Scotland, Europe, the world '

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he persistent honk of taxi homs. hum of generators

during ‘lights out‘ (power cuts) and pounding of

cassava and plantain to make local staple food.

fufu. defines daily life in the Ghanaian capital. Accra. But in the past few years. a new rhythm has emerged.

The distinctive heavy beat of hip hop plays in surround

sound: out of the window of every taxi. on the airwaves of

local radio stations. on TV and in the small sparse drinking holes, known locally as ‘spots‘. In Ghana it‘s called hiplife. a variation on hip hop which gives a nod to highlife. the western-influenced. largely urban pop music that dominated the music scene of the 70s. It‘s also a statement that. for the new generation of Ghanaians. things have moved on.

The first to make this statement was Reggie Rockstone. the self-proclaimed godfather of hiplife who rapped in a local dialect. Twi. on his 1997 debut album. Makaa Muka.’ (‘I said it. and that's thatl‘l. Reggie's a big character. with ample charisma to support his fabulous name. Talking over the beats and the battles of Vibe FM‘s weekly hip hop jam. The Playa's Ball. he jumps between ideas. leaving a trail of unfinished sentences in his wake. He sees hip hop as a natural progression for Ghanaian music. ‘Things are as they‘ve always been Africans celebrate life with music,” he says. ‘We‘ve just stepped it up. giving a different flavour to the sound. When I came on the scene. people were ready for something different and there I was boom!‘

Hiplife exploded just as independent radio stations started setting up in Accra‘s districts. giving support and


1 18 THE LIST 19 Sep—3 Oct 2002

‘It’s going to get political because you can address any issue with

3 :3”, m 'J- a L’_, LIV“; H J“. L I I I I

Discovering Ghana’s hip hop scene. Words: Beth Pearson

airtime to upcoming artists. The new emphasis on lyrics as well as rhythms caught on quickly with Ghana’s youth, meaning that in the short history of Ghanaian hip hop. Reggie‘s from the old school. Artists such as Obrafo, Lord Kenya. Lord Lust. Deeba, Cy-Lover and the VlPs have followed his lead. with MCs Mensah and Baza rapping in English to make sure that hiplife travels well.

They may have intemational ambitions, but the message is having an impact on Ghanaian society. Reggie Rockstone. for one. thinks it’s about time. ‘Finally. the youth has a voice,‘ he says. ‘We are living in an adult society and if you’re older your word is your word and that’s it that’s how we’re constituted in Africa. We all know it‘s not right, because kids become adults. and it’s going to get political because you can address any issue with rap. No one has heard the African point of view through the youth of the motherland.‘

As the scene matures. and the west wakes up, it’ll hopefully build-up to gain the wide acknowledgement and distribution that has been experienced by Afro-funk, the blanket term given to the jazz and soul influenced Afro-beat in the tradition of Nigerian Fela Kuti. Hiplife. along with its pan-African counterparts, is very much part of this history, using the natural rhythms of traditional instruments such as the djembe drum to accompany the scratches. bass and breaks of hip hop. The irony is that the natural beats and rhythms developed in hip hop originated in Africa, which makes it something of a return to the motherland. or

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