On the bright side, Nima’s own hip life music group V.I.P. has agreed to perform. The event itself is going to rock, now we just have to get the funds.
Posts Tagged ‘music’
Saskia and I had already been to Reggie Rockstone’s club, the Office, a couple of times together. Reggie hadn’t been there either time though. On Sunday, he texted Saskia saying he was there and we should come. We showed up…and it was completely empty except for him. He was sitting outside on one of the wooden benches. He had on a slick pinstriped suit and sunglasses that complemented his dreadlocks. The Office was locked. Saskia and I looked at each other.
He didn’t want us to come to his club, per se. It turned out he needed us to stay up with him so that he could make a TV interview at 5:30 in the morning without falling asleep. We joined him on the bench as he ate waakye (hot rice and beans) and told us stories. We talked about love, marriage, religion, hip life, and his ex-wife who threw a toaster on him.
And then it started. I was wearing a black-and-white striped dress from H&M that wasn’t all that long, and I could feel the bugs devouring my legs. I tried swatting at them, but what could I do? I didn’t have on pants. The club was locked.
The hours ticked by. The car that Reggie had asked to wait for us turned off its lights with a snort. The sun came up. We headed over to Metro TV. After keeping us waiting, they informed us they wanted Reggie for 7 am. He was pissed. He hadn’t slept all night, and there was no way he could stay up until 7. So we left. Amidst the drama, no one looked down at my legs. But when we dropped Reggie off at his house, he looked down into the cab and saw…my legs, covered in hundreds of bright red spots.
“You got leprosy, girl?”
I laughed ruefully and said, “Just mosquito bites.”
The cab driver took us home. Saskia and I slept all afternoon. We went to the hospital that night, and I wore pants for a week and a half.
So, I paid dearly for an all-nighter with Reggie Rockstone. But I think it was maybe worth it.
When I was in Accra, my boss Kelvin let me work pretty much on my own schedule. One of my weeks was umm…more focused on hip life culture than on the JAC, you might say.
Hip life, which I mentioned in my last post, is a popular type of music in Ghana that combines traditional African high life and contemporary hip-hop. Artists rap in their local languages over African melodies mixed with hip-hop beats. If you hear a song by a Ghanaian artist on the radio, it’s probably hip life. Haverford prof Jesse Shipley is well known for his documentary Living the Hip Life, which I watched in Ruti Talmor’s African Masculinities class.
I was actually a little disappointed by hip life when I got to Ghana. What I read about it by Jesse and learned in my African Masculinities class was that the artists were forging a space for themselves, reclaiming their voices against the older generation. They generated a new form of expression and had real political influence. They swayed elections and were hired for important ad campaigns. From what I saw of hip life though, it was pretty much like American rap. It focused on money, cars, and girls, just with some Ghanaian words and beats. Don’t get me wrong, I love (love) Ghanaian music. When a car would go by blasting music, people in the street would spontaneously start dancing because the rhythms are so wonderful. It’s just that, most of the music was as ordinary as everything else. I think perhaps earlier hip life lyrics were more political, but as the style got more mainstream, so did the words.
Anyway, Jesse knows a lot of big hip life artists. One of his best friends is Reggie Rockstone, the “Godfather of hip life,” who started it all back in the 90s. Reggie is a legend in Ghana. He’s as famous as it gets. And of course, my friend Saskia who worked with Jesse knew him too, and Reggie thought she was just the greatest. He would text her at all hours of the night, but it was always an adventure to meet up with him. Read on…
When I was in Ada, I was always around welcoming people. As I walked down the road, everyone would greet me. Little kids would run out to say hello. I was constantly running into kids from school who would smile and shyly nod, “Miss Robin.” I knew plenty of people in the village, though they were either mostly younger students and older teachers, so I didn’t have any real contemporaries. But I was okay with that.
My first few nights at the hostel, I had a lot of “single-serving friends,” as Edward Norton says in Fight Club. There would be other girls in the room who would stay for a night or two. We might go out to eat or to a spot bar. Maybe we’d chat about the places we missed in the U.S. while drying out our hair or sharing the mirror. And then they would leave – they would go off to their flight, their village, or their internship assignment – and I would stay. The Salvation Army hostel is a place most people stay in for a night or two, but I was there for four weeks. For good.
There was Sugandi, a lady from Sri Lanka who was in the room too with her daughter Lisa (Lisaline). The poor lady had been in the hostel for nine months. She was waiting to get a visa to meet her husband in Paris. As far as I know, she’s still there. She keeps on going to the embassy, and they keep on telling her, “Two weeks.” Such a sad story, and such a kind lady. In the morning, she would make tea or Milo, a Ghanaian version of hot chocolate. Lisa would approach me and present the cup with a little smile. Sugandi could not be nicer, and Lisa could not be cuter. But I still didn’t have any friends. I knew a few locals through Kelvin or other guests at the hostel, but at least at that point, we weren’t that close. I didn’t have any girlfriends I could just chat with, grab a bite with, or easily relate to.
And then Annie came. Annie is from England. She has bright blond hair, a cheery smile, a great accent, and is one of the friendliest, silliest people I know.
When I walked into the room my first week there, after a long day at work and an evening at the beach with one of my local friends, I saw two new bags in the room. I didn’t bother making conversation beyond “hey what’s your name where are you from.” They would be gone the next day anyway.
But the next day came, and Annie was still there. “How long are you here for?” she asked as I set my bag down on my bed. “I saw they have a sign that says you can only stay for a week?”
I laughed bitterly. “Yeah, that’s not true. I’m here for four.”
“Really? That’s awesome. Cause I think I might be here for a while. I’m in Ghana til September and I haven’t worked out any other place to stay.”
My heart fluttered. Could I have a friend? At last?
We went out for gelato at Arlecchino’s that night (expensive, but so worth it). We laughed, gushed, and commiserated over Ghana. She was doing research on the effectiveness of volunteerism, having come back two years after being a volunteer herself. On the way back to the hostel, we ran into some of the guys who sell things on the street who had been bothering me for the past few days. I steeled my shoulders and got ready brush past them with, “No thank you, sir.” That’s when she greeted them with, “Hey, Calobash! Black Rasta! This is my friend Robin.” Our friendship was cemented.
And then Saskia came.
I was coming back late one Thursday after being at the village for the day. I climbed the steps to the second floor courtyard of the hostel, half-asleep. Suddenly a tall, elegant girl in blue slacks and a peasant top stopped me.
“Excuse me, are you Robin?”
“Yes,” I wrinkled my forehead, surprised.
“I am Saskia,” she said in a slight accent.
“Oh my God, Saskia, hey! Kelvin told me you might be coming.”
Saskia was my professor Jesse Shipley’s assistant, for Jesse’s documentary on the Black Stars. Jesse had called Kelvin because Saskia was looking for a place to stay, so Kelvin of course recommended the same place he’d suggested to me: the lovely Salvation Army hostel.
By a great stroke of luck, Saskia ended up in my room. We got to talking, and it turned out we shared a ton of interests: art, culture, hip life music, getting the local experience. Saskia is a student in Berlin writing her thesis on hip life – what Jesse’s work is on; a type of music in Ghana that combines traditional African high life with contemporary hip hop. Saskia models too, and she sure looks like one with her high cheekbones, long amber hair, and chic gray dresses.
Suddenly I had gone from no friends, to two. Saskia, Annie, and I made a team. In the morning, we would buy pineapple from the ladies on the street and walk over to Frankie’s café for a loaf of warm brioche. We would go out to spot bars at night, or during the day get taken around by Saskia’s Ghanaian friends. When I developed an allergic reaction to massive mosquito bites on my legs, they took me to the hospital and picked me up fried rice. When we would get back at any hour past 9 pm and Sugandi would have the lights off and door locked, we would knock on the door and cower outside together.
I had friends. Life was looking up.