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.
Formerly Bassline Jazz Club, +233 (named after the Ghanaian dialling code) is an intelligently designed club that has live bands six days a week. Inside, there are two floors. The band play on a small stage downstairs, but can also be seen from the U-shaped upstairs. There’s ample seating outside too, which looks onto a glass wall behind which the band play. And external speakers mean it's almost as loud outside as in. Each section has its own bar with attentive servers. The food – burgers, hotdogs, chicken, chips, kebabs and pork chops – is mostly off the grill. The music varies between highlife, blues, jazz (although rarely hip hop) and anything else good. There’s only an entrance charge (usually GH¢10) when the band merits it. It’s a hugely popular venue, and rightly so. Probably the best place in Accra to see live music at the moment.
Reggae DJs play on Wednesday night near an open bar that is stocked with local and imported beers. There are occasional live bands, as well as acrobats and other entertainment. The groups come from around Accra as well as from neighbouring countries. The standard is very high and you’ll likely catch something that gets you moving. It draws a mix of international students, reggae lovers, rastafarians and the less pious ‘rental dreads’ looking to hook up with a foreigner or at least sell some Rasta-styled wares. A worthwhile trip if you are in town.
This popular restaurant often has live bands, including highlife musicians. The food’s good, but the music’s better. Many sets start off with a mixture of reggae, and other (random) hits before returning with a highlife set that gets everyone up and dancing. The musicianship is usually excellent.
The Goethe-Institut is the German cultural centre and celebrates 50 years of being in Ghana. It has an impressive array of events and art exhibitions. Links between German art and that of Ghana are given precedence, whether through sound installations, mixed media pieces, performance art, photography or painting. It also occasionally lends its venue to the National Film and Television Institute next door. Be sure to check the website or pick up a programme of events when you are in town.
The Accra-based arm of the French cultural centre offers a large range of artistic activities every week. It particularly excels in live music events, but there are also regular art displays and talks from international artists. The obvious focus is on French and Ghanaian artists (often working together), which forms an artistic bridge between both cultures in terms of language, education and artistic programming. Recent shows have included the film screening and photography exhibition from Sublime World Productions’ project Sounds from Ghana, and artistic exhibition Les Jardins de la Francophonie featuring five francophone West African artists: Samuel Tete-kathan, Kassy, Edem Gota, Yao Sewonou and Salifou Oura. There is always something interesting on; be sure to look at the website before any visit to Accra.