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The best features, news, stories, gossip and views from Time Out Accra

© Daniel Neilson
Boxing students line up ringside

Welcome to Accra – it's a vibrant, colourfula nd occasionally bizarre city. Here's the best of Accra from our correspondents 

Ghana's first microbrewery

It’s a bizarre moment. The temperature is hitting 37C at 11am in an old garage north of Accra. In my hand is a seriously impressive glass of Hefeweizen, the Bavarian wheat beer. It’s full of chewy banana flavours, yet crisp and light. The equipment around me is old. A mash tun and pump bought second-hand from Italy 15 years ago. The fermenter has been fashioned by welders from a photograph, under the direction of Clement Djameh, owner of Inland Microbrewery. Clement is a Ghanaian from the Volta Region who through bitter determination fought to study in Germany at Weihenstephan, TU Munich where the oldest, and most respected, brewery in the world is located. The Hefeweizen in my hand, with a rich, creamy head, was first born in the valleys of Bavaria but has been recreated in the humid hills north of Accra. But there’s something even more remarkable: it’s made entirely from sorghum, a native grain that completely replaces barley in all the brewery’s Pilsners and Hefeweizens. Clement, in fact, was instrumental in also helping several much larger Ghanaian breweries to replace the expensive malted barley with sorghum, an abundant crop and one that offers a steady, and much needed, supply chain to rural farmers across Accra. Clement is also experimenting with the abundant sweet potato as an adjunct to limit the need of barley or even malted sorghum. Brewmaster Clement started his microbrewery 15 years ago when he left the employment of a large commercial brewery, but the big guy

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By: Daniel Neilson

Fight night: boxing in Accra

Ringside with Time Out – cheering on Jamestown's hometown hero...It is one humid hour after midnight in Accra. The floodlights of the stadium stand dazzling bright under a hot black sky. Inside, to a 5,000-strong audience, a man in a basketball vest winds up an old air-raid siren, sending deafening circles of noise up and out into the night. Among the thronged plastic chairs and water-sellers, there is a boxing ring. We have a spectacle at hand - hard-talking hometown fighter Braimah Kamoko, aka the Bukom Banku, is shortly to step under the lights to take on a notoriously gutsy Brazilian challenger. Kamoko gets his nickname from the Accra quarter where he's from - Bukom is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Jamestown, also home to more than 20 boxing schools. There is no other area of the world with this quantity of boxing schools, and there is no other place that has produced so many world champion boxers in the last 75 years. It is Kamoko's first fight back after an enforced lay-off due to an eye problem. The crowd are expectant, and the man they've come to see appears in suitably dramatic fashion. He is wearing full Muslim dress and dark sunglasses, surrounded by a mob of bawling drummers. Mocking his injury, he walks slowly, tapping his white cane as if feeling his way to the ring. Once there, he milks the swelling applause, stares at his opponent and strips off. The rhythms of the djembe drums keep coming. When he leaves the ring some 30 minutes later

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Ghana's football players on film

When your debut film gets nominated for three awards at the Palermo Film Festival, you can be more than a little proud. When you end up leaving the ceremony having been presented with two of them, however - one for best screenplay, the other for best foreign film - it's a sign you've created something a bit special. For director Baff Akoto, London-born but Ghanaian by origin, the recognition was reward for a project that began in 2007 and focuses squarely on an obsession both personal and universal: football. The resulting film, Football Fables - which has since made it into three more major festivals around the world - gives fresh perspective on the unquenchable enthusiasm for the sport in Ghana. By tracking the fortunes of upcoming local players, the documentary sets out to examine what it takes for youngsters to achieve the transition from the dusty pitches of West Africa to the fat salaries and gleaming stadia of Europe. Understandably, with the money and machinations involved in modern-day football, it's not an easy leap to make. For every Michael Essien, there are untold hundreds of talented youngsters destined, through bad odds, bad handling and plain bad luck, never to make the grade. "The film was very much a passion project," says Akoto, who explains how time in Accra as a young man changed his notion on what it meant to encounter a genuine fervour for football. "I grew up in West London until I was 14 then went to finish secondary school in Ghana. Just before I a

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Interview: M.anifest

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...Why did you move 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 biggest musical influences?My biggest influences musically are mostly from childhood when I was, for a lack of a better word, most i

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Interview: Ablade Glover

In an exclusive interview with Ruth-Ellen Davis, septuagenarian artist Ablade Glover discusses art in Ghana, how he creates his marvellous images and his plans for the futureFondly referred to as the grandfather of contemporary Ghanaian art, Ablade Glover is one of the most celebrated of Ghana’s present-day artists. If not the most. The vivid flecks of acrylic that fill his huge canvasses stir praise across the globe, their vibrant hues combining to form dazzling African scenes – scenes that Glover says are impossible to truly replicate. ‘The scenes I paint – the markets, the crowds – you can never wholly capture them because they are always changing,’ he explains, peering over his spectacles from behind a paper-strewn desk at the Artists Alliance gallery. ‘You can never finish painting them. My aim can only be to capture the tempo.’ And boy, does he. Up close, Glover’s paintings are a seemingly disordered mass of colourful slices and shapes, eye-catching and vibrant. It is only when the viewer steps back they are hit with the energy of a market; the sacred unity of mass prayer; a townscape of roofs illuminated to a vivid red by the beating African sun. Having wound down a prestigious academic career lecturing at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, the last few years have seen him realise another ambition: the creation of a beautiful space worthy of Ghana’s top artistic talent; a place for great artists to exhibit together and learn from each other.

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Contemporary Ghanaian art - a guided tour from Frances Ademola

Since achieving independence in 1957, Ghana's artists have been steadily embracing a freedom of self-expression that is transporting them out of the controlled and literal, and into a playful and exciting meld of semi-abstract and impressionism. Traditional Ghanaian scenes remain popular subject matter, but today's artist can be found confidently experimenting with colour and form, and the market is awash with bold and emotive pieces.No one has had a better view of this post-independence transformation than Loom gallery's Frances Ademola - an ardent champion of Ghanaian artists for over 40 years. When Time Out Accra popped in to browse the stacks of paintings filling Loom's walls and giant folders, we took the opportunity to get Ademola's pick of 21st century Ghana's brightest artistic talents.An artist she first encountered when he was just 12 is Samuel Agbenyegah (also known as Samkobee), whose semi-abstract figures demonstrate a bewitching understanding of colour blending and form. 'He came to me when he was 12 with two wonderful paintings,' explains Ademola. 'I said "who did these?" He said "me". I didn't believe him and told him to go and do another one. He came back with four more.'Bowled over by this young talent, Ademola had one big piece of advice for him. 'I told him "do not go to art school, whatever you do! It will take away your natural flair." He is now 30-something, and such a natural artist.'One of the most established Ghanaian artists found exhibiting both in

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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,

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Wild Ghana – experience national parks and natural beauty

Beyond the dusty cities is a sprawling wilderness of flora and fauna and the time is ripe to explore this diverse country. Lions, elephants and dozens of monkey species can be found in the well protected but little visited national parks and wildlife reserves dotted around the country. Bring some binoculars, dig out the long lens and take to the countryside.Satellite maps of Ghana, a country the size of Britain, show remarkably few roads. Along those arteries, the country's 18 million souls, the majority in rural communities, toil the land or toil through urban life. In between there is very little - Ghana remains a real and  true wilderness, and the richness of it is only just  being discovered now.Among the national park and wildlife reserves of Ghana is a wealth of flora and fauna. Forest elephants, lions, leopards, hippopotami and warthogs can all be found, but unlike in many East African countries the safari is not too common, but there are some excellent providers such as the well-regarded Ashanti African Tours.  From the suburban sprawl of Accra, it isn't long before you hit the rich savannah of southern Ghana. Endless grasslands interspersed with rolling hills, and the occasional rocky outcrop, are all that breaks the horizon.To the east is Ghana's most visited national park, Kakum. Just about near enough for a day trip, Kakum, north of Cape Coast, is famous for its unique and vertiginous canopy walk high above the rainforest, and should be on anyone's Ghana t

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Road trip: Benin and Togo

Ghanaian-based Nigerian Anita Ibru takes a road trip to explore Ghana's fascinating neighbours of Togo and Benin...  and gets more than she bargained forGhana is an island of English language culture perched among the French-speaking countries of the Ivory Coast, Togo and Benin. Many Ghanaians don't get a chance to visit these countries rich in local and French culture and, of course food. So when friends expressed an interest in visiting Benin, I persuaded them we should take a road trip to find out what we'd been missing out on. We only had three days and three nights to drive from Accra to the Beninese city of Cotonou, passing through Togo en route, but we made number of memorable stops, taking in colonial buildings, some local history and a series of natural landscapes unlike Ghana. It was a long journey, but enough time to get a true taste of Benin and Togo. We chose not to rough it, finding a good balance between fine dining, three-star accommodation and sightseeing.Accra to LoméTo reach Togo's capital, Lomé, from Accra, we first had to drive across a wide stretch of savannah east of Accra, followed by a narrower road between the sea and Lake Volta, to reach the village of Aflao on the Ghanaian side of the Ghana-Togo border. It was a smooth journey, passing the industrial surrounds of Tema before we got a glimpse of the Songaw Lagoon, the biggest salt mining area in Ghana. The salt lakes were an early highlight of our journey; the salt harvesting in the area make it a p

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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

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