In what they described as a farewell gig, singer Sena Dagadu and pop group RedRed (consisting FOKN Bois rapper M3nsa and Hungary’s DJ Elo) took over the Republic Bar – Osu two or three Wednesdays ago –farewell because it would be their last performance in the country for many months as they honour a lineup of international engagements.
Wednesday nights are reserved for live band sessions at Republic, but an exception was made on that particular occasion. It was worth it!
Founded on significant freestyle offerings on a blasé night, the treasured performers, who had drawn hundreds to Alliance Francaise merely days before, led the well represented crowd through a collection of songs from their sterling catalogues, which span decades. DJ Elo steered background music from turntables and a laptop mounted on shiny steel drums, as Sena and M3nsa (taking turns in a seamless flow) dished out affective singing, or poured down our faces, torrents of powerful rap .
The crowd; a delightful cosmopolitan convocation, required little enticement –because, this was a pack not unfamiliar with whom they had turned out to see. They consisted a cult following which has been built over many years, and have cultivated an attachment with the profound artistry typical of both Sena and RedRed. Therefore, there was absolutely zero traces of cynicism in the way of the tender air which blew past our cheeks and noses. Rather, cheers accompanied curling cigarette smoke into the firmaments, beer bottles caressed lower lips, eyes twinkled with genuine approval smiles, and applause kept coming. This kind of crowd is rare gold — the preserve/reward of those truly dedicated to essential art.
The show commenced later than the advertised 8 pm, and there were seconds of technical glitches at the beginning. That was rectified swiftly, and the show was in full force after that. M3nsa himself admitted minutes into the performance, to how quickly “things had escalated”.
The concert itself was disarmingly frank, taking the manner of a long uninhibited conversation among friends. There were neither MCs nor opening acts, nor other known constrictions of a “perfect” show as extravagant lighting or ancillary stage effects. Even their attires as headline acts were uncharacteristic of many a modern performer. Without blinding jewellery, or excessively befuddling fashion impressions, Sena’s signature cheekbone dots, and the grey patch on M3nsa’s head, would serve as the “loudest” bit of their look. Profound, I know.
The Republic Bar gig came off the foot of a hugely success Connection Concert to crown the 2017 Hungarian Cultural Week celebration. Held to highlight and strengthen the harmony between Ghana and Hungary, especially in the area of art, it saw a thrilling display of talent from both countries. Acts as Hungarian urban folk band Zuboly, Wanlov The Kubolor, Stevo the kologo player, hiplife veterans VVIP, fast-rising Worlasi, Gyedu Blay Amboley and Tumi Ansah all took to the stage on that historic Friday, March 17.
Surely, it is a profuse need to dispatch surplus energy from the Connection Concert that occationed the Republic Bar meeting. And it showed on Wednesday, March 22. Pure fire! Pure fire!
A pulsating marathon, M3nsa and Sena (who manned the microphones) traded verses, choruses, and provided rich ad-libs for each other’s songs, and of their collaborative pieces. This was all discharged with such astonishing originality that, it constantly invoked startled expressions on the faces of the beholding crowd.
The intimate make of the show is also worthy of mention. At the end of the day (artists will tell you), the “small” shows carry immense potency.
“I always like the intimate ones”, singer Worlasi told me in an interview before a March 18 Jameson Accra Connect gig at Cafe KWAE (One Airport Square). Incidentally an intimate gig too, he was joined by guitarist and Sobolo singer Six Strings, and they gave off impressive acoustic renditions of some of their best-known hits.
“They don’t even know when the time is flying…with big shows, people can’t even ask questions, people can’t even make comments whilst you’re performing. Even if they do, you won’t hear it. And you can’t see them, so you can’t actually connect with them…”
That last part about the “connection” question, is what strikes me most about his answer. There was no doubt about the rapport available in the yard that night. Worlasi (who also graced the event) felt it heavily. So did Wanlov Da Kuborlor. So did Gyedu Blay Ambuley. So did broadcaster and fitness icon Giovanni Caleb. So did renowned contemporary painter Bright Ackwerh, and indeed everyone of us gathered there.
“There’s always something nice about connecting with someone”, Worlasi concluded his response in that interview. I agreed with him after the Jameson show, and further, at the Sena/ RedRed gig.
Sena and RedRed come from deep and uncommon musical backgrounds, and their craft, littered with endless experimentation. Sena has, since starting off in hiphop/drancehall collective Gimmeshot in 2001, gone on to publish several works of critical acclaim: Sena First One, Lots Of Trees, Grow Slow, Azdanê, Natural High, Take a Look, Only Solution Remix, Vol. 1, and DA 1 YAH EP 03. Months ago, she announced her latest: FEATHERS. Possessing a dynamic music palette, no one genre has successfully tamed Sena. And so, her influences have ranged from hiphop, reggae, funk, rock, among a host of others.
The third son of Osibisa guitarist Tumi Ebo Ansah, M3nsa is an unlimited store of creativity, and so is restless –constantly seeking out new outlets for his boundless stream of ideas — as founder of hiplife group The Lifeline Family, as music producer (creating for V.I.P, Obrafour, Tic Tac, Tinny, K.K. Fosu, Samini, etc), as solo act, and (simultaniously) as member of controversial duo FOKN Bois and pop band RedRed. He’s also a filmmaker, and sixty-two other things.
Social commentary is a core in the music of both Sena and RedRed, and even as they thrilled fans present with toothsome melodies, and wrote realtime jokes from what was happening around, they still poked at our conscience intermittently…like when M3nsa, hearing the sound of an aeroplane in the skies far above, suggested that it was Chinese who had come to take our gold away. Ghana is at the verge of a water crisis as a result of illegal mining activities on our water bodies. Currently, production potable water has reduced to 60 percent, and all life in most of our rivers is gone, leaving behind only saddening brownness and disease. For residents in the city, the effects of galamsey (as illegal mining is called in Ghana) many not be as tangible as it is in the hinterlands. There therefore requires reminders as these, even at events as the Republic show, to awaken us to what consequences are impending as a result of our inaction.
Streets around Osu are always lively, because Osu is the hub of all nightlife in Accra. That Wednesday though, it experienced an extra pep.
See exclusive photos from the show: