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STUPID SONGS: How Bez and Cobhams predicted One Corner and Penalty

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By  Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

“Somebody stepped into the studio and said he wanted to do a stupid song because Nigerians really like stupid songs.”

That was Bez speaking to an interviewer in 2013, in response to a question about his 2011 single ‘That Stupid Song’.

He continued: “Cobhams was like: ‘Ha, which kind of stupid do you want to do now?’ Then, he started thinking in a more creative way and the guy said: ‘No, I don’t want all those oyinbo kind of songs. I want a proper stupid song.’ At that moment, the idea came to Cobhams to create a song that was a mixture of different songs that we sang back in the day.”

‘That Stupid Song’ became a hit, perhaps the biggest of Bez’s career. Just under a half-decade later, two songs in that mould are causing quite a ripple across West Africa. But where Bez and Cobhams were somewhat condescending to their source material and fellow citizens, the singers of these other songs appear committed.

In December last year, Fuji pop artist Small Doctor released the song by which he would almost certainly be remembered by. ‘Penalty’ started small, becoming a hit on the streets, then, months later, wending its way to nearly everyone’s playlist in Lagos. It crossed the city’s famed Island-Mainland divide, becoming as likely to be played on the stereo of a rickety danfo as at a shindig hosted by an upscale hangout spot in Victoria Island.

Over in Ghana, a similar thing happened. Social media users were surprised to see videos with people ostensibly busy at some task and then abandoning those tasks for some frenetic humping when a particular song comes on. The One Corner videos had become popular before many realised the ridiculousness was a dance move to a song made by a previously unknown artist named Pataapa. Like Small Doctor, Pataapa had some regional fame before the big hit. Like ‘Penalty’, ‘One Corner’ was met curiosity, condemnation and, finally, acceptance.

Some of the condemnation remains in both cases—but the success, in terms of popularity, of either song is no longer in doubt. The success of ‘Penalty’ led Small Doctor’s team to release a colourful video for the song several months after its release. For its part, ‘One Corner’ has swept Ghana, earning Pataapa a spot across media platforms and a performance at the album launch for Sarkodie’s The Highest. Videos showing Nigerian acts Reekado Banks and Falz listening to ‘One Corner’ have turned up online, with the former going at it with a chair. Other celebrities have joined in, and Pataapa is reportedly getting ready for international concerts.

‘Penalty’ has no real meaning. Writing for this platform, Kayode Faniyi called the song “a hot mess, a dunghill…an absurdity”. The song makes no claim to depth. From saying someone has conjured a throw-in out of a penalty, a football metaphor, Small Doctor goes through lines taken from old juju songs and the soundtrack of a TV show. When he takes a song from the childhood of a generation of Nigerians he proves what one might, with the benefit of hindsight, call the Bez-Cobhams theory: A truly stupid song should employ childhood songs.

Pataapa does that and more. His ‘One Corner’ is just as meaningless as ‘Penalty’, consisting of all sorts of things stapled by drums on the chorus. As he has said, “I create my own French”—a sentiment close in spirit to Small Doctor’s claim that anything can be put into a song.

“The lyrics consist of mostly rhymes we sang as kids,” music journalist Gabriel Myers Hansen says of Pataapa’s hit, “including what to do when you come upon a traffic light. Therefore, he says absolutely nothing.” People dancing to both songs at concerts and on the streets do not care for meaning. As Faniyi says the “audience seems preoccupied with dance, which means sound is primary”.

That preoccupation is a major feature of certain strains of pop music, a genre so democratic that popularity—not edification, not cleverness and certainly not art—is its target. Add the suggestion of sex to danceability and you might arrive at the source of the appeal of ‘One Corner’.

The relationship between familiarity and pop music success is one plausible reason these songs have become hits and further confirmation of Cobhams’ ‘stupid method’ all those years ago.

In Song Machine, John Seabrook’s 2015 book on the music industry, the writer quotes Guy Zapoleon, a US radio consultant: “There’s an old adage that you can only do research on people who are already familiar with the song.”

“Zapoleon, “ writes Seabrook, “refers to this as the “rule of three”—you have to hear a song three times before you know if you like it or not.” Neither Cobhams-Bez nor Small Doctor-Pataapa might be aware of Zapoleon’s rule, but ‘That Stupid Song’, ‘Penalty’ and ‘One Corner’ capture its essence. There is some sense in tapping into patterns pre-formed in the listener’s mind over years.

The most important difference between ‘That Stupid Song’ and its successors is class-related. Patapaa and Small Doctor, both of whom are from working class backgrounds, would hardly call those songs of old stupid. Their identification with those songs is perhaps why their own songs have crossed class lines: those from the working class can immediately access the singers’ sincerity; those from a higher class join in ironically. Speaking broadly, for this latter set, enjoying ‘One Corner’ or ‘Penalty’ is a little like slumming. And because ‘That Stupid Song’ was conceived with a winking awareness, it could be loved only by the relatively upper crust. Like Bez and Cobhams, these listeners were in on the joke.

Cobhams “created [the] music almost immediately,” said Bez in that interview from four years ago. “Then, I started giving him the different songs that we sang and so we added some things and removed some.”

“It was amazing,” he concluded. Indeed, ignorance might be bliss—but making a hit from innocence while calling it stupid deserves to be called amazing. Maybe.

This article was first published on Music in Africa.

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NANA YAA ASABEA: How To Lose A Man In Three Simple Steps

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Before you start assuming the worst of me, let me first say that I’m not condoning unnecessary break ups amongst couples. Every relationship oriented article/story is in usually in two phases, i.e. negative and positive. So I’d humbly advice that you choose the right angle of understanding from this and apply to your daily lives.

So now, how would you define a man? I’d say they are the most complicated, interesting, indecisive, extremely annoying yet sweetest baby-like species God ever created. Majority of them come with the same old regular and expected packages and labels, i.e. player, cheat, insensitive, selfish, untrustworthy (who form the official association of “team hit and run”)… you know the list is endless; the remaining minority constitute the decent, serious minded, selfless, caring and “ready-to commit” kind of dudes who would go to any length to fight, defend and keep the woman they love. So ladies, before you take the three easy steps below into consideration, make sure you know they criteria your

Okay enough of the running in circles! If you happen to find yourself in some sort of entangled thingy with a man and you’re looking for a way for him to end it all with you, just observe the steps below:

  1. DON’T BE HIS PEACE, JUST NAG CONTINUOUSLY OVER EVERYTHING nagging nagging nagging! Would that b*** ever stop? I mean that’s one thing God blessed all women with; to be natural nags but once it exceeds the dosage required for every man, they begin to withdraw and break communication. Men always need their peace even when they’re doing the most unfair things to their women. A man would disrespectfully cheat on his woman in her face and would still expect there to be smiles at home. Unnecessary and continuous nagging is the easiest way to kill man’s joy and drive him away from you. So if you wanna lose that man by your side and you’re reading this, just keep the unnecessary nags coming in.

 

  1. TELL LIES IN HIS FACE LIKE YOU’RE ALLERGIC TO THE TRUTH – A man’s EGO is as important to him as his money and in as much as most men aren’t speakers and doers of the truth, they despise the idea of being lied to. Telling lies to a man is the easiest way to bruise his EGO and once that’s done without making an attempt to make him feel better but is rather forced to swallow down huge chunks of lies without remorse, he’ll walk away without a trace. Men hate to be continuously lied to!

 

  1. STOP GIVING HIM YOUR ATTENTION AND COUNT HIM AN UNPRODUCTIVE MEMBER OF YOUR LIFE – Men oh Men! They’re equal to huge adult sized babies walking around like they got it all figured out! But truth is they don’t. They always love to feel important and play the role key advisors in the lives of their women (calling the shots) If you’re looking for a way to have your man walk out of your life, stop giving him the regular attention as a partner and treat him like a total stranger. Reduce the number of calls from daily to weekly or even monthly (in worst cases), air his calls, and don’t involve him in the process of any important situation in your life. Reduce communication to just random text messages and just make sure those are straight cold texts. Once this is done, they’d begin to slowly adapt to the situation and walk away because they’ve been reduced to unproductive personalities in your love life (neither adding nor subtracting nothing).

 

If you practice these amongst others and your man continues to stay by your side… he’s a keeper!

BY: Nana Yaa Asabea

If you have any other points besides these, kindly share with me below or via instagram: @naya_233// email: nayascolumn@gmail.com// facebook: Nana Yaa Asabea

 

 

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NAYA’S COLUMN: “I Sponsored My Wedding”

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I met this guy a couple years back and fell miserably in love with him. Regardless of the differences in our societal status, I still made sure Duke was comfortable in my company.

Soon, I introduced him to friends and family and ensured he was accepted by them all; not that I cared about their opinion but I just wanted my Duke to feel accepted and more at ease. I come from a very affluent background where everything was all about class and the ‘prim and proper’ codes of life but Duke on the other hand was from the third class society who had little or nothing to offer. My dad didn’t want me messing with any impoverished “mole-mole” boy (riff-raff) whose only agenda would be to get me pregnant without giving me the future tag (wedding ring) first so; I always ensured that Duke upgraded his appearance at least a class higher to win my parents approval. I mean, he had a job which earned him GHC 1000 a month so it wasn’t that bad.

We dated for close to three (3) years when I asked Duke when he intended on making me his wife. “Lina, you would have to give me some time to gather enough money so I can put the necessary arrangements in place to enable me walk you down the aisle.” He said, “Looking at the kind of family you’re from, I want to be able to be a good position to make you comfortable.” This was nothing but an excuse Naya. For some reasons I knew Duke was only with me because of my money but I wasn’t perturbed about that; I only wanted to be a ‘Mrs.’ and since I was already clocking 30, I felt I had no option but to rush it all out. My closest friends were all married and that put more than enough pressure on me to settle down immediately.

After a continuous discussion with Duke about the subject of marriage, he finally agreed under the condition that, I paid for all the wedding and honeymoon expenses to which I agreed; after all, “you know say money no be problem.” I gave Duke close to GHC 100,000 to create the fairy tale wedding (without the knowledge of my parents) I’ve always dreamed of.  Just like I presumed, the ceremony became the talk of the town and drove several ladies to envy! Our post wedding photos were the bomb and honestly caused quite a stir on social media for while. Yes! I was officially a married woman, a proud Mrs. Gyamfi. We moved to our newly built three (3) bedroom house which was given to us as a gift from my father but that was where reality began to dawn on me. Duke suddenly grew wings and never even tried to communicate with me effectively. He developed a new hobby of staying out till midnight before coming home to me, He abused me physically a lot of times and whenever I stood up for myself, he would make an attempt to leave our home for good. I no longer have a husband, I now have a roommate who never ceases to remind me of how desperate I was for marriage and how he only agreed to it out of sympathy… I’m totally shattered Naya because he keeps on getting worse.

In the name of love I sponsored my own wedding to be only treated like a non-entity! How do I get out of this?

From Facebook User: Lina (actual name withheld)

By: Nana Yaa Asabea

Kindly drop your views below or send to nayascolumn@gmail.com// instagram: @naya_233// Facebook: Nana Yaa Asabea

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John Akomfrah: ‘Progress can cause profound suffering’ – GUARDIAN!

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John Akomfrah grew up in the 1960s, in the shadow of Battersea power station in south London. As a child, he remembers “feeling as if I was enveloped in something whenever I played on the street. You could sense it in the air, you felt it and saw it, whatever was emanating from the huge chimneys. We were being poisoned as we played, but no one spoke about it. The conversations in the pub tended to be about football rather than carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Fifty years on, the local has become the global. Akomfrah’s latest art work, Purple, is an immersive, six-channel video installation that attempts to evoke the incremental effects of climate change on our planet. Shot in 10 countries and drawing on archive footage, spoken word and music alongside often epic shots of contemporary landscapes that have been altered by global warming and rising temperatures, Purple eschews a linear narrative for an almost overwhelming montage of imagery and sound.

Like all of Akomfrah’s work, it requires the viewer to surrender to sensory overload, while remaining alert to the often oblique connections being made throughout. “I kept thinking back, while making this work, to the local, working-class community I grew up in and how innocent we were in terms of trusting authority. One of the complex questions I am asking is about the relationship between our locality and the bigger issue of how we belong on the planet. Who can we trust with our collective future?”

Akomfrah’s ambition is nothing less than epic, the timespan of Purple stretching from the industrial age (images of factories, mills, machines and mass employment) to the digital revolution and beyond (the possibilities promised by biotech research, artificial intelligence and genetics). The looming threat of ecological disaster is implicit throughout, most ominously in the recurring appearance of lone, white-coated, hooded figures who gaze silently at landscapes threatened or already blighted by human progress.

“The kind of work I make is essentially time-based,” says Akomfrah, who is working on a new film project in New Orleans. “For that reason alone, I felt I had to widen my focus to take in the bigger narrative we are now all caught up in. Once you become aware of the implications of climate change for future generations, it is almost as if you have to respond. But I’m not a scientist or a campaigner, I’m an artist. I’m interested in the philosophy of climate change rather than the hard science.”

More than once, Akomfrah describes Purple as “a response to Anthropocene”, the term coined by scientists for the geological age in which we are now living, a period defined by the influence of manmade activity on climate and the environment. A major source of inspiration for Purple is a 2013 book called Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World. Written by Timothy Morton, an English academic, it posits the idea that global warming is the most dramatic illustration of a “hyperobject” – an entity of such vast temporal and spatial dimensions that it baffles our traditional ways of thinking about it and, by extension, doing something about it.

In a perhaps unconscious way, Akomfrah’s overwhelming film evokes that very dilemma: our apparent helplessness as individuals in the face of rising sea levels and temperatures, droughts and melting icecaps. Against a stirring contemporary classical soundtrack, his film begins by summoning up the momentum of industrial England, a world of mass production that signals – but is utterly unlike – the hyper-reality of contemporary globalism and digital interconnectivity.

“I’m fascinated by the strange interregnum that stretches from the post-industrial to the digital present,” Akomfrah explains. “Right now, as I speak to you, I am looking at the outlines of oil refineries and sugar factories on the horizon. They are still there, still pumping out their poisons, but they seem to belong to a different age. Their numbers have dwindled, but they still have an impact on the environment and they still speak of a history of technology and exploitation. They cast a long shadow.”

This notion of the past – and, in particular, the colonial past – haunting the present is another recurring theme in Akomfrah’s work. It is there in the raw, turbulent montage of images and sound that marked his debut film, Handsworth Songs, which he made in 1986 as part of the Black Audio Film Collective. Its subject was the race riots in London and Birmingham the previous year and, in its blending of archive footage, still photos and newsreel, it set the tone for much of what was to follow, creating a formal signature known as bricolage, the creation of a new work from the layering and juxtaposition of various existing sources.

Akomfrah, who is of Ghanaian parentage, grew up in Britain and was influenced by the late Stuart Hall, arguably this country’s most influential black academic and cultural theorist. Hall’s writings on memory, time and identity in the wake of colonialism inform Akomfrah’s earlier films and he remains an abiding, if not so obvious, presence on Purple. “In a way, this is a person of colour’s response to the Anthropocene and climate change, which is not just a white, European fixation, though it is often presented that way. When I stand on a street in Accra, I can feel that it is a city that is literally at boiling point. It is way hotter than it was in the 1960s or even the 1980s. We need to start looking at climate change in radically different ways, not just as part of a western-based development narrative. It’s a pan-African concern of great urgency, but how long it will take people to see it as such is a whole other problem.”

In 1989, Akomfrah had what he calls “a major turning point”, when he travelled to Alaska to make a documentary for the BBC about the Exxon Valdez oil spill and its disastrous impact on the Alaskan ecosystem. “The destruction of the livelihoods of the Inuit community immediately resounded with me because it recalled the worst excesses of colonial exploitation. It felt like I was in a post-colonial space that was very much haunted by the past.”

In 2015, Akomfrah’s three-screen film installation, Vertigo Sea, marked another turning point, a shift in tone and scale that signalled the grand ambition of Purple. In contrasting the brutality of the whaling industry with the experience of generations of migrants who crossed the sea out of necessity in search of a better life, he was struck, he says, “by the realisation that everything overlaps at some profound level, that the great shifts in human progress that are made possible by technology can also cause the profoundest destruction and suffering”.

All these big themes are embedded in Purple, but may remain elusive to those unfamiliar with the tropes of conceptual art and experimental, non-narrative film-making. I was baffled, for instance, by recurring appearances of those mysterious silent figures who stand mute before often elemental landscapes on Alaska, Greenland and Skye. “In a very real way, I’m present in the film. I’m the figure in the brown shirt who gets rained on,” says Akomfrah, laughing. “It sounds a bit mystical, but for me everything starts with place. Wherever we filmed, it began with me asking the landscape the same question: ‘What can you tell me about the nature of climate change?’ As an artist and film-maker, I’m dependent on the responses I get from the environment.”

Is he aware, given the often bitterly contested nature of the public climate change debate, that a multiscreen, non-narrative conceptual art film that provides no answers may be greeted by a degree of scepticism, if not outright dismissal, from those on both sides demanding hard facts and evidence? “Well, I’m an artist. I make work for a gallery. I’m not attempting to make a science documentary. I’m coming at it from a different perspective by asking the question: what is philosophically, ethically and morally at stake here if we continue on this course? I don’t think you need to be licensed by the scientific community to ask that sort of question about the times we live in or to reflect on the anxiety many of us feel about the future of the planet. My son is old enough to become a father. On a purely personal level, it certainly felt like the right time for me as an artist to be asking these questions.”

Purple is exhibited from 6 Oct to 7 Jan at the Curve, Barbican, London.

 

Source: Guardian

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REVIEW: Date Ur Fada – Ebony

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Artist: Ebony

Song: Date Ur Fada

Label, Year: Rufftown, 2017

 

The new single from Ebony continues her documentation of the sexual terrain.

On ‘Sponsor’, she was caught between an older man with money and one of those “broke guys” with “lots of energy”. She was the one you can’t let go because of what she does in the bedroom on ‘Poison’. Those songs were controversial mostly because of her image as a sexually confident young woman. With ‘Date Ur Fada’, she is almost wilfully seeking controversy with her lyrics. Already, there are complaints: a relationship counsellor has called her “a disgrace to femininity.”

Perhaps no publicity is bad publicity. And Ebony has herself said her image is no show. “The bad girl brand people see out there is a true representation of me,” she has said. “This is how I have been even before coming into the limelight.”

On other songs, Ebony has been sultry and inviting; she is threatening on ‘Date Ur Fada’. Her opening line—“If you break my heart, I go date your father!”—is dire and direct. Break my heart, she says, and I’ll break up your family.

That’s a rather scandalous sentiment to say aloud. But Ebony’s music is crafted for the confessional age of social media: Her lyrics are salacious; her songs are very danceable; her attitude is incredibly sassy. Ebony is singing songs as much as she’s providing viral content.

This, of course, might lead to her being dismissed as all show, but she’s a talented pop act. While it’s unclear if her songs are written by someone else, she has proven to be a decent interpreter of those lyrics. Though she came on clearly claiming dancehall music on her first single ‘Dancefloor’, she has since shown that her voice is a flexible instrument fitting for the broad field of pop.

Because Ghanaian pop is thought to be conservative, at least compared to Nigerian pop, Ebony might be thought to be quite the alien in her country. Yet, Ghanaian pop has seen its share of sexually bold women in pop, the most prominent in recent times was perhaps MzBel.

Yet the current female pop stars—BeccaEfya to name two—are more prone to talking love and heartbreak or, like, Sister Deborah, cradling crass lyrics in comedy. Becca served some sass on ‘Na Wash’. But she was more or less the commentator. She was watching others. Ebony is both narrator and subject in her videos. Her sass is not limited to her words. Even the production on ‘Date Ur Fada’, heavily percussive, is suggestive.

As a result her popular peers in the contemporary moment are not in Ghana but in Nigeria. On ‘Kupe’, her best song, she cleverly references Davido’s ‘Aiye’—“Me I no like Versace, and I no like designer,” she says—but her directly sexual lyrics elects her to the Tiwa Savage and Seyi Shaysorority.

Ebony is bolder than both on ‘Date Ur Fada’. (It is almost unimaginable to think of either Nigerian act singing these words on a single: “If you break my heart I go date your father. You gonna be my son; you go call me your mother.”) Despite their sexual lyrics, Tiwa Savage and Seyi Shay are vendors of monogamy. Ebony talks taboo, and convincingly. Her latest single will draw flak. It will also draw fans.

Buy ‘Date Ur Fada’ on iTunes

Credit: Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

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NANA YAA ASABEA: Rejected By The Church For Looking Too “Poor”

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If God loves us all, so why can’t the church do same?

“Who’s that weird looking boy?” I could hear a lady ask another as soon as I took a seat on the third row while the sermon was on-going. I could feel hundreds of eyeballs rolling towards my direction as I made way for the backseat on that row, which somehow became my permanent seat. 

After suffering a long period of joblessness, losing my father’s fortune to his greedy family and managing the pain of mysteriously losing both parents to a car crash, I decided to get closer to God, surrender it all to Him and be a part of His kingdom to see if there would be a change. I’ve learnt from the Bible that, whenever God wanted to bless His people, he placed His spirit in humans to become the source of help for those in dire need; so that motivated me the most to become a member of God’s family on earth (the church). I never owned good clothes nor had a place of my own. I moved from one uncompleted building to the other just to find a place to lay my head. Naya, I lived a very pathetic and sorrowful life and severally attempted to end it all but was always rescued by unknown strangers.

The ushers in the church I joined, wouldn’t even dare smile at me whenever I walked in but would jump to any other person who wasn’t me! Why would God’s own people reject their own? Wasn’t I human enough? Perhaps the church now relates to its members according to their class and status. I always had a fixed amount for my weekly offertory and my tithes never went beyond 3ghc (though I had no job). I prayed to God for a job so I can be a kingdom financier who will support projects in His name, take care of many less privileged people and sponsor the education of hundreds of students. When the rich men walked up to the altar to drop their offerings I could see smiles beaming from all angles in the auditorium. Whenever I attempted to get familiar with any of the members, some would quickly shun me while others would pretend to be enjoying my company until they had to use the “washroom of no return.” Perhaps it was the odor from my clothes or semi-unkempt nature of my hair or perhaps I just wasn’t qualified to be a member of the house of worship. The only person who sort of accepted me was the head pastor; whenever he saw me lingering around the auditorium after church, He would approach me, pray with me and give me some money for upkeep which could sustain me for about two (2) weeks. Yes Naya, fifty (50) Ghana cedis for two weeks and this generosity only happened once every month. As for the junior pastors, church members and even the main Osofo Maame (pastor’s wife), I was but a nuisance to them.

After a sermon one Sunday, the pastor urged us to be a part of any organization/department within the church so as to become devoted kingdom workers to which we all agreed. To my utmost disappointment, the choir rejected me, the drama group denied me entry and even the youth fellowship painfully shunned me. Aye! The poor man indeed has no friends. That wasn’t even the worst to happen to me; I joined the group of visitors waiting to speak to the pastor after church one Sunday. After waiting for nearly two (2) hours, I was almost next in line when I was told by the usher that the pastor was tired and didn’t want to see anyone from that point. I wouldn’t have included this if it was the first time it was happening Naya, that was the tenth (10th) time in row. Maybe I had no offering to drop at his feet and perhaps he had had enough of giving out to me…no money, no blessings and favor in the sight of men, I guessed. I looked up to the heavens and quickly left the premises before anyone could see me cry. I left the church and joined several others later but the story didn’t get any better.  

I gave up going to church altogether but still kept my faith intact and prayed to God within my confines. Things somehow turned around for me, I could now afford a home, good clothes and my bank account got quite fat as well after five (5) years. I was pushed by my colleagues to start going to church again and my oh my! I was treated like a king! I received Smiles from every corner and people walking up to me after service in the quest of getting to know me. What a world we live in! Why would the people of God reject their own in the first place? If Jesus came for all, why can’t we the followers of Christ be for all and accept all? I was initially shunned because I looked poor and dirty so that indirectly disqualified me from fitting in. I no longer have the desire to be a part of any church no more. I’d rather pray from my house and share my tithes among the needy on the streets Naya! We all are but hypocrites on this earth. There’s too much discrimination in the church and due to this, souls are being lost to darkness. The church must fix itself now!”

From facebook user:  Randy (actual name withheld)

By: Nana Yaa Asabea

Dear readers, what can you say to this? Share with me via nayascolumn@gmail.com// instagram: @naya_233// facebook: Nana Yaa Asabea or leave your comments below.



                                                  

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London through Ghanaian eyes – Elizabeth Ohene

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On a short visit to London, I have been looking at the city with a fresh eye.

For 19 years, the UK capital was what I called home. It was kind to me when I arrived here suddenly, uninvited, and I learned to love it.

There were certain idiosyncrasies that I confess I never got used to, but London grew on me.

I went back to Ghana 17 years ago and during that period I have visited London quite regularly.

This time around, I have returned after more than a year and this may explain why I am noticing certain things I might not otherwise have done.

 

‘Professional pallbearers’

There seems to be so many people smoking on the streets and on doorsteps. If I were a new reporter in town I might have named it: London, the smoking city.

I reminded myself that anti-smoking laws have been tightened and the smokers are obviously having a hard time.

In Ghana’s capital Accra, smoking of cigarettes has simply lost its appeal. You could be on the streets of Accra all day and not see a single person smoking, apart from obvious “tourist types”.

 

London streets are narrow, they have always been, but they look even narrower and I wondered how I drove in this city and on the wrong side as well.

On the narrow streets, they have managed to carve out cycling lanes. I simply marvel at how the London bus drivers navigate their way through the city.

I came upon a funeral cortege in north London, the procession consisted of probably 15 people, apart from the professional pallbearers.

In Ghana, funeral corteges are made up of hundreds of people. Yes, yes, some of the things I never got used to like the quiet understated funerals.

I have been in despair about our loud, and extravagant funerals and here I am, thinking it is worth mentioning that a funeral cortege had 15 people in it.

 

City of sanctuary

I went to what used to be my local supermarket in north London and there on the shelves were Star and Gulder beers and Guinness and Malta Guinness.

I took a second look and noticed they were imported from Nigeria. The Nigerian population in town must be more powerful economically than I had thought.

The natives themselves have discovered coconut in a big way. Coconut water is the latest fad in town.

Apparently, London has overtaken New York and Los Angeles as the largest coconut drinking city in the world, and the UK comes third after the US and Brazil.

It is being sold here as having truly magical powers, as a cure for hangover and as a diet aid.

Drinks purporting to be coconut seem to be available everywhere and people are prepared to pay very fancy prices for them.

Even though I have never been entrepreneurial in outlook, I suddenly had images of exporting planeloads of truly fresh coconuts from Ghana to London.

This, after all, is the city that took me in when I needed sanctuary.

I had left Ghana in a hurry when an announcement came on the radio that I should report to a military barracks.

Yes, those were the days of coups and military rule in Ghana; but that is an old story. These days, we are a shining example of a stable democracy on the continent.

All the same, I shall never forget the place that gave me sanctuary, and I feel the least I can do is provide Londoners with real coconut water because much of what is being drunk here cannot qualify for it.

In most street corners in Ghana, you can find the real thing and it is cut open for you whilst you wait.

 

Brexit confusion

Then there is what the UK is in the headlines for these days: Brexit. Journalists and politicians are fixated about it.

The old arguments about the UK’s place in Europe that had contributed to the undoing of two Conservative prime ministers during my time, Margaret Thatcher and John Major, had finally done it for David Cameron.

Last year, the UK voted to leave the European Union and I get the impression that it is a case of needing to be careful what you pray for, as you might just get it.

I tried to listen to some of the endless discussions on Brexit and I confess I could not understand them and I gave up.

Image copyright. GETTY IMAGES

I decided to concentrate on the gardens, parks and pavements that make London a truly attractive city.

Workmen are digging up the streets again and the water company explains that they are lining the water pipes to prevent future leaks.

I saw a notice on a lamp post that said the council had received a planning application from someone who wanted to build a porch and if those on the street had opinions or objections, they were invited to a hearing.

A 14-storey apartment building is currently going up next door to my home in Accra. There had been no information from the city authorities that something so dramatic and life-changing was going to take place on my street.

Then there is the icing on the cake: The ease of walking and taking buses and trains in London.

It all made me realise that I had almost forgotten the things I had grown to love and which makes London a place to come back to over and over again.

 

Source: Elizabeth Ohene/ BBC

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