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.
The best live music venues
Ghanaian music is blowing up on the international stage. Some of the country's best-loved artists are now making waves far beyond West African shores. The country's trademark genre is highlife, which has its roots in pre-colonial times, but hiplife, an energetic hybrid of highlife, dancehall and hip hop, is a new pretender to the throne. Music is the lifeblood of Accra - no trip to the capital would be quite complete without a trip to one of these swinging live music venues.
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
Accrartist: DJ Steloo
In his short documentary film “Finding”, Accra’s most fashionable DJ, DJ Steloo, revealed how he carefully selects the various elements of his distinctive and bold Afro- steampunk-hipster-esque outfits from informal markets around Accra. The film debuted at the 2016 edition of the Chale Wote Street Art Festival. Tash Morgan-Etty caught up with Steloo after the screening to find out more about the film, reactions to his style sense and what Accra means to him. What was your motivation to move into film? The thing that kicked me into film is me telling my story in a different way. I’m known as a DJ, and here in Accra DJs are put in a box. People only know us as playing music, and nothing else. So, with me, I’m trying to challenge myself by opening up to other things, explore, experiment through other ways; find other ways of telling my story and communicating with people not just through music. Other ways I can tell my story is by relating with people I connect with through my fashion sense – the uniforms I wear, the music I play, pictures that I take and put out, etc. Those are the ways I want to tell my story. Also, people are curious where I find my [clothes], and how I pick them, etc. So I thought, “OK, I can tell my story from this space and show that side to the people, and share. I’m sharing the side that people don’t normally see. You call what you wear a “uniform”. Why do you see it as a uniform, rather than just simply your choice of wardrobe? I believe we all
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