Joojo Addison in "Yessa Massa" (Youtube)

The 10 Best Ghanaian Songs of the Month

Featuring Bisa Kdei, Shatta Wale, R2Bees, Becca, Magnom, Joojo Addison and more.

Here are our favorite tracks to come out of the buzzing Ghanaian music scene in March.

Follow our new GHANA WAVE playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Joojo Addison 'Yessa Massa'

New kid on the block Joojo Addison presents the follow up to his wave-making debut "Guy Man". This one is a hustler's anthem titled "Yessa Massa", and the artist maintains his style, delivering another charming contemporary afrobeat song full of highlife guitars, shrill backing vocals, and several rap-sung quotables. "Money wey dey quenchi fire, cop the Benzo for my mama!" —Nnamdi Okirike

Bisa Kdei '1924'

Bisa Kdei is a folklorist in the best sense and roundly convincing in this iteration of highlife which celebrates a period long before the genre's heyday of the 1950s and 1960s. Kdei's revivalism is serious-minded and expertly rendered even when this video clip recalls the era in a comical manner. French chants nudge the song towards coupe decale, originating in Ivory Coast while the steady and tight polyrhythmic drumming and prickly electro guitar is common to both genres. —Sabo Kpade

Ghanaian highlife royal Bisa Kdei released this song from his 2018 abum Highlife Konnect as a single—and rightly so. "1924" is a nostalgic bop designed to take you back to the olden days of Ghana, typically called an "old timers" song. Bisa does what he does best on this highlife joint, and even if you don't understand Twi, the contagious groove surely won't be lost on you.—Nnamdi

Shatta Wale & Ray Parker 'Acoustic Session'

This month's lot of releases by Shatta Wale range from the antagonistic "Social Media Gangsters" to the plaintive "Juju," the redemptive "Deliver Me" and the motivational speak of "When You Fail." The best of the lot is this 30-minute freestyle session he recorded with a guitarist in which his many gifts for melodies in a variation of styles—from afropop to highlife, dancehall, reggae, RnB and highlife—and whatever else came to mind. With a spliff in hand and egged on by Parker's attentive guitar playing, Wale is serious and playful but never not in creative bliss when improvising . Brilliant! —Sabo

R2Bees 'Straight From Mars' feat. Wizkid 

R2Bees and Wizkid is a combination that simply can't fail. The trio has delivered hit after hit, and this one right here is no different. On "Straight From Mars," a cut from R2Bees' just released full length album SITE 15, the three afrobeats titans display their chemistry yet again, cruising their way through the chill head bopper. —Nnamdi

Becca  x Ycee 'Magic'

Who needs video models these days? Becca and Ycee make a feast for the eye in a variety of snazzy outfits. Their on screen chemistry is reflected in the way they overlap each other's singing in a seductive drawl, nothing like the nonchalance expressed lyrics about public opinions about their forbidden love. —Sabo

Magnom 'Maintain' feat KaySo, Quamina MP, Twitch & Almighty Trei

Producer artist Magnom releases this brand new single titled "Maintain," which is a collaboration with artists KaySo, Quamina MP, Twitch and Almighty Trei, all from the buzzing Ground Up music collective. Each artist expresses his ambitions as well as the conviction they have to see them through as they float their way through this afrobeats joint. —Nnamdi

Weaving lyrics on the theme of "maintain"—pidgin slang loosely used to denote having wealth, a good time or whatever the fancy is, really—each featured guest turns up strong verses with individualised cadences that range from RnB, some rap but lift often from ragga. —Sabo

E.L 'Higher'

Rapper, singer, and producer E.L drops his first single of the year, this bouncy afropop cut titled "Higher." Despite still dropping quality music, the tried and true hitmaker has been having a low season for quite a while now, but hopefully this motivational joint is word and sign of better things to come. —Nnamdi

The type of song that sparks a parody of a worship service in a club and that is genuinely intended. —Sabo

R2Bees 'Yesterday'

Omar Sterling's short and neat verse on "Yesterday" is near perfect except for the last throw away line. Intended to showcase their versatility, "Yesterday" is a soothing confection of pleasant guitars and soft drum arrangements. The video features a comic turn by Darkovibes, the mercurial singer-songwriter who joined the group on their current US tour with a UK date on May 3. —Sabo

Kojo Funds x DJ Spinall 'What Do You See'

Kojo Funds' strong vocal performances may seldom get credit for appearing effortless. On "What Do You See," a perfectly weighted chorus sung over mellow arrangements identifies the sound as 'afroswing'—a dominant sound in London - but it's in fact "pon pon," on account of the soft pair of twin synths. The collaboration with Nigerian DJ Spinall will go some way to popularise the song in the sister markets of London (where Funds is a reputed name) and Ghana (where Funds is from). —Sabo

Efya x Darkovibes 'Anywhere'

Darkovibes is entertaining as Mr Naughty while the celestial traits in Efya's voice makes the refrain of "anywhere" even catchier. —Sabo

Follow our new GHANA WAVE playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

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South African Telenovela 'The River' has Been Nominated for an International Emmy

This is the popular telenovela's first International Emmy nomination.

One of South Africa's beloved telenovelas, The River, has received its first ever International Emmy nomination in the category of "Best Telenovela", according to IOL. The River will go up against other telenovelas from Columbia, Argentina as well as Portugal. The 47th installment of the International Emmy Awards will take place on November 25th of this year and will be held at the Hilton in New York.

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Photo (c) John Liebenberg

'Stolen Moments' Uncovers the Namibian Music That Apartheid Tried to Erase

The photo exhibition, showing at the Brunei Gallery in London, highlights artists from Namibia's underground scene between 1950-1980, a time of immense musical suppression prior to its independence.

Before its independence in 1990, a whole generation of Namibians were made to believe that their county had no real musical legacy. Popular productions by Namibian artists from previous eras were systematically concealed from the masses for nearly 30 years, under the apartheid regime—which extended to the country from South Africa following German colonization—depriving many Namibians of the opportunity to connect with their own musical heritage.

"Stolen Moments: Namibian Music Untold," a new exhibit currently showing at London's Brunei Museum at SOAS University of London, seeks to revive the musical Namibian musical traditions that the apartheid regime attempted to erase.

"Imagine you had never known about the musical riches of your country," said the exhibit's curator Aino Moongo in a statement of purpose on SOAS' site. "Your ears had been used to nothing but the dull sounds of country's former occupants and the blaring church and propaganda songs that were sold to you as your country's musical legacy. Until all at once, a magnitude of unknown sounds, melodies and songs appear. This sound, that roots your culture to the musical influences of jazz, blues and pop from around the world, is unique, yet familiar. It revives memories of bygone days, recites the history of your homeland and enables you for the first time to experience the emotions, joys and pains of your ancestors."

Photo (c) Dieter Hinrichs

The 'Stolen Moments" project began in 2010 in an effort to champion Namibia's unsung musical innovators. For the collection, Moongo and Assistant Curator, Siegrun Salmanian—along with a group of international scholars, artists, photographers and filmmakers—curated a large-scale photo exhibit that also features a 120-minute video projection, focusing on the dance styles of the era, along with listening stations, a sound installation that features "100-hours of interviews with musicians and contemporary witnesses," and displays of record covers and memorabilia from the period between 1950-1980.

The musicians highlighted, produced work that spanned a number of genres—a marker of the country's vast and eclectic underground scene. Artists like the saxophonist Leyden Naftali who led a band inspired by the sounds of ragtime, and the psychedelic rock and funk of the Ugly Creatures are explored through the exhibition, which also centers bands and artists such as The Dead Wood, The Rocking Kwela Boys, Children of Pluto and more.

"There are many reasons why you've never heard this music before," Moongo continues. "It was censored, suppressed, prohibited and made almost impossible to listen to. Its creators are either long gone or have given up on music making, by reasons of adversity, death and despair. And yet this beautiful music exists with a liveliness, as if it had never stopped playing. It is still in the minds of the few who can remember, with the ones who played it, and on those rare recordings that have survived in archives and record collections scattered around the globe. Allow me to share these stolen moments with you."

Photo (c) Dieter Hinrichs

Photo (c) John Liebenberg


"Stolen Moments" is now showing at the Brunei Gallery in London and runs through Sept 21.


Foul Language and Depictions of Rape Spur a Book Recall Campaign in Kenya

Kenya's Top Book seller pulls a South African book for youth due to foul language.

A main book supplier in Kenya, Text Book Centre, has announced that they would not stock a book due to its "vulgar and foul language." The book, Blood Ties, was written by South African author Zimkhitha Mlanzeli. The banning comes just after a video went viral in Kenya of a school child having a verbal outburst peppered with strong language. As reported by BBC, the removal was sparked by parents showing outrage after excerpts from the book were shared on twitter. These excerpts contained use of the f-word as well as a description of a rape scene.

As per their statement, the Text Book Centre claims they believe in "upholding high moral standards and raising generations of responsible citizens who are not only educated but ethical." The Kenyan publisher, StoryMoja, has defended the book in a statement of their own. They argue that the book is part of a new series showcasing books that deal with "contemporary societal issues" and that this particular book is a fictional story that grapples with the negative repercussions of peer pressure. "In actual fact, the book guides readers on the steps to take should they find themselves in a similar situation and underscores the sensitivity with which victims of sexual abuse should be treated." The statement also highlights the fact that the publishers had listed Blood Ties for readers in high school or above.

The discrepancy is that some schools have recommended the book as a reader – meaning for younger children aged 12 or 13 – though it has not been approved by the Kenyan Institute of Curricular Development (KICD), the entity in charge of managing texts used in schools. In a tweet, the KICD claimed that the book was not approved and that some teachers may be recommending texts without ensuring they were endorsed by the KICD. The dispute is sparking debate as to what should be taught in Kenyan schools.

As of late this morning, StoryMoja is in the process of recalling all copies of the book from stores and schools across Kenya. In a tweet they claim that it is because they have determined the language used in the book is the issue and not the subject matter.

Censorship is always a contested topic, just last month we reported on Nigerian authorities censoring a music video for "threatening security." Also, Kenya's censorship tactics have been in the global eye since a refusal to screen the film Rafiki for its homosexual heroines despite being lauded at international film festivals.

Here are some reactions from Kenyans on Twitter:

mage courtesy of TIFF

Senegalese Filmmaker Mati Diop Tells a Haunted Story of Migration

We caught up with the celebrated director at the Toronto International Film Festival to talk about her new film, Atlantics

It's been a good year for French-Senegalese director Mati Diop and her film Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story.

The movie got its North American premier at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this month after wowing critics and audiences at Cannes, where it won the prestigious Grand Prix. Diop was the first Black woman to successfully submit a film in the Cannes competition, and naturally the first to win any award at the iconic festival.

In Toronto, the Paris-born director was also honored with the inaugural Mary Pickford Award for Outstanding Female Talent, presented at the TIFF Tribute Gala on September 9. The award is named after Mary Pickford, a Toronto native who went on to conquer Hollywood in the early days of the industry as an actor and producer. Co-founder of United Artists, she was the highest paid woman in Hollywood in her day.

Mati Diop, actor and director, was born in Paris into a prominent Senegalese family, the daughter of noted musician Wasis Diop, and niece of well known filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty. As a director, she has several short films under her belt, including Atlantiques in 2009. Her short films Big in Vietnam and A Thousand Suns screened at TIFF in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story is Diop's first feature, which she directed as well as co-writing the screenplay with Olivier Demangel.

It's in the story of the first Atlantiques – the short – that the new film came to be. "The two films are both connected and not connected," Diop tells OkayAfrica. The short Atlantiques was self produced, and shot on video on a shoestring budget, she explains. Diop was moved by the constant stream of reports, between 2000 and 2010, of young Senegalese taking to small wooden boats and braving the ocean waters in a bid to reach Spain and better opportunities. As she notes, the media tended to treat the phenomenon as largely an abstract issue, one that had to do with economic forces. Diop wanted to tell the story of the real people in that situation.

"I felt that my cinema should be put at the service of their voices," she says. "I wanted to understand." It's part of what motivated Diop to get into film in the first place. While the short was shot documentary-style, she worked the story as fiction. The actor featured in the short had actually made an Atlantic crossing, but was subsequently turned back by Spanish authorities. The way he spoke about the experience connected with Diop; in particular, his determination to try the perilous journey once more. "I am here, but not here," he told her. "Serigne felt it was here [in Senegal] he would lose his life," Diop says. She wanted to understand what drove so many young men to risk their lives. "He felt that his life was vulnerable in Senegal." The actor's words took on even more resonance when he died, while still in Senegal, before he could try again. Diop says he had gone to a hospital after falling ill, but the staff were on strike. After his death, it left her with mixed feelings. "I wondered if I had the right to continue."

TIFF Tribute Gala Mati Diop | TIFF 2019 www.youtube.com

Diop was left with the poignant memory, and a haunting impression. "When you leave, it means you are already dead," she says. After filming the short, she attended Serigne's funeral, and filmed his mother and sister—the women left behind who would become the focus of the feature film treatment. Diop says that the character of Ada, the protagonist of the new movie, is based in large part on the sister, who, in the short film, does not speak any lines.

In Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story, Ada is 17 years old, in love with Souleiman, but her parents have already arranged a very practical marriage with another—and much wealthier—man. On the eve of her wedding, odd things begin to happen, and Ada learn that Souleiman and his friends have left Dakar in a boat, hoping to reach Spain. Ada and her BFFs anxiously await any word from them, as the mysterious happenings keep piling up.

"The beauty of women comes through marriage," a cleric tells one mother. Ada's story embodies the life of a young West African woman—torn between traditional forces in both her family and society, and the friends who wear Western dress and don't bother with the old ways. The wealthy family she has married into owns a large construction company, the one that didn't pay its workers for months, leading the young workers to try their luck in Spain. She loves Souleiman, but she also needs to find her own path.

Mama Sané plays Ada, the solid heart of the film, as a tangle of emotions and repressed desires. She veers from defiant when dealing with the police detective sent to investigate the strange occurrences, to a wordless expression of longing with the kind of intensity only a teenager can muster.

Diop's directorial vision turns Dakar into a place of both surreal magic and harsh reality. The film immerses the audience in the city's sounds, from the goats bleating outside a window while Ada and her friends talk, to voices in the next room, with the eternal heaving of waves against the shore as a recurring refrain. The original music by Fatima Al Qadiri adds to the effect.

Cinematographer Claire Mathon has shot the film with a poetic eye. There are many images of the shifting surface of the sea, with the open sky and sun above it, each different from the last. The streets of Dakar at night take on an otherworldly edge, framed in palm trees against the artificial lights. The building the young men have been working on is futuristic in design, all glass and steel, and the company owner's neutral modern mansion contrasts with the broken rubble on the streets, from slick sports cars to horse drawn carts. It adds to the sense of the surreal.

Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story was acquired by Netflix after Cannes, and is intended for worldwide release by the streaming service, (with the exception of China, Russia, Benelux, Switzerland, and France.) As part of its new policy, Netflix, which became an official member of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America,) earlier this year, will be giving the flick a "theater-first" release, opening in selected theaters on November 15, with streaming available from November 29 in North America.

The film also stars Amadou Mbow, Ibrahima Traoré, Nicole Sougou, Amina Kane, Mariama Gassama, Coumba Dieng, Ibrahima Mbaye, and Diankou Sembene. Dialog in the France-Senegal-Belgium co-production is in Wolof with subtitles.

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