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South African artist, Ayanda Seoka, and Zamoo at CHALE WOTE 2018. Photo by OBE Images via ACCRA [dot] ALT.

CHALE WOTE Is the African Street Art Mecca Fostering Limitless Creative Power

An in-depth look into how CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival is proof of the power of independent cultural programming.

ACCRA [dot] ALT, producers of the CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival have managed to turn Accra in August into the Mecca of street art culture, after eight successful editions of one of the biggest and most captivating art events anywhere in the world.

The week-long festival, which has been in a constant state of progressive evolution, has grown from a passion project creating accessible and impactful art and dialogue around social, political and economic issues, to an entire subculture representative of unrestrained self-expression and limitless creative power. CHALE WOTE has become accessible to everyone who may or may not understand the strength of independent culture programming.

The festival brings together different fields of expression from performance, to fashion, to video art through artists of different dispositions and cultural backgrounds hailing from all over the world. These artists create work in response to a theme that's presented in an entirely open environment with the same fervent and militant spirit of street art, which inspired the whole movement. This year's theme, PARA OTHER, presented an urgent need for "evolution beyond the dialectic of belonging and non-belonging"; requesting for the rediscovery and invention of new codes, symbols, sounds and fractal as a basis for reimagining meta-realities.

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Ria Boss. Photo: Dave Mufasa.

How Young Artists Are Using Analog Sounds to Create New Experimental African Music

Alternative African artists like Ria Boss have found a new use for nostalgia, utilizing it to create new memories among fans.

Contemporary African music has always been inspired by ingenuity. Through history, our people have developed dynamic sounds to match their dynamic life experiences. From early musicians tinkering with local rhythms with brass band instruments to create the core of highlife music (the grandpa of your favorite afrobeats jam) to the use of low budget synthesizers by Ghanaians in Europe to subvert the cost of booking session musician to create burger highlife.

Today however, more and more young musicians seem to be moved by the sound and aesthetic in analog music recording as they piece together their sounds for the future—from the use of low fidelity audio to 8-bit animated music videos and chopped up highlife samples from the '70s and '80s. There seems to be a renaissance of sorts where the past is providing a solid base for an artist of the present to sculpt the future. It is especially fascinating when you notice how memory or nostalgia, paired with analog sound signatures, are being used to trigger very precise emotions in listeners.

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Op-Ed
William Onyeabor. Image: Luaka Bop.

Who Is Benefitting From the Nostalgic Vintage Releases in African Music?

Op-Ed: The practice of uncovering and licensing rare African music feeds a culture fueled by the nostalgia, but who is truly benefitting?

If I had asked you if you ever heard any music by William Onyeabor, Ata Kak or Amara Touré about 10 years ago, the answer might have been an unsurprising no.

Despite their stellar bodies of work, each of those three African musicians remained a mystery for unique reasons. Now Ata Kak is touring the world and the late William Onyeabor is recognized as a groundbreaking user of the synthesizer. With each artist, there lies a great living history embedded in the beats and melodies of their music which was lost until their work found new ears.

The stories of Amara Touré, William Onyeabor and Ata Kak are just a few of the countless that exist in African music. In 2002, London-based Soundway Records put out their first compilation of African music, Ghana Soundz: Afro-Beat, Funk & Fusion in '70s. The 14-track tape contained classics from the highlife era of Ghana music as well as other funk-inspired experimental cuts. From Oscar Sulley's pulsating "Bukom" to Ebo Taylor's serenading "Heaven," the project garnered a lot of critical acclaim and would result in the release of a second volume.

It also grew the label's reputation as one of the masters of the rare "world music" game with an extensive catalog with gems from all over the world. Other white-owned North American and European labels like Analog Africa, Awesome Tape From Africa and Luaka Bop, all inspired in some way by the success of Soundway Records, and of course the possibility of so much more hidden music waiting to be rediscovered and sprung up.

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