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#VGMANostalgia: 2016 – Of EL’s Crowning

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Let’s admit, the EL announcement caught us all by surprise. EL too! Did you see his face when he was announced as overall winner?

In many ways, he saved the night..not necessarily as a laudable opening set, but for winning Artist of the Year.

Else, what would we have to speak about? The show was crisp and short, the performances were safe. Even Bisa apologised for the “pioneer” remarks. So, no scandal. And a VGMAs without scandal is nothing. Particularly in that sense, Charter House failed. The show was so precise that it was even a bit boring, and there were points in the programme when I just wished Shatta Wale would descend from the ceiling and cause trouble…you know, save the night.

Everything we asked for, we were given; the red carpet started and ended early enough, the performances were live, it was produced (actually produced) for tv, the awards were fairly distributed, the MCs did their part; looking pretty and smiling widely, award presenters wasted no time in announcing who won. Most importantly, the Artist of the Year, when he went up to pick his award, was not accompanied by an entourage of fifty; and so we saw his face when he spoke, and heard his heart when he sighed in disbelief…not that he didn’t believe he had done enough to deserve it, but that nothing prepared you for that moment, that same moment he might refer to as “ogboo feelings”. Nothing.

And what’s with all that murmuring? Bisa KDei should have won, he’s a better crossover artist, his songs had the most longevity to them, this wasn’t even a contest to start with…dah dah dah dah…You had folded your arms in complacency, expecting the votes to appear by themselves, when we both know Bisa isn’t an Ayigbe Boy. And then, when an actual Ayigbe boy won it, you feigned shock. Massa keep calm kraa.

Meanwhile, it was you noor who said that Bisa wasn’t that powerful a performer enough, and that Artist of the Year should go to a well-rounded person as only the well-rounded person should be allowed to be our ambassador in that respect. It was fun, a real sport –to inflame the  argument in that way. Now what are you saying?

Of course, deep down , you wanted Bisa to win, because he had the biggest songs and it was no mean feat for a highlife artist. But you’re the controversial one, and you had to play that role. You could have voted. You could have campaigned too on Twitter. But did you do that? No. Did you vote?

No no no, answer the question. Did you vote? There it is…

And don’t you dare suggest (not mildly, not accidentally), that the Ayigbe boy hasn’t worked hard enough. We both know that his ethic can be rivaled by perhaps only one or two others. And many have wondered for how long he would continue to be underrated in that respect. Thank God.

Indeed, EL deserves to be Artist of the year…anyone who observed closely would have got it.

“EL, borle, Young Lomi/ Lord, how you put so much in one body/”

These are a few observations I made about EL’s work culture back in December:

“EL is a hard worker. He too, has done so much for music this year that it can’t (shouldn’t) be overlooked. He juggles between the array of genres in this town, and leaves an impact everywhere. When we observe how easy it all comes to him, we are inclined to overlook, like it’s nothing…but if it were, everyone else would be doing it too. There’s a highlife song with Afro Harmony here, impressive stuff with the rock band Dark Suburb there, and several azonto–tempo songs and collaborations lying all around us. No matter what kind of music you lean to, there’s a good chance there’s an EL on your playlist. This month, his latest album comes out –I for one am confident about the quality on ELOM, and it’s not just because of the witty song titles on the album.

The genius he’s delivering to the above genres, he’s giving to hip hop too, which he might be trying to pacify with his B.A.R mixtapes, in parallel proportion too. With his mixtape, The B.A.R II, for instance, he has managed to fuel the conversation that he might be the Best African Rapper, which is what B.A.R stands for, to him. With The B.A.R mixtapes, he might actually have raised the bar in hip hop in Ghana several notches up (pun intended…or not). And while many other rappers here are having to “dumb down” their lyrics, he is one of the few who are representing lyricism and consciousness with their version of hip hop.

With this new mixtape too, he’s had to defend his affection fo hip hop, as well as rationalise why he had to “sell out” the genre before he started “selling”.

Like I said, I have high hopes for EL, who’s known in real life as Elom Adablah, and his ELOM album, because, well, Everybody Loves Original Music…but there’s also so much he’s already done with The B.A.R II…and his mixtapes cannot be taken for granted. Indeed, for his performance on American Passport, a song off his previous installment, he won Rapper of The Year at the VGMAs, so yes, EL’s mixtapes are not to be played with.

Finally on B.AR II, I would very much like for you to listen to the mixtape. There are 19 songs on there,and it’s for your own good. But if you can’t get all 19 songs, kindly listen to at least the following : We No Dey Hear, State of the Nation, and 10 Rap Commandments. These are specifically songs for everyone with ambition and challenges, which refers to all of us anyway. After that, let’s discuss depth, vision, observation, honesty in music, and the art of social commentary.

Did I mention he produces songs too? And don’t even get me started with stuff that his Koko is doing already.”

Indeed, if there’s one thing to learn from EL’s win, it should be that hard work will be rewarded, even if eventually. Someone is watching, and in his own words, “you never know de plans wet God get”

He’s called himself “The Best African Rapper”, he’s called himself the “best artistic product from the motherland”. Now he gets to call himself the man of the year.

More vim, Elom. More vim.

 

*Note: This piece was first published by enewsgh.com on May 9, 2016. We have reproduced it as a note from our archives as part of our build-up to this year’s event.

 

 

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Abuse, Violence & A CALL TO ACTION – Ebony’s ‘Maame Hwɛ’ – A REVIEW

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Ebony’s talent is pure. It rests peacefully in a young lady whose patterns of stitched bravado and decisive artistic flexibility is causing so much pain to hostile souls, who are yet to come to terms with the fact that she is what they failed to achieve in their 20s.

Maame Hwɛ, a new effort off the 2017 Bonyfied debut, is her way of bringing back discussions about her ‘uprightness’ into focus – Intimidation, abuse et al – that have been kept rootless in the loins and sorry palms of a society at war with itself over what stand to take against women.

Away from repeated, boring lines of gender-driven advocacy, Maame Hwɛ is also not the everyday Kofi ne Ama muddled social media lines of who is best at catcalling; it is a reminder and call to action that readily exposes the schism that exists thereof, and for all to join the fight against any form of abuse.

Maame Hwɛ is a theme so distant from Hustle, her muffled booty call hit song of one-month old. Here, there are urgent matters of the heart that are addressed while complications that thread along oppression and freedom are also visibly exorcised. But it is her flawless handling that sets the tone for a song that is so infectious and enthralling. In all its beauty.

Takoradi-based Willis Beatz threw his might on Maame hwɛ. There are no surprises here – he continues to prove the fine talent he has become; Ayesem’s Koti of recent radio and YouTube memory, full proof. Maame Hwɛ is a long road of multiple contraction but has the beautifully-worn Willis Beatz percussion – loitering all over the song – to aid its flow. All through, she sustains listener-inquest and gets the needed attention – same feature she’s been used to all year.

Drummy, the lull-beats for Maame Hwɛ are virgin and soulful, they track their way back to an ever willing breakneck audible controller, who sings her way through a difficult topic with ease. The vocal delivery is amped-up within, and at the extreme margins, too, so well that even the constant regretful, mournful notes of Maame Hwɛ find resting place on the edges of a composition so rough and inconvenient in subject matter but charming in total body of work.

Consistently, the winning module for Ebony is the song writing that serves a fitting guide to her compositions. It has been the most visible part of her 2017 releases, and readily shows how much of an investment (time) has gone into ensuring that she stays relevant. A stronger testament of what two worlds of song writing does to a young soul’s delivery, there are traces of Bullet, label head at Ruff Town, who is doing an impressive work co-penning/penning some of the priceless songs they have both gone to market with. Bullet (Ricky Nana Agyemang) is an old cat with an astonishing sense of how to make hit songs. His glorious days with the duo Ruff & Smooth churned a lot of anthems that went on the same path Ebony is enjoying now. His song writing credentials are broad and all over the local music scene, Nana Yaa, Pat Thomas’ daughter, a recent beneficiary. Ebony has the complete song writing effort at Ruff Town/Midas Touch Inc. to thank but it is how she also renders the songs in-studio and in front of thousands such as at her recent solo concert in the national capital, Accra, that brings out the stunning artistic beast in her. They are new every morning.

Ebony opens Maame Hwɛ by registering her dislike for a bully and goes on a line about shame and not listening to a mother’s advice hence the subsequent viciousness she suffers. Maame Hwɛ is renewed remembrance of bad pain. The underlining logs are not just frank and bold, but also straightforward in their summation.

On Maame Hwɛ, all arguments about versatility are overwhelmed. If Kupe, Poison, Sponsor, Date Ur Fada, and Turn on the Light were pearls, this is Ebony to a whole new echelon. She came good in the Prince Dovlo-directed video for the song, too, opting for a look that is very adult and serious – staying in character.

For a song whose context is made known right from the beginning – about how abusers dwell on oppression to their gain – It digs into a plot about how cold it is not to conquer any form of abuse, domestic or not.

Maame Hwɛ is a dream song. It is yet, the musician’s most poignant statement in two years while it is also a celebration of the works of ailing Ghanaian musician Jewel Ackah. Ebony references Ackah’s decades-old classic Bɔdambɔ Bɔdambɔ in an uplifting way. Ebony is queen of modern day referencing, which is also doing the trick for KiDi, Kuami Eugene and Stonebwoy hype man and up-and-comer Kelvyn Boy (Oheneba Kissi on the latest Na You). On Maame Hwɛ, Ebony merges a well-ordered carousel of magical, old and new school Bɔdambɔ Bɔdambɔ inspiration that oozes goose bumps – the kind made in Axim, where Ackah was born.

Maame Hwɛ is a significant push for her young career and a huge vote of confidence in what she calls a trade. By the first quarter of 2018, she will dominate conversations around major award shows. Bullet says she has been a blessing to him. He is right. She has been a blessing to a growing music industry. She has been a blessing to the many young females, looking for that single opportunity to show what they can do. It is always okay to skip school to pursue that desire. Ebony has shown the way.

Maame Hwɛ ends the same way it begins. Aren’t how all stories of abuse end?

Tracklist for Bonyfied (Released under Ruff Town Records/Midas Touch Inc.)

*Aseda

*Dance floor

*Kupe

*Poison feat Gatdoe

*Sponsor

*Date Ur Fada

*Maame Hw3

*Hustle feat Brella

*Haters Anthem

*Turn on the Light

*Shade

*Twerk

*Ediot

*Scream

*Real

*Confusion

Video screenshots supplied by MiPROMO, managers of Ebony’s YouTube Channel.

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Oh What a ‘Mighty Jesus’ … Edem serves bold Hiphop dish

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“You think you walking on this path alone? You think everything you do is by yourself? Oh no! You best give all glory to God…Jesus Christ, our lord and savior. He walks with us all now. Talk to me now” blurts an animated preacher to all within the sound of his voice.

 Directed by Pascal AKA, the accompanying video for Mighty Jesus, Edem’s latest joint, is characterized by astonishing quality. It is set in a large church with beaming choristers in long robes, practiced hands guiding bows up and down violin strings, a hundred lit candles outlining a crucifix-shaped white isle on the floor, as well as other striking artistic and cultural placements depicting the victory of God over evil.

Four seconds shy of four minutes, the video, off his forthcoming fourth album The African Answer, is rendered entirely in black and white, and adds to a radiant collection of visuals with which the rapper (born Denning Edem Hotor and previously trading by the stage name “Ayigbe Edem”) continually distinguishes himself as a worthy name to be associated with poetry and melody. Since his breakout single Bougez (You Dey Craze), the Dzodze native has methodically cemented himself in hiplife/hip-hop circles – and Ghanaian music in general – as a true revolutionary. The 2009 video opens with a powerful pronouncement: “Hiplife is back…”. That statement was indisputable then as it is now, for Edem was anointed by the one outfit possessing the audacity to make a pronouncement thus: the Last Two Music Group. Headed by veteran producer Da’ Hammer (whose work on Obrafour’s Pae Mu Ka album a decade prior has yet to be matched), the imprint is responsible for the careers of majority of reputable hiplife acts the country has seen. And over the years, Edem has lived up to the billing, serving as easily the Volta’s most influential name in music.

Mighty Jesus, like The One, or Heyba, is superb in how it embodies Edem’s identity and creative outlook. Though influenced by elements from without (including Caribbean tempos and code-switching lingua) the VRMG front man has remained genuine to his ancestry – always ensuring that he leaves traces of his heritage in his craft. Be it in language, rhythm, or via visual representation, Edem has permanently exhibited a commitment to his uniqueness. 

 Church, did you know the Lord is undefeated? One million and o, one billion and o, infinity and o. Can’t nobody stop Him, so don’t you dare try. You better testify…

 With the not so mainstream medium that is the Ewe language, the Koene man has remained resolute in his goals, dispatching  the Ghanaian mission blamelessly, and now setting his sights on proving himself as “the African answer”. Hip-hop across the continent is currently at a dicey phase in history: on one hand, it remains popular despite the global annexation of Afrobeats/Afropop. Sarkodie, Olamide, AKA, Kaligraph Jones, Nasty C, M.anifest,  (fundamentally hip-hop brands), rank among highly sought-after acts from the continent. South African rapper Cassper Nyovest has, since 2015, filled up stadiums across the country – the latest being his monumental concert at the FNB Stadium in Soweto. Drawing close to 70,000 hip-hop disciples to the arena, it becomes the biggest ever witnessed in the nation, even beating numbers recorded by American superstars Rihanna and Justin Bieber during their dates in SA.

Drawing close to 70,000 hip-hop disciples to the arena, Nyovest’s show becomes the biggest ever witnessed in the nation, even beating numbers recorded by American superstars Rihanna and Justin Bieber during their dates in SA.

On the other hand, elders in the game (most prominently, Nigerian rapper Jude “MI” Abaga) have registered their displeasure at the ethic of many a contemporary Nigerian rapper. In You Rappers Should Fix Up Your Lives, MI laments that he, in the twilight of his career, must return periodically to sanitize the terrain as the younger generation is doing a poor job at upholding hip-hop’s true essence. Nigeria is an essential contributor to music on the continent. That, coupled with MI’s influence over the genre in Africa, makes his sentiments on You Rappers Should Fix Up Your Lives impossible to gloss over.

There requires someone who will restore in the likes of MI, faith that African hip-hop is safe. That is why Mighty Jesus, and indeed The African Answer, are so timely. Produced by American hip-hop doyen Coptic, the song is a blistering way to kick this new phase of his career off. Mighty Jesus sees Edem (as usual) display finesse and balance expected only of masters in navigating their environment. Founded on church organs, violins, a militant drum pattern, and passionate melody of an electric guitar toward the end, the arrangement is speckled intermittently with arresting cries of “Mighty Jesus”.

Hip-hop is defined by nerve. At the same time, it is guided by sincerity. Nerve to stake your claim as the very best, and sincerity to admit that you depend on a higher force. Hip-hop requires that you show yourself as a titan, but also to admit to your vulnerabilities. Pascal AKA conveys this compellingly in the scene in which a mother clutches desperately to her baby, afraid of fiends waiting to strike, but who are obstructed by the protective screen that shields her.

I feel the electricity right now, cause the electricity is coming from the only power source that I know…the only battery in my back – Jesus Christ.

 Since Bougez, and though he gets little credit for it, Edem has portrayed superior tact, and proven a true visionary regarding whom he assembles for his songs. Having chalked massive underground success via witty fast-paced freestyles, Sarkodie needed a joint to properly introduce him to the mainstream. Bougez is practically the song that opened the doors for the SarkCess CEO.  Another record, Oleey, is a principal reference in arguing that Gemini ranks among prized lyricists of his generation. Also featuring Sarkodie, the song portrays GH rap at its finest. The trio stun the listener not only by the dizzying pace of their rap, but by the content of their verses too. Both Oleey and Bougez rest comfortably among hip-hop classics of the 21st Century. He does something similar in Mighty Jesus, recruiting Ghanaian rap vertebrae Jayso and EL.

 Mighty Jesus is iconic for hip-hop in the country both sonically and visually. Again, like The One and Heyba, it serves both as a testament to authentic rap from these parts, and blueprint to young ones looking for a proven path.

 “See, what I’m trying to tell you is, in the end of days, in that final game, in that final super bowl of life and death, you better make sure you’re on the right team –and that team is with the lord and savior Jesus Christ. You ain’t get no do –overs…”

 The verification that Edem has come full circle is displayed in how videos for Heyba and Mighty Jesus end. In the final frame of Heyba (directed by Phamous Philms) Edem, after stomping gallantly through the ghostly milieu designed through adept camera maneuvers and miraculous graphic sleights, hoists a microphone symbolically high above his head …high above the earth. King.

 In Mighty Jesus, he joins his hands prayerfully before his bowed head. “I’m still the revelation, but I dey my Genesis.”

A new era!  

 A multiple-award-winner, Edem is author of critically received albums as Volta Regime, Mass Production, and Books and Rhymes, as well as numerous singles including Ghetto Arise, Bra Fremi Fremi, Nyedzilo,Kpordawoe, Wicked and Bad, Gogaga among others.

“The African Answer” is due for release in 2018.

Watch “Mighty Jesus” below: 

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Possessed disciples, ‘Freedom’ chants, & an intemperate god … GADAM IT! – The 2017 ‘S Concert’

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Friday December 1, 2017

 

Anadwo 10 o’clock –Accra Sports Stadium (GA-111-8662): A vigorous wave has now taken charge of the realm. It has been building up steadily for three or four hours now. A sea of hands is raised towards the heavens …as if anticipating a messiah’s apparition. Above is a vast firmament pregnant with impending history. This very sky, which was eyewitness to a similar spectacle a year ago, is just as eager for what unfolds tonight.

Between earth and sky is a gentle breeze regulating the atmosphere, the ends of dazzling stage lights, and a sprightly white bird chronicling the momentous sight below. Piloted by expert thumbs on a console, the bird may have to be grounded soon, lest it be blown to pieces by fireworks from the stands. From mighty speakers emanate a forceful bass that hits the chest more powerfully than coarse palms looking to ease burning sensations caused by a tot of Shocker, hastily gulped with a dense grimace. After much publicity, Starr FM’s “S Concert 2017” is upon us.

A messiah will descend alright…several, in fact. Over 50 performers (budding and mainstream alike) are expected to mount the high-status stage this evening: B4bonah, Joyce Blessing, Fancy Gadam, Ebony, King Jerry, Bukom Banku, Ebony, Stonebwoy, Dope Nation, Kumi Guitar, Mr. Eazi, Kuami Eugene, KiDi, Shatta Wale, Samini, Ras Kuuku, BBNZ acts Shaker and Ko-jo Cue, Article Wan, Obibini, Joyce Blessing, Gifty Osei, Kwadwo “Lil Win” Nkansah, Darkovibes, Captain Planet etc.

Due to time constrains and reported “backstage issues”, a number of these acts would not be able to perform, most notably Ebony, Mr. Eazi, and Samini, but the show would be epic nonetheless. Why? It’s the “S Concert”.

The popular wings (the only available space left) are filling up rapidly, and there’s an equally teeming pack outside the mighty stadium walls, waiting [im]patiently to make their way through heavy security, grab their bottles of Rush Energy, and join their compatriots in the arena.

An estimated 40, 000 patrons would attend this year’s show. Similar numbers have been recorded at previous editions (held at the Osu Oxford Street, the Trade Fair Center – Accra, and this stadium) –making it the biggest Ghanaian concert in recent times.

For the second year running, Shatta Wale is the reason for the gathering. How can one tell? Praise songs dedicated to him can be heard right from when the gates opened, to when he makes his triumphant entry at 2:35, Saturday morning. Even when other acts come on stage, it is his name that echoes all around, not theirs. Furthermore, whenever turntablists feel like energy levels in the crowd need boosting, it is the dancehall singer’s tunes they resorts to: “Dem Confuse”, and “Freedom” drawing the most cheer.

For the second year running, Shatta Wale is the reason for the gathering. IMAGE/ EIB

A stadium audience is at the end of the day, one of the truest tests of an artist’s character (performance-wise). Such a crowd is intimidating and not one to be experimented with. Constituting the most demanding lot an artist will ever face, they could dismantle him within seconds. A single misstep, a bit of slumber, and so shall his doom come –as one that is unarmed in the presence of a poisonous snake. It is why some acts (understandably) would stay clear of multitudes thus, sticking only to intimate crowds of devoted fans. At the same time, a crowd thus, could serve as the single piece he the artist, needs to cement his name within serious conversations pertaining to worthy musicians. It is why singer Ebony (whom it is widely-held, would have reaffirmed herself as the strongest contender for 2018 VGMA Artist of the Year with her act) being unable to perform this year particularly is unfortunate. She was present at last year’s edition, but her clout was far lower. This time around, she was one of the most highly –anticipated, and it would have been good for VGMA quest. Her journey to VGMA glory remains on course, but a 2017 “S Concert” appearance would have effectively sealed matters.

EBONY

…or Tamale Titan Fancy Gadam, who defiantly mounts the stage after Shatta Wale completes his set (which is suicidal in many cases, but brave in his). Storming gallantly onstage with the pump and pageantry remniscent of a true royal, and a stagecraft perfected from years and years of practice, he displays that he’s now fully shed the tag of “northern artist”, taking on the mainstream like a high-quality warrior. He is received by an appreciable crowd, which is verification that he is now a subject of national conversations. Like Ebony, Gadam (born Ahmed Mujahid Bello) eyes the coveted VGMA laurel. This year, his effort is one to be emulated. Not unaccustomed to filling large arenas, Fancy has taken on major cities across the country and triumphed –the most recent being his November 26 Bukom Square date, which was completely sold out, by the way.

Storming gallantly onstage with pump and pageantry remniscent of a true royal, and a stagecraft perfected from years and years of practice, he displays that he’s now fully –shed the tag of “northern artist”, taking on the mainstream like a high-quality warrior. PHOTO/ PULSE

Also, he has contributed to a playlist of the biggest songs this year. His “Total Cheat”, featuring rapper Sarkodie, is a bona fide nationwide hit, and this is despite offerings by Shatta Wale, Kuami Eugene, Ebony, Patapaa, KiDi and Wutah.

Established heads know how to manage such numbers. Both Stonebwoy and Shatta Wale are at a position in their careers where they have little else to prove, and cannot be taken aback by any Ghanaian crowd. Their performances, masterfully dispatched to deafening cheers and the blasting sound of fireworks, are not entirely surprising because they’re gurus now.

The concert may be attended for top acts as Stonebwoy and Shatta, but it’s now very much the new generation’s too; specific reference being Lynx Entertainment hit machines Kuami Eugene and KiDi. It is the dream of every act to, at some point in their career, have and congregation (including celebrated broadcaster and media mogul Bola Ray) like was recorded at the Accra Sports Stadium last Friday, chant back choruses to their songs. To be able to achieve that this early in their career is colossal. Buoyed by titanic energy being fed to them by the mammoth gathering, the lads render performances fitting of A- list artists. Singlehandedly, Eugene and KiDi take turns to ride the current like true pros, requiring assistance from neither dancers nor hypemen –just allowing themselves to be possessed by the music that Starr FM DJ Vyrusky spins. At vantage points in omnipresent anthems as “Hiribaba”, “Say You Love Me”, “Odo”, and “Angela”, Vyrusky would drag down faders on his console to allow the crowd a part of the performance, which they roared excitedly. Moments as these, KiDi submits, are up there with the best feelings in the world.

KiDi. IMAGE/ EIB

It is the dream of every act to, at some point in their career, have and congregation (including celebrated broadcaster and media mogul Bola Ray) like was recorded at the Accra Sports Stadium last Friday, chant back choruses to their songs. IMAGE/ EIB

Though he was not originally slated to perform, Edem’s showing at “S Concert 2017” once and for all, puts to bed any public notion (or any personal perception he might entertain) that he is underrated/ marginalized by the establishment due to the language he raps in. Over an illustrious career starting in 2009, the VRMG founder has built a glowing portfolio of both hip-hop and dance-ready jams.  He belongs to the first rank of Ghanaian acts today, and that should never come up for debate. Tracks as “Bougez”, ‘Bra Fremi Fremi”, “Heyba”, “Ghetto Arise”, “Over Again”, “Go Higher”, “Koene”, “The One”, and “Nyedzilo” have not merely been groundbreaking upon release, but have also served as great models for marrying multiple genres as well as creative and cultural backgrounds seamlessly. His primary language of delivery (Ewe) notwithstanding, he has crossed over effectively, and with cunning ease. He is the main Volta act of his generation who has sustained crossover appeal this well. In this regard, Edem is a genius.

For him, the Ghanaian task is done. Now comes the African agenda, and he is duly equipped. His forthcoming album, his 4th, is aptly titled “The African Answer”. The project, set for release early next year, was co-produced by respected American producer Coptic –with whom he has regularly collaborated. Coptic comes unto this project with major influence, having engineered hits for global stars as Notorious B.I.G, P Diddy, Usher, Snoop Dogg and a host of others. When Edem’s new project is finally published, a rousing reception, like was accorded him at the stadium, is specifically what will happen.

Edem. IMAGE: Facebook/ EDEM

A key date on our entertainment calendar, the “S Concert” is now bigger that just Accra. It is therefore welcome news that, according to inside reports, there are plans to stage it in other parts of the country. Also, it should see more female acts if it is to be taken as truly “a stage for all”, as a statement addressing the backstage challenges emphasizes. While Joyce Blessing and Gifty Osei decently represented the female stock of Ghanaian performers, there still must be an agenda to have more of them on stages thus, because there still exists imbalance regarding women representation in our music. A significant platform as this can help rectify the deficiency…or at least set us on a path.

The “S Concert” proves a powerful opener for the stream of events that flood the Christmas season here. Yet again, the bar has been raised. How will Rapperholic 2017, the BHIM Concert, December 2 Remember et al match up?

*Compered by EIB Network hosts Jason, Giovani Caleb, Sammy B, KOD and IBK, the 2017 “S Concert” was sponsored by Storm Energy Drink, Accra City Hotel, Express Savings and Loans, Ghana Post GPS, Hubtel, and Cosmopolitan Health Insurance.

 

See more images courtesy EIB & ZYLOFON:

 

 

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‘Akpɛtɛshie seller give me quarter’… For the love of one tot: Alcohol consumption in Ghana

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Under a shade at the Dansoman-Glefe lorry station in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, a group of middle-aged men sit slothfully as they inch closer to settling on an available diversion to validate their week-day nothingness.

It has gone past the morning rush hour and the yells from bus conductors for commuters to join the many destinations being advertised – to other parts of the city – are a small slice of a bigger banquet going on here: brisk trading, station executives pursuing drivers to hand over parking charges, and a nomad trying to navigate his way through what looks like a sweet clutter of human and vehicular convocation.

There is more. A pastor toggles high the volume on his Public Address system; a woman chases a young boy, who is finally caught and blessed with a smack on various parts of his body. The thumping he gets is followed by a basic Ga diatribe he is expected to deliver to his father – Otsɛ Boadi hiɛ okɛɛ La Gata; to wit, “your father Boadi’s face like La Gata” (La Gata is a popular Mexican soap opera that aired on local television).

Appiah, a resident driver, is without a car today and has also pitched camp under the shade which extends to a drinking parlor. All six men are united in their misery: the feeling of not working for their daily survivals. From expired road-worthy certificates to their cars reverting to their ‘masters’ (owners of the cars), they have good reason to sit, idle.

32 year-old Appiah recently moved here after leaving the Neoplan Station, also in the capital, where he was driver of a 207 Benz Bus; his first car, which plied the Accra-Kumasi route.

These days, he makes a living by waiting on other drivers at the station to declare themselves unfit for the day’s job so he can work some hours for a decent amount of money. He’s been at it for the past year.

The parlor serves an ultimate daily idling zone for him and his colleagues – who get by – by feeding off each other’s compassion. “It is tough for me these days,” Appiah says, looking to the direction of Portia Dede, his girlfriend of two years and a half, who is standing by a rickety Marcopolo bus in a stance so askance it gives her away as wanting to come to daddy (Appiah).

She gets approval. Within minutes, the two are hitched to a common Thursday midmorning goal of satisfying their craving for Akpɛtɛshie, a locally-brewed liquor whose potency is legendary.

As both made their way to the parlor, they find that Appiah’s other colleagues he left a while back were already seated in anticipation of a daily dose of drinking Dɔka, as they call Akpɛtɛshie (within their circles), which trades publicly by other names like Shocker and Girl bi Nti. Appiah is mourning a deceased family member; so gatherings such as this are enough to get the tots settling in. Quickly. It is not as if he needed a trigger for the ritual, but it helps his conscience.

As things crept on, there was little doubt about the organizing capabilities of Akpɛtɛshie and how it brings generations together.

The scene. A man salivates at the sight of an array of glasses. In them sit an equal dose of wisdom and folly. He is moved to conclude that they yearn for him because they call him by name. He moves closer. To gulp or not to gulp? To be or not to be…There is an urge so strong if it is ever succumbed to, it would be a response to a calling that has been starved and ignored by weeks of self-mooted abstinence. A man’s street credibility is on the line. It lingers by continuous streams of an attendant’s pouring or outpouring of a brew so defined by its contents and made pure and just by a group of men with different stories of Nipa yɛ forkin, Odɔ bi diɛ saa and Owuo sei fie. There is a point to prove, after all. At this very moment, that is their only currency of self-worth, and ticket to turning on the no-guilt buttons hovering around for attention.

He gulps. He takes it all in. The liquid travels down his bored throat, fast at first, then slowly. So many things happen: a race by forces of ingestion with a quest to beat a man at his own game of acceding to daylight nightmares. A little is always enough; who gets drenched also matters, because Akpɛtɛshie does matter around here, and shows its full force, the unsurprising facial squirms et al.

The mini conference of booze heads is a strong show of support for the jobless Appiah, whose only claim to fame at the station is Dede, 24.

Dede’s appearance at the parlor raises no eyebrows; it is an activity she engages in once a while. In Appiah, she has a soul mate who serves up tots of the more-than-40-percent alcohol content liquor.

Both have found in Akpɛtɛshie an escape to drown their bleakness; Dede is yet to land a decent job after a course at a Secretarial School in Accra. Over the past two years, she’s been Appiah’s burden. Makeup kits and funds for saloon visits top the occasional shopping cart.

She is tall, and amply-built at her thighs and hips. She has a bright future (breasts) in front of her and a fantastic past (bum) behind her, too. Those important stats are what drew her to Appiah who has already spent some substantial sum to see her through the many phases of her late twenties’ blues and fantasies, which included Friday night appearances at the Nso Nyame Yɛ Spot in Dansoman, and a standard weekly allowance. In Dede’s world, Appiah is a doer of many things.

Dede is naughty by nature and lives on an ordered lifestyle that is fast running out of stock thanks to Appiah’s joblessness. But that has done little to stop Appiah from being great, from being an envy of his peers as a penniless man who can still afford a strikingly insane beauty as Dede.

Akpɛtɛshie feeds on caustic motivation: hurt, irritation and sometimes, nothing – just fleeting machoism.

For persons like Appiah, this is valid.

On a calm Sunday evening at about 7:00 pm, a drunk Appiah struggles to maintain his composure as he auto-points fingers at passersby without provocation. There is resolve in the way he decides to move back and forth, but has the overwhelming power of Akpɛtɛshie to deal with.

At the lorry station, he wears a booze credibility badge that is hailed but has given in more than enough times to the leveling might of Akpɛtɛshie.

On this particular Sunday, he rebels: he is taking his taste buds on a trip of some few drinking parlors located in and around Glefe. He has gone past running algorithms and linear equations in his head whether to drink or not. His buds are on a different kind of steroids and he waves at what is in sight and what is far away. As many of the parlors as he saw, he entered. Hard.

At one of them, he exits after ten minutes. He pauses to stare down his palms, and the staring moment morphs into one of those lone ticks of his. He becomes an instant meme for the night. The strolls he undertake are usually to nowhere but the precincts of where he is able to – at least – find some immovability. There are different Appiahs you will find on this day: the superman with robotic instincts who goes off script at will, and the one easily moved to tears.

For most consumers, Akpɛtɛshie is more than food for a thing or two; a needed getaway from their fears. To others, it is panacea for a jilted cohort: a majority whose only way to sobriety is by emptying contents of glasses with questionable trust issues of what they actually do to a man’s gravity.

Akpɛtɛshie is king for various reasons and, has successfully sold itself to a mixed consuming public of men and women, poor and affluent, young and old, rural and urban.

A 2003 US National Library of Health document explained that “Men drink mainly for coping responses, such as increased self-confidence, adult status, and to cope with the various social demands. Women seem to drink for socializing with peers.”

Alcohol consumption in Ghana remains conversation opening scene till fade. There are warnings about abuse while campaigns and research works are put out to bring to the fore the potential damages that are wrought by alcohol abuse.

The World Health Organization, in their 2011 global status report stated thus:

The harmful use of alcohol is one of the world’s leading health risks. It is a causal factor in more than 60 major types of diseases and injuries and results in approximately 2.5 million deaths each year. If we take into consideration the beneficial impact of low risk alcohol use on morbidity and mortality in some diseases and in some population groups, the total number of deaths attributable to alcohol consumption was estimated to be 2.25 million in 2004.

It continued:

This accounts for more deaths than caused by HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis. Thus, 4% of all deaths worldwide are attributable to alcohol. The harmful use of alcohol is especially fatal for younger age groups and alcohol is the world’s leading risk factor for death among males aged 15–59. Approximately 4.5% of the global burden of disease and injury is attributable to alcohol.

Alcohol consumption is estimated to cause from 20% to 50% of cirrhosis of the liver, epilepsy, poisonings, road traffic accidents, violence and several types of cancer. It is the third highest risk for disease and disability, after childhood underweight and unsafe sex. Alcohol contributes to traumatic outcomes that kill or disable people at a relatively young age, resulting in the loss of many years of life to death and disability.

…Alcohol is linked both to the incidence of disease and the course of disease. The impact of alcohol consumption on disease and injury is associated with two separate but related dimensions of drinking by individuals: the volume of alcohol consumed and the pattern of drinking. More than 30 International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-10 codes include alcohol in their name or definition, indicating that alcohol consumption is a necessary cause. Of these, alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are the most significant. In addition, alcohol has been identified as a component cause for over 200 ICD-10 disease codes.

…The volume and pattern of alcohol consumption lead to three mechanisms that directly impact disease and injury. These mechanisms are (1) toxic and other effects of alcohol on organs and tissues; (2) intoxication; and (3) dependence (Rehm et al., 2003). In addition, the quality of alcoholic beverages may have an impact on health and mortality, for instance, when homemade or illegally produced alcoholic beverages are contaminated with methanol or lead.

Research work such as the WHO’s does little to the fortunes of Akpɛtɛshie, which has found many ways to stay winning, squashing debates about its wholesomeness, often reminding accusers of its market value and how it has fought many efforts to cannibalize it.

On national media, and in the streets, advertisements call for controlled usage. But the war as to how much of alcohol consumption can be controlled was lost – many years ago – to a people’s strong appetite for that which exists in bottles: aperitifs, aphrodisiacs or any basic pick-me-upper that allows one to freely express an opinion, and or tell people off. While any argument about alcohol intake in Ghana is yet to go beyond the normal moral and health lines, there are far too many who simply don’t budge, and consume for sheege (corrupted local Hausa/street slang for calling one’s bluff) reasons.

Appiah thinks those who puke at the sight of Akpɛtɛshie, for instance, are only doing so because of many reasons, including, but not entirely squared down to, its strong smell.

He maintains that there is more to the smell it gives off than meets the nose.

“I know people don’t like to even come close to it because of the smell. As for that, I can understand. But that is just one part of the many things it does. Yes, people abuse it; even me, sometimes I take in more than usual. But Akpɛtɛshie is not a bad drink.”

The sneering at Akpɛtɛshie dates back centuries. In colonial Ghana (then called Gold Coast), the locally-brewed gin was given a violent tag; the establishment fought against its production and consumption.

So aggressive was the fight against Akpɛtɛshie that it subsequently caught the attention of Ghanaian President Nkrumah who also found it a useful symbol against white domination.

In Nkrumah, Akpɛtɛshie had a national poster boy and global ambassador who was ready to help it gain some market equity locally and internationally.

But this was after arrests were made and people jailed for selling and consuming the drink. Consumers and producers had to covertly deal in it, hence the local Ga language name ‘Apɛtɛshie’ (in hiding), which has since been corrupted to its current name.

Akpɛtɛshie’s history has always been brewed out of hate and love. It has seen so much heckling to be bothered by latter-day boos. The accrued toughness is the reason for the supremacy it continues to have despite the competition local bitters and foreign-made gins offer.

Its preparation process, for instance, equates to the jaggedness it has gone through over the years. If you decide to use Sugar Cane to produce it, the harvested grass is crushed and drained. The drained liquid is then stored in a container for about three weeks, so it ferments. The extracted liquid is subsequently poured into a drum and distilled until it reaches its required potency.

These days, it has reinvented itself in many, new-normal ways, entering the higher heights of Ghana’s well-to-do, and blurring banters about what makes good waist power alibi. On the list of available options of some of Ghana’s popular and exclusive bars, it is a must-have, served either as a mixture or side-by-side with other cocktails.

Enough Akpɛtɛshie gets around these days to cement its legendary status.

At a Dome (a suburb of Accra) spot in Accra, Moses Ablorh, a bar attendant, struggles to attend to more than a dozen patrons. He runs an all-week busy facility, where things properly shape up from 5 pm daily.

As usual, demand is impressive, he says.

“When people come here, they ask if we are able to create mixtures with Akpɛtɛshie. This is not like the normal ones we know – like using it for bitters. As for this, they ask that you try making mixtures with other less powerful gins. People feel okay requesting for it these days. It is normal,” Ablorh says, in Ga.

A regular patron at Ablorh’s Spot, Desmond Abrefi, a.k.a. Odasani provides an insight into the obsession, using the most famous 1 Timothy 5:23: KJV (Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities) biblical quote as a basis to justify his frequent consumption.

“As for Akpɛtɛshie, it is good for the body. I enjoy drinking it. People speak against it but those who use it know the benefits. I have been drinking for sometime now; I stopped two years ago but I have started again. I don’t think this is what will kill me,” he says, using a brown handkerchief to wipe his sweat-less face, partly disfigured by eczema and little spots of rashes.

Odasani has come to the Spot to be a part of the day’s session, which can go up to 2 am. It is almost recklessness – but he cares less, and hopes that he will be able to worm his way into an accepting companionship; an evening contrivance to fill his rather sordid week of heartache. Akpɛtɛshie is definitely providing that attention.

Akpɛtɛshie creates a vacuum of its own – one that is so imprecise yet gains traction. For Odasani, despite repeated knocks, he is willing to booze, and fill in the blanks. One more time.

Ablorh’s Spot is typically filled with men and – sometimes women – with divided, jaundiced and straight-forward thoughts about Akpɛtɛshie consumption. A scene of great theatre all week, it usually accommodates users whose affinity with alcohol is boldly labelled on their faces, too direct not to invite saints. But there is always a fight-back: it starts from long sermons to melting moments of tirade of too many whys of as to how there is no way out.

Ablorh himself drinks Akpɛtɛshie. His booze journey is four years old, starting as a newbie who got knocked down after a tot, in July, 2013. Years on, he has been made tough, almost a King of the Jungle and now argues piquantly about how, at the mentioning of Akpɛtɛshie, every tongue confesses and many bow to greatness.

He also believes that Akpɛtɛshie is booze anthem Track 1. He is right. The gin has made it into more than one old or new conventional composition over the years: Lee Duodu (Akpɛtɛshie), A.B Crentsil’s 1985 classic I Go Pay You Tomorrow, which has the popular ‘Akpɛtɛshie seller give me quarter’ line and which is off the Toronto by Night album. The same A.B Crentsil’s Atia talks about how the gin took a friend from Northern Ghana by name Atia to his grave; Samini’s Gyae Shi, which openly campaigned for its use while calling for moderation at the same time.

Akpɛtɛshie will always be remembered as that idea that came out of hiding (from Pineapples, Sugar Canes and Palm Wines), fought resistance and oppressor’s rule, and became great. Again.

As confusion grows over whether or not Akpɛtɛshie is fit for servants or kings, the filthy or clean, the high or low; can be used as fuel for cars, or as trisilicate for the stomach, somewhere in Glefe, glasses are up, it is raining one tot, one booze for Appiah and co.

Cheers! To a people’s gin.

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‘Cum one, cum all’: One-night stand with Ghana’s human Stress Balls – A FEATURE

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Accra is done for the day – dead and deep into its beauty: woes, glory, good, bad, better, and worse.

Only a handful of the city’s creatures are awake. The night’s precipitation is littered – accurately – on the aluminum glass exteriors of the high rise commercial buildings in the main city center.

The people here at night maintain a pious we-won’t-sleep posture all year, professing to be the gatekeepers with lock and key to the capital’s ins and outs. Even if they desired to, they simply cannot afford to sleep a wink. Even.

Men, women, and destitute young children lie callously on the streets as though that is all there is to their being. More than half of them are products of a thriving rural-urban migration situation – crisis, more like – that is, at the very core, carcinogenic and has eaten into the fibre of a society that is still struggling to wean itself off itching sores, which have become banal. Almost.

It is some minutes after 11:00 pm, midweek. The city is wet and has already showed its struggling self. A heavy cloudburst some hours early on has set her up for a cold night. While it is game over and baptism of many things – sadness, pain and anguish for the homeless – it is work all over again for commercial sex workers.

A four-door hatchback sedan shows up at the Cantonments Roundabout, within reach of the Togolese Embassy and the residence of the British High Commissioner.

The temperately-rickety sedan wears shaded windscreens that sit perfectly with the military-type colour of its exterior. The woolliness with which he goes round the Roundabout for more than five minutes, makes it a curious case of a wannabe so lost in his maiden Formula 1 race he could crash.

There is anxiety and caution written all over its movements until it finally decides to man up. The male driver moves slowly towards one of the Roundabout’s many wonders – Mercy Anobah, a plump-looking young lady in her thirties with a not-so-flattering bulging belly. Wearing thick make-up that portrays her as queen at night, she gladly walks up to this very first client, strutting to showcase her great legs the way they do on the runway. She sits inside the car.

After what looks like a drawn out five minutes’ negotiation, Anobah steps out to fake a phone call, and gently retreats from the car’s passenger front seat door. A concrete hint. A deal isn’t happening.

“He was wasting my time; he wanted to pay 50 cedis,” she says. “That is an insult. 200 cedis is what I charge for a short session.”

There is beauty aplenty and there is wisdom, as well as vice, all over the small Roundabout that links the Cantonment area – a plush community – to important structures like the American Embassy and luxury apartments.

Anobah’s clients range from the fairly-okay to the well-to-do. She calls herself a service provider.

“I am a service provider; I meet the needs and wants of people,” she says, laughing hard to expose the adorable dints on her chin.

A trained teacher, she quit the classroom when it became impossible for her to take care of herself after the death of her late husband.

“He was a good man. I know he wouldn’t be happy wherever he is but I have to survive. I have one child. It wasn’t with him. It was with another man from a previous relationship. I have to take care of her. She is my everything. She is the reason I come here every day.”

For Anobah, beyond her daughter and mother, motivation to join her colleagues at the Roundabout comes down to every thing that has happened to her in the last few years after her husband’s passing.

“The few jobs I thought I could do to take care of myself, my mum in the village (lost the father at age 16) and my daughter, didn’t end up the way I wanted. I have not had very good experiences when it comes to working for others,” she says, failing to explain what challenges she went through.

When asked if sexual harassments were part of those challenges, Anobah shyly covered her face with a white handkerchief, and placed her head on her laps for a few seconds before looking up, offering a gaze that silently, nonverbally, enquired: do you really want an answer?

Like her colleagues, she is also aware of how illegal commercial sex work in Ghana is and the associated health dangers.

“I go to the hospital often to check if I am okay. You know, these days you can’t even trust the condom. When it comes to that aspect, I am very careful because I meet all sorts of people; so it is important I protect myself.”

Despite her caution, she also has appetite for risk.

“I will never do raw sex unless you are paying more. Some of the men who come here want it without condom. But, because the money is good, I have no option than to accept. I also need the money. It is a risk I take sometimes.”

12:17 am. Streets away in East Legon (also in Accra) on a Friday night, there is an urgent sensual thirst that needs to be feted; balls waiting to be pampered.

On the road in front of the residence of three-time African Footballer of the Year, Abedi Pele, a group of commercial sex workers are already at work, applying powders on their faces and pulling up leggings to waist levels in readiness for what is a regular night’s call, to provide paid-for kindness to desperate virile nerves.

They have lined up from one end of the street to the other, preparing to pounce on their usual suspects: aliases (men) with very urgent needs below their waistlines and in search of cures for their neglected libidos. It is a theme so correct it strays and slides into the waiting hands of these sex workers without toil.

There is stiff competition here, so much so that the pitching takes different forms of invitations to treat. On the menu is a simple approach of hitting the right targets: cause a stare and manage to at a least get a paying client.

“Some come here only to make fun of us,” says Peace Amadi, a Nigerian who moved to Ghana for a ‘better life’ three years ago.

Amadi’s choice of East Legon, and not any of the many other spots in the capital, was informed by a briefing she had before jumping onto a Lagos-Accra bus to Ghana in November, 2014.

“I was told by a friend, who left Nigeria years ago to come and do this work, that all the rich men in Accra lived in this community so it’s a good place to make money with this kind of work.”

Amadi has only been doing transactional sex work for a year and eight months; her previous months in Ghana devoted to spa work, west of Accra.

“That is what I used to do in Nigeria. But my madam lost her properties to the bank so life went bad for me afterwards,” says Amadi, 29.

1:13 am. At the Bigot Spot area in Lapaz (Accra), the night is still young for the not-so-young Aisha Tandoh, 40. Playing loudly in the spot’s speakers is Date Your Father by Ghanaian female sensation, Ebony. Tandoh is expecting a good day at the office; a few fathers to work on.

Drunk and blurting a string of incomprehensive twaddle around the lyrics of the song, Tandoh reeks of alcohol but would stay sober as the night fades away. In good company, she and her friends have solid protection from merchants of other vices in the area, notorious for heavy gambling, and drugs.

“They protect us; some of my friends also have boyfriends amongst them so we are like a family.”

She makes a point about why the protection is needed.

“Sometimes, you will get men who will want to intimidate you.”

Tandoh plies her professional trade between Bigot and the Vienna City facility in Nkrumah Circle, Accra. She speaks boldly about how the Nkrumah Circle area is becoming an urban spook of a commercial sex zone.

“People have become used to the area, and these days, too, there is competition from smaller towns so the men don’t come there in their numbers like before.”

2:16 am. On the Oxford Street, Osu, Accra, Mildred Nyarkoa sits all by herself around a tea seller’s structure. She is a beauty with contours to die for. Her loud earrings sag, knocking each other off over a game of who cracks it best. They earn her eyeballs, flashing with both admiration and desire.

As she sat to wait for her slices of bread with fried eggs, she brilliantly sows seeds of lust among four men, who are whiling away time at the tea seller’s kiosk.

“She wouldn’t be bad for the night,” one whispers.

Nyarkoa is aware of her environment and so, in the few minutes before her order is ready, she walks up and down to nowhere, putting her rather impressive derriere, that is sitting in a skimpy jumpsuit, on display for public consumption.

She has skill and malleable charm. Built out of a sophisticated insight into the wants of craving men, she carefully whips her hair back and forth into equilibrium as though they were falling. She gets bawdy by swaggering harder. With her hands in her two pockets, she exposes the rounded firm figure behind her: her warmth so alluring, and soothing. All four men are suddenly engaged in a wayside naughty talk of getting laid and what makes appropriate lullaby for men at night.

“I like what you are doing,” one says, aiming for Nyarkoa’s attention. She pretends not to have heard the compliment and heads straight to her duty post across the street.

Nyarkoa says what she does to men, like the four, is to “prepare their minds for the future”.

“I know them very well; they will come and look for me,” she says with certainty of a professional.

“As for tonight,” she adds “I have an appointment. He should be here soon,” referring to an expat who works in one of the many shops dotted along the Oxford Street.

The sex trade is a vice in good standing in Ghana. It has left officialdom clueless. The actors, too, are somewhat jumbled, wishing for workable alternatives in lifelines.

Of all the things these workers project for themselves, a change in trade is never one because it pays. But they continue to yearn for that evasive better life – as in the case of Amadi – one that is so reassuringly positive, and provides more than nights of sex for cash.

Fatiah, a 20-year-old head porter from the Northern part of Ghana, has been struggling to fit into a bubbly capital that has too many problems to even think of properly accommodating her likes. She makes a living – by day – by carrying goods, and – by night – by offering sex in the Agbogbloshie area, northwest of the Central Business District.

She does not enjoy her current means of survival, she says but, just like Anobah, she has little option.

Fatiah, like the many thousands who make-shift sleeping places for themselves at night in front of stores, dreamt of a bigger life prior to relocating to the city.

As it turned out, there was more to the better Accra story.

One of the most pressing issues the city face is the reoccurring deficit in accommodation. Over 5 million people (and counting) live here. Half of them have come from far and near to look for the good life.

Space is still a luxury here in the capital, which is bursting at its seams.

“It’s an unfortunate politician-to-masses soap opera; it beats the popular Mexican soap on Ghanaian television, Kumkum Bhagya, by many margins,” says Danso Ampem-Darko, a banker.

Fatiah hopes that metropolitan authorities will move away from cutting sods into implementing solutions that make life better for all, and not just a few.

Like fine wine, Accra’s problems, are not dying anytime soon, the work of Anobah, and Amadi being one of many issues authorities contend with.

Prostitution is still illegal in Ghana. Occasionally, there are police raids in the capital and other parts of the country to clamp down on the activities of sex workers. It appears a worrying situation for the police, who have argued strongly that most of these commercial sex workers have been infiltrated by other bearers of vices such as drug dealers and armed robbers.

“You don’t want us to sleep, so you will also not sleep,” said a Police Officer when a number of robbers and prostitutes were paraded in Kumasi in October, 2017. In all, some 245 people including robbers and sex workers were arrested, a number shared between Ghanaians and Nigerians; prompting a meeting between the Regional Police Command and the Nigerian High Commission.

On July 14, 2015, the Western Regional Police Command arrested some 11 women around the Aponkye Nkakra Avenue and Shippers Council Roundabout.

“Sometimes, the Police Patrol cars stop by briefly to talk to us, that what we are doing is against the law,” says Anobah, adding “I have also heard complaints from my other colleagues. I have a friend who stands at the Nkrumah Circle area; the other day she told me the Police came around to arrest some of our people.”

Arrests across the country continue to happen but that has done little to stop the Amadis and Anobahs from having a trade, and from making a living.

So wide has the ecosystem grown that Ghanaian commercial sex workers now have competition from locally-based Chinese counterparts, who have invaded the country in search of moans and orgasms that pay.

“The Chinese invasion is a bother,” says Nyarkoa who has seen some recently around the Oxford Street in Osu, Accra.

“I saw some [Chinese prostitutes] the other day around this place. I knew that was what she was doing because it is the same thing I also do,” said Nyarkoa in the local Ghanaian language Twi. “These days, when you go to the Casinos, they are there.”

But the invasion doesn’t appear peculiar to Ghana.

Across Africa, there is a springing up of local and foreign-run brothels competing for available spots of the trade.

Basile Ndjilo, an Associate Professor of Anthology at the University of Douala, Cameroon, in a March, 2017 paper, showed how disgruntled sex workers in Cameroon dealt with a Chinese invasion by “relocating their business to popular entertainment areas commonly characterized in Cameroon as rue de la joie (street of enjoyment).”

Based on ethnographic research conducted between 2008 and 2012, Ndjilo’s paper also argued that the “local geography of sexualities has become a site for asserting ethnic, racial or national identity, and especially a space of both inclusion of people profiled as autochthon populations and the exclusion of those branded foreigners.”

The Chinese invasion may not be as serious as the trafficking dimensions the trade continues to experience.

Across the Mediterranean, weekly, children and adult females are trafficked into sex slavery to European merchants, waiting to use them as human stress balls and money-making machines.

In June, 2017, an operation by the Anti-Mafia District Directorate (DDA) in Cagliari, Sardina, Italy, led to thirteen Nigerian nationals being arrested for alleged human trafficking.

“The operation resulted from complaints filed by young women from Ghana and Nigeria, who were engaged in prostitution at the outskirts of the regional capital (Cagliari),” said a Police statement released afterwards.

Recruited through various mediums, including social media, the suspects are promised non-existent stable work life in Europe, with threats issued if they turned down the requests. Officials say victims are sometimes made to pay between 28,000 and 33,600 dollars to facilitate their travels, as in the case of Cagliari.

Beyond the arrests, trafficking and the illegality tag commercial sex workers in Ghana and other parts of Africa suffer, there are real issues including, but not limited, to psychology on why the likes of Amadi and Tandoh end up on the streets. Mohammed Salim Sulley Wangabi, Assistant Clinical Psychologist at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital, who holds an M.Phil in Clinical Psychology from the University of Ghana, agrees.

“People who practice prostitution are either having some personality disorders or some bipolar cases and in their manic phases. These are usually due to some abuse in childhood or traumatic occurrences. Their coping mechanisms are usually maladaptive.”

Psychological conclusions – such as Wangabi’s – on the why and how Anobah and her likes end up on the streets, may also be a tiny fraction of a bigger pool of factors responsible for the daily surge in the numbers. The trade remains, for most, a means of survival, an escape from poverty, a need being satisfied, and a want finally getting realized.

The space is fuelled by basic nightlife economics of sought intimacy (demand) and ever-present human stress-handling agents (supply) crushing and feeding unhappy waists into straightened or firm credibility around the many playgrounds of the female body part – the vagina, the ultimate conveyor belt of satisfaction.

Genteel or not, sane or abnormal, there is always going to be an expectant increased life span for a trade that has everything to do with whose flaps need an exposé and/or contents willing to be stroked into submission, than with the oft-drummed speeches around decadence, yet to hit home for regular patron Blessing Ayitey, a Steel Bender.

“That is my choice; some don’t like but as for me I don’t see anything wrong with it. You may have [some]one you can be going to or calling,” he says, adding “sometimes, I just want want to release tension so I call her and she comes to my place. Once I use the condom, I don’t fear say (sic) something will happen.”

Back at the Cantonments Roundabout on a Monday, it is yet another day at the office for Anobah, whose cleavage is being hosted by a 38D cup-size bra. Little is happening here today; the cars are yet to screech at the sight of the beauty that abounds.

The exhibition on Anobah’s chest however says enough: Come (cum) one, come (cum) all.

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On the Sixth Floor with Simi – AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

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Earl Heights Apartment, Accra. 

 

I DO NOT KNOW FROM WHICH DOOR SIMI EMERGES, but it’s most likely the one at the end of the hall. When I lift my head from my MacBook, she’s already by the couch on which I’ve been waiting. I wonder how I didn’t hear the sound of her high heels clacking on the tiled floor as I rise to shake her hand.

29, the petite singer looks saintly this afternoon – her plain attire barely reaching beyond her shoulders and knees. Jewelry glistens on her ears, left forefinger and on both wrists…her face, radiant with elegant makeup. As she settles in the corner of the couch, she looks like a prized artefact in an art museum.  Indeed, the room itself looks like a gallery: spacious and alive with rich colors and compelling paintings.

Simi’s schedule is tight. Since yesterday (October 12), the Ghana leg of the media tour for her sophomore album Simisola, has seen her on quite a number of TV and radio stations in Kumasi and Accra. In half an-hour, she should be on GH One TV, and then on Live FM, and then Class FM. A similar timetable awaits her tomorrow, as well as the day after.

Like in her home country of Nigeria, Simisola is also well-received here. On September 8, when all of Ghana’s attention should have been focused on Sarkodie’s fifth album Highest, artwork for Simisola was just as prominent on our timelines. And why not? With a voice the texture of  confectionery, and stories that touch, she’s as beloved here as she is on the streets of Lagos and Abuja, and is imaginary fiancée to many young Ghanaian men.

That last line sounds like the perfect icebreaker for our conversation – either that, or rapper Patapaa’s One Corner craze. I opt for the latter: would she do the dance, at least for the culture? “No, I don’t think I will”, followed by a giggle, which is also heard frequently throughout our intercourse. She has not tasted the famous Ghana Jollof yet, and the revelation bruises my heart, but does not make her any less cool.

When she speaks, Simi’s words flow rapidly and with teenage pitch – just like her laugh. She exudes a persona of effervescence and sincerity, and rich wisdom is apparent in her every sentence.

Signed to X3M Music, it has taken Simisola Bolatito Ogunleye four projects (two albums and two EPs) to truly establish herself in Nigeria’s mainstream music circles. Her sound is qualified by superior purity and street soul, which has seen her regarded also as an alternative in the mainstream instead of merely an alternative to it. This has often meant that her music has been largely a “well-kept secret” – only available to those who diligently search.

With Simisola, which was led with Joromi (a kind of homage to highlife great Sir Victor Uwaifo), Simi has finally found renown, and she didn’t have to conform to any norms to get here. If anything, she’s the exception, redefining whatever rules exist.

The world over, “commercial music” has often referred to one tailored strictly for dance –lacking wholesome content, and perishable after a few months. Simi’s songs are sacred and possess longevity. Due to this (and out of respect), the adjective is seldom used for her records.

But Simi finds this definition faulty. Concerned, she straightens up: “everybody does music to sell it. Commercial is something you sell, so unless I’m giving it out for free, it is commercial”. This definition is striking in its accuracy.

She submits a similar explanation when I inquire if she’s comfortable being “pigeonholed” into the category of “Afropop”, seeing that there’s more to her music than the sub-genre.  She disagrees that it is a pigeonhole in the first place. Citing British chanteuse Adele, she reiterates a substitute variation of Pop music (of which Afropop is a limb) – that it simply refers to popular music. And as long as we agree that her music is popular, we are not wrong. If anything, she adds, the label gives her “more room to explore”. And why not? Afropop encompasses virtually all melody from the continent, and while many consider it a vague and often sluggish way to describe sounds from these parts, Simi embraces it – exploiting it to her advantage. No one is going to look at her suspiciously when she experiments with various rhythms, and as as artist, one needs all the freedom one can get.

Simi takes her poetic licence seriously: “at the the end of the day, music is supposed to be more expressive than organized”. At the same time, she admits to the obsession of wanting the music sound a specific way: “when I’m writing or recording, I’m very very precise. I’m a perfectionist. Do you understand?”, her eyes trained keenly upon mine as she inquires. She didn’t need to, because it is evident in how her melody is executed. She’s very hands-on with how her songs come out. Nuanced and thorough, Simi’s sound offers something fresh with every listen – charming sleights sprinkled throughout various compartments of her songs: in the placement of string/ horn interludes, her diction while ad-libbing, the stainless tone of backing vocals which deliver her choruses.

The flair she demonstrates mixing and mastering her songs have even earned her top clients, such rapper YCee of Omo Alhaji fame.

But how does she walk this tightrope of technical precision and the liberty expected of artistry?

“I don’t mix any two of my songs the same…It’s just about knowing how to keep a balance and not get carried away. Every song is different”, says MixBySimi (when she wears that hat). Only she knows how she delivers emotion and technical genius in equal doses. Maybe it is in the fact that her team is close-knit – mainly comprising producer Oscar, and friend/regular collaborator Adekunle Gold (providing guest verses and backing vocals).

A purist himself, Adekunle is very much part of the sound Simi has grown into over the course of her career. The “Urban Highlife”groove that he conceived continues to serve as a special ingredient for the Simi vibe.

When she talks about Adekunle, Simi smiles, and then breaks into her laugh. Same with when she discusses her creative bond with Falz, with whom she collaborated on the lovely Chemistry EP.

Simisola consists 12 deeply affective tunes which could easily be referred to as classics. Because it is self-titled, and due to her convincing delivery of stories about love and loss, self and faith, the work feels autobiographical, though she is quick to point out that while all the stories are true, they aren’t necessarily about her.

The conversation is too short for me…I need at least an hour with precious Simi. But there are other journalists waiting for their turn. Not forgetting the GH One interview.

When the interview is done and I make my way down the shiny elevator, I plug in my earphones and hum along these words from Original Baby, which she names as her favorite song off the project. Both verses from this powerful personal testimony of self-love end thus:

“You gotta take me as I am. I’ll be better, but I’ll never be somebody else”

 

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