NOT ALL SHOUTS ARE IN VAIN: What the 2017 VGMAs confirmed

Besides seeing our favourite artistes win an award or two on such big nights as the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMAs), the surprises are what many live for. Witnessing history being made is a moment that lives with you forever. That’s exactly what happened last Saturday when gospel artiste, Joe mettle was crowned ‘The Artiste of the Year’ at the 17th Edition of the annual music festival. The win was of great significance. It was the first time a gospel artiste had won the top award.

jmet

History would have been made, Joe Mettle’s win notwithstanding. Most of the nominees in that category were previous winners. EL, if he had won, would have become the first artiste to win it back to back. Sarkodie and Stonebwoy had won the awards in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Although these past winners had had a great year, it was Joe Mettle, who seemed, based on the murmurs, to hold the sail that was to bring the wind of change.

Days after the 2016 edition of the VGMAs, I ghost wrote an article in which I made a point that gospel artistes need to position themselves well if they are to win the top award. My concluding statement was: It must, however be said that, until gospel artistes realize that they are in competition with these secular music artistes and begin to learn their ways in respect of management, promotions and positioning themselves not a gospel artistes but artistes who do gospel music, they shall forever be overlooked when it matters during Vodafone Ghana Music Awards.

The win by Joe Mettle is well deserved. He has been very visible during the year under review. A cursory look at the history of the awards shows that, for years, the gospel artistes have come close yet far from clinching the top crown. The last time a gospel artiste came close to making history was in 2004 when Daughters of Glorious Jesus were pipped to it by VIP. The gospel wins has always been within the gospel categories-Best Gospel Song, Best Gospel Artiste and Best Gospel Album. For instance, in 2016, out of the twenty-nine (29) categories, only two were gospel specific categories (the best album category was scrapped).

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For some time now, a creeping phenomenon is infiltrating the awards scheme. It is what I would describe as ‘shout-to-be-heard’ phenomenon. Many gospel artistes have, on numerous occasions accused Charter House of deliberately been overlooking their efforts and impact as far as the awards are concern. Most of them share the view that, there is a bias against them; something which contribute to them continuously playing second fiddle to their secular companions especially when it comes to The Artiste of the Year category.

The accusations or ‘shouts of bias’ became intense last year, when one of the strongest voices in the gospel music scene began an advocacy for his colleagues to be rewarded for their works. Nacee, a singer and producer even called on his colleagues to start their own music awards because of this obvious bias.  One year on, not only did Nacee pick up two awards (Gospel song and Gospel Album), Joe Mettle won three awards on the night including Artiste of the Year. The ‘shouts’ by Nacee aside, we have seen how secular artistes like Shatta Wale and Kwaw Kesse have, at various points, vented at the VGMA organizes for being unfair to them. As if by coincidence, these artistes won awards in the next editions of the ceremony including the Artiste of the Year.

They are not alone. Critics of the events have also pointed to the fact that, the nomination is not national enough; that only artistes who dominate charts in Accra and to some extent Kumasi get nominated. This leaves artistes who are making waves in other regions but have not yet broken the music ceilings in Accra and Kumasi out of the pack.

FANCY

New Artiste Fancy Gadam

So, it was of great joy to see an artiste like Fancy Gadam , a Tamale based artiste pick the plaque for New Artiste of the Year. The consternation that greeted Fancy Gadam’s win especially on twitter was to some extent, valid. Medikal (AmgMedikalhad had a very outstanding 2016 and among music fans deserved it. However, it was soon pointed out that Fancy Gadam was no mean an artiste. He is a celebrated artiste in the Northern part of Ghana, where he hails. Photos shared on twitter of his sold out shows-where he filled the 20,000 capacity Tamale Sports Stadium-gave credence to why he deserved the award. The fact that his music hadn’t broken the Accra and Kumasi music ceiling (mainstream radio) doesn’t invalidate his status.

I’m not seeking to downplay the awards as it stands. Of course, each year, the organizers have been criticized by many for what they consider unfair treatment of certain artistes. These criticisms shall continue since each artiste and fans would want their work to be appreciated. The ones who are capable of ‘shouting’ the loudest and seeing their fortunes turn the next award year could be a case of pure coincidence, after all, public voting determines who wins what. It is also a proof of how a listening organization Charter House is becoming- expanding the list of artistes and taking note of the concerns of other artistes and critics.

The awards shall continue to draw criticisms from people who don’t win. The controversies shall always be part of event. It’s a human institution and an event based largely on public voting is not expected to be entirely perfect. The critique must be valid and the organizers must also take note and act appropriately.

It holds true that, the success and credibility of an artistes is not measured by the ‘how many awards’ scale. Success is achieved through hard work: recording of good tunes, selling shows and investing in promotion. However, the years have shown us that, sometimes one need to shout louder to get noticed and validated.

Success of Shatta Wale is testament to cultivating passionate fans

shatta

photo from twitter

They never dey talk say Shatta be good always I be bad/I for win award for being me/ no be today wey we start this thing

Dem dey kai when I say I be the dancehall king/ But I no say dem dey like my thing

Make I repeat am again. Nobody can stop me/ My mind I dey use be high time key – AYOO

There are two types of leaders. Those who, based on their popularity, build a team of dedicated fans ready to stand by them to the hilt. And there are leaders who build their support long before they even climb the ladder of leadership. The fans of the latter are very loyal, passionate and dedicated to the course; ready to sweat, bleed, and also spring and break their bones for their leader. The supporters are more passionate than 10th century religious fanatics.

The latter describes Shatta Wale and the one pivot on which his success lives. For four (4) years, the ‘Shatta’ brand has been on the rise. The consistency has been mind- blowing due, in large part, to the expression of unflinching loyalty of his fans- defending his sometimes irate actions; patronizing his songs and massively parading at his concerts. Shatta’s rise has been well documented. His 2012/13 hit song ‘Dancehall King’ didn’t win the 2013 VGMA Reggae/ Dancehall accolade and that set the alarms off. Shatta took issues and as if by design, his popularity began to soar after the jaw dropping episode.

Fast forward to today, Shatta Wale remains arguably the most popular artiste in Ghana. It can be said that, he is shoulder and above all his contemporaries-Sarkodie included. This support is much on display if you have been to any of his concerts. I have to admit I have not been to many Shatta Wale concerts but the few I’ve seen had always left me in awe. His charisma is riveting; his performance is energy packed and his music catalogue is crazy (he confirmed to have released over 100 songs last year during an interview on Adom FM). The bundle of energy he exhibit on stage is enough to earn him the ‘energy god’ accolade.

Although some have criticized his style of churning out music (his reliance on a lottery hit song format), his fans aren’t perturb. They want the music and that’s what he is offering. The true Shatta fans know almost all his songs- both the ones that cross into the mainstream sphere (commercial tunes) and those that remain off the charts. These fans don’t just know the songs, they can sing it word for word, as if they helped in the writing of the lyrics.  True, Shatta Wale is no singer. His use of auto tune is nauseating sometimes. His beats are almost similar, his style is not varied enough and his lyrics are often basic, yet these limitations are not huge enough to blot the shine of the ‘Korle Gonno ni mij3’.

On the subject of lyrics, I was one who rarely paid attention to what Shatta says on songs. Usually, the chorus of the song is enough to make me bop. However, it wasn’t until I heard legendary producer, Hammer (Last Two) speak about Shatta’s lyricism in an interview on Joy FM’s Ghana Connect. Hammer described Shatta as a lyricists who is dismissed because of his often repetitive yet melodic hooks and his loud beats which often drum out his lyrics. Citing Kakai as proof, Hammer succeeded in making me take a listen to the song again, this time paying particular attention to his lyrics. Hammer was right. His “Mahama Paper’ is another attestation to Shatta Wale’s pen game. Shatta Wale is not the best lyricists out there but with songs such as ‘Kakai’, ‘Mahama Paper’ and his current tune ‘Ayoo’, he spreads thoughtful messages about him and the realities of life on tape.

Shatta Wale’s frequent assertion that he isn’t a ‘radio-made-me’ artiste holds true. It was the fans who made him who he is. The strategy was simple yet long. Between the years 2004 when he was performing under the moniker Bandana with ‘Mokoho’ getting respectable airplay right down to his 2012 breakthrough with ‘Dancehall King’, Shatta Wale was not only strategizing his next move towards stardom. He was cultivating a fan base through the release of songs for his small yet dedicated fans in and around his Korle Gonno (a suburb of Accra) enclave. A decade later, these fans transitioned with Shatta from their locale to dominating every musical space available.  For almost a decade, Shatta Wale had earned much support from his people and he has also paid them back with respect. His Shatta Movement, which should rebrand to Shatta Nation are passionate and resolute in their support of Shatta.

In all his interviews, he is quick to acknowledge his fans, citing them as the helium in his ever floating balloon. He has always shown them respect and has acted based on their prompting. The bond between himself and his fans is so strong that, in 2013, they ensured he won the VGMA Best Artiste. And when he fell out with the organizers, Charter House, his fans admonished him to stay out of the awards. I’m yet to hear him have any tiff with his fans.  For the dedication and passion they extend him, Shatta extends the same if not more respect to them. Unlike many of his compatriots who would ignore their fans, Shatta has a way of genuinely rubbing their ego through his songs, snapchat and Instagram videos as well as Facebook feeds. He doesn’t act like a celebrity. He comes across as an ordinary man; someone the fans see as one of them. An interesting fact is that, the demography of his fan base is not linear. He has all shades of people as fans; from high to middle class fans to the average person. A spectrum of fans only a few manage to rake during their career.

Shatta Wale’s rise also coincided with the rise of dancehall music, commercially speaking. Dancehall/Ragga music have had a cozy yet stuttering relationship within the Ghanaian music scene. The music scene was, thanks in part to Samini, opening up to our own home-grown dancehall/ragga music. By the time Shatta Wale’s ‘Dancehall King’ was released, the Ghanaian music market was ready to embrace dancehall music fully.

In the music industry and like any other industry, support is deliberately cultivated, nurtured and celebrated. That’s why it’s important for artistes not to disrespect their fans no matter what since the day the fans sense a slight condescension in an artiste’s relationship with them, they wilt with astonishing speed. The damage such action causes an artiste is far more than losing a six figure deal. Your charisma won’t save you. The number of hit records won’t be enough to get them back. And the art of respecting and placing fans before himself at a times is what Shatta Wale has mastered. And that has served him well thus far.

Shatta Wale knows that the day shit hits a fan, these fans who have been with him in the ‘wilderness’ through to the lights of superstardom would definitely remain fans no matter what. He, on the other hand is serving them what they need – music and love!

AKAN DROPPED A LOW-KEY CONTROL VERSE ON ‘EFFORTLESS’

 

akans

Since releasing his debut mixtape in 2015, Akan has seen his profile rise within the hip hop/hip life circles albeit a steady one. Songs by Akan hasn’t become a staple for mainstream radio yet but, he is building a dedicated fan base. First time listeners to his songs get enchanted by his lyricism and the content expressed in his music. Others become fans after watching his performances, which are filled with passion and energy.

His lyrical ability has earned him comparison to the legendary Obrafour (per his mastery and fluency in the Twi language). Others see Okomfo Kwadei and Okra in Akan. Whether Akan delivers a full 16 bars (in two verses) as on songs like Helebaba, Obiba J.K, Flow No (Konnichiwa freetsyle) or assumes the role of an okyeame on Poetra Asantewa’s ‘Vote for Me’ and ‘Freestyle 06’ with JaySo, Akan never disappoints.

If there’s one song Akan (formerly part of rap duo Azzholes along Billy Banger, now AYAT) showcased his lyrical abilities and declared his mission statement, it’s the Hammer (Last Two) produced collaborative song ‘Effortless’. According to Hammer, Akan wasn’t initially considered for the song that had Worlasi, Teephlow and Medikal. Hammer explains how Akan was brought on board:

Akan’s part was supposed to be another artiste. I had heard of him and posted his song about two months ago. People didn’t know I follow [him]. I was sure he could do it so I called him. I just told Akan that Teephlow, Medikal and Worlasi were on the song. None had heard what the other had done on the beat…

A very important decision by Hammer, of you ask me. Akan didn’t disappoint and his verse is the sparkling gem of the song.

On ‘Effortless’, Akan’s boastful talk is drenched in humility. He dramatizes his attributes like an Okomfo (fetish priest) exhibiting his magical skills at the durbar grounds. One hears him speak on how he’ll lead the way; how women and quest for riches are not his priorities; how he’ll ‘kill’ the fakes/other rappers. This is Akan with his own ‘Control’ verse. The talk is bold and fearless.

Below is a bar for bar breakdown of Akan’s verse on Effortless. I’m going to translate his words from Twi to English the best way I possibly can.

You’ve heard Teephlow’s flow and tasted Medikal’s tonic/medicine (here Akan references his two other colleagues on the song)

Now, watch what Kwabena Nkwantabisa is about to do (Kwabena is Akan’s name. Nkwantabisa is an appellation)

Hope you’ve heard Hammer’s handiwork. The beat has cleared your hearing (this suggest that Hammer’s beat is the best one will hear)

Akan, follow me cos I’m about to show you where the right path is.

Here I am, wildly spinning; kicking dust into your eyes whiles you bear witness that the path is me (Akan paints a picture of an Okomfo, whose trance-like displays often results in the surroundings becoming dust-filled).

My waist cloth is girded. My words are tough and biting (Akan is ready to fight)

I’m here to piss you off so I can shave off your chest hair into my armpit and leave you humbled (only a man who’s totally beaten can have his chest hair shaven and that’s what Akan is purporting to do to anyone who comes close)

Sold my soul for heavenly knowledge and wisdom, so luxuries of life and women can wait for now.

I’m carrying my nation. I’ve drawn much from my wisdom trough

My shoulders larger, I’m keeping focus cos I can’t move my neck (well-built men often have thick shoulder muscles which keeps their neck straight. That’s Akan’s posture in this line)

Shut my eyes, dropped a bomb on y’all. It’s about to get bloody leaving some of you breathless.

I’m in the lead, your views are blocked (you can’t see cos of the bomb smoke)

You’ve lost your ways. You’re now trapped in a ditch.

The way to heaven, you’ve missed.

Akan dropped a low-key Control verse on Effortless. A verse that is not ‘in your face’ but did send a message of his intention to all those who would dare step on his lane.

For those who are curious to know what makes AKAN highly regarded by a section of music fans, just be at Nubuke this Saturday 25th February, 2017 when he takes his turn on Artiste Concert.

Here’s the lyrics to Akan’s verse on ‘Effortless’

Ostwia 
Motii Flow ne flow Medikal ano aduro nsoa mo aka ahw3 // Afee mon hw3 nia kwabena nkwantabisa so b3yi atsr3 // 
S3 moati Hammer nsa no k3ts3 ma mo aso mu kwan atr3 // Akan mondi matsi bebia kwan da no meb3yi astr3 
Tie mistwa miho fr3d3 fr3d3 ato nfutro agu moani di mo adwin adi agro na mo ani tia moadi adansi3 s3 kwan no kwa Appiah abo awie // 
Mabo mabosor kuntan mas3m tswintswan miy3 ama wobo afu na ma tsr3 wobo nwin agu ma motoumu ma wobo adwo, adwobr3 // 
Maton mi kra midi agyi osro anigye ni adwini mu nyansa // Nti 3gudie ni mma agodie ni di3 ni nyinaa 3ntsw3n asa // 
Masoa mi m3n na ma dwin mu nkrado soa nyinaa maka ase // Ma hwri mi mmati na minkoa mikon na masi mitri ase // 
Mafra mo ani, mapiti topay3 moso
Mo mogya b3 hwri ma abuso 
Mo honmii riti ma 3nsi so oh 
Madi mo anim 
Ase mo anim 
Mo ayra mo kwan 
Mo ato amina mu nti 
Mo aka moanan mu 
Osro ahiman mu kwan mo ayra
 

People of 2016: Part 4

 

This is the final list of People of 2016 which we started last week. The list is to celebrate and highlight the works of individuals and organizations whose work had influenced people and the society at large in 2016. The previous list (1-3) is available on the blog. The list in in no particular order of importance.

 

cul

READERS OF CULARTBLOG

When I started this blog some two years ago, it was based on two reasons. First, help document the various happenings on the entertainment scene in Ghana for the present and future. Second, was to create an outlet to vent and share my views on developments on the art scene in Ghana. Attracting readership to the blog was not too much of a concern. Over time, the readers came visiting the blog. Though, I’d have wished to see more hits on stories I publish, the numbers are however, gratifying nonetheless. The readers are the reason I have continued curating this blog. I have, on few occasions, come close to shutting the blog down due to some frustrating moments. However, the positive comments from my readers were enough motivation to continue with it. Writing for this blog has also brought in its own benefits-not monetary sadly. It has opened doors to meeting some very important people, with some becoming good friends. I would like to say big thank you to all who, over these years, have been checking out this blog. To @njbraso @shakesduncan @akyempo @ozionn @poetyk_prynx @amegaxi @mansah_hakeem thank you.  Special thanks to @elidot @dzyadzorm @poetraasantewa @msanarfi @joey_chase @readjerome @truecoaster @larryChaste @teamteasers @sugahunyicetea @elorm_tyres for your support and encouragement and thoughtful feedback on how to get better. Also, to the hundreds of people who take time out of their schedule to visit the blog, comment, like and share the links. I’m hugely indebted to you all. To my co-writers @mannyfbc and @forksafo, you guys have been superb.  Thanks to @gameli (E-Newsgh and Hamza Moshood for being there since it began. You the readers, are the real MVPs.

 

afr

AFRICA FILM SOCIETY

If you are passionate about something, you don’t just talk about it. You step out and do something about it. This line of thought is one the African Film Society gave meaning to in 2016. In October, the African Film Society, led by rapper and film maker Blitz The Ambassador- commenced the ‘Classics In The Park’ series. The initiative is simple: screen classic (old) Ghanaian movies to an audience in an open venue (a park) each month, for free.  African Film Society ‘seeks to preserve and promote Africa’s rich cinematic legacy while cultivating new filmmakers and nurturing an audience for their work’.  It is gratifying to know that, a group of individuals are trying to rekindle and fire up our (the youths) imagination and afford us a sense of nostalgia of the good old days- the amazing works done by filmmakers of the 50s through to the 80s- when, despite the limited resources, produced movies that are better than what we see today. For taking the step of curating and sharing the wonders of African films, the African Film Society deserves much applause and support.

 

aky

AKUA AKYAA NKRUMAH

Anybody who has dedicated themselves to protecting the environment deserves to be celebrated. One individual who has chosen this path, contributing to making the environment clean and in the process helping cause a behavioural change is none other than Akua Akyaa Nkrumah. The self-acclaimed ‘Borla Woman’ (borla means refuse), runs a waste management company giving her a precious insight into the bigger issue of sanitation and environmental pollution. Through her various imprints such as @GreenGhanaian @JekoraGH and @EcoPlannersGh, she has been organizing and coordinating programmes, along with volunteers, such as cleaning up the beaches of Ghana and embarking on educative campaigns across selected communities across the ten regions of Ghana. With the issue of Climate Change and the need to protect the environment becoming a global concern, Akyaa’s work deserves mention. Imagine what more she can achieve if she get the necessary support-whatever form it comes-to intensify her campaigns for a better future for ourselves, our children and grandchildren. Saving the environment should be everyone’s concern and she believes enforcing the bye-laws on sanitation must be a starting point. Akyaa is showing the path. She deserves our help, support and applauds.

 

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ACCRADOTALT

  AccradotAlt has become the nerve centre for the revival of Accra’s arts and cultural scene. Thanks to events such as the ever growing Chalewote Festival; an annual convergence of Ghana’s creative minds and arts enthusiasts in one place; Sabolai Radio (which came off in December) as well as the Talk Parties-where conversations about the arts takes place, ADA has pinned itself into the country’s arts resurgence movement. The hard work of founders Mantse Aryeequaye and Dr. Sionne Nealy and their crew, have created events that Ghanaians look forward to each year. Whiles Chalewote showcases the diverse artforms existing in the country, Sabolai Radio is a platform to promote alternative music- non-mainstream artists get the chance to sell their music to a new audience. The commitment of ADA towards the promotion of the arts albeit off very limited resources, proves that, there is a hunger for the arts. The level of commitment and the successes being chalked by ADA is worth acknowledging and celebrated.

 

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CORNFIELDS IN ACCRA ORGANIZERS

In July, the blaxTARLINES, Kumasi and the Department of Painting and Sculpture, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), organized a month long exhibition dubbed ‘Cornfields In Accra’. The exhibition featured amazing works of final year students of the Painting and Sculpture department of KNUST as well as selected participants; including past students of the department. From elaborately made glass works, sculptures, painting and installations  on a myriad themes, those who visited the exhibition came out of the Museum of Science and Technology spellbound and intrigued. What made this exhibition a laudable one was the number of exhibitors involved as well as the fact that, this was the first time such an event has been held by KNUST in Accra. Not only did the exhibition expose the creativity of these students, it was a further proof of the value of arts, contributing to that ‘arts is the future’ dream. I don’t know if this would become an annual event (though I pray it becomes) since it is inspiring and helps demystify the notion that arts is not necessary to our national development.

People of 2016: Part 3

This is the Part 3 of our ‘People of 2016’ List. Our aim was to identify and celebrate people who, in our estimation, made great strides in their respective fields and in the process created something important for themselves and society in 2016. The List is in no particular order.




m-anifes

photo courtesy Bright Ackwerh

M.ANIFEST & SARKODIE

We can’t recall the year 2016 without the best ‘beef’ of all time between rappers M.anifest and Sarkodie. The ‘godMC’ vs ‘Kanta’ debacle threw some heat upon the hip life/ hip hop scene. The rivalry undoubtedly came with its own benefits to both parties. M.anifest saw his profile rise ultimately winning him new fans (according to Google, M.Dot was among the Top 10 artists searched in Ghana). His ‘rival’, Sarkodie, on the otherhand, saw his influence inch a bit after what seems a little ‘off the sheen’ showing. The fans weren’t left out of the debate, as they came out to support and prove why their artist is the best. In friend Hamza Moshood’s view, which hinged on the reaction of fans of both artistes, the whole episode was when ‘Anti- Intellectualism’ met ’Elitist bigotry’. At the back of this, M.anifest released his album NO WHERE COOL a few months later. Sark also continued his good run. The beef brought excitement to the whole music scene, an excitement whose embers still flickers.

citi

CITI BREAKFAST SHOW

In this era where most people in the public space are unwilling to speak their minds and demand answers from those given the power and authority to protect and promote the welfare of the citizens, it is gratifying to know that, the Citi Breakfast Show team are there to speak for the common man (citizens). Over a ten year period, the award winning show has grown into the biggest morning show in the country. On the CBS, public officials don’t get to slick talk the hosts and the listeners on matters of importance. The host, Bernanrd Avle and his crew-made up of Richard Sky, Kojo Akoto Boateng and Nana Ama Asante- demand from their interviewees important answers to relevant questions by holding their feet to the fire. Unlike other morning shows that fill their studios with political party reps or review the newspapers, the CBS format is simple: the host and crew discuss the pressing issues-social, politics, economics- and either invite or call public officers or experts in a field to share insight(s) on the issues. What also, has contributed to making the CBS a ‘must listen’ show is that, they seek answers to the smaller yet important issues that preoccupies the minds of the ordinary Ghanaian (listeners). Thanks to their proactiveness on social media, they are able to tap into the concerns of their listeners and make these concerns topics for discussion. For instance, days to Christmas, they took time to discuss the issue of transport /traffic management in the city. We have also heard them talk passionately about the ills of illegal mining on the economy among others. Bernard Avle is not scared to ask these politicians/public officers the tough questions and would without fear, tell you if the answers being offered are nonsense or plain lies (a rare quality). Aside playing their role as the ‘common man’s spokesperson’, it is their ability to make errors (gbaas) and laugh about it that renders them ‘humans’, unlike other radio show hosts who appear stiff in their conduct on radio. That is, their free-form approach of presentation is a rarity in today’s morning show presentations. For me, the Citi Breakfast Show has indeed been the most credible, passionate and consistent ‘spokesperson’ for the ordinary Ghanaian.

sis

SISTA CLINIK

Talk about a blog dedicated to women issues in Ghana and Sista Clinik readily comes to mind. The blog has, in a short while-it was created in 2015- served as a platform for discussing women-related issues. The subject covered by the blog include the often ‘taboo’ subjects of abortion, rape and mental health (depression) along with the everyday subject of reproductive health and female empowerment. Sista Clinik has become an outlet for women to freely share their experiences and challenges in both their professional and normal life. Sista Clinik, with its progressive outlook on women’s welfare, offers its readers a platform to have a conversation about themselves and find solutions towards their own advancement in the open, for all to listen rather than have it in the comfy of their little clusters.

accra

ACCRA WE DEY TEAM

What can I say about Accra We Dey that has not been said already? Three individuals found a way to tell the story of Accra through various social media outlet. They cover mostly the ‘lower ends’ of Accra and its activities. Through their social media feeds, they educate and inform their followers on the activities in the city including vital history about Accra. On their podcast (available on iTunes), they invite guests from various fronts to share their experiences on their trade. Last year, the podcast featured a lot of people from very diverse background including myself. The wide scope of their activities and their dedication to represent Accra City-both its beauty and flaws in various ways is indeed admirable. If you are in Accra, on any social media channel and haven’t heard of or following the Accra We Dey team of Joey Chase, Pokua and Nii, then, you are very much not in Accra.

 

People of 2016: Part 2

This is the Part 2 of our ‘People of 2016’ List. Our aim was to identify and celebrate people who, in our estimation, made great strides in their respective fields and in the process created something important for themselves and society in 2016.

 

 

julss

DJ JULS

For many, the name DJ Juls began ringing a bell this year, following the successful musical story of Mr. Eazi. But, DJ Juls is no novice in the production game. Juls (Julian Nicco-Annan) has been producing records for a long time, mostly for Ghanaian artistes. He has been dropping some of the best beat tapes you’d hear around. 2016 however, became the year the stars aligned in DJ Juls’ favour. He not only masterminded some of the biggest hits by Mr. Eazi, he released some of the best infectious songs in 2016.With a production style that hinges on crate digging of old palm wine high life groves-which are then perfectly chopped and padded by present day musical influences of trap in minimalistic fashion- has become the signature sound of DJ Juls. With songs such as ‘Teef Teef’-which Beat1 radio jockey Julia Adenuga picked us her Summer Jam for 2016, to the Eugy, Malik Berry and Stonebwoy assisted ‘With You’ to his latest ‘Give You Love’ featuring L.A.X, Juls has not been sleeping. Together with his younger brother Jason, they are the brains behind the art focused Signature Magazine (the first issue is out online, which I got the pleasure of contributing to).  With the current crowded musical/production scene dominated by trap music influences, creating a new sound and pushing it across this saturated market and finally getting recognized for it is not an easy feat. And that, is exactly what DJ Juls did in 2016.

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THE HARMATTAN RAIN TEAM

HarmattanRain is a blog dedicated to everything that has art value-music, photography, fashion, videos. It is the blog to visit if you need to keep a thumb on what is new across the Ghanaian and Nigerian music market. With a dedicated team of young folks led by Benewaa (@stingg_) and a focus mostly skewed towards non-mainstream artistes, Harmattan Rain is doing their bit to ‘disrupt’ the blogging scene by serving its readers diverse content including interviews, reviews and features to a readership looking for a break from the usual news that dominate everyday blogs/websites.  That, is the reason why HarmattanRain commands such admiration from some of the ‘coolest art/music geeks’ in town. Spend some time on their blog.

ayat

AYAT (THE ZAMANI)

Building a trusted brand is an arduous task. Once you figure it out, things become easy as all the chips fall in place. The pressure that comes with the new turf doesn’t break you. It rather serves as a wave to surf to a bigger wave. Rapper AYAT has figured it out and rode on it throughout 201. AYAT was an unknown artist in 2015. His song IDKY with producer KaySo commenced his steady rise. His performance at SabolaiRadio in 2015 was unconventional. Since then, AYAT has worked with most of the big name artists on the scene and top-notch producers like Kuvie, KaySo and Magnom. The colourful dreadlock sporting Madina rapper, added his hausa flavor to the now in-vogue trap beat. His energy on stage and on the mic; passion on tracks and exciting stagecraft has made him one of the few newcomers who, indeed stamped their name on the 2016 musical calendar. Singles might get you the buzz. Videos might get you seen. However, good performance on stage will get you remembered. The latter is what AYAT seems to have smartly mastered in this short period. Expect his debut EP Zamani in a few months.

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BRIGHT ACKWERH

For the many who have seen his works, winning the 2016 Kuenyehia Prize for contemporary arts was not very surprising. Bright Ackwerh has overtime become one of the foremost, if not the foremost artist of his generation. Through his brilliant, unapologetic caricaturing of global issues and leaders-politicians, musicians and everyone in between- he has become a chronicler of events. Lacing humour with serious issues-especially politics which most of his contemporaries shy away from- Bright is able to mock and educate in same breath. It is therefore, unsurprising to see people converge at his stand/stall whenever he put his works out. Bright has seen his works featured on the BBC and other media platforms. With his thumb on current events in the country and beyond and a knack for fine details, Bright Ackwerh did more for himself in 2016 and hopefully, 2017 would be an incredible year for him too.

cedi

CEDITALK.COM

A couple of days back, I saw Jerome Kuseh, the brain behind CediTalk.com ‘congratulating’ himself for writing and publishing 95 articles on his blog. An unbelievable number by all standards, knowing he has other competing demands. CediTalk.com is a financial blog with focus mainly on happenings in the Ghanaian financial markets/economy. Jerome has used the platform to inform his readers, in simplified form, some complex subjects on finance including a ‘financial’ illiterate as myself. Anytime, I need some education in the field of finance, it is the blog I visit for ‘further particulars’. One of the important things I need to say about Jerome is that, he never declines a request from his readers to share information on any financial matter(s). I have known him for a couple of years and I can vouch for his knowledge on financial issues (he is a finance person by training). Also, his knowledge on global politics is incredible. CediTalk.com might not be one of the blogs sharing links on your timelines often. However, their contents are priceless.

 

People of 2016: Part 1

Each day, individuals and groups pursue dreams and interests that impact their own lives, those of others around them. Their actions, directly or indirectly help further society one step towards perfection. In this 4-part article, we are highlighting individuals and organizations whose initiatives, we feel deserve to be celebrated for what they achieved in 2016. This is our ‘People of 2016 List’

The year 2016 brought in its wake a lot of events; both positive and negative. We, in Ghana, had a very tensed yet peaceful elections were the incumbent government lost. A new president is in charge now. Same can’t be said of that narrow strip of land embedded in Senegal. The Gambia is still indulged in a political uncertainty. We also have DR Congo, where Prez. Kabila is refusing to leave the scene after exhausting his two 5 year terms. This was a man who was installed as president after the death of his father. Politics!

South Africa witnessed two tumultuous events. The Fees Must Fall movements was born and President Jacob ‘JZ’ Zuma survived various impeachment processes. Across the continent, we had Brexit, Trump defied all odds to become the 45th President of the Free World; albeit not going to be a free world for certain racial and gender groups in America (if he should live his campaign promises). The Syrian crisis worsened this year. The many refugees fleeing the conflict were blocked or became fodder for right wing politicians to peck at.

We lost people. There were terrorist attacks. Boko Haram continued with its carnage. We had planes crashing or disappearing. We lost many people including Mohammed Ali, Prince, David Bowie, Dasebre Dwamena. God keep their souls.

In 2016, we were blessed with music. Kanye dropped his tape. DJ Khaleed blew up. The Weeknd came of age. Chance The Rapper, Drake, Anderson.Paak, J.Cole, A Tribe Called Quest, Schoolboy Q all released projects. Here in Ghana, the likes of Sarkodie, Manifest, Shatta Wale, Stonebwouy kept the music machine running. We witnessed the rise of AYAT, AI, Teephlow, Medikal and yes, the FOKN BOIS gave us a Fokn Ode To Ghana album.

Whiles the musicians were putting out work, there were others, who were out there making major moves in different scenes-impacting lives and society. Their activities were geared towards creating a better future for us all. These individuals and groups deserve to be mentioned and applauded.

That’s exactly what this post is about. We are going to celebrate 20 individuals/groups who, in our opinion, made great strides in their individual fields, towards creating something of importance in 2016.  In a two part series, we are going to make a list of our ‘People of 2016’. The list is in no particular order. And it is based on how impactful, inspiring and socially good their actions had been and continues to be.

So, here is the first part of the list.

tatas

 

TATAS JACKIE CHAN

Sharing the little you have with the needy is always a worthy gesture. It is heartwarming to know someone is dedicating time and resources in this regard. Caritas Aryee, also known as Tatas Jackie Chan, has for two years has been extending a helping hand to the vulnerable in society. Through her annual ‘Kenkey For The Needy’ initiative- an auction styled charity event- she raises money for the less fortunate. Although, this year’s event was the second, it was also the most patronized. The social media promotion got massive support and on the day, those who attended donated heartily by buying a plate of kenkey and fish. I do follow Tatas on twitter and have bumped into her a few times. I never suspected she had such a big and kind heart to put together such a worthy initiative. I need to also commend the many who came out to support the ‘Kenkey For The Needy’ event. In my view, this single gesture by Tatas is phenomenal. Tatas is indeed #ReppingTheNeedy.

 

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AI (2 LIGIT)

An artist whose talent can’t be placed in a box is really an asset since one cannot predict what he is bound to do. That is what AI of 2Ligit music label is blessed with. For some, AI’s name might not register immediately despite emerging on the mainstream scene in 2014 off the back of his debut single ‘Anger Management’. People began paying closer attention in the last quarter of 2015 when his brilliant hook on JaySo’s ‘Making Tasha Proud’ captivated many. Together with DJ Vision, they gave us the biggest jam of the year 2016 in ‘Grind’ which has catapulted AI from a mere ‘unknown’ artist to the precipice of stardom. NOTE: 2Ligit has announced an upcoming EP of AI and already the first single ‘Paper’ has been released. The dexterity exhibited on that song, and many others is an attestation to his incredible talent. He has the ability to own songs he is featured on, thus leaving an impression on the listener- a quality akin to American artist Anderson.Paak. AI has the penchant of disappearing when the buzz is great-happened after release of ‘Anger Management’ and ‘Making Tasha Proud’. Now that the expectation is high and there’s demand for his songs, I hope AI would seize the wave and make himself the biggest act in the country in 2017 and beyond. A talent like his should not pop out once a year. It should be on public display and the only way to sustain interest is by, yes, dropping some more projects. Hope his team is listening.

 

kuvie

KUVIE

Ignore the fact that he produced ‘Grind’, the hottest jam in 2016-and the hottest at the moment. Ignore that, his production on Joey B’s ‘U xMe’ is flawless. Ignore that, he masterminded ‘Awo’a’ and ‘AY3 Late’ for Pappy Kojo. But, don’t forget he produced Lady Jay’s banger ‘Venus’. Kuvie has been the quiet producer who is allowing his crafty, sometimes unconventional works to spread his name across the country and beyond. Whenever, the ‘Kuvie Made The Beat’ signature pops up on a track, you can be rest assured, it’s special. For what a talent Kuvie is on the production boards, one must listen to Lady Jay’s ‘Venus’ and EL’s ‘Agbadza’. On these two songs, he visited the very important ‘clap clap clap’ technique that embeds almost all traditional Ghanaian folk music, blending it with sneering 808 drums. Then, came the trap vibe to complete it amidst serious horns or strings. Unlike many of his contemporaries whose productions are easy to identify, Kuvie’s is hard to recognize without his signature. His production spectrum is huge-he can drop a good highlife beat with same pristine as a trap beat. Watching him do a live set at Beatphreak Live in February, 2016 turned me from a cursory looker/listener to a behind the veil stan. Kuvie’s talent is undisputable. The little he shared this year surely earns him a spot on this list. And without a doubt, a contender for this year’s VGMA Best Producer award.

 

jami

JEMILA ABDULAI & CIRCUMSPECTE

Ms. Jemila Abdulai was one of the few people I followed on twitter when I joined the platform some years back. Then, I followed her blog/website Circumspecte. Over the years, both Jemila and her brainchild, Circumspecte have grown into brands. Jemila is a woman of many parts: blogger, career coach, feminist and social media expert. Circumspecte, on the other hand focuses mostly on career development, current affairs as well as entertainment. Adding entertainment to its bouquet gladdened my heart. Through the publication of some incredibly pieces, Hakeem Mansah, one for my favourite art writers, has over time kept readers, myself included, visiting the website. Hakeem’s penmanship is brilliant (he also writes on alternative music at @dandano_). One of the things I look forward to is Jemila’s educative twitter threads on many relevant social issues. As I told her some weeks back, she is one of the people who has impressed me overtime. Jemila’s passion for female empowerment, education and social justice coupled with her work at Circumspecte is absolutely important to her readers and relevant to the society.

 

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Reynolds, one of the artistes on VI Music

VISION INSPIRED MUSIC

Five (5) artists; two EPs), one compilation album plus a host of singles from their artists. Throw in two well patronized concerts- which from indications would become an annual event- then you’d realize that, the VI Music guys really worked their souls out in 2016. Since breaking onto the scene in 2015, they have worked to elevate the first lady of the label, Adomaa from a cover singer to a Ghana Music Awards winning artist. In-between Adomaa’s release of her debut EP, ‘Afraba’ in January, 2016 to Akotowaa, a poet/spoken word artist recently released EP ‘Solitaire’, VI Music has put out songs from other artists: Reynolds, Robin-Huws, Tronomie and the FRA Band. Whiles Adomaa remains the face of the label, Tronomie, who happens to be her brother, is the secret weapon of the label. He has the potential to becoming the superstar on the label. They also released the VIM’Tape-a compilation EP around Christmas. One solid advantage, VI Music has is the fact that, their artists possess multiple talents; they are songwriters and producers. The label which is headed by Evans Kwami Kafui Offori is one huge family with the artists, as siblings who don’t only challenge each other but fill in where others fall short. For a label to have achieved what they have in this short space of time proves that, with the right vision (pun intended) and effort, it could grow into a force in the coming years.