When news came from Kenya earlier this week that Members of Parliament wanted several allowances increased that would “raise their salaries from the current Sh1.1 million to between Sh2.1 million and Sh2.9 million a month”, it was just an echo of the callousness that had been going on with their Ghanaian counterparts. In Ghana, there was the tantrum thrown by an obnoxious parliamentarian whose vehicle had violated a road rule. Prior to that, it had been reported that MPs research assistants had not been paid their salaries, some of them for up to a year. And then there was the very unpopular news of a plan to build a new parliamentary chamber that would cost up to two hundred million dollars – which project has currently been merely shelved, due to the furore that met the announcement.
On Thursday, M3nsa shared a record – When We Begin – that very much speaks to these events. We chat with the artist, in this brief exchange that follows, about the song and the times.
I really dig the new single. Did you write it before or after the parliamentary chamber chain of events?
Originally, I wrote the song about three years ago, if not more. It was just one verse, and showed to Wanlov and he really loved the song so much that we shot a video while we were on tour in Cape Town. And then last year, in January, I just felt like I should finish the song. So, I mean, the song has been around for at least three years; but, you know, it’s, like, just an observation of Ghana, and it’s a cycle; these things just repeat themselves; so it’s some kind of a sad serendipity.
You allude to a burning on the song, which takes my mind back to Burkina Faso in 2014 when protestors set fire to the parliament as part of events that would lead to the overthrow of despotic Blaise Compaore. How far away do you think Ghana is, from such a gesture?
I’m not very familiar with Burkina Faso and their parliament being set on fire and soon and so forth. I don’t know, but I mean, they’d been going through some shit for a while so I can expect that. Things had been quite bad out there. As for the lyric in the song – we for burn your ministry before you do then finish we – it’s also symbolic; like a way of saying we need to shut you down before you shut us down. In a sense, bringing it down. But I don’t know if we’re ready to burn down any kind of government property. I don’t know if it’s in our nature even if we reach that level of despair. But you never know. And I don’t think I was directly inciting that; but if it has to come to that…I’ll pass the match.
In 2015, there was the massive Yvonne-Nelson-led #DumsorMustFall protest, and then Wanlov’s Never Go Change which had the jolting call to “cut off dema heads then spill dema blood on the walls”. Four years later, different government, same shit. Do you have any expectations of this song, that it would make any kind of impact at all?
You see, I don’t like to give myself the pressure and that kind of mandate to write music to incite a specific kind of people. I always say these are my observations and I’m singing what I’m feeling, in a very raw way. Once again with the violence, I don’t know if we go cut anybody ein head. But people are getting pissed off, especially the young people. And it’s this kind of cyclical evil. At one point, I’d say you have to disrupt. You for bridge the gap or throw everything apart, you know. So, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Those who listen, good for them, but I don’t think this song is what’s going to change Ghanaians’ minds. If it has to happen, it will.
So, when we go begin?
This song is a soundtrack to our realities. So, I don’t know. But when we begin, we will finish it. Thats all I know. I’m not trying to incite anything. I’m just creating a soundscape for our reality, and it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before. So, I’m not here to kinda inspire that drastic change or whatever. I’m just almost reporting what’s happening. But you don’t know how it’d affect people.