I can’t write a blog about my experience in Ghana without writing about music. Music here has come to represent a microcosm of the Ghana’s larger cultural identity. A few weekends ago I traveled with a few friends to visit the botanical gardens in Eburi, a village not far from Accra. On the way back, we (of course) got stuck in traffic, and my friend gave our car a music lesson. He explained that growing up everyone listened American hip hop. Then local young artists began composing their own beats, which others would adopt and a whole slew of similar-sounding songs were born. Now people have started listening to more local music and integrating it with new age melodies and rhythms.
But what is local music? This is a hot topic of discussion in the culture scene. A few weeks ago I attended what’s called the Talk Party series. Periodically, at a cafe in Osu- the ‘downtown’ of Accra, a panel gathers in front of an audience of Accra’s young, eager intellectuals and facilitates a discussion on a set topic. The topic of the session I attended was “Money, Power, Sex”, and the conversation made its way to music. Hiplife is the most well-known style which integrates local music- highlife- and western styles- namely hip hop. One of the speakers pointed out that although highlife is revered for being local, it is in fact a derivative of western Jazz styles. Yet, jazz is a hybrid out of Africa. It boils down to the identity of the African countries are entangled with their history as colonies, which is a sort of trite conclusion at this point.
What I’ve seen the younger generation doing here is instead of looking back towards the past for their identity, they embrace their current quirky mix of old and new, local and cosmopolitan elements of culture. I’ve recently become more active in the world of social media in Accra, and here this fervor is especially evident. I just ‘liked’ a new facebook page which has stormed my news feed. It’s called “The New Ghana”, and everyday there are a few posts of phrases or pictures that call upon people to dream big about Ghana’s future as a unique, modern nation. It’s really great to see people so motivated and proud of their country, and it makes me want to be a bigger part of it all. The only complaint I have of the campaign is sometimes they post photos of New York or Las Vegas, with the words “I had a dream that Osu looked like this.” It would be great for Ghana to get improved infrastructure, but I don’t think it should aim to be like the big Western cities- how boring would that be? There’s got to be a way for Ghana to be a contender on the global scene without conforming to Western norms.
p.s. Yesterday the Ghanaian president, Atta Mills, passed away. Expect a post on the event soon. May he rest in peace.