Category Archives: GH2013

A Vision for a Black Star: Ghana’s Hopes for the year 2020

Even though I don’t live in the country, Ghana is never far from my mind. The proximity of the state of the country to my consciousness has everything to do with remittances, relaxation and eventual retirement. Although I do not call the country my permanent home, I have invested a lot in its development indirectly, as have thousands of Ghanaians who live abroad. The Kufuor administration even went so far as to name remittances from the Ghanaian diaspora as a major contributor to GDP growth and encouraged the Diaspora to send even more money back home for the cause of development. These claims and calls did not come without controversy, however.

Like any “investor”, I have been doing a great deal of thinking about the impact of my money and what kind of return I can expect. Hitherto I had thought of myself and any other working Ghanaian as a cabal of Angel Investors, whose sole function is to blindly (albeit sometimes grudgingly) provide funds and resources to our dependents on the continent without expecting anything in return. It turns out I was wrong. We were ALL wrong! In 1996, the ruling government DID promise us something in return…they just never talked about it much. There was indeed a vision laid out for the running of the country, however I’m sure they hoped we would all forget if they kept mum on the matter.

When I was in college back in the 90’s, I heard some talking head mention something about Vision 2020 and development goals. Ghana was supposed to be on par with the Asian Tigers – or whoever the competition du jour was – according to the man speaking. I filed that information. Fast-forward nearly 20 years later and there is unrest everywhere, from nursing protests, TUC strikes and the Occupy Ghana demonstrations. The concerns are valid and they are very real.

In conversation, the phrase “Ghana is hard ooo”, followed by the forlorn sucking of teeth is uttered from perspiring, hardworking people every day. All these people want is the Better Ghana they were promised. But what does that look like? For some, it’s just a chance to garner and complete a quality education. They can take it from there. For others, it is food security and a life without fear of where one’s next meal will come from. For another it’s a thriving business in an environment where people are empowered to patronize said business. Others still just hope to have their own home one day. Ghanaians want what anyone else in the world wants. Stability, health and happiness. This is what Vision 2020 was supposed to give every Ghanaian citizen.

I came across a document online that outlines what was supposed to have been achieved in Ghana over the course of 25 years, from 1996-2020. I was compelled to search for it, because I have yet to hear any politician from NDC or NPP talk about a real plan for how to move the country to middle income, and more importantly, self-reliant status. The only things Ghanaians get on a consistent basis from either party are platitudes and finger pointing. Sometimes that finger comes right back to the citizen with leaders demanding that citizens do their share. Well, sir (and it’s always a sir), where is the reciprocity? Everyday Ghanaian life is naught but a series of sacrifices. Our children die in hospitals where there is no water and electricity. There are only 4 oncologists in the whole nation, operating in only TWO cancer centers (Accra and Kumasi). People have no choice but to defecate in the open because each successive government has failed to provide the amenities that would give these folks basic human dignity. What, I ask again, is left for them to give?

The poorly written document that contains the Vision 2020 goals can be found HERE It reads like a wish list and has no concrete plans to guide it, and though riddled with fluff and thoroughly banal in its execution, it makes a fascinating read. I mean, someone actually took the time to put a dream on paper…and that dream would have been glorious if only we have the leadership to execute it. It talks of abolishing customs that hinder the advancement of women; about using science and technology to solve socio-economic problems; and about providing power to the entire nation using the most modern methods available. There’s even a Green agenda in there as well, with talk of reducing pressure on forests for wood fuels and setting up models for biogas use in villages. By the year 2020, Ghana was to have been a utopia. But what do we have instead?

GalamseyNow we have entire woodlands destroyed as people desperate for a living hacked down trees and gutted whole forests in search of gold. The toll ‘galamsey’ (informal mining) has had on the environment has been catastrophic. Ghana was once a global provider of timber…now the country imports it. If your child is lucky enough to go to school, he/she will have to sit in shadow or risk being feasted on my mosquitoes as they do their homework under streetlamps or at banks. One of the most dangerous things a woman can do in many parts of Ghana is get pregnant, as maternal health is so abysmal that a sub-chief who had previously worked abroad as a veterinarian visiting KATH said that he wouldn’t let his dog give birth there. And as far as women’s rights…well, you know about my good friend Nelson Baani and the non-apology he has offered in conjunction with an absence of any sort of reprimand from his bosses.

That’s not to paint a completely bleak picture though. There are some very nice restaurants, a new highway the leads to the Western Region and of course, the Accra Mall – the city’s jewel – a jewel mired with snarling traffic and accessible by a labyrinth of roads that look like they were designed by a lunatic schizophrenic. There is development in Ghana, but it is nowhere near the level we were (secretly) promised or what the architects intended. These are mere trinkets when we were pledged a crown glittering with jewels.

2020viz

This is what makes scandals like GYEEDA, SADA, the CHRAJ spending scandal and a litany of other incidences wherein thievery and corruption are the hallmarks. These monies were to be used to make Ghana great. It was for the citizens and generations to come. Vision 2020 promised that all Ghanaians would be free from crushing, abject poverty by the time my children came of age. Whoever takes control of power in 2016 will then have 4 years to make it happen. But the reality is, I don’t think most political or civic leaders are even aware of this document’s existence, let alone the plans it contains within. One of our complaints as Ghanaians is that we have visionless leaders. That’s not true. Rawling’s NDC took the time to create a vision and it was his party – if none other – that should have endeavored to make that vision a tangible reality. What we have is a group of gluttonous sloths, wholly and solely committed to engorging themselves on the suffering of the people, but they are not ‘visionless’.

That much, we can all see.

The Diplomatic Importance of General Mosquito’s Faux Fox Coat

There has been much ado made about Asiedu Nketia’s donning of a knee-length tan shearling coat in Germany for the last few days. The NDC General Secretary has been mocked mercilessly by Ghanaians of social media and on local radio. Even BBC for Africa joined in the fray, noting how the Secretary admitted that he had borrowed his wife’s coat to protect him from the biting chill of a German winter. Like President Mahama’s village boy in the city pose in front of the CNN Center post interview, the NDC cadre has declared that General Mosquito (Mr. Nketia’s nickname) in drag is no big deal.

asiedu

“I went to Germany for brain work, not [a] fashion show,” Asiedu Nketia declared. He went on to add that he chose to wear his wife’s coat because he “did not want to use state funds to buy a coat” and that he “borrows his wife’s clothes all the time.”

“In fact, anytime my wife comes down, she borrows my clothes as well,” General Mosquito announced on public radio.

As a married woman, I get this. I sometimes borrow my husband’s underwear as well. There is tons of room in both the crotch and backside. They are also made of the finest cotton. I can slip in and of them without getting my short and curlies snagged in the fabric, which always makes for a pleasant trip to the bathroom. But does Marshall wear my underwear? That, my friends, you will never know…because Marshall is a strong Black man who would rather eat his own knee caps than admit that he and his wife swapped clothes. Marshall is not a pimp, and as Slick Back will tell you, pimpin’ aint easy.

Eish! I'm sure the president is pleased! Got muh pointy shoes, sheepish grin AND dis dead buffalo on my back! Coon crown, here I come!

Eish! I’m sure the president is pleased! Got muh pointy shoes, sheepish grin AND dis dead buffalo on my back! Coon crown, here I come!

It takes a certain amount of disregard for your dignity to don women’s clothing in public. About 89% of pimp garb is comprised of feminine silhouettes, fabrics and accessories. Despite the absence of masculinity in their attire, there is usually no one more ferocious and dominating on the block than the neighborhood pimp. Such a man must be completely confident in his testicular fortitude. Prince – with his spiked heels and lace blouses – has been doing it for decades, and has not come out worse for the wear. In fact, he set trends for a particular segment of pop culture in the 80’s. Similarly, Secretary Asiedu has pronounced that he has also served as a trend setter by making it okay for African men to wear copious levels of fur in colder climates. Only the most confident human beings know what kind of self-assurance it takes to don the skin of a ferocious dead animal, and although General Mosquito’s was cut for the Queen, the simplicity of it still screamed “don’t screw with me! I’ll cut!”

What most people have failed to grasp is that Asiedu Nketia has actually done the nation a great service. He accompanied the President’s delegation to Germany to ask the world’s best engineers to solve our electricity problem. Hannah Tetteh, who cuts an imposing figure was draped in a structured black overcoat, back erect and face set like a flint. She looked too much like a strong African woman. Who then was to play the part of the helpless African child? Bravely, Asiedu Nketia took up the post, and we should all be grateful. Shame on you know-it-alls who have been deriding him for this choice! He did this for you!

Everyone knows white people are far more comfortable in the presence of Black men when they don’t look so…well…Black. For centuries, Black men who have voluntarily eviscerated their own masculinity have been well rewarded for their efforts. White people don’t like thugs, but boy, do they love a Black man in drag! Flip Wilson, Jamie Foxx, Martin Lawrence and most recently, Tyler Perry, are all Black men who have played some version of the Mammie figure, putting on wigs, dresses and hints of poorly matched rouge, flapping, screeching and squawking for cameras for white laughs. In return, they get loads money and live fabulously, while your bus driving, minimum wage-making, masculinity-still-in-tact husband entreats you to “rely on God” and promises you it will “be okay after a while.” Nonsense! Don’t you also like diamonds? Oh that would all Black men just put their pride aside for the advancement for the race!

Similarly, whites only help Africans when they look poor and witless…and Asiedu Nketia played that part convincingly. You think I’m lying? When was the last time you saw a foreign aid commercial featuring African children who were fully clothed, well-fed and living in a sturdy looking home? Who helps people who look like they have it all together? Such children do exist, and they do need aid; however that image does not tug on the heartstrings of white guilt. Asiedu Nketia, a whooooole government official shivering against the cold in his wife’s coat, however, does. The German’s felt guilty, benevolent, patronizing and compassionate. They did not feel like they were in the presence of equals, and this perception is vital if Africans are to receive the technological know-how from the West and Asia if we are to survive. Lord knows it is impossible to conceive of the idea that African governments should think to recruit the veritable thousands of MIT, Harvard or Morehouse graduates to come back home and use their knowledge to develop the nation. Why should President Mahama recruit and court Ghanaians in the diaspora who have worked and led in the fields of physics, CIT and agriculture? Nah dawg! Instead, he would rather let Asiedu Nketia pose for the German camera’s looking like a rack and the Goodwill on Crenshaw.

And God bless him for it.

I can see the scene before the President’s entourage went out to meet Merkel n dems.

“Hannah,” said JDM, entreating the statuesque Minister of Foreign affairs. “Hannah, we need someone to play the poor, stupid African. Can you put on these flip flops with your suit and go and meet the German chancellor? This is the last 15 minutes in the game, and we need a closer!”

Hannah Tetteh gives him that cold, unwavering side-eye she’s known for and offers the president a frosty, curt “no.” But it was okay. Asiedu Nketia slid onto the field and came to the President’s aid, like Asamoah Gyan in the last few critical minutes of a match, ready to defend Ghana’s honor.

“It’s okay, Mr. President!” he cried gleefully. “I have here with me my wife’s winter coat. The world won’t know what hit it!”

Humph. Malaria doesn’t have the power to keep a Mosquito down. What a goal!

Remember: Asiedu General Mosquito Nketia has said that he did not want to use state funds to buy a coat when his wife’s would do. Now, isn’t the General a public servant? Is his salary not provided by the state? Don’t these delegations get a substantial per diem when they travel abroad? Surely, he could have parted with 100 cedis to purchase himself some dignity? What is all this talk of not embezzling funds? Why would you need to? You could afford it on your own!

The only logical conclusion we can draw is that Mr. Asiedu made this breach of protocol on purpose, and in doing so, he has saved Ghana. The Germans will some, and they will end dumsor (rolling power outages) in six months. How could they not? The man can’t even dress himself for an official presentation. How can anyone expect this cabal of “great thinkers” to solve the power crisis? Of course the Germans will come to Ghana’s rescue!

asmFurthermore and in conclusion, Asiedu Nketia and choice of gender bending garb have (probably) ushered in a new era of acceptance in Ghanaian politics, and this is a good thing. This will be an era when Ghanaian men are not so beholden to traditional norms, built on machismo that have held the nation back. You see this man? Behold, and keep beholding! This is the future. I can support someone like this. This is the image of the better Ghana agenda at work!

Wiyaala to drop new single for Peace and Unity in Africa

Wiyaala press

Wiyaala drops her new single “Africa” on the 29th September. The song was debuted live at “A Night of 1018 Laughs” to a wildly enthusiastic crowd in a performance described by critics as “immense”, “awesome” and “the Angelique Kidjo of our time”.

Following her knock-about antics in the hit songs, “Rock My Body” and “Go Go Black Stars”, Wiyaala turns her attention to more serious issues:

“I was partly inspired to write ‘Africa’ by Sherifa Gunu, who helped me during some difficult times. Like my dear sister, I want to send out a message for peace. Africa is blessed with huge natural and human resources, yet we refuse to live in harmony? I’m not just talking about wars and terrorism, I’m also talking about hatred and jealousy on a personal level where we fight as individuals, bear false witness and create enmity between ourselves.”

“Africa” is the first single to be released from the self-titled album “Wiyaala” due out in November. The song, on which the singer plays the acoustic guitar live, was produced and recorded by Jurgen Von Wechmar at Sunset Recording Studios in Stellenbosch, South Africa. A video for “Africa” is expected soon.

 

Leave your comments about how giddy with excitement you are about this here. I’ll lead you.

Sun & Moon: Wiyaala’s Lesson on Tolerance

One of the hallmarks of what makes an artist great is the subject matter they choose to address through their craft. Indeed, the idea and the messages that an artist adopts as their core mission will determine whether he or she will be remembered and revered in the annals of music history, or will fade from memory like a dying star. This is why Bob Marley is an icon, and Buju Banton’s music was something we boggled to for a few years in the 90’s and haven’t brought up since. Marley’s music had – and still has – a timeless, relevant message about poverty, love and pride; and since “boom bye-bye in a batty boy head” is considered hate speech… well, you get the picture.

Consumer appetite for music is ever changing. There was a time when “message music” was the order of the day until record executives decided that people no longer wanted to be preached to. Somewhere between the late 70’s and early 80’s, you begin to see a shift in themes covered in popular Top 40 songs, most centering around partying, every so often around romance, and eventually exclusively around sex.

I don’t know if we’re better off for it, but that’s the state of things.

For those of us who grew up on and in love with Bob Marley, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye and others who occupied space in the musical vanguard, there has been an unfillable void in contemporary music in this area. It’s the reason we clutch so dearly to John Legend, Janelle Monae and the High Priestess of Musical Mind-bending – Erykah Badu. Instead of relying on tired, 10 for a dollar, sexually explicit matter like many of their contemporaries, these artists express a range in the themes they cover: sometimes sensual, often political, always relevant.

In my opinion, Noella Wiyaala absolutely belongs in this rank.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting my fair share of Ghanaian artists; some because we shared the same social circles or educational opportunities, and others by happy accident… but I am hard pressed to think of any who is as generous and genuine as Wiyaala.

She recent shared her single Sun & Moon with me, which will be on her album coming out in November (*gleeful shriek!*). I played the song for my children, and we shared similar reactions.

“It’s so peaceful,” my second born remarked with a sigh. “But I don’t understand what she’s saying…”

“It doesn’t matter. It just matters how it makes you feel.”

Wiyaala sings the song in Sissala and it is based around a traditional folk song sung from the villages of the Upper West. The Sissala have earned a reputation for being needlessly aggressive and war-hungry, which makes the story around the song and the song itself reason to pause and consider it more deeply.

The song is about a group of villagers who are sat round discussing life (in the days before TV) and chatting. The elder poses the question:

“Who amongst us doesn’t have issues?”

After much debate, the conclusion was that everyone – no matter their background – has concern and problems. The elder who posed the question then goes on to suggest that everyone in the village pause, reflect on their actions before making rash decisions and exercise patience since “whatever our issues, the sun will give way to the moon and in its turn the moon will give way to the sun.”

 

 

The stars are out

They shine so bright

Sun and Moon 

Anxiously wait their turn

But who can tell what

Judgement day will bring?

 

 

If you happened to catch the Tamale Summit online, you may recall Wiyaala talking about the global marketability of Northern culture and language, and the huge opportunities that are being missed.

Her assertion is that songs/rap from Northern region are just as palatable as hip-life done in Akan/Twi, however many potential artists from other disenfranchised parts of the country are led to believe that their mother-tongue is not marketable. However, the brilliance of King Ayisoba – who hails from the North and is making inroads on the path to international acclaim – dispels this myth. Unfortunately (and shamefully), one is more likely to hear Ayisoba on German radio than to hear him in Accra at drive time. It is another case of Ghanaians not valuing our culture and its purveyors at home.

Image from ghanajist

Image from ghanagist

Wiyaala is the most generous musical artist in Ghana in my estimation because she looks at fame beyond herself and does it so effortlessly and unconsciously. During the Tamale Summit, she mentioned plans to build a stage in her hometown where young men and women can come and practice singing and stage presence. While other musicians’ goal is to “put Ghana on the map” through their personal rise to fame, she seeks to empower others and provide tangible structures to enable them to do so. This is what cements a woman’s honored place in history: to be remembered as someone who lifted and encouraged others to go beyond the heights even she has achieved.

Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t allow me to share mp3s on the site, otherwise I’d happily order you to click ‘Play’ and prepare yourself for auditory pleasure. The song is a lesson about tolerance, about preferring others above oneself, and about patience. In the end, everyone gets their turn, as no state of existence is forever, is it? I guess we’ll all have to wait until November when the album drops to have this conversation again!

 

2 hours later:

Oh look what I have for you! Click ‘Play’ :)

 

Are You Ready to #TalkDirtyToMe?

You read the title. Look at where you mind went. Just because I write for a sex blog and had one, maybe twelve explicit scenes in a novel I wrote, you automatically assume this is going to be a naughty conversation. See your life! Ask the deity of your choice to forgive you for your rush to judgment!

naturemill-plus-automatic-kitchen-composter-1There are a couple of important things happening this week. The most pressing of those is that after a year of lusting, I will finally get to purchase a NatureMill kitchen composter. This is huge for a number of reasons:

  • I hate looking at decomposing food in the kitchen, even if it’s locked up in a steel bin
  • The smell of decomposing food makes me sick, right down to my toes
  • Hubby doesn’t always remember to take out the kitchen trash, which means I have occasion to come in contact with old spaghetti and egg remains. Composting means I only have to empty a bin of “dirt” in that event.
  • Composting is good for the Earth

I recognize that my last reason should have been number 1 on the list. Perhaps I’m not that altruistic. Jesus is still working on me.

The other thing that is happening today is a super cool conversation I’m having with Golda Addo – a woman I very much admire for her work in green innovation and social activism. Because I’m letting the Lord work on me, He has chosen this vessel (Ms. Addo), to Talking Dirty To Me and help me –and you, if you’ll be watching – understand the numerous ways we can positively impact our environment through a series of simple steps.

Ghana’s pollution problem is at near critical mass, as the government, citizenry and private stakeholders have all passed the buck on who is responsible for cleaning up. It’s a vicious cycle of blame and inefficiency that has left the country buried in filth. I have teamed up with Green Ghanaian to host a series of conversations on to explore ways that we can combat this trend and eventually reverse it, and the only way to do that is to dig up and face the filthy truth that Ghana is a dirty country.

Watch the show HERE at 2pm EST/ 6pm GMT

The health challenges that Ghana is facing has become a major concern to many of its citizens. I’m pleased that while I will be hosting this discussion, a team of Ghanaian bloggers, medical experts and sanitation experts will also be meeting in the city to tackle the very same issue. If you’re in the city, you can find the Hub location of follow @BloggingGhana for details on the event.

The Green Gospel is here my brethren! Will you hear the good word? Will you run swiftly to share it?! You can use the hashtag #TrashTalk on twitter to join in the conversation or submit a question/suggestion to my guest today. You will also be able to catch the segment on this link  later if you miss the live broadcast.

Even though the geographic focus of our conversations will be about Ghana, the methods and ideas shared can be replicated anywhere in the world. So don’t be afraid to watch and chime in my New Zealand readers!

Smooches!

Note: I got 3 hours of sleep last night. I’m so delirious right now. I can’t even think of a proper way to end this post… I WILL be looking crazy today.

A #FilthCleaningChallenge is Long Overdue

Every culture has to deal with its “thing” – a question or problem that pricks at the conscience of a people – at one point or another. China has Tibet. India has rape. America has racism and hypocrisy. Ghana has filth.

Let’s just face it: Ghana is a pretty nasty country.

We can boast all we want to about our work ethic and that we are “the friendliest country” in Africa. We can even hide behind the hem of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah’s political suit trousers and thump our collective chests about how we were the first Sub-Saharan nation to gain independence or to build the first motorway in the region. All that is true, but it doesn’t negate the horrific reality that is Agbogbloshie the world’s largest digital dumping ground, or the veritable cesspool that is the Korle Lagoon, or the mucky mess that are now our beaches.

Everywhere you look there is trash all over Ghana. The slopes of my beloved Akuapem mountains are covered white with cellophane, scrap material and paper. You can hardly get to a holiday destination in the country without cruising through a small village or town that has become a dumping ground for metropolitan waste. And good heaven, don’t let it rain! Accra and its suburbs become flash flood zones. An acquaintance of mine drowned when he tried to navigate one of the huge drainage gutters in the city. He was swept away in a rip tide of human waste and sewage.

You wonder where it all this spilth comes from, and before you have a chance to form a theory your father careless tosses a Pure Water sachet out of the driver’s side door or a child drops a Fan Yogo wrapper on a foot path as he scampers off to catch up with his friends. This scenario is repeated all over Ghana millions of times a day. Coupled with the fact that the country does not have the means to dispose of waste responsibly, this mindless and careless attitude toward littering has been a death sentence for our environment. And like anything that makes its way into our earth and water source, trash makes its way up the food chain.

The majority of Ghanaians eat food that is contaminated in some way, every day. I recall the horror I felt when a friend of mine disclosed that the extended silence between us was attributed to her having contracted typhoid fever after eating some locally grown lettuce. As I child, I remember one “farmer” that lived not too far from our neighborhood who would nonchalantly scoop water from a nearby gutter to water his lettuce and cabbages. It was revolting. It is also something small scale farmers do all over the country.

As parts of West Africa deal with an ebola outbreak, Ghanaians have a different plague of our own to contend with: cholera.

Cholera.

Cholera!

“Isn’t cholera something that war torn countries and failed states have to deal with?” someone on Twitter asked.

What’s the appropriate response for that? Do we then have to admit Ghana is a failed state since we have no war to blame this scourge – a calamity of our own doing – on? With the cedi in a free fall and the IMF setting our nation’s agenda, that’s not something I particularly want to contemplate, let alone admit. I’d rather focus on what you and I can change.

As the ALS Ice bucket craze challenge winds down, more people are turning to ways to use the same idea to affect change in their own communities. India’s celebrity core has initiated a Rice Challenge to fight hunger. Potable water is as scarce in India as it is in Ghana. Never mind the fact that our electricity supply is so erratic that it would make little sense to waste your precious cold water by dumping it on your head. It’s hot in Africa. We drink cold water. We don’t waste ice block! The point is, the ice bucket challenge was a gimmick, but it worked… 88.5 million times.

Would something like that work in Ghana? Only you or I could say.

MAksiNow, before I go any further, I want anyone reading who thinks Ghanaians as a collective enjoy living in filth and that there have been no previous efforts to clean up our environment or our attitudes about it to disabuse themselves of that notion right now. In 2011, Joselyn Dumas teamed up with the MAKSI fashion label to launch a campaign aimed at addressing the issue of waste in our environment. Golda Addo and Akua Akyaa Nkrumah have also worked consistently and tirelessly towards promoting a Green Ghana. What these women and other individuals need is our support as a nation. They need us to be educated on the issues that affect our nation’s health and sanitation so that we can help spread the gospel of cleaniless. We don’t need Bono and Bill Gates to save Africa from malaria; we just need to stop creating breeding grounds for mosquitos and harmful bacteria. More importantly, we need to stop accepting the world’s digital trash. What does Bill Gates have to say about the mounds of PC shells and guts cluttering our landscape, I wonder?

Selah.

I’m not certain who coined the hashtag #FilthCleaningChallenge, but it looks like it originated with @Rafurl. And while the challenge is not an official “thing” just yet with official rules and the sort, I have decided to take my own steps to promote a cleaner Ghana. Therefore I have appointed The Green Ghanaian Initiative the “charity” of my choice  and will be donating towards their cause to educate the masses out how waste and filth are making the lives of ALL Ghanaians unnecessarily more difficult. And then I’m going to pick up the beer bottles that my neighbor left on the road and toss it into a nearby dumpster. Should I do a video? Why not!

Do you have a green campaign you support? Share them! Is trash a scourge in your part of the world? To get an idea of just how bad Ghana’s waste management problem is, watch this video presented by Araba Koomson.

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing: Noella Wiyaala. You May Thank Me Now!

The year was 1988. It was a hot day. I know this because we weren’t in the rainy season, and all days outside of the rainy season in Ghana have one temperature: hot.

There we stood; a ragtag mix of children with short-cropped hair, brown and beige uniforms and shoes shined with that wonderful black polish my father kept in his room and that I sniffed in secret pleasure when he was away. He had angrily forbid me from doing this when he walked in on me with my nose buried in the tin. I didn’t understand his ire then, but I do now. How was I to know I was getting high? If he had just told me I was taking myself down the path of becoming a crack head, perhaps I would have stopped. Or perhaps not. That polish DID cause such a calming rush within me…

What was I talking about? Oh yes. The choir.

Perhaps this was only something that was done in my Christ-centered primary school, but there was a fair amount of fakery that took place within its walls. For ages we had a “basketball court” with neither balls nor nets, a “soccer patch” with no grass or goals, and now we had a “school choir” with no real singers. There was an important visitor coming from abroad who was touring our facility, and we were tasked with entertaining them.

I forget the name of my teacher at that time, but by day he was our Technical Drawing teacher and – apparently – a chorus conductor by night. I remember when he selected me to be a part of the small “choir” he’d cobbled together.

“But, sir,” I protested, “I can’t sing.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said sternly. He then told me I would sing soprano.

Anyone who’s ever heard my speaking voice knows how absurd this notion is. I have always had a deep voice, and it’s only gotten deeper in adulthood. I wanted to sing tenor, but he forbade it. He instructed me and all the other girls (for ALL girls are sopranos in Ghana’s primary school system) to sing like this. “This” was a horrid imitation of the mewing of a sack full of dying kittens. He demonstrated how he expected us to belt out the words to the hymns approved by our school’s Director. Mr. Technical Drawing waved his pencil (he didn’t have a baton) and sang our phrase with the pitch of a man having the juice squeezed from his balls.

It was awful, but come presentation day, the honored guest clapped her hands in delight and it all seemed worth it.

This is the sort of training female singers in Ghana receive. As a result, we have a bunch of “artistes” who do not sing within their natural range and produce really awful music. We pretend we like it, they keep performing, and society suffers. becca-jesusWith the exception of Becca, Efya and Sena Dagadu, I can’t conceive of a single Ghanaian female artist whom I’d pay money to see, let alone buy an album from. That’s why I’m so blood excited to have been introduced to Noella Wiyaala.

 

 

Just look at her. Isn’t she stunning?

Noella-Wiyaala-3

Her voice, her look, her vibe…it’s all so very refreshing. Everything about her is a departure from the cookie-cutter commercial mold that many Ghanaian women in the music industry try to force themselves into. Just like an alto trying to sing soprano, it just doesn’t work.

I only found out about Wiyaala a week ago via Anita Erskine’s Facebook page. Her story is truly intriguing, and I mean that in every 80’s feel good rise-to-the-top-from-nothing reference possible. She comes from the Upper West region of Ghana, a part of the country which is renowned for its natural splendor, but still mired in abject poverty and social amenities circa 1772.

As legend has it, she asked her mother to allow her to sing in front of a local bar in Tamale where she did so well that a crowd began to gather and give her mother money. Add a trip to the big city, a promoter, a little sprinkle of the internet and the rest is history! If this doesn’t have the makings of a Crush Groove: GH edition, I don’t know what does.

Wiyaala’s latest hit single is an anthem for the Black Stars in commemoration for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil. It has all the trappings of the success Shakira enjoyed with Waka Waka: This is Africa. Everything about Wiyaala’s performance of Go Go Black Stars…Goal! is right for the moment. Her look is modern and unique. The track has that thumping quality requisite for an anthem. And that voice! Good heavens.

Have you watched the video? Great. You may thank me now. J

So, What do you think of Wiyaala? Have any stars or causes risen to fame in association with football? (Or soccer for us Yanks) For example, I just learned about the #ProtectTheGoal Campaign that was trending on Twitter recently. It’s a cause to fight HIV/AIDS. Go ahead: Share and Discuss! ↓