Chale Wote Arts Festival (2011) in Jamestown, Ghana by Francis Kokoroko
Chale Wote Street Art Festival is produced yearly with the help of Development Agencies, Slum Residents and Contemporary Artists. The festival includes street art, spoken word poetry, musical performances, art installations, fashion, theater and bike stunts.
The Chale Wote Street Festival is a really fun time. I had so much fun last year when I went. Wish I could be there again this year!
Whilst routing around my drawers I found this snap of my dad as teen in Accra, Ghana circa 1965.
I really like this picture. Not just because it’s my dad looking cool in his Buddy Holly inspired Ray Bans and Chelsea boots, but because it’s a nice reminder for me that fashion on the continent has always been about mixing what’s hot in popular culture with what’s always been stylish in theirs.
They were a part of the neo-cultural musical movement that occurred durring the 1970s in Ghana. Wulomei, alongside other groups like Suku Troupe and the more obscure Ga-Mashiebii, walked the fine line of contemporary and traditional musical landscapes perfectly.
Wether you were Ga from Accra, Asanti from Kumasi or Fanti from the coast, there was a group specializing in speaking your musical language in a modern way. Sure, upon listening to this album, it may surprise you to hear it described as modern, but one must remember that this was a recent phenomena for listeners in the 70’s. Highlife was the range, afro funk was around the corner, guitar bands were on the rise, and amidst all of that these culture groups were reminding folks (and tourist alike) of the essence for the first time on record.
Ga cultural highlife emerged during the 1970s as an urban, neo-traditional popular music form. The Gas are an ethnic minority in Ghana (where Akans dominate over forty percent of the population) yet they remain the majority in Ghana’s capital Accra, as they are the city’s oldest, original inhabitants. This ethnic group is primarily bound to the costal and the urban realms, as the sea (in particular fishing) has played a central role in livelihood up until the present. Ga musicians were involved in dance-band highlife since the early 20thcentury (this variety of highlife accordingly reflects influences from Ga traditional music), yet it was not until the cultural highlife of the 1970s that Gas put forth their own style of guitar-band music. This new music represented a desire to go “back to roots” and revive tradition. Ga cultural highlife was largely the creation of drummer Nii Tei Ashitey, who founded the pioneering Ga highlife group Wulomei in 1973. Both a traditional and dance-band drummer, Ashitey founded Wulomei as a reactionary move against the influx of foreign music into Ghana. He states his objective as “To bring something out for the youth to progress and to forget foreign music and do their own thing” (Collis,Musicmakers 142). Inspired by the proto-highlife Ga konkoma groups of the 1940s, the music of Ashitey’s Wulomei encorporates influences from Ga traditional music, Kru sea shanties, work songs, and Akan guitar-band music. Wulomei’s original sparse lineup consisted of traditional percussion instruments (bells, rattles, drums), a single guitar, and a chorus of several male and female singers. Here, the percussion section is emphasized heavily, while singing is modeled after the group call and response singing of a traditional dance/drum ensemble both in terms of form and vocal technique. Accompanying the chorus of singers is the guitar, adding a highlife dimension to a style which might otherwise sound very much like traditional music.
Nii Adu (AKA “Big Boy”) playing GomeThe term “Wulomei” itself refers to traditional Ga priests, and the band members of Wulomei self-consciously dress in the same white cloth/hats of Wulomei priests. In this way, the band’s name and dress are strategically used to represent deep roots in the Ga community and connections with traditional music/life. In the same manner, quintessentially Ga drums are used in cultural highlife as a means to signify ethnic ties and connections with tradition. The gome drum is a central instrument in the ensemble, a large bass frame drum which is sat upon while played. The musician is able to change the tone of the drum by moving his feet across the drum’s head. In addition, the osrama drum appears frequently in Ga cultural highlife. This skinny, high-pitched stick drum may by found in the courts of Ga kings (Mantse), where it is used as a “talking drum.”
Walatu Walasa (1974) is Wulomei’s second album, following Mibe Shi Dinn released earlier that same year. Released on Kwadwo Donkoh’s Agoro records label, Walatu Walasa features many of Wulomei’s biggest hits, including “Akrowa,” “Kaafo,” and the title track. John Collins writes: “Walatu Walasa means in Twi that ‘you are digging and then shoveling it away,’ implying that only an idiot would do both. Walatu Walasahas become a popular phrase at a time when large numbers of workers have been employed by the government to build drains in Accra. To greet a laborer with this term is to insult him, for it demeans manual labor” (“Ghanaian Highlife” p. 67). These Wulomei songs (and those of other Ga groups like Dzadzeloi, Suku Troupe, Ashiedu Keteke, Abladei, etc.) continue to be relevant and popular in Ghana today, where they may be heard playing over the radio and from street-side speakers in Accra. At the same time, Wulomei remains in existence with a lineup of all new members, now lead by Ashitey’s daughter and son.
This morning, I began my search for the freshest new Zambian music. I have to admit I had never listened to Zambian music before. I was lucky enough to stumble upon YouTube Videos from ZedBeats. This site is an amazing resource! I have learned so much about Zambian music in only a few hours. However, what struck me the most about Zambian kwaito is now similar it is to the West African hiplife music I hold so dear to my heart. Both genres mix English and local languages in really unique ways and have a very similar sound and musical feel. Lusaka’s music scene seems to mirror Accra’s far more than I could imagine. There are just so many great female and male artists that I can’t wait to hear even more Zambian music.
It was hard to pick just one video to feature today. But, female artist Mampi stood out as one of the most talented African hip-hop performers I have ever seen. She just has a great sense of energy while performing and her lyrics really connect to a wide audience. She is one of the most famous artists in Zambia with more hits than almost anyone else. She released her first album Malozi in 2005, and since then she has just been growing and becoming more popular as an artist.
This song “Why?” begins with an awkward run-in between Mampi and her lover who is with his baby momma. She confronts him and then walks away from the situation. The rest of the video features her lighting fires, dancing, and asking where she went wrong. However, she remains strong and learns to look for better men in the future. The song is extremely catchy and will leave you asking “Why?” would any man cheat on Mampi.
I am loving Accra rapper M.anifest’s new video “Makaa Maka.” “Makaa Maka” loosely translates from Twi as “If I said it I said it” or “I say it without apology.” The video really shows the diversity of Accra and mixes Pidgin English with Twi.