The Hot List
Read on for our guide to the week's coolest events and most interesting venues. If you manage to tick off all ten, head back to our home page for daily updates on the best restaurants, cultural events, nightlife, and whatever else Accra manages to think up before our next Hot List is published on Monday.
In July, 2016, in New Orleans, Tapatheo stepped onto the mat in front of the world’s best mixologists and made the best cocktail of his life. It was the 14th Annual Tales of the Cocktail festival, and among teams from The Savoy in London and Smuggler’s Cove in SanFrancisco was Ghana’s foremost mixologist Chris Beaney, a Brit, alongside his protégé Theo from Accra’s Burger & Relish. It was a big deal: Theo was the first African bartender at the event for 12 years, and the first ever Ghanaian. He was enrolled in the Cocktail ApprenticeProgramme at the New Orleans event to learn from the very best; he was one of 40 selected out of 700. "I’m looking to teach future generations of mixologists andhopefully get them to a point where I am now," Theo tells Time Out Accra. It’s been some story. Five years ago Theo was working as a cleaner at The Lexington (now Champs), where Chris was the manager. Chris spotted Theo’s potential, took him under his wing and trained and mentored him to an international level. The rest, as they say, is history. "I was given the opportunity to fly to Sweden to see how the hospitality industry worked in another continent. I also got the opportunity to see how vodka was produced andto make drinks using vodka. The whole experience really was the turning point in my life and had a massive impact on the hospitality industry in Ghana. I’d never owned a passport and had never flown on a plane, let alone left the country.“Young underprivileged people "Young unde
From highlife to hiplife - a guide to Ghanaian music
Step into many of the nightclubs in Ghana's cities and more often than not you'll be confronted with the throbbing beats and visceral energy of hiplife. A blend of hip hop, dancehall and reggae, hiplife has become a favourite of DJs and clubbers alike. But this wasn't always the case. Ghana's musical map was once dominated by highlife - a genre so diverse it managed to not just survive western influence, but incorporate the disparate styles imported to the country over centuries to produce an effervescent sound which reflects the vibrancy of Ghana itself. Although still popular in Ghana, it's also a genre which is being championed by music lovers far from the former Gold Coast, predominantly the boss of UK based record label, Soundway - Miles Cleret. 'Highlife is a real mirror of the 20th century in terms of music. There are a lot of different modern music forms that came out of this era, and highlife is one of them. It's a real mish-mash of everything,' said Miles, who has managed to capture a snapshot of the scene on Soundway's recent release, Ghana Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds and Ghanaian Blues 1968-81. 'The roots of highlife are a collage of music, from traditional African music to colonial marching band music, to hymn singing and church music. And as the century went on it absorbed different influences from around the world. So it's got a bit of jazz, a bit of swing, it's got a bit of blues, it's got a bit of Latin music. Then as things go on in the 1960s and
Homegrown talent... “Each song sort of breathed itself into being,” says Jahwi, the Accra musician whose debut full-length album, Ancient Soul Cries, gives as clear a picture as any of the kind of inventive underground music currently coming out of the city. Its blend of laid-back beats, Ghanaian patois, firebrand subject matter and layered instrumentation draws on a mix of different genres – from rock and reggae to afrobeat and hip-hop – and touches on everything from war to sex. Jahwi himself, also a photographer, poet and painter, has been a well known name on the local cultural scene for years. Tellingly, he draws his song-writing influences from a whole host of sources. “My first encounters with music were hundreds of vinyl records that my father had collected over his travels. I began DJing his parties from the age of six – it was a disco and funk era, but some of the most influential forces in my music are people like Fela Kuti, Nina Simone, Sizzla Kalonji and Bob Marley. I could sing ‘Redemption Song’ before I could speak English.” Jahwi’s paintings have been exhibited everywhere from South Africa to Australia, and given the right exposure his album has the potential to reach a similarly wide international audience. At a time when so much street-level music seems throwaway, Ancient Soul Cries has a more mature sound than most. “It sounds dark sometimes,” he says, “but its main objective is healing.” Ancient Soul Cries is out on Maddrenegade Music ...and
Sounds, er, interesting. What is it? It is interesting. It’s naturally fermenting juice tapped from chopped-down palm trees. Sounds, er, interesting and a bit yucky. Cynic. Actually, it’s pretty tasty. Republic (see pleft) has even called it ‘Ghanaian champagne’ which – well, even we’d admit that’s pushing it a little. It tastes a bit like white grapes, earthy with a sweetness that makes it pretty drinkable. Hmm. How strong is it? No idea. Just read the bottle. Given that it usually comes in ‘repurposed’ plastic water bottles, I don’t think EU-standard labelling has reached rural Ghana. We were last served it in Republic, in a pint glass with two straws, and we’d suggest it was ‘strong’. Very strong. I’m even less convinced now. Sounds like moonshine. It is. Maybe try it in a cocktail, again in Republic. And it spawned its own music. What!?? Palm wine music was one of the key influences in Ghanaian highlife. Chilled farmers playing music.
The best upcoming gigs in Accra
The best places to party in Accra
Republic Bar & Grill
We’ll still keep recommending this bar as it remains one of the most happening bars in Accra right now, thanks to its relaxed, music-forward approach to the good things in life: alcohol, fried food and really great music. It’s a tiny space that tumbles out onto the street when things really kick off late on a Friday or Saturday. Album covers and black-and-white photos of music stars adorn the walls as Ghana’s best music blasts out (often jaw-dropping highlife music acts live on the terrace; check out the Facebook page and Twitter account for details – highlife legend Ebo Taylor has even played here). Even the cocktails use great ingredients not found anywhere else: the Republica is a caipirihna made from traditional palm wine. On a sunny day (and yes, it’s always sunny), try one of their ‘Wild Beers’: the Beer Sap has bissap concentrate added to it. Fittingly, the food is good beer fodder too – the cassava chips are a fabulous drinking accompaniment, while the Fire Go Burn You pepper soup and Ye Ye Goat curry are superb value for something this tasty.
Latest music interviews
Meet M.anifest – Ghana's hiplife ambassador
Time Out talks to the prolific Ghanaian rapper about his work, his influences and his high-profile collaborations He's collaborated with the likes of former Blur frontman, Damon Albarn (for his Rocket Juice & the Moon project) and Ghanaian highlife legend Ebo Taylor - rapper M.anifest talks to Time Out about his work, his influences and why he's moved back to Accra...We recently heard that you've moved back to Accra?It was never the plan to be away permanently. The plan was a simple one actually: get a college education and then return. As fate would have it I got caught up and carried away in my artistic journey. It's been a good ride in Minneapolis.How much influence has US culture had on your music?I would be a fool to deny that my decade-long experience in America hasn't had an effect on me. Being far from home comes with a lot of longing, nostalgia, retrospection and perspective on home and belonging. You have the choice of succumbing to another man's identity in a bid to be more accepted or to learn more about yourself and be stronger in who you are. I believe I chose the latter.Have you always wanted to be a rapper?I had a love for poetry and music at an early age. I went from singing along to my favorite hip-hop records to quietly penning my own rhymes. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could build a career out of it. Then hip-hop was localized through hiplife in Ghana and the gap closed. It took me till 2005 to lose my fear and embrace my calling. Who are your
Interview: Ebo Taylor
The modern buzz that continues to develop around Ghanaian music-makers is largely as a result of the scene’s more urgent, contemporary sounds – the part-spiky, part-smooth beats of hiplife being a case in point – so it’s refreshing to see some of the industry’s elder statesmen drawing plaudits too. Ebo Taylor was born in 1936, making him more than two decades older than the Ghanaian Republic itself, but he remains one of the country’s leading proponents of authentic highlife and Afrobeat. Just as pertinently, he’s currently enjoying one of the finest periods of his career. Despite a past that has seen him work with some of the most notable composers and musicians that the region has ever produced, it was only last year – months before his 75th birthday – that his first international solo album saw the light of day. Released in October 2010 on the well respected Strut label, Love and Death is a warm, groovy, deeply atmospheric record, the kind of listen that has you sensing the thrum of the city and the smoulder of West Africa from the moment it starts. We should have seen it coming. In recent years, Taylor’s influence has shown itself large enough to cross international boundaries – American megastar Usher used a sample from a Taylor song named Heaven on his track She Don’t Know, boosting the Ghanaian’s global profile (not to mention his bank account) in the process. Any suggestion that Taylor might have moved away from his roots to capture a more on-trend sound, however,
Interview: M3nsa and Wanlov the Kubolor
“It’s part comedy, part musical, part Jesus-is-coming, part-documentary, part Ghanaian food and part we-are-all-coming-together. It’s aimed at all human beings and a few flamingoes that keep both legs grounded all the time.” Confused? You should be. New Ghanaian film ‘Coz Ov Moni’ is billed as the first-ever pidgin musical (pidgin being the ‘broken English’ lingua franca of West Africa), and to say it’s overflowing with creative ideas is an understatement. Produced by pioneer Panji Anoff – the man largely responsible for the growing popularity of cutting-edge Ghanaian music – the film follows a day in the life of the FOKN Bois, aka M3nsa and Wanlov the Kubolor, two of the hiplife genre’s most celebrated modern exponents. The result is a high-paced 45-minute romp through Accra. The two protagonists wake up in their home shanty, shake down a debtor, eat out with their newfound cash, half-drown after attempting to attract girls, reminisce about their childhoods and end up stuck midway between a hospital theatre and a female-thronged nightclub dancefloor. Just an average day, then. Expressed entirely in music and rhyme, the film aimed to capture the exuberance, energy and rhythm of urban Africa – needless to say, it has succeeded. “It’s always a good time for satire, and the perfect time for this particular one,” says Anoff, whose label, Pidgen Music, helped fund the movie. “The FOKN Bois wanted to do a concept album about an ordinary day in the life of two young quirky Accra-r