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REVIEW: ‘Boys Boys’ – Nacee Feat. GURU

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The hook of Nacee’s Boys Boys is a pleasant puzzle: it’s technically suitable for the church premises, and at the same time, meets the requirements of anthems which permeate the lungus and streets of our inner cities.

It is a street jam for sure, because the hook is crafted with words we use everyday as youth. Listen to its first lines:“Boys aa yaba, y’eni shwee ooo, nanso yaba munbu da ooo/ Boys aa yaba, y’eni shwee ooo, nanso ye see yente gyae oo”. Yet the instrumentation and vocal harmony therein sound very much like a church chorus. This is musical wizardry.

Haven’t you noticed how Nacee has always found his way around a music structure seemingly unfair to the gospel genre, and whatever limitations accompany the tag of “gospel artist”?. Just last December, the Onaapo chorus (which he composed for the then ruling NDC) could be heard everywhere in the country. The cartoonish lilt in his voice, as well as his overall wit, have  guaranteed for him as much public presence as secular artists — that coupled with the fact that he is behind one of every three gospel songs released in the country. So that suddenly, the complains that gospel music isn’t as widely embraced as secular music doesn’t apply to him.

On the morning of April 9 at the Conference Centre, a beaming Nacee could not keep calm behind fellow gospel singer Joe Mettle as he lowered his head to give his speech upon being adjudged VGMA Artist of the Year 2017.  It was historic in all respects, but most importantly, for the gospel fraternity.Weeks prior, there had been a deliberate campaign, spearheaded by the likes of Sonnie Badu, Nacee himself, and a host of other key gospel heads to garner support for him to win the ultimate prize. Mettle was clearly dazed by the victory, but mentioned a measured voice throughout his delivery. Nacee (like the small party which had followed Joe up the podium), cheered and clapped as Mettle rounded up his victory speech: “As you all know, this is for gospel, this is for Christianity. And for every gospel musician in this house, the door is open.”

Days after the ceremony, gospel promoter Kwasi Ernest declared to Accra-based TV3 that the genre was going to posses the award for three years running.

And then, on Thursday morning, Nacee announces Boys Boys.  Suddenly, Joe’s concluding words take up urgent meaning, for Boys Boys is an instant countrywide anthem. Nacee knew what he had up his sleeves when he was up there with Joe.  Like Shatta Wale’s Take Over, this tune, off his forthcoming Councellor 2 CD, embodies unmistakable street credibility, and speaks to what a shiny jewel Nacee has been to the industry all these years. Suffice to say that his  Councellor 1 project beat of ferocious competition from fellow powerhouses as M.anifest, EL, FlowKing Stone, and Sonnie Badu to pick up the prestigious Album of the Year at VGMA 2017 earlier this month.

The song also features rapper Guru, and is a daily dose of upliftment delivered in the language of the masses — dance-ready melody and an effortless groove of delight that is NOT possible to resist. All it takes is a single listen. As soon as the infectious pre-hook and hook (rendered by a multitude of male voices) hit you, you know that this is a song for the people…this is a song for you! Even at first listen, Boys Boys feels popular. But no, you’ve not heard it before…it’s just a quality of music on it’s way to being a classic –instant recall.

Boys Boys is a product of sheer musical command and artistic versatility. Nacee curates spellbinding sound from everyday Ghanaian lingua: “Eno so woho” made popular by AMG rapper Medikal, “Gada”, “Tsele”, “Yente gyae”…He mentions cars which we youth consider the ultimate aspiration — Ferrari, Mazeratti, Buggati, and doesn’t “overspiritualize” the discourse. In the entire song, he mentions Hallelujah just once, and references God as many times. Still, he maintains a Christian dignity, and insists on kempt language on Guru’s part.

A good song that should become a major streetside lollipop this year, it has ample depth the Nacee way; pick an ordinary theme and turn it into something magical only Nacee beats. When the song gets onto the highway of popular Ghanaian bridge language – which both put to accurate use – it renders itself from a title cooked in an unassuming studio in Accra into an instant nationwide jam that may yet form 2017’s base to groundbreaking hits, Shatta Wale’s ‘Taking Over’, the year’s other biggest tune, the only prey in sight.

Guru contributes decent verses — two of them, painting literal scenarios of the unjust victory of opulence over gritty hustle, and the promise of a good life ultimately. But these lines lend themselves to easy amnesia — maybe it’s because lines thus have been heard from him (and his colleague rappers) times without number, or maybe because Nacee dispatches a hook that potentially overshadows even the fiercest of rap verses.

Crucially, it is the beautiful manner in which the whole composition is transported across its themes that makes it one, truly for the boys boys. Nacee and Guru are both products of an urban core that greases Ghana’s sometimes wilted music scene with their back-to-back works of so many years. So, they do definitely know how to turn the keys on. This is an effort so turnkey, so bold, so beautiful.

On Boys Boys, the two perfectly sparked an ignition that cut through their crafts from a demand and supply curve of no guts, no glory to selling hope to a people thirsty for a Q2, 2017, major jam. In the end, both become a supply unit that delivers salvation when it’s needed most.

In Accra’s ghettos, hope is going for a song because Nacee and Guru paid for it.

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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 only as an alternative to the mainstream instead of an alternative in it, too. 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 in 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 theorizes: “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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MADINA-ATOMIC EXPLOSION: A Loud Bang, A Run For Survival, A People’s Cry

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city’s peace is meddled with while she is wide awake. The intrusion is abrupt and rude. It is unforgiving.

It is Saturday evening and there is heavy activity in and around the Atomic Roundabout located on the Legon-Madina-Adenta stretch in Ghana’s capital, Accra.

A bang occurs. It is potently brash and decisively destructive. At once. An explosion had occurred. The Mansco Gas Filling Station, located some few metres away from the Roundabout, had caught fire.

Soon, the explosion would schlep its way through – rather angrily; devastating anything in sight – a nearby TOTAL Filling Station, another Filling Station Benab, eggs, oranges, jewelry, furniture, cars, billboards, biscuits, fizzy drinks, humans.

It is not a pretty sight. In minutes, the huge eruption that had occurred was as dramatic as the scenes that followed: a residential property’s wall collapses in whole while a man’s entire living room is razed down completely. Everything was gone.

An impact was felt. Ten kilometres south of the scene, a radio station’s Manager is awoken in his sleep by what he says sounded like a bomb. Five miles away from the epicenter, in another direction, a young banker, who sees the skies turn a combination of colours, hurriedly shepherds his family of four out of their residence, heading out to nowhere – for as long as they were safe.

Social media and peer-to-peer platforms came through with enough detail to get a nation’s attention. Local news outlets characteristically switched to operations mode, dispatching teams. The worse had happened. A city’s life had been jolted, a township had been brought to its knees by an explosion which had no mercy, not even for non-living things not interfering with its brutish self.

The explosion announced its intimidating evolution in not so pleasant ways.

“I have just heard a loud bang; I don’t know where it is coming from,” said a Facebook post by a woman who gave her location as Tema Motorway, an appreciable detachment from the precincts of the blast.

Messages of distress poured in. They were ample to paint a perfect picture of pandemonium.

Around the facility, sprints for life were made; humans run over each other, cars and motorcycles (in attempts to escape) hit pedestrians. A different kind of apocalypse was taking place before the very eyes of a city having its standard evening quiet time and preparing to call it a day.

The fire raged on, causing considerable fear and panic. In major schools nearby – the University of Ghana and the University of Professional Studies, as well as the Presbyterian Boys Senior High School – students ran for their lives, clutching on to anything, anywhere, to stay safe. Some were evacuated to nearby facilities. Around the scene of the blast, a lot had been lost in seconds, and wares were deserted in minutes thanks to the ferocious inciter of terrible scale.

For a decent amount of time, little was done to hold back the fire which reared its ugly head so high, so huge that it seared the silence of the night – near and far – just to make a claim about how mighty it was. In its full show of strength, it managed to shape a city’s agenda for the ensuing hours of the night.

New and traditional media went into an overspill. All night. There was enough to feast on – tremble, varied eyewitness’ accounts, tales of misses by a whisker, what is, what should have been, and angst.

Firemen, drawn from within the capital and close to the scene, would later show up to be counted as men of valor and dedication willing to douse a wreck ball that stood to threaten their occupational and structural intelligence, and capacity. For hours into the night, they did what they were called to do, attempting to minimize the magnitude of the rubble.

Sunday, October 9. A fireman at work. PHOTO/OBED BOAFO

Later, the rains would come through with adequate downpour to rip through the shackles. But it did little, too, considering the extent of the blast, and giving the firemen some more work into the next morning.

On Sunday October 8, 2017, an understandable atmosphere of grief and sorrow was the depiction at the scene. The pungent smell from the previous night’s damage was too strong.

Hundreds had come to witness the extent of devastation. For the uninitiated and uniformed, it was good time to catch up. On the edges of the overpass that sits atop the Atomic Roundabout, hundreds stood to feed on the near-apocalypse scenes beneath them. It was an assembly of media, security and political heads, with another gathering of passers-by cordoned off with police barricade tapes.

Vicentia Kporku, a.k.a. Daavi Special, a food vendor who operates some 50 metres from the scene, recounted her experience during the burst. She cuts different looks of okay and trepidation; they are quite mixed for the fairly aged Kporku, who speaks of how she escaped the blast narrowly together with her five workers at the small eatery she maintains along the shoulders of the stretch.

“It could have been worse,” she says, pointing to a tiny scratch she had on her legs, acquired in an attempt to escape the fury of the fire.

“I am yet to hear from my workers. Some went as far as Adenta and others, too, are yet to call,” she says in the local Ghanaian Twi language, spoken by a majority of the people in the national capital.

Kporku’s narration is shared in part by dozens who also fled the scene while the blast continued. Like many others, Gideon Dzreke, a pump attendant at the Benab Filling Station, said all he saw was a bang, followed by shouts of misery and a call to action for survival.

“I had to flee; my colleagues were also nowhere to be found. We were all running for our dear lives. The force behind the fire was so loud. It was like a bomb,” says Dzreke.

“It is by divine grace that I am alive,” continued Kporku, adding to a number of testimonies around divinity on and off site, one being that a larger number of casualties would have been recorded had it happened the night before when some old students of the Presbyterian Boys Senior High School grouped for their annual Bonfire event.

An officer from the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service on duty. PHOTO/OBED BOAFO

At the scene on Sunday morning, protocol officers cued in an important running order. There is an expected visitor –  the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, Mahamudu Bawumia, who had to cut short a tour of the Northern Region, to ascertain the extent of damage. A deputy Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah announces to a group of media people that Bawumia should be there in minutes.

Bawumia zoomed in. A convoy of saloon cars slided past a make-shift police entry point. He dismounted and headed straight to the scene, where he was briefed by the Deputy Director General of the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO), Abu Ramadan, whose men had been at the scene all night, all morning.

The Vice President was joined by other Politicians including Attorney-General Gloria Akufo, who later spoke of her experience with the blast.

Vice President Bawumia arrives at the scene. PHOTO/OBED BOAFO

Clad in a traditional all-black Ghanaian cloth of sorrow, she placed her two hands on her head while Bawumia addressed the media. She was in the quintessential traditional posture of deep mourning and grief.

“I traveled for a funeral and came late only to meet the explosion. I thank God for my life and for that of my old lady who was around at that time in my house. The colour of my house has changed to black; some of my sliding doors and ceiling have also broken,” Akuffo later told journalists.

As the Vice President prepared to leave, a man behind the Police Barricade tape screamed “let’s do the right thing.” He would later explain.

“We have always been experiencing these kinds of disasters but little action has been taken to address the root causes and prevent their reoccurrence. The owner of the Gas Filling Station here has, for years, been complaining about the close proximity of some of the shops to his facility but nobody listens; they said he was full of himself. Today, here we are faced with this.”

Another man wearing a protest cum advocacy-like T-Shirt would also add his voice to the call for sanity.

“This is unacceptable. We can’t always behave like this. I am sad but this could have been avoided.”

Devastation. Scene of the blast. PHOTO/OBED BOAFO

The calls were in perfect tune to that of the Vice President who was emphatic in his address to the media while he visited.

“We are going to move to deal with it, and quickly.”

Bawumia’s boss and President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, later spoke to the issue at hand, calling for “a stop”, a plea embedded in what many say are lapses in the administration of laws that govern the operation of Filling Stations – gas, petrol et al.

“We cannot continue with them,” referring to the obvious disregard for national and community bye-laws by the operators of the stations.“It is one too many. We cannot afford anymore. Everybody involved in the industry to recognize that we all have to make adjustments to be able to guarantee the safety and security of our people, so these things do not happen again. I need your support, and the co-operation of the people of Ghana to make sure that the policies that we will be bringing out succeed, so that such incidents become a thing of the past and not of our future.”A repetitive call some have punched holes into, Conversations about getting things right are visited every now and then when a major blast occurs such as the worst in Ghana’s history – the June 3, 2015 Nkrumah Circle Goil Filling Station accident that claimed over 100 lives, and which led to the establishment of a five-member committee chaired by a retired Justice of the Court of Appeal, Isaac Justice Douse.

The call for stringent measures is high on the agenda for the Ghana Gas Manufacturing Company, whose CEO, Frances Ewurabena Essiam blames past and present regimes for neglecting her outfit. Essiam is hoping action will be expedited on the implementation of the LPG Cylinder Exchange/Recirculation programme (Gas Exchange Programme), mooted by the National Petroleum Authority.

“This must stop,” says ‘Dr Think Twice’. PHOTO/OBED BOAFO

Both organizations and other stakeholders, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Ghana Standards Authority, hope the programme, which would see cylinder bottling plants making onward delivery to the stations, will curb the high incident of explosions.

Chief Executive Officer of the NPA, Hassan Tampuli, has argued that the programme is ideal if Ghana is to make any headway in limiting these explosions.

A model experimented in other countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Brazil, it places the responsibility of filling the cylinders in the hands of the bottling companies, who in turn dispatch them to the retail outlets in exchange for empty ones, meaning domestic or individual users only get to use cylinders that change hands from one person to the other, from time to time.

Two cars completely ruined at the scene of the blast. PHOTO/OBED BOAFO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Civil society is in support of the Gas Exchange Programme.

Part of an August, 2017 publication by Think Tank, IMANI, read:

“Even though Ghana has experienced a number of gas explosions in the past, the thing that draws attention and public outcry concerning the recent explosions is the level of fatality. Gas refill stations have increasingly been brought closer to consumers in order to meet needs and this practice invariably has multiplied the fatality rate of explosions. Any move to reduce fatality will require an effective means that will remove gas refill sites from residential communities without undermining access to LPG.

“The common sense deduction then is that the cylinder exchange model has full potential to reduce the fatality of gas explosions because it eliminates the need for consumers to be exposed to direct dispensing of LPG. However, given Ghana’s unique situation as the only country in the world that still relies solely on gas refill stations located in residential communities, it is the only country that has recorded fatal deaths due to LPG explosions and fires at gas refill stations within residential communities. The direct effect of the cylinder exchange model on reducing gas explosions may only be correctly analyzed perhaps after a couple of years of implementing the policy in Ghana.

“Further, gas explosion may be more a function of adherence to safety measures than of the location of gas stations. A study assessing the impact of fuel filling stations on the environment in Ghana found that most gas filling stations under study violated critical safety requirements exposing the community to several levels of risk.”

IMANI argues that even though there may be structural implementation issues to the programme, it would become useful when it fully hits home. They offered some ways the country could work around the programme if it ever gets to take off. Over nine points, they noted that:


*It will be expedient to fast track the recapitalization of the Ghana Cylinder Manufacturing company to facilitate production of smaller size cylinders (3kg and 6kg) or engage the private sector to provide them. This will facilitate rural access to LPG given the relatively cheaper cost of the smaller size cylinders.

*Position the country to eliminate malpractices (such as unauthorized cylinder filling, unlicensed distribution, under or over filling and cylinder theft by standing ready to enforce regulations through innovative means). For example; the Indian Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources in 2012 created an online portal that provided real time information on the supply chain distribution system including distributor ratings. This reduced diversion of LPG commercial sales and facilitated overall transparency in the distribution business.

*There is the need to correctly identify and separate market segments, that is, domestic, commercial and industrial in order to adequately serve each consumer segment.

*The regulator must stand ready to enforce fool proof safety measures that will curb gas explosion at bottling/filling sites. There is also the need to undertake rigorous public education and sensitization on LPG and handling practices especially in view of the potential for increased access to rural areas

*The Cylinder Exchange implementation plan should have a long term view and should be scalable for example through the establishment of more bottling plants which are appropriately distributed geographically per year so that future demand growth is well catered for.

*Gas Tanker businesses as well as gas refill stations should be worked with and supported to redefine their business models in order to take advantage of the potential business opportunities that are expected to emanate from the implementation of the Cylinder Exchange Policy. This will also help to prevent a situation where existing gas refill stations rush to dispel/sell off stored gas to avoid perceived losses caused by an outright ban and by so doing create an artificial shortage of LPG. Tanker operators may merge and form partnerships with bottling companies so that their services may be employed in transporting LPG from production points to bottling plants.

*Explore and acquire highly efficient distribution management software that would facilitate the running of the cylinder exchange model in order to prevent situations where consumers are not able to access services. For instance; Supergasbras, one of the largest LPG retailers in Brazil which supplies 1.5 million tonnes of LPG per year to over 10 million households via the cylinder exchange model employs the SAP Secondary Distribution Management software which provides efficient administration and automation of the entire process chain from order entry to transport planning and invoicing.


Eyewitnesses to the Saturday October 7 disaster have attempted an official account of what might have caused the outbreak, the legend of all being a mysterious Khebab seller – said to be the source.

A food vendor’s facility is not spared. PHOTO/OBED BOAFO

The story goes. A truck carrying Liquified Petroleum Gas pulls up at the Station to offload its stock. In discharging, a slip occurs through one of its points, the gas evaporates and in full in a manner that caused persons around to run for cover. The leaked substance catches fire from what is believed to be a naked flame from the Khebab seller’s set nearby. The destruction occurs. End of story.

The tale’s credibility and sequencing has been questioned by some citizens while officialdom and the security establishment have gently asked for ‘proper investigations’ to be conducted before any conclusions are arrived at.

President Akufo-Addo, who made his way to the scene on the afternoon of Monday, October 9 (in the company of more politicians, including the Chief of Staff Frema Osei Opare) has maintained the need for a concerted national effort at addressing the rampant blasts; once again hinting of a policy to act as backbone for the sector. He later dashed to some hospitals in the capital hosting victims of the blast, an activity his Number 2, Bawumia, had similarly performed a day earlier.

Later in the afternoon, Akufo-Addo welcomed, to the Presidency, the family of Mohammed Ashiley Yakubu, a reporter of local television station NET 2 and a member of the Presidential Press Corps, who lost his life while he was on duty at the scene on Saturday. Akufo-Addo promised to personally foot the bill of his funeral and burial rites.

Ashiley’s mum in tears when she was hosted by the President. PHOTO/Flagstaff House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While losses are still being counted, discussions continue to hold in high and low places on just one thing – a lot of damage has been done already but sanity can at least prevail within the downstream sector, to offer, as President Akufo-Addo believes, security to the Ghanaian people.

Saturday’s blast was the eighth in four years according to the Ghana Standards Authority. Official number of deaths recorded as of Monday October 9, 2017, stood at 7 while over a hundred are reportedly injured from wounds of varying degree, mostly burns.

Official investigations are ongoing.

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Once, Twice Dreams, and NOW A Life so Good, so ‘Nagga’ – Eboo, THE COMEBACK

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Eboo steps into the focus of Director OJ’s RED with routine confidence — grey bleach accentuating his high taper fade haircut. This is the first time in seven years he is shooting a music video — or publishing any music for that matter, but it doesn’t show at all. Donning a bright-blue summer shirt over yellow khaki shorts and Adidas sneakers, he is the centre of attraction — being beheld by everyone and everything: OJ’s lens, the crew, passers-by, and mid-morning sunlight.

Honey, the 2010 Kaywa-produced paragon featuring rapper FlowKing Stone, would prove to be his last submission for a significant while.  Serving as OJ’s directorial debut, the song, like his breakout hit Once/Twice (2005), is a true Ghanaian classic, and remains among key songs which have served as template for Ghanaian reggae-dancehall in this millennium. Eboo gets painfully little recognition for the creative foresight he displays on both songs. Yet, observe carefully, and you’ll find that even then, his music contained elements of what we now term as “Afrobeats”.

But Eboo is an outcast, and outcasts aren’t usually recipients of praise until it’s nearly too late. While his peers did hiplife, he stuck to island rhythm, and prevailed. Proof? Put on Once/ Twice.

Eboo took a break from music to finish school and start a family. And while he did these, music lovers consoled themselves singing the choruses of his songs with heavy nostalgia, hoping that one day, Eboo would return.

Prayers do get answered. A month ago, the singer announced his resurgence, with rapidly permeating  joints as Good Life, Nonstop, and Bad Girl. More singles are scheduled in coming weeks, before the album is ultimately released. Titled Good Life, the project consists a whopping 21 songs.

RETURN OF A KING! Eboo holds listening session for COMEBACK ALBUM – SEE IMAGES!

An August 4 listening session held at the Africa Regent Hotel and hosted by broadcaster Jay Foley was attended by top connoisseurs: EIB Network execs Bola Ray and Klaus Von Bakustein, music promoter Dr. Duncan, journalist Francis Doku, veteran producer Kwik Action, celebrated video Director OJ, Happy FM’s Dr. Cann, etc. That is how seriously Eboo’s music is taken.

He is among a handful of acts whose music meet multiple purposes. They work perfectly as club anthems, but are also constructed to appeal to passionate emotions just as well. How does he achieve this? A combination of factors: for one thing, his songwriting is unpretentious, hence easily relatable. Also, his vocal technique, especially when he ad-libs, oozes with a vulnerability that instantly captivates you. Finally, his idols: Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Steel Pulse, Burning Spear. These are among history’s most trusted melody gods.

Eboo reunites with Director OJ onset his new music video in Cape Coast

In-between takes at the Capital Hill Hotel that evening, Bad Girl thunders out of huge speakers in the sports pub. Everybody is beat, and resting for a bit, but still nodding/ swaying to the jam. Eboo stands in the middle of the room, possessed by the very melody that he himself has composed.  It is not entirely shocking…his song “Good Life” is his ringtone. Gesticulating with his fingers, he performs to an imaginary woman: “all the times I stayed out late, I did it just for you“, he cries, pointing to the air in front of him. Such is the feature of a true artist — wearing his emotions on the sleeves of his blue denim button- down.

BTS IMAGES: Eboo reunites with Director OJ for new music video

A similar demeanour is observed at various other locations all through the day — up a porch in front of the historic and magnificent Cape Coast Castle in the Central Region, or a blue gate directly facing it, in the lungus close-by, or up a breezy roof further down.

“Good Life” is essentially Eboo’s debut album, and that might come as a shocker to many, judging by the sheer impact of his sound. As was the case when he first stormed unto the scenes, an earthquake is imminent. Not unexpectedly, it is entirely themed on affection and an overall positive vibe. “We’ve been through everything, and now it’s time for the good life”, he explains as the motive behind the album name.

Born on December 15 in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, Eboo (Jehovah is My Refuge) describes his life as one dedicated to music. He started music at the tender age of twelve (12), and has hardly looked back ever since.

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OBITUARY: Paapa Yankson

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Highlife legend Paapa Yankson was finishing his sixteenth and final album until his passing at his Dansoman residence last Friday, July 21. According to producer Dan Graal (with whom he was working on the project), it consists entirely of love songs: to a neighbor, to family, a lover, humanity.

Old and poorly, he would not be bound from his passion, for he still frequented the studio, pursuing the one thing most familiar to him –the one thing through which he interpreted the world: music. Yankson spent his final days in the studio, says Graal. He was carried, in a wheelchair, from the car to the studio for his sessions.

Wheelchair or not, Benjamin Paapa Kofi Yankson (as he was born in the 1940s) still performed at public events, and still overwhelmed audiences with uncommon charisma. He commanded he atmosphere with vivid charm and uplifting aphorisms. It was evident in the eyes of those gathered under his feet, swaying their arms, and singling along to his evergreen choruses.

Over an illustrious career which commenced in 1987, the musician has addressed a wide variety of issues –faith, jealousy, grace, odium, choices, life… but he has always returned to the root of all themes: love. He is credited with authoring some of the most important love songs in remembered history. His sterling repertoire is littered with several highly influential love records: Show Your Love, Obiara Na Nedofo, Adwen Pa, Bebia Odo Wo, Asomdwoe Wo Ho, Tena Menkyen

That last song, a convincing duet with Paulina Oduro, is among the country’s most iconic — a true classic. Introduced by tender whistling and a ripe tenor, the melodious tune captures flawlessly, a sentimental exchange between a couple in love. It is rendered with adorable playfulness, and impeccable vocal confidence that it cuts across generations in its impact.

It is no wonder that Paapa Yankson would intend for the album with which he walks off into the sunlight after over thirty years of service, to be themed entirely of love songs. It is what his life has been dedicated to. It is what his life has been based on.

It is important to be reminded, amidst all the chaos, of the essence of love in our being. This was Yankson’s calling, and boy has he carried it out diligently. This is why the nation was so enamored by him.

Empire’s inaugural Bottles & Bands concert (November 2016) was among the last platforms he performed on. A truly surreal experience, event proved a testament to how deeply he was cherished. Every few minutes in his performance, on-air personality Giovani, who served as MC for the night, would interrupt and make an announcement of donations from corporate bodies and individuals who could not hold back their love for the highlife icon. Amounts donated that night summed up to about GHC 50, 000. The smile which remained on his face showed it all. He did not utter many words, but was clearly overcome with gratitude at the compassion on display.

A similar scenario can be recalled from this year’s Ghana Music Awards held back in April. He had just been conferred with “Lifetime Achievement Award”, and had been served a marvelous tribute by Adina and Akwaboah Jnr. Again, that smile could be seen behind his glasses. It was there he announced that he would release new music again soon. But alas, it never arrived. Perhaps posthumously though…

As expected, tributes have poured in from every direction: contemporaries to new age musicians, government officials, and fans all over the world, but they’ll never quite be enough to fully express what he meant to all of us.

Even until his passing, Paapa Yankson’s voice remained unscathed, if anything, it was enriched with age — that deeply moving tenor which has mirrored in his songs, various aspects of our lives since co-founding the famous Western Diamond Band. Due to the richness and perpetual relevance of his style of composition, he managed to hold his own even in the years after he be came most prominent –again, Tena Menkyen serving as reference. The song remains a fan-favorite several decades after its release.

Yankson comes from a generation of revolutionaries. He belongs to a celebrated core of acts from Ghana’s west (stretching all the way from Cape Coast to Takoradi). Together with the likes of Jewel Ackah, C. K Mann, A. B Crentsil, and Gyedu Blay Ambulley, they have served as true coastal giants — blameless ambassadors for music from that area, commendably rivalling counterparts from Accra, and bringing weight to the statement “the best comes from the West”. Now a cemented expression, it also extends to other cultural aspects as speech, mannerisms, etc. Successfully, and with unbelievable longevity, they have managed to advance a bold influence of folkloric music shaped by daily seaman coastal vibes…vibes which abound in the music of generations after them: Paapa Yankson’s son Silas, rap groups TH4 Kwages and Sass Squad, and in recent years, Kofi Kinaata, Castro, Pappy Kojo, Akiti Wrowrow, and T Phlow – the new crop “Fante Confederacy”.

Paapa Yankson was always in high spirits at public events, and held to a firm conviction that he would walk unaided again. It was so tangible –this faith –that people at the end of his words had no option than to believe too. Maybe that confidence extends to his legacy too.

When you take the music that Kofi Kinaata is doing today – his approach to songwriting, there’s no question that Paapa Yankson continues to influence the process strongly. That is why, in a decade to come (especially relating to style, rhythm, flair, presence), it would be even more apparent what jewels he would have left this younger generation, pearls which will simply never be repeated.

Member of pioneering bands as The Carousel Seven, Western Diamond, and Golden Nuggets, Yankson is a native of Winneba, and alumnus of Takoradi Methodist Ahantaman Secondary Commercial School. He has also lectured and performed and performed in several countries including the  United States, Canada, Belgium, United Kingdom, Germany, and Holland.

He’s recipient of major honors as The Grand Medal of Ghana (2006), and a Kokomba award for Best Composition for his song Yaaba.

For years to come, a legend’s name will forever be etched in the hearts of many. Yankson’s life and times in music stand for the beauty abundant in today’s yearn for good music. That rallying theme is embedded in a resolve that sits at the very heart of a decent conversation on just who brings the party home.

He brought it home on many occassions. Years on, he may have to lie motionless and without life – to observe how fitting or otherwise his final rites would be. This time, the party has to be thrown by Silas and co., maybe Kinaata, maybe Wrowrow, maybe the Fante VanDamme Pappy Kojo.

A Fante god goes home.

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