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Charisma, Talent and an absolute beauty that is so SENA, so DAGADU – AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

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Saturday January 27. Breakthrough Studios, Tesano – Accra.

It is not surprising that Sena Dagadu answers my hello in Pidgin – it is normal about her speech, if you’ve followed her — but it still catches me off-guard, pleasantly so, too. “Wosop! Ebi you be the Enews guy ɛh”? Her smile is sunny, and her handshake, warm. “Yeah”, I return her smile, and swallow what is left of my introduction.

She has just walked off one of three sets in this large first-floor space that houses Pascal AKA’s Breakthrough Studios. In a hall buzzing with constant movement and exchange, she stands out, glorious in colour and charisma. On her jumpsuit are black spots evocative of a jungle cat, and she wears a large yellow scarf over her shoulder. Cowries hang from her dreadlocks, and the gigantic ethnic neckpiece around her neck reaches down to her belly.

Sena DAGADU on the set of her new video. Image: Eben Yanks/ ENEWSGH

“Amake busy small, so adey come”, she says with regret in her eyes, points me to an orange plastic chair, and then rushes back onset. Her first name, screams across the wall behind her in bold green graffiti. There’s a crown on the “E” in “Sena”, and down at the base of the wall, are the words “scare crow”, “Sark”, “original”, “Yo Chale!”, and “Let’s get kickin”. They’re not as big as “Sena”, but they’re legible enough. She nods steadily to heavy drum kicks of the track that now fills the room, and mimes into the video camera swinging to and from her, her face exuding funk and attitude. Directly opposite this first set is a cage sprawling with electrical cables, and fluorescent light. It is where Sarkodie will perform when he arrives in a few minutes. The third set, to Sena’s left, fascinates me immensely –not only is it alive with orange and white patterns (and everything on it; sunglasses, a vase, the sofa, boxes), but assumes a different hue under artificial light. Female dancers are practicing over here, their male counterparts are summersaulting over there, makeup is being dabbed on eager faces, sweat is being wiped off soaked necks, in spite of a big standing fan swaying its head this way, and that way. A creative mess – that is what this is. It is all being steered by AKA, who instructs gently from his seat, or storms up suddenly, bouncing like a hip-hop act, to ginger Sena on. This will go on, I am told, till tomorrow morning.

The bubbly Ghanaian-Hungarian musician, is as hands–on as Pascal himself (who currently ranks among the most influential video directors from these parts), suggesting ideas and angles, joining the crew behind the camera to review shots. “I don’t like not knowing what’s going on”, she divulges to me, when we finally settle in her make-shift dressing room to the back for the chat. She opens a pack containing her lunch, and takes two bites of the chicken on the rice meal, and then packs it away again. She wipes her lips and fingers with tissue, and offers me her full attention.

Sena DAGADU on the set of her new video. Image: Facebook/ SENA

Sena is seldom without a smile: in music videos, during interviews, at concerts, or in pictures, a lasting smile inhabits her lush cheeks and fearless eyes. It is virtually unimaginable to describe her person without listing her smile. Still, when I point out what I think is a pretty obvious relationship between her face and a smile, she is stunned. “Really?”, she asks, an extra tickle in the pitch of her voice, and then laughs. A realization hits her almost instantly nonetheless, about the the fact of my observation: “for one thing, it makes me feel good”, she admits. “I don’t like being angry, I don’t like being upset, I don’t like confrontation, and fights, and things like that…When I see people and they smile at me, it makes me feel good”.

“My normal face is a happy face. It has to be an extreme situation that makes me change my face…maybe concentrating or something like that, but in general, I’m a happy person. I like the things that I do, I enjoy the company of my family and my friends, and I think that it would be as if I’m ungrateful for my life if I don’t smile, so I just try to, you know, make myself and everybody else around me feel better about themselves by giving them a little smile”, she explains further.

I toss another word at her -another noun I think truly encapsulates her character: colour. When she moves, Sena oozes a vibrancy that invigorates everyone and everything around. This word too, ignites a sparkle in the sides of her eyes. “Colour”, she repeats the word, but with the peculiar island inflection that cuddles the “r” at the end. “Without colour, everything will be so dull!”, she emphasizes, stretching “dull” so playfully, even I can’t hold back a chuckle. She continues: “I love colour. I wear, actually, a lot of black, but then, even when I do that, I always have something that will pop a little bit of colour –whether it is lipstick or eye-shadow, or jewellery, or something like that.

“The world is filled with colour: the rainbow, green grass, laterite soil, the sky, you know…everything. It’s the same as the smile. It makes life not just more bearable [but] more interesting, more exciting…I like fashion as well, so, colour coordinating; what goes with what…it’s just fun, you know? Colour is like smiles – it’s just fun.”

IMAGE: Eben Yanks/ ENEWSGH

Because Sena navigates, and excels across multiple genres, she has come to represent variety. Since the start of her career in 2001, whether by herself, or as member of the Hungarian collective, Irie Mafia, she has combined influences from hip-hop, reggae, funk, rock, EDM, soul, jazz, Afrobeats, etc. This rich versatility, she attributes to her lack of “patience”:

“I’m not exactly your most patient kind of character. I do have patience when I have a goal I want to achieve –I can wait for years for it to happen. But in general, I like excitement. I don’t like being dull…if I do something today, I don’t want to do the same thing tomorrow. In my music as well, that, kind of, has a certain play. I like to change my musical styles, even the people that I’m working with, you know, test myself and try different grounds that I haven’t tried before…try to push my boundaries a little bit further. So variety, for me, is normal. It’s like…one you’ve tried something…I might come back to it, but I like to, you know, go across the palette and see what else I can do before I go back to the ones that I’ve tried”.

Ultimately, “World Music” is the umbrella I conclude best encapsulates her craft, because she dabbles in everything. “To be very honest with you, it is very difficult to say that I’m belonging to one genre or not”, she stresses bluntly, “–so I like how you said World Music”.

And when I tease that, as is the case of human families, she might have a favourite son namely, reggae, because of the air of freedom that her music arrives in, she quickly refutes it: “I don’t have a favourite child, and it depends on my mood. Some days, maybe I’ll be driving in town, and the only thing I’ll be listening to on the radio is reggae. Sometimes too, I’ll be very calm by listening to some Classical music, and I can’t listen to, you know, electronic music… It depends. That’s the beauty about music. Every music has its day, every music has its mood and the reason why it was created

“[As] artists, you try to capture a moment in your life and a kind of vibrant frequency, and then that music represents that…and you can’t have the same vibration when you are in a different mind frame. That is why I listen to a lot of kinds of music, because everyday is a different style, everyday is a different feeing in your soul. So maybe, today, I like my hip-hop son, the day after, I go like ma Classical daughter, I go feel ma Jazz niece, and so on and so forth. I don’t have any favourite, I like all kinds of music”.

Still, what is the sonic direction on her new project? I am inclined to ask. It’s going to be different, of course, but it’s not a difference she hasn’t already explored previously, and sees her explore new depths to her creativity: “Since my last album, I started to push myself. Like I said, I like to push my boundaries in production. So I wrote the songs on my last album –and the new stuff that we’re working on –for example, the song that we’re shooting a video to here –are also beats that I produced for myself, so it’s like a new thing that I’m doing, but it’s an old style of music that I’ve always liked – hip-hop…kind of popular music, with a little bit of some Sena eccentricity inside. Because I write the music and the lyrics myself, I’m starting to get a certain character which is my own”. This new sound is hip-hop, but a liberal kind: “I’ll not label it strictly hip-hop, you know, but it’s got elements of that – it’s electronic music, so you’ve got all those hard kicks and, you know, regular 4/8 patterns and 12- bar verses and things like that. So I’m kind of going into this now, but then again, testing my own strength in production and beat making and things like that. So it’s a new exciting thing for me to do, actually”, she tells me.

Another word: Difference. Whereas she constantly dabbles in a variety of melodies, it is nothing like you’ve heard before; how she articulately rides (and marries various rhythms), via Pidgin, English, Patois, and Hungarian –an alternative.

“I guess so”, Sena concurs. “I try not to follow trends for the sake of following trends…I do try to present an alternative to what everybody else is doing by being myself, because there’s nobody in the world like me –there’s only one pɛ.

“Nothing is one-way. If you search, you’ll find; so I try to be part of that crew that presents an alternative.”

Sena’s collaborations in Ghana, over the years, have stayed within a small circle: Reggie Rockstone and VVIP, FOKN Bois M3nsa and Wanlov Da Kuborlor, Worlasi… Most recently, these partnerships have birthed acclaimed joints as “One Life”, and “Skolom”. She reveals though, that she is expanding that list, starting with this new album. Aside Sarkodie, the likes of EL, and Pappy Kojo are both to be expected on the project.

Worlasi, easily Sena’s favourite Ghanaian act currently, makes an appearance in this video though he’s not on the record. In one scene, he sprays a can of graffiti at the RED camera through a glass wall. In another, he joins her in ecstatic bounce. She has often declared her admiration for the “Nukata” man right from when he first launched a body of work. The result of their first partnership (Worlasi’s instructive April 2016 joint, “One Life”), without question, sparked a beautiful artistic relationship, which will guarantee more songs from them in the near future.

In one scene, Worlasi sprays a can of graffiti at the RED camera through a glass wall. In another, he joins her in ecstatic bounce. IMAGE: Eben Yanks/ ENEWSGH

A mutual admiration continues to blossom between them, and Worlasi’s recent recent EP, “Outerlane”, has made things even better:

“The EP I last soak, and really really enjoy, was Worlasi’s Outerlane. It freaked me out. It just completely freaked me out. I was humbled by his artistry, and I gained a whole level of respect for such a young talented artisan in today’s world”.

Consisting 9 songs, the project, like anything he has published over his young glowing career, is both highly unconventional, and widely-praised.

“I was weaked [sic] by his last EP”, Sena reiterates playfully.

Anyway, more words: truth, modesty, knowledge. “I like the fact that you think I represent those things because they’re things that I do strive for”.

On truth, she’s true: “I always try to be true to myself, especially. I do not try to compromise myself. I’ll not do something that I’ll not feel comfortable with – and I try to write my lyrics honestly –experiences that I’ve had, or thoughts that are my own. I don’t like to borrow; I don’t like to sample…I don’t even like to do covers of other people’s stuff. I like to be true to myself”.

On modesty, she’s modest: “I try. I mean, I have my flashy moments and I’m all over the place, but in general terms, I have a lot of respect for people that have guided me in my life. The true people I have respect for are very humble people; they’re very modest people… they continue to work and learn throughout their lives –and I’m talking about people who are in their 80s and even older than that. I respect people who have gone through life; hardships, happy times…everything, and still manage to remain calm and cool, and friendly, and open, and communicative. They’re my idols”.

About knowledge, she holds that it is something that should be sought daily, from whatever situation: “I wasn’t born knowing anything, and I’m still quite young in my life. I think that everyday, there’s something to learn, either from people, or situations, or anything that happens in your life”. From how a video director goes about his work, to the grace in how an ice water seller holds her spine, there’s always something to pick up: “if you want to learn diɛ aa, everyday, you’ll find a situation, at least, which will teach you something”, she’s convinced.

In many ways, Sena reminds you of the ocean –magnificent in its wonder, and bursting with infinite possibility. But it scares her a bit, because it once almost drowned her. She breaks into a nervous laugh when she mentions snakes too, and eyes the ground near her feet, as though there’s one crawling up her leg this very second. “They just freak me out!”

What else? “Not trying…that really dey bore me”, as does the realization, at 60, or 70, that she didn’t explore her full potential. “I try to not be afraid of life, because that one diɛ, no point…then you might as well die”, she sums up.

Ultimately, Sena also typifies an overall “wave mentality”, or a peculiar “Irie vibe”, if you will. “Irie” denotes “good feeling” in Jamaican patios, and she’s a staunch advocate of that. It’s evident in how she exclaims “Oh Yeaah!”, when I utter the term. “I’m all about Irie vibes, I mean, if it’s not fun, then don’t do it. We are here to enjoy life. So if you’re doing something and you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it!”

An intricate puzzle, life is only truly figured out in bits, with each passing day. Our time here, and how we go about navigating it, is a task we must enjoy, whatever the circumstance. A silver lining is what our gaze should perpetually be fixed on, if we must find true meaning over here. “Irie-ness, constantly”, as Sena puts it.

*Sena is author of numerous projects, and has played at destinations all over the world. Her latest album, FEATHERS,  was released in April 2017. Get it here.

 

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Quarps & EUNICE – A #EuNiiQ love story!

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February 7, 2017 –One Airport Square Building (8th Floor)

For a conversation between men to be truly thorough, it must involve prattle about girls. Specifically, in this regard, brother Quarps and I had a gratifying time that evening in my office.

He had heard that I had gone and gotten myself a lover, and I harboured a single question about Eunice, his girlfriend. As we waited for her to join us from work, those issues occupied us.

Now, Quarps Hansen is an astute man, and it is in his nature to offload profundity in passing. Unsurprisingly, the discussion became dense almost immediately. How do you know if someone is specifically “the one”? How soon can you tell if they are? At what point is it permissible to give up on someone?

Soft-spoken and always beaming, the beloved Y FM disc jockey (born Nii Quarcoopome Hansen- Sackey, but also trading by the showbiz alias ‘DJ Portable”) navigated these delicate matters with the depth of one who has been married for 3 decades. On this 20-something’s shoulders rests an old man’s head.

I have always admired Quarps and Eunice for their natural kindness and the overall stability they exude. But no relationship is ever entirely rosy. At some point, that union, and the character of its components will be tested greatly. For instance: how would you take it if your partner were involved in a harrowing accident that leaves her with multiple broken bones at least, and a good chance of her being wheelchair bound for the rest of her life?

The above is hardly a hypothetical situation for Mr. Hansen, for that was his reality several months before our February meeting.

“What if she hadn’t gotten up from that wheelchair?”, the question finally trickled from my lips cautiously –the mere thought of watching a loved one go through such a time causing me to shudder greatly.

“Oh like I go find am romantic pushing am around and tins”, he responded coolly in Pidgin, and then moved on to some other topic as though what he had just said wasn’t a deeply instructive statement which required a moment to properly process.

That answer stopped me dead in my tracks, and for the rest of the evening, I could think of little else. Where does one muster such spirit, for no one really teaches that? I stared at this man, of similar build as me, as though this was our first ever meeting…as though I had not known him for over a decade. Quarps has frequently inspired me for as long as we have known each other, and perpetually insisted that I never give up on my dreams…doing so with so much fervour, you would think they were his own dreams.

But those words hit me hard, and will rest in my heart forever.

Shortly after, Eunice called. She had arrived and was waiting downstairs. We went there to receive her. It was the first time I had seen her since the accident. Attired in a white shirt and a black skirt, she looked nothing like someone who, just a few months earlier, was fighting for her very life. As she smiled, my own cheeks widened too, as did Quarps’.

I observed the lovers hug a casual hug, but because Quarps’ words still played in my mind, it all looked especially meaningful.

More conversation ensued among us. Ample laughter too, and a stroll to the Marina Mall to grab a bite would crown a memorable evening. Over ice cream and a bucket of chicken, Eunice divulged her peculiar perspective of Quarps as soul mate, emphasizing thoughtfulness, principles, and the essence of being spiritually adequate. She also joked about how, in the end, God does send you a man after your own heart and quirky desires (in her case, an Adisadel College alumnus, and someone who had worked at the Kakum National Park). Like Quarps, she submitted a powerful phrase which would cause me to nod the slow nod which accompanies learning something deeply insightful. Consisting just three words, that phrase completed a moving anecdote she recorded while she was still on admission. Everybody who had come to see her had worn a specific look of panic and grief in their eyes due to what they saw…well, except Quarps, who simply stood before him unruffled.  “But Quarps though…”. No other words followed, but the import was clearly gotten. As she spoke these words, she turned to look at this man, whom God had made for her precisely. She was smiling, but there was an intensity about her eyes, and veins became pronounced on her forehead and temple –like one who was fighting back the urge to shed tears.

No matter what situation you find yourself in, the fairy tale is what you decide it is.

On December 30, in a blissful ceremony in Tema, they pair said “I do” to each other, in the presence of hundreds who have witnessed their inspiring love bloom. Shimmering in white, bride and groom danced and danced and danced, into the very darkness of the happy evening –the crook of their arms serving as preferred shelter for each other. It had taken over a decade for this moment to materialise, but it was finally here, and was simply magnificent to behold.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Aseda

*Dance floor

*Kupe

*Poison feat Gatdoe

*Sponsor

*Date Ur Fada

*Maame Hw3

*Hustle feat Brella

*Haters Anthem

*Turn on the Light

*Shade

*Twerk

*Ediot

*Scream

*Real

*Confusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new era!  

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

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

Watch “Mighty Jesus” below: 

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Events & Places

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

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Friday December 1, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EBONY

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

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

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

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

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

KiDi. IMAGE/ EIB

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

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

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

Edem. IMAGE: Facebook/ EDEM

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

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

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

 

See more images courtesy EIB & ZYLOFON:

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For persons like Appiah, this is valid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It continued:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As usual, demand is impressive, he says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers! To a people’s gin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Despite her caution, she also has appetite for risk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She makes a point about why the protection is needed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the invasion doesn’t appear peculiar to Ghana.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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