shaker are the only Ghanaian representatives on the tour. In the past, rapper EL, and neo-soul act Jojo Abot have both appeared on Ms. Hill’s tours. Nigeria’s Patoranking, and Mr. Eazi are also listed as gust performers.

The tour will see the former Fugees vocalist and actress perform across the US, the UK, Belgium, Norway, Canada, Finland, Sweden, among other key global spots.

More soon…

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