How Far: M3NSA Asks The Question Every Ghanaian Should Be Asking Themselves

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Where dey the savior we dey look for? E be some guy inside the sky or e be me den you?

 

This is the rhetorical question that forms the opening lines to ‘How Far’, the Afro-electronic anthem that the ancestors and 36 unidentified deities delivered through M3NSA last year. We’re here today to discuss the video that was quietly released on March 24th. I tweeted that I it was my opinion that this is M3NSA’s best work to date, and that’s no meager acknowledgement. M3NSA – who simultaneously occupies space as the other half of both the FOKN Bois and RedRed – has a long and impressive body of work to his credit. However, ‘How Far’ distinguishes itself from the rest of the pack.

To put it into context for those who are unfamiliar with either the artist or his work, Mathematically, M3NSA’s ‘How Far’ is proportional to Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ under the category of Kendrick’s Grammy performance. No, really. It’s just that dope.

In the coming days, there will be many think pieces written about the video and the symbolism RedRed employed to interrogate the question of how far has Ghana really come after “independence” and/or how far is the citizenry going to let things deteriorate before we decide we’ve hit critical mass.

M3NSA has never shied away from uncomfortable conversations in his music. Typically employing humor and mockery as tools, he and Wanlov (his partner in FOKN crime) hold up a mirror to society, demand that we look at our blemished reflection and hold ourselves accountable. ‘How Far’ transcends that approach. Ghanaians have gotten comfortable with the reflection of a country swimming in filth, feces and corruption. We’ve ‘given it to God’ and explained our proclivities away by saying ‘this is Ghana’. So instead of taking us to the reflecting pool in order to gaze at our countenance, M3NSA drowned us in its waters, submerging himself in the process.

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In the video, he assumes several different identities of the ubiquitous Ghanaian citizen: The syto schooler who’s only aspiration is to chew and pour information presented to him in the classroom, rather than to think critically. The profusely sweating police officer stationed at his post looking busy but doing nothing, really. The dissatisfied nurse who will have to go on strike just to receive her salary. The street hawker dashing through the roads in search of a customer – any customer. The preacher warning his congregation of some doom to come if they don’t change their ways. These – not mud huts or roaming lions – are iconic images of Ghana, and Accra in particular.

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Directed by Jarreth Merz, I believe the use of Jamestown as the main backdrop for the video was absolutely intentional and unquestionably brilliant. Jamestown is one of the oldest districts in Accra. It served as the nerve center for commerce and governance on the Gold Coast. The lighthouse that M3NSA stood atop guided European ships into port and would’ve been one of the last things African slaves leaving the coast would have seen as they were being ferried away to a life of perpetual misery. Jamestown in its heyday was probably cosmopolitan and glorious. Had it been preserved, modern day Ghanaians might have found a way long ago to reap pecuniary benefits for themselves after the departure of the British (the recently created Chale Wote festival notwithstanding). Instead, the entire area has fallen into disrepair and decay – like most of Ghana. Jamestown in the ‘How Far’ video thus becomes a metaphor for the condition of the rest of the country; and not just in infrastructure, but in mentality as well. Twin images of bright eyed children and snowy egrets playing and feasting in filth represent the dual realities of an existence that is both beauteousness and grotesqueness.

In short, we’ve had an opportunity to see how far we could take Ghana and squandered it.

Source: How Far
Source: How Far

It was M3NSA’s emphatic, repeated refrain of “God bless our homeland Ghana” (the title of our national anthem), that was most remarkable to me. M3NSA unquestionably shuns religion and I’ve never heard him speak of a belief in any deity, only a belief in self. One only has to circle back to the opening lines of the song for evidence of this. Yet in crying out for God to bless our homeland Ghana, he creates a fascinating juxtaposition that the listener has to grapple with. Are we going to wait for a Man in the sky to fix this mess that we’ve created or does the savior we look for lie within me and you? Maybe the answer is somewhere in between. How far are we willing to go get solutions?

I dunno.

Like M3NSA said after that beat drops, this thing is tricky.

 

M3NSA and ELO source: Accra dot Alt
M3NSA and ELO
source: Accra dot Alt

 

PS: And Imma need someone to analyze that beat. That thang was a monster! Did you hear that? That was some Mozart level work right there! Well done, ELO. Come claim your shine some.

  • Wow, nice song…and great video to match. But…I am sad to hear such sad stories of a city/country in decilne about Accra/Ghana. I know quite a number of people who moved to Dar es Salaam from Accra last year, and these are the same kind of stories they told me. It was hard to align what they said with my good memories of Accra/Ghana in the late 90s or all the good stories that I heard about Ghana earlier in the millennium. May the tide turn for the better!

    • It’s a culture of decay. If we can’t come to grips with how filthy and lawless the country is now, imagine how a person from the past might feel. If we had the power to transport a man/woman from 600 years ago and drop them in present day Accra/Cape Coast/pick a town, would they be impressed or horrified?

      • Good question! Not sure I know the answer. They just might marvel at the technological “advancements” and grand infrastructure that we now take for granted. Urbanization is its own evil. Makes me think of a video I watch recently: https://youtu.be/JEYh5WACqEk.

        • You think? What people are still dedicating at the beach and can’t afford housing? I think they’d be impressed with the iPhone, but little else. Even ancient Africa had street lights in its capitals, fueled by palm oil. I think they’d be pretty pissed with our “accomplishments” after 6 centuries.

          Just like in 200 years, I suspect our descendants will be pretty pissed that we got the wool pulled over our eyes by the Kardashian clan. 😐

          • You are teaching me something new about the street lights. So true about the Kardashian clan! Hehehehehe….:-)

  • Swaye Kidd

    As you rightly pointed out, a site like Jamestown should have been a ‘preserved’ site for tourism and a reminder of our heritage. Likewise other very important areas in Ghana with rich history. But, we’ve left it to either rot or be gentrified.
    Artistes such as Mensa always think outside the box, creating works that resonate with us: a mark of a great artist

  • Akua

    Unfortunately, this new track will not attract the disucssions nor will it trend on twitter/facebook as you would expect. If the tune was “brother Brother” or “adult music” or song by Sarkodie or Shatta Wale possibly. Artists like M3nsa are great but do not get the recognition they should in our society. The message just doesn’t get far as much as we would both like it to penetrate. And if it does, it is usually from those of us abroad who voice our opinions and spark discussion not our beloveds in the diaspora. Great works by RedRed!

    • Oh Sistah Akweeeyah! Why have you come with this one too? Why?!? 😩😩😩😩

      I will not accept this prophesy!

      • Akua

        Haha!

        Big sis, love your musings as always. Please write something, anything, for us up-and-coming-20-somethings. I found the previous blog about ‘never’ so relate-able, even though I am in the pre-marital/pre-childbirth phase, reality is really hitting home (versus expectations).

        • It will be my pleasure…and a challenge! Mehn, the life of 20-somethings today is so vastly different from mine. The things you guys are dealing with are other worldly.
          What would you suggest? What topics are important to your group? If you say “selfie” or blending foundation, I’ll flog you with a boiled noodle! 😂

  • Akua

    Ohhh-Ho! I can assure you I think deeply beyond selfies and make-up. I won’t say I am boring but I hardly do either.

    Well, let’s say I like your blog because you discuss deep issues I am concerned about eg our homeland Ghana but also balance it with every day realities you face. I really do look up to you as a ‘big sis’ and find your musings engaging. Your views on Christianity I so resonate with eg your musings on ‘being equally yoked’ I thought hi5 to.

    Perhaps, having the benefit of experience, what thoughts would you share with a 20-something born to a foreign land yet instinctively African finding their way in this life? I dunno, it was a suggestion. My age group are pretty much interested in things that do not particularly interest me (selfies and the make-ups) so I couldn’t speak for the mass. Hence, why I’m an avid follower of Malaka’s madness (you have fans o!)

  • Owura Qwabena

    great