Tribute: “Super OD” Brought Happiness To Many Homes.

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The death of veteran actor and comedian, Asonaba Kweku Darko, known by many as “Super O. D.” was reported on Tuesday 12th February, 2018 at the Agona Swedru Government Hospital in the Central Region. He was 82 years.

The actor/comedian’s peerless screen performances brought torrents of happiness to many homes. His side-splitting jokes- which he got from his mother, known as ‘Jack Johnson’- earned was his endearing charm.

Super OD, who stumbled on acting by accident had always nurtured a dream of becoming a policeman. “Becoming a policeman had always been my wish and therefore there could not have been any better deal for me than this.”

But, twice he was rejected due to his lack of formal education, attributed to the early death of his father and his mother’s dire economic situation. His earlier job as a Native Authority Policeman (Ahenfie Police) in 1958 wasn’t enough guarantee into the police force.

In need of a trade, Super OD became a driver’s mate, acquiring of a driver’s license after six years of apprenticeship. He gained employment as a taxi driver. He however, lost that job after a while. That loss was a turning point in his life. It marked his entry into acting, which began whiles lodging with a friend at Labadi and working as a labourer for the company constructing the Cantonment Police Station.

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It was around that time that the ‘Appiah Agyekum Concert Party’ came to Labadi to perform. He joined the band as a backing vocalist. Sharing jokes during performances, Super OD soon realized his popularity was soaring. He began performing with different concert groups including Akwasi Effah’s Band, Happy Stars, Akomanyi’s Guitar Band and Oppong Kyekyeku Guitar Band which he stuck with.

Realizing the band owner was given them a raw deal, all the members of the Oppong Kyekyeku Band resigned from the band, leading to the formation of the S.K Oppong Drama Group. The group, comprising S.K Oppong, Super OD, Frimpong Manso, Fred Addae, Beatrice ‘Bea’ Kissi and Akua Boahemaa, the group became the resident drama group of the African Brothers Band led by highlife legend Nana Ampadu in the 1960s. It was uncommon for highlife bands of the 70s to have concert party groups attached to them. The concert party groups (theatre groups) acted as opening acts for the band during tours by staging sketches to entertain the audience.

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The group’s move from the stage to television happened during a performance of ‘Aku Sika’, a play by playwright Prof. Martin Owusu. A director at the state owned broadcaster (GBC) was thrilled by their performance. That led to the creation of the TV series ‘Akan Drama’ on GBC TV. The group’s name was changed from ‘Oppong Drama Group’ to ‘Osofo Dadzie’ Group (Pastor Dadzie) on the recommendation of the script writer of the series director, Joris Wartenberg.

Between the late 80s to the mid-90s, Super OD and members of Osofo Dadzie educated and entertained millions of Ghanaians through their enacted of real life situations geared mostly towards shaping morals of the citizenry. Those were the days when TV was a luxury and owned by the rich within the community. Whenever it was time for Osofo Dadzie, the homes of those with TV became a convergence point for people in the neighborhood.

Remembered for his stellar acting along with Kwadwo Kwakye and Fred Addae and his famous phrase: ‘This is fantastic’. (This phrase has been immortalized by M3nsa on his song “Kelewele Pimping”).

Despite his many memorable performance, one scene had stuck in my mind all these years. It was a scene in a movie where Super OD was sent to deliver a message to someone. As a custom, he was served water (ice water he preferred). Realizing how uncouth his slurping was, he turned to the lady who had served him the water and as an apology said ‘I am from far away’.

Super OD’s talent wasn’t only reserved for TV. His stellar performances led to him starring in movies like ‘Double Trouble’, ‘Crossfire’, all produced by HM Films. The movies further enhanced his status as a talented actor.

Super OD retired backed to his hometown of Abodom in the Agona Swedru District until his death. If you ever hear the assertion that Fantes are comedians, know that Super ODs exceptional performances helped in entrenching this erroneous notion.

May the man who brings joy to many be forever remembered.

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M.anifest Became Ralph Ellison On ‘Invisible Man’

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On September 8 2016, rapper M.anifest released his fifth studio album, ‘’Nowhere Cool’’. Events surrounding the release of the album helped elevate ‘’Nowhere Cool’’ to the level of ‘most anticipated album’ for one key reason: curiosity following his battle with Sarkodie.

Last year, June 30th, M.anifest overtly called out Sarkodie, arguably Ghana’s best musical export in the last decade on ‘god MC’; a diss song that earned M.anifest both national attention and new fans. ‘god MC’ was considered by fans of Sarkodie as an act of drawing a line in the sand, with M.anifest assuming the crown as Sarkodie’s chief nemesis.

On the song ‘’god MC’’, he hinted: ‘Nowhere Cool is a game changer’. The collection of short stories (of the same name) by renowned author and poet Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo inspired ‘’Nowhere Cool’’, the album. The novel recounts the journey of a young woman who left the shores of Ghana for a better life in the US; but soon realized that, the good life she dreamt of wasn’t going to come on a platter. She began to miss home (Ghana).

The story of the protagonist of ‘’Nowhere Cool’’ (the novel) mirrors in part, the story of M.anifest- a Ghanaian who went to the US for studies and discovered his passion for music. But soon realized it’s tough to crack through the American music market and life out there is tougher than he had imagined. As he disclosed in an interview following the release of the album, he identified with the story told by Ama Ata Aidoo.

The 14 track album is a conceptualized work hinged together by the themes of life. ‘Nowhere Cool’ is a pidgin slang that translate as ‘It’s Tough Out Here’. This notion is heavily reflected on the songs littered across the 55 minutes long album.

Love, in all its shade is spoken about on songs like ‘Sugar’, ‘Cupid Bow’, ‘Goodbye’, ‘Simple Love’. On the hook of ‘Sugar’, Brymo described the state of love as it exist in present time as a transactional deal in the lyrics: ‘’drop me the paycheck, make we fuck’’ and ‘’affection for favour na ein we dey talk’.

Life and its swings are touched on ‘Hand Dey Go, Hand Dey Come’, ‘Nowhere Cool’ and ‘Rich People’s Problem’. On ‘Bear’, ‘Damn You Rafiki’ and ‘Ozymandias’, M.anifest went from bearing his credentials to asking the real question about power, greatness and loss on ‘’Ozymandias’’: ‘Have you seen a statue that gives command?’, a song inspired by the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem of the same name.

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One song that placed the album’s title in context is found on the second track of the album. Tucked neatly between the album opener ‘’Nowhere Cool’’ and the ebullient, horn driven ‘’Bear’’, produced by Drvmroll, ‘’Invisible’’ is a demonstration of his incredible skills in social observation.

M.anifest is a politically ‘woke’ artist. (Not surprising considering his background). He, however isn’t your political artist. Unlike his fellow compatriots like Wanlov and M3nsa (either as individual artists or as a duo FOKN Bois) and Blitz The Ambassador who are very vocal in expressing their socio- political opinions, M.anifest tuck his views in the lyrics of songs as exhibited on ‘’Debi Debi’ and ‘’Someway Bi’’, off his 2013 EP, “APAE” when he articulated his socio-political views on the century old challenges this country has been pretending to solve since attaining independence some six decades ago.

On the first verse, he weaved a tale about the ‘social division’ existing in our society; where the struggles of those at the very low end of the economic strata are invisible to those at the top. He also made references to how blacks are treated or harassed at airports when travelling. He broached the issue in the lyrics, ‘’At airports is when I appear /Belt buckles and shoes off /Small London wey I want see’. The excessive searches on passengers at airports is obviously based on skin colour (racial discrimination). White passengers literally get free passes whereas dark skin passengers get harassed; a point ace satirist Kweku Sintim- Misa (KSM) shared during one of his famous standup comedy shows. (He didn’t understand why check-in queues for whites moved faster at our national airport than the queues of fellow blacks). As the first verse revealed, M.anifest was speaking out for the class of people who sit at the fringes of society: The ‘’outcasts and misfits’’.

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It’s on the second verse that M.anifest proved his credentials as a social observer. The narrated story was about a young 17 year old girl whom he once saw at a place where they ‘sell fornication’ (one of the informal red light district). He rapped: ‘’Girls dressed for the night work/And felatio? That’s light work/Get a mini skirt and it might work’’. The sight actually instigated a torrent of questions in his mind. He wondered what drove her into this trade; what her background was. Legitimate questions that begged for answers.

Over a beat that is typically M.anifest (traditional Ghanaian rhythmic elements, bouncy feel and striking bassline), he laid bare his feelings; his baritone voice adding a ton of grease to the sentiments being expressed on the song. The disdain or resignation of faith is evident in a simply phrase like ‘Nobody see ein pain /She’s just up for grabs’.

The song and its critical observation of everyday life of the average Ghanaian especially, those at the bottom of the social class is summed up on the hook:

Invisible/ Nobody sees me
Goodbyes and hi’s, nobody greets me
Can I be a member? I do surrender
I have no agenda/ Just see me…

M.anifest became the Ralph Ellison of our time on ‘Invisible’: a man who observes and chronicles the plight of the Invisible Man within our society. (Man here as a descriptor of all humans). In his famous novel, ‘’Invisible Man’’, published in 1952, Ralph Ellison narrated the story of the black man in America through the eyes of an unnamed protagonist.

‘I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me’, he wrote in the prologue of the novel. ‘Invisible Man’ was written to point out the institutional racism within the American society. What M.anifest did on ‘’Invisible’’ was to mirror the struggles of the downtrodden and those who fall outside the bracket of ‘seeable citizens’. As a song that explored the differences in social classes and its negative impacts on society, ‘’Invisible’’ is dotted with lyrics that reflected the plights of this section of the society

Bus boys and the waitress
Work more e dey pay less
Kayayo with a headload
She dey run at the speed of techno
Trotro mate count with vim
He coulda been a mathematician
And in addition, he knows well social division
We all dey eat fish
Careless whose doing the fishing
At the chop bar I dey chop bad but how’s the chef faring?

The above lyrics does reveal how those at the base of the economic ladder and usually do the hard work aren’t regarded or acknowledged properly –either through good wages or offered better opportunities- by those who live lavishly off their sweat; a situation akin to the master-slave nexus. Despite the disdain accorded them, they are conscious of the social schism existing in our society, what M.anifest termed ‘social division’.

The challenges often faced by the downtrodden in society inform most of their actions which are often lost on people, mostly the privileged in society. Take the case of the ‘seller of fornication’ who trades her ‘hijab in the daytime’ for ‘secular garbs in the nighttime’. For some section of society, (those at the top class who may even be her clients), her choice of ‘trade’ may be due to her being lazy or simply a deviant, yet won’t acknowledge that, the lack of opportunities and desire to break from the shackles of poverty could be the thrusting factor to her choice of ‘trade’.

On the penultimate track of the album, ‘Now Here Cool’, Ama Ata Aidoo recited a poem to bring conclusion to the overriding theme of the album. This was after M.anifest had shared details of his growth as an artist- a young aspiring rapper with no confidence in his own words to the huge, successful and respected rapper he is today. The poem is about finally finding nirvana when you figure out the rules of the game.

’Nowhere cool, sister, ain’t nowhere cool
Therefore, let me hide here among the thorns, while I dine on wild desert grain/ And if they should ask you of me, tell them the name of the game was life and I never learnt the rules.”

M.anifest has called ‘Nowhere Coo’l his best work thus far (although I think Immigrant Chronicles tops his catalog). Listening to it, you may not argue much. The circumstances leading to the album release got people both excited (the Manifans) and his critics curious. Anchored in a very prominent novel, M.anifest, like Ralph Ellison offered a snapshot into our society; the striking division between the haves and the have nots and how this imbalance affect the progress of our world. In short, the album revealed the ‘dirt’ in our society. And none of the songs brought this theme home more like ‘Invisible’.

All photos used from M.anifest’s twitter page

Ebo Taylor’s ‘Ohy3 Atare Gyan’ And The Concept Of A Classical Ghanaian Gentleman

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There are some who find fame immediately after showcasing their talents to the world. Others have to wait a couple of years to get recognized and appreciated. And there are those whose work get recognized and their influence spreads overtime, raking the benefits of their work even in their old age. Their genius acts get celebrated by those who may have, in hindsight, ignored it initially. One man who embodies all the above is Ebo Taylor.

Ebo Taylor is undisputedly a legend. His musical influence goes far beyond the shores of Ghana. He is one of the few music connoisseurs who gave highlife of the 70s a niche that became the toast of the world.

The septuagenarian composer, music arranger and guitarist is a pioneering figure in the elevation of afro beats music to a global audience. His love for experimentation led him to discover the limitations of local (African/Ghanaian) sound, which was the lack of instruments -the local sound relied on vocals and drums. To address this inadequacy, Ebo Taylor incorporated horns, guitar and piano elements into local highlife music. The outcome was a brand of highlife music referred to as ‘Afrobeats’.

In an interview with now out of print cultural magazine DUST he said:

We only had vocal choruses and drums. So I introduced horns, guitars and piano into the arrangement to give it a new profile. Whilst I was recording there (Essiebons Studios), we would try other more experimental tracks on the flip side of the records and it worked well. This encouraged me to write more compositions in this vane.”

Ebo Taylor’s compositions are a sought after commodity in the US and Europe, especially among crates diggers who are willing to dish out good money for his vinyls. A big acclaim for his works came in 2010 when Usher sampled one of his classics Heaven for his song ‘She Don’t Know’ featuring Ludacris off his 2010 album, ‘’Raymond Vs Raymond’’.

One of Ebo Taylor’s classic songs which has inspired this article is ‘’Ohy3 Atare Gyan’’, which loosely translate as: you’re looking dapper for nothing. Or simply, empty. The song has a highly infectious psychedelic funk appeal courtesy the heavy horns, guitar riffs and pleasing vocals of Ebo Taylor.

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‘’Ohy3 Atare Gyan’’, is a popular refrain among the Fante speaking populace along the coastal regions of Central and Western Region (specifically Cape Coast and Sekondi/Takoradi). The expression has various interpretations, depending on the context of use. ‘’Ohye Atare Gyan’’ can be used, in some instances to emphasize the difference between formal education and ‘home’ education. The formal education here refers to ones’ ability to speak and write English. ‘Home’ or traditional education means being knowledgeable about the traditions of one’s heritage. The often quoted dictum, ‘school sense no bi sense; home sense na e we dey talk’ goes to buttress the distinction between the two forms of education. The phrase could also be used to denote the depth of one’s ignorance. That’s, it’s used to chide those who carry themselves as ‘super humans’ yet are nothing but ordinary people.

The Song

‘Ohye Atare Gyan’ was one of the six tracks found on his self-titled album released in 1977. Recorded in London, UK, the album was made up of six tracks (3 songs on both sides of the vinyl). One of the most popular songs on the album, aside ‘Ohye Atare Gyan’ was the horn dominating ‘Heaven’.

But, before I get into the historical underpinnings of the song, Ghanaian highlife music offer more than entertainment to the listener. The songs are mostly filled with didactic themes about human actions and the effects of wrongful acts on a person and society. The songs are a way of addressing or shaping minds of individuals. Some of the artistes deliberately make the songs to mock, draw attention or educate the listener about their history, traditions or question behaviours at variance with what make us Ghanaians. And ‘’Ohye Atare Gyan’’ does the latter.

‘’Ohy3 Atare Gyan’’ mocks or exposes the ridiculous attitudes of Ghanaians who lived in or travelled to Europe or America for educational reasons or to ‘hustle’ in the 70s through to the 80s. Thanks to their newly acquired ‘tastes’ (lifestyle) and wealth, they usually ‘exorcise’ the ‘Ghanaian’ in them way and treat the culture on which they were brought up with a level of contempt. This attitudinal change inspired Ebo Taylor to make this record. On the song, Ebo Taylor singing in Fante (translated below) poured out his observation:

My brother returned from abroad and can’t speak Fantse.  He returned from abroad and despises fufu and kenkey’ My brother, thanks to his fashion sense (suite and tie) and his nice car doesn’t respect elders anymore’

From the translated lyrics, Ebo Taylor is highlighting the defacing of the ‘Ghanaian-ness’ by returnees whilst pointing out the inherent hypocrisy in such attitudes. He is therefore asking them to shun their attempts at forcing to be Europeans and rather be proud Ghanaians (Africans) by embracing their heritage, their culture and roots. The line ‘My brother returned from abroad and can’t speak Fantse’ is from a place of strong observation, where some returnees ‘forget’ any word of the languages they had spoken from birth. It also points out how Africans feel inferior speaking their own languages. As we are aware, language is power; it’s an identity and once you lose it, you lose yourself.

Historical Antecedents of the Expression

Let me put forth this caveat: I’m assuming the expression was coined during the colonial era for one strong reason: the reference to ‘brofo’ (spoken English) in the hook. Ebo Taylor sings on the hook ‘ohye Atare Gyan, ɔntse brofo’, meaning despite how well dressed one is, he can’t speak good English. And considering that, formal education was a colonial introduction, it is safe to assume so.

The British colonialists, apart from pursuing commercial activities and introducing Christianity to the people of Gold Coast realized the need to educate the local populace for the following reasons: 1) make trading easier, 2) have locals occupy certain positions within the colonial establishment as part of facilitating the colonialization process, and 3) speed up the Christianization agenda.

An educated African was a ‘Gentleman’. And a ‘gentleman’ must have among other qualities, a good grasp of the English language and a good fashion sense (three- piece coat, neck tie, or neatly pressed white shirt and shorts for colonial police force and teachers). The negative outcome of this education was that, the educated Gold Coaster of that era did not want to be associated with anything ‘local’ since all local traditions were considered primitive). His priority was to be a ‘Gentleman’ like the British masters so they practiced their ways by adopting British cultural values and treated their African heritage and customs with a certain air of disdain and contempt. The Kwaw Ansah classic movie, ‘Heritage Africa’ depicts this culture aptly.

Interestingly his thinking is pervasive in modern times. Being rich and fashionable without being educated is deemed a travesty and by extension disqualifies one from being called a gentleman or a lady. It is worth pointing out that, there are many who still find it reprehensible to speak in their local dialect as it diminishes their ‘status’. Others walk around with an air of confidence yet are ignorant about ideals peculiar to their heritage. We also have those who boast of their educational background yet can’t logically dissect issues. Being identified as a gentleman is good. But, a gentleman who shuns his customs and traditions is nothing but a lost soul.

Despite being released close to four decades ago, ‘Ohy3 Atare Gyan’ still sounds great today thanks to the resonating theme of the song. Ebo Taylor, obviously unimpressed by the new found ‘western lifestyle’ exhibited by the elite of his time inspired the composition of this song; to criticize all those caught up in ‘disrespecting’ our culture, similar to the many highlife tunes of old where social commentary was a dominant feature in the songs they composed.

Hear the re-make of Ohye Atare Gyan by one of my favourite producers Yung Fly (@ProdByYungFly)

 

Samini’s “My Own” Proves His Old Self Is Alive

Samini has been in the news for a couple of days, thanks to the unfortunate incident that played out during the “S Concert” a few weeks ago. Scheduled to perform, he left the venue after feeling disrespected by the organizers – they kept him waiting for over four hours backstage, according to him . For any unbiased watcher, Samini was very much justified in taking that action and subsequent explanations by the organizers confirmed this.

But for that incident, Samini’s name would have been mentioned not in the same sentence as ‘controversy’. Rather, it would have been because of music. His song, “My Own” scores high on many fronts. The song is a reminder of what has been ‘missing’ from Samini, specifically his music over a period of time.

For almost a year now, he has been embroiled in a beef with another dancehall artist, Shatta Wale. Shatta has constantly thrown series of shades at Samini over who is the hottest dancehall artist in the country. This beef had elicited similar responses from Samini, who persistently tried to alert all that he is still the ace on the dancehall front.

Beefs are, as I have argued elsewhere, good for the industry since it has the tendency to draw attention to a genre of music, the artists and overall music scene of the country if it doesn’t assume a ballistic (violent) nature. It also helps the creative process of the artists. In the case of Samini, the beef led to him losing touch with himself; what distinguished him from fellow ‘dancehallers’, and what endeared him to many of his fans. The downside of beefs are that, the aggressor always has the advantage since they dictate the pace.

The veteran Samini lost it, not because he isn’t good or the best to ever do it, but because he couldn’t keep up with the frequency of diss records Shatta Wale kept releasing. It’s common knowledge that Shatta is like an industrial machine that keeps churning out products with little stress.

Despite these spanner in the wheels moments for Samini, he has taken a step away from the beefing space. The outcome of this decision is his song ‘My Own’.

‘My Own’ is not steeped in the hardcore, hard drums drenched dancehall vibe. Samini didn’t spread that timbring, husky and smokey voice over this song either. What he did was to take a more softer, elegant approach.

The love themed ‘My Own’ is a cross between highlife and lovers rock. The tone is mid-tempo. Samini’s voice is very clear and enjoyable. The song celebrates love, with Samini chronicling how his lover stood by his side during his struggling years.

The anecdotes shared are mostly real life situations which many could relate to. Samini details how she was with him when he was unemployed, had no place to live or had no money to take care of her. His unfortunate condition, notwithstanding, his lover kept faith and stood by him in the rain.

It’s said today that, it’s hard finding a ‘ride or die’ girlfriends (men are trash, of course). This song is a reminder not to give up on a girl who has held you down through the low swings of life. Be thankfully for their presence and celebrate them every dime time when you make it.

The tone of ‘My Own’ is a reminder of Samini between 2006-2010, arguably his finest years. This was the period when most of his songs were national hits due to it’s tone and reflection of reality of life. Most of these songs also carried this afro dancehall/lovers rock tone. Mention could be made of ‘Odo’, ‘Movement’, ‘My Baby’ and ‘Sweet Mistake’.

What these songs had in similarities are the lovers rock tone of the songs, the clear twi spoken, the themes of life and love, and the overall melodies that were present on these songs. Samini had producers like Quik Action and JMJ understood the musical philosophy of Samini. The results chalked include Samini bagging a MOBO Award in 2006 and the ‘Artiste of The Year’ Award in 2007 at the MTN Ghana Music Awards.

It is therefore disturbing to come across online comments that seek to diminish or question the legacy of Samini. Even if these critics seek to obliterate his legacy (which would be a foolish attempt), they can’t deny the fact that his success was like a burning torch that lightened the dancehall path for of today’s artists. From General Marcus to Sonni Bali; from Pricky Yardey to Yoggi Doggie, none was as successful and huge as Samini.

‘My Own’ hasn’t been an instant hit as some of his previous works. The reasons could be quiet myriad. I sense ‘My Own’ to fall within those type of songs that grow in popularity as it ages. That’s, its popularity grows gradually over a period of time.

But then again, the excitement for me, lies in the fact that, Samini has tapped into his old vault and released a song that bears trait with some of his standout records that earned him such attention, establishing him as one of the best artists in the country. I hope he won’t get himself distracted from what matters to him and his fans.

Year 2016 in Retrospect: Poetry in Ghana

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So, a couple of months ago, I asked writer and poet O’Zionn to share with me his best 2016 moments in the Ghana Poetry and Spoken word scene. In this post, he list a few under various categories. Here is his list.


It’s been just a few years since I actively joined the burgeoning poetry scene in Ghana. And it’s been one swing of a ride! A lot of hard work has been effected, creativity expended and challenges have either been surmounted or have been too high to scale.

This year hasn’t been any different as we’ve probably witnessed progress in various aspects of this art form. From purely poetry events and/or projects to the ones that are a blend of other art forms but have featured poetry significantly.

From SASA’s “Roots”, January 2nd to Jazz & Qoke on December 30th. Well, you decide. Nevertheless, there’s been so much that has happened and here are some of the highlights of the year for me.

Audios (Singles)

“Empty Konko” —Laud De Poet

“My CV of Sin” — Rhymesonny

“Love Yourself”— Poetra Asantewa

“Box Mentality” — Ian and Elidior the Poet

Four 21” — Poetyk Prynx ft. Ugene Kay and

For 3 a.m.” Kwaku Quansah ft. Euphoria

Some Other Place” — Mutombo Da Poet

IWITP” — Akotowaa ft. Meffstone

Dear Future Wife” — Koo Kumi

Vote for Me” — Poetra Asantewa ft. Akan

Femur” — Mutombo Da Poet

Body of Work (Albums/EPs)

Vocal Portraits 3 — Compiled by Kwame Write

“First of All” —Throneroom Perspectives

Solitaire EP — Akotowaa (Listening Session and Project Launch)

Back to Basics —Wonderword (Listening Session)

Videos

“Anti-Indoctrination” — Akotowaa

“Love Yourself” — Poetra Asantewa

“Untitled Ones” — Koo Kumi

Artists

Poetra Asantewa

•Conversations with Poetra

•One Beat Tour in the United States of America

•Lagos Poetry Festival

•Drum Roll, Please

Rhymesonny

•Lyrical Dexterity

•Lagos Poetry Festival

•Rhymesonny’s Show Tours

3. Hondred Percent

  • One on One with

Organisations

Kpodola

•Spoken Word Videos

•Kpodola Challenge

MiCheck
•In the process of establishing a National Poetry Association

•Spirited Poetry at Chale Street Arts Festival 2016

Brunch Over Books
•Meet-up with Poets

Workshops

•Gird Writing Camp 2016; Poetry Workshop

•Kpodola 10 Poetry Workshop

Shows

•The Write Experience [Inkfluent]

•See Calendar

•Keep Digging [SASA]

•Unbridled Tongues

•Beneath the Poetry Baobab with Prof. Lade Wosornu

•UNESCO World Poetry Day

•Public Book Reading: According to Sources [Writers Project of Ghana]

•Book Launch: Haiku Rhapsodies by Celestine Nudanu

•Pentasi B World Friendship Poetry Festival — Ghana 2016

•Let’s Write the Future [Poetic Justice Society & Creative Spaces GH]

•Teen Slam [Inkfluent & Mode Conceptz]

•Made in Ghana, 2nd edition

•JiVe

•Verbal Ink

•Poetry Nites with the Rainmakers [March to December]

•Chaskele

•Writers Project’s Public Book Reading with Patron Henekou

•Nkabom Literary Festival [Inkfluent]

•Book Launch: Afriku by Adjei Agyei Baah

•Ehalakasa Festival

•Ehalakasa Slam 2016

There’s quite a lot more than this which happened. I believe there are several things that I must’ve missed out on but that doesn’t mean they’ve been absolutely left out.
I look forward to 2017 and what it has timed up for poetry in Ghana.

O’Zionn (Daniel Appiah) is the 2013 Winner of Ghana Poetry Prize and has recently published Seemingly Untitled-An Anthology available on Amazon.com. Follow him on twitter @Ozionn

EL touches on fan obsession on ‘Nina’

Celebrity obsession has been covered or spoken about by many in various forms- from rappers in their lyrics, entertainment critics in their commentaries and psychologists when proffering advice on pop culture and mental health.

Extreme form of celebrity obsession, where fans see their favorite artists as god-like, is a common thing in the Western world. In Ghana and across Africa, fans tend to express their love for artists through various forms: buying their music, attending shows, defending them (sometimes beyond logic) and fawning about them on social media. Hardly do we hear tales of (a) fans obsessing over their favorite artist(s) to the point of hurting the artist or themselves when that love isn’t reciprocated. That kind of obsession is an European or American ‘thing’. That’s, Africans can’t relate to on the same level.

On his latest single, ‘Nina’, rapper EL weaves a chilling story about extreme celebrity obsession, revealing in the process the absurdity of it, the challenges celebs face dealing with fans, and how such obsession could end tragically if not handled very well.

Concept/Story

‘Nina’ rides on a mid-tempo, soft drum and kick driven beat. The story is about a female fan, Nina, a self described ‘number one Elien’ (fans of EL are called ELiens). A casual conversation with EL (via his DM) eventually leads to her desperate attempts to meeting him, which eventually blossoms into a strong love. She even leaves her boyfriend of ‘seven years’ so she could hook up with EL, who is least interested in an affair. Nina tracks him down at a show, mounts the podium, confesses her love to him and feeling unappreciated, shoot herself in front of the concert audience.

The concept of the song takes the form of police interrogation. EL is arrested, taken to the police station following Nina’s death for his statement. He breaks down the details of events leading to her committing suicide.

The narration or breaking down of events can be cut into acts: Act 1 details how they met; Act reveals how she became obsessed; and Act 3 is about the suicide.

Style of Song:

EL blends two styles on ‘Nina’. First, and more clearly is that, the story is inspired by Eminem’s ‘Stan’, except the character is that of a female obsessing over a male rapper. This is quiet interesting since it’s usually guys who fawn over their favorite hip-hop acts.

EL also borrows from his own track ‘Talk Don’t Bother Me’ where he indulged in a conversation with his ‘mum’ over the phone. On ‘Nina’, he does same, where his Nina voice is telephonic in tone (obviously for flashback purposes). Interspersing the beeping message tone at the beginning of each rendition of events gives the whole song a certain realness.

He addresses, in one bar his relationship with his former label BBnZ which he describes as ‘cool with everyone’ who treat him with ‘respect’. He also speaks about WAVS (West African Vibes). WAVs should have been out by now considering the ‘noise’ EL made about it some months ago. But, I guess the breakdown in relationship with his former label and moving on to establish VO Nation label may have dragged its release.

‘Nina’ is the first single off BAR 4, the mixtape strictly dedicated to hip-hop and his die-hard hip-hop fans. The BAR 4 would be released on Saturday 26th November, same day as his annual ‘BAR Concert’. The BAR 3 didn’t quiet hit with fans so this next installment is definitely expected to resonate with his fanbase.

What I also find remarkable about ‘Nina’; the story, imagery and flow aside, is the beat which EL himself produced. It appears mid-tempo, minimalistic, non-aggressive and easy on the ear type of beat unlocks the fluid rap flows in him. Think of the politically charged ‘State of The Nation Address’, the playful ‘Talk Don’t Bother Me’, his verse on Kojo-Cue’s ‘Lowkey’ and you’d notice this.

The reservation I hold against ‘Nina’, lies in how the story ended. The account of events sound all believable (we know how in the era of social media some female fans may catch feelings for some celebs), the final act of shooting herself ruined it. The amount of fictional paint spread at the end is similar to crashing into a stone while enjoying some good waakye.

Fan obsession is real. Eminem waxed lyrically about that on the graphic ‘Stan’. Reports of fans acting crazy or weird because their favorite celeb isn’t extending the same love they offer abound. What EL did on ‘Nina’ is to shed light on the subject once again and advice both fans and celebs on how to manage their expectations of each other.

How EL, M.anifest and FOKN Bois Used Skits to Advance the Narratives on their albums

Skits shall always have a place in the history of music especially hip hop. Since pioneers De La Soul incorporated skits on their 1989 album 3 Feet High and Rising, they became a trend employed by many hip hop artists from that time till the early 2000s when the world was ushered into the MP3 era. Rappers and labels therefore saw it unnecessary to fill albums with many skits. As Evan Rytlewski, a contributor for Pitchfork.com wrote, ‘skits are one of hip hop’s oddest innovations and most tiresome tradition’. The MP3 revolution aside, skits, according to Mr. Rytlewski ‘gum up otherwise fluid playlists and make for embarrassing moments when they pop-up on shuffle’. The interruption was a killing for fans.

Skits are placed on albums to serve two purposes: to advance the narrative or theme of the album. Concept albums may not be able to put all the stories or messages they want to convey on the songs on their albums adequately, so skits become another tool used. Also, it is placed to keep albums exciting courtesy the humorous/comedic commentary shared. Others use skits to air out some uncomfortable truths on issues (whether personal or otherwise) they feel strongly about.

Albums with incredible skits that comes to mind instantly include DAMN., TPAB, GKMC (Kendrick Lamar), Rather You Than Me (Rick Ross), Wale’s Album About Nothing (AAN). On both ‘’GKMC’’, TBAP’’ and ‘’AAN’’, the skits gave the listener a better perspective on what influenced the album, as well as a better appreciation of the songs on them.

I can’t speak on how predominant skits were on albums by Ghanaian artistes in the past. (Perhaps I am too young to remember). Interestingly, skits are making an appearance on some of the best albums/mixtapes released in recent times. It may not be a comeback for skits but could inspire the trend. As earlier stated, skits advance the tales on the albums and also tickle the listener with good dose of humour. Albums/Mixtape skits that have made an impression on me are those found on EL’s ‘BAR 1’, ‘Fokn Wit Ewe’ by the FOKN Bois and M.anifest’s ‘APAE’ mixtape.

On EL’s ‘BAR I’ mixtape, the skits were intelligently placed at the end of songs to foreshadow the theme of the next track. ‘BAR I’ had four humor-filled skits delivered by DeezyDoThis. After the DJ Juls produced ‘Best Rapper Alive (BAR)’ had run out, the voice of DeezyDoThis popped up with the following words: ‘The thing about winners be say if you no mention dema names them no go bore’. He described those who demand to be mentioned as ‘broke ass niggas’-a criticism to friends who need their personas validated by an artists (for the brags). The skit sounded more like a casual remark made during a conversation than one deliberately laid for the mixtape. He returned once again on the third track, where amidst laughter, left the listener in suspense about an up-coming skit: ‘the skit is coming, along with your girl!’

The skit came on the 8th track, just before ‘Me And Your Girlfriend’; where EL and M.anifest revealed their intentions of ‘stealing’ someone’s girl. The 37 seconds skit is a voicemail of a girl apologizing to her boyfriend after busted for infidelity. Deezy returned at the end of the track to thank ‘niggas who we dey f**k dema girls’, calling them the ‘good samaritans of this generation’-a crudely humorous statement.

Two things strike you listening to the skits on M.anifest’s 2015 ‘Apae’ mixtape. The first are the insight the skits offer about the album: the frustrations of the Ghanaian youth. The second was how the commentary by an inebriated Efo was placed. Truthfulness is found in the bottle as the saying goes and Efo shared a few on ‘’Apae’’, right at the end of the second track ‘Right Here’. Efo put into perspective the numerous definitions or instances the slang ‘’Apae’’ (which means ‘it’s here/or ready’) fit. The slang has different interpretations depending on the context of use. And as Efo pointed out, ‘Apea’ could be a call to binge drinking, promiscuity, corruption, electioneering malpractices (stealing ballot boxes). In the end, Efo left the listener with a thought provoking advice: ‘as you indulge in any of these vices, learn that today might only belong to you. But, luck might elude you next time’. In short, think deeply before you indulge in any act.

Efo appeared two tracks down the album-at the end of the JaySo produced ‘Mind Game’-where M.anifest narrated the story of an unrequited love affair-where money doesn’t get you love but pleasure. The slapping 808s, piano chords and sythns aside, Efo dropped another life gem the phoniness of relationships. With the lifestyle of a sakawa boy as backdrop, he wondered why some ladies would enjoy the largesse but opt out of the relationship with a Sakawa guy under the excuse of wanting to marry a graduate. M.anifest invited Efo once again for a short conversation how one must carry themselves when rich: ‘it’s better to be careless when you are walking in town with money on you since it’s easier to escape the radar of the pick pockets. Being too careful is a sure bet to get robbed by the FBI (Follow Back International)’, according to Efo. This conversation precede ‘Big Sixes’, a song about money and a reference to the independence fighters whose faces adorn most of the Ghana Cedi. (The reference is a metaphor for hard work).

The song also had M.anifest pondering on the nexus between riches and morals. It is often intimated that, rich people are often seen as arrogant and disrespectful with the poor reflecting the opposite. ‘A good name is better than riches’, he echoed this famous dictum. But is quick to remind us that ‘but it’s fatal to be poor’. Before the ultimate song on the album (the Someway Bi re-fix not included), Efo showed up again, this time offering the listener a sad tale of his life- how the pressures of life is compelling him to take certain drastic actions towards becoming rich. Sensing he had no answers for Efo, M.anifest called on Obrafour to share some sage words with Efo. The advice is found on the classic ‘No Shortcut to Heaven’, a song imploring all to bid their time and work hard because we’re ‘confusing our wants with what we need’. The appearance of Efo on ‘Apae’ helped in breaking down the central theme of the album for the listener.

The FOKN Bois took a different approach from EL and M.anifest in introducing listeners to their classic tape ‘’Fokn Wit Ewe’’’. ‘’Fokn Wit Ewe’’ is raw, uncensored and highly provocative. It’s an uncomfortable listen for ‘Christians’ as showcased by the first track ‘SINtro. In the midst of a church service, the Fokn Bois-Wanlov and M3nsa are heard discussing the sexual romp between some church members as well as their own sex fueled fantasies in a sardonic manner. On ‘Famous In China’, the two mock, in what sounds like a kungfu movie sketch, their outrage against payola. The duo are noted for being anti- payola campaigners (paying DJs to play an artiste’s song on radio).  The satire continued on ‘Help America’, where a son desperately called his dad to register his intentions of returning back home since Americans ‘are suffering’. (The 2012 recession that hit the US and European countries inspired this song). On the song, they requested countries like ‘Sudan, Somalia Mexico’ to ‘give them (US) something to eat’. The telephone conversation and the accent employed were comedic than even the hook of the song.

The real definition of the album and its title as suggested by the album’s artwork, is found on ‘FOKN Knews’ with Wummi. The ‘news’ item mocked the seemingly absence of pubic lice (scrubs) in this age, which ‘scientists’ attributed to the waxing of public hair for the making of Brazilian hair. But, the ‘news’ item from the ‘Yenditrumu Region’ about an absurd sheep rape incident is the codeine on the album. (‘Yenditrumu’ means ‘no anal sex’ in the Twi language. The title choice is interesting since it feeds into the homophobic attitudes of most Ghanaians. The Fokn Bois are therefore making sarcastic reference to this attitude). The farmer whose sheep was raped narrated in vivid terms (via a phone call) how the rape happened and requested the police to arrest the rapist. As if this disturbing ‘news’ wasn’t enough, the duo continued to discuss the benefits or otherwise of sheep rape on ‘Fokn Eating Sheep’. If you are the kind who doesn’t easily flat out scenes out of your mind, please skip Track 15 on the album.

Skits may be an out of fashion tool which was a common feature on hip hop albums of old. In today’s music culture, it is unthinkable to flood an album with many skits. Artists who wish to place skits on their albums must be artistic and creative about it. That’s, they need to helm skits that fit the narrative of the album. Nobody will take you serious if your skits are tasteless and placed to fill up the album.

Like EL, M.anifest and the Fokn Bois, skits are not a lost art. The brilliance of the skits attest to their creative prowess.