So, here we are, at the beginning of the third quarter of the year 2015, and has this year not been eventful in this West African country of Ghana or what?! From the Dumsor Must Stop Campaign /Vigil to the infamous Accra flood and fire explosion to the much more recent demolition at Fadama (popularly known as Old Fadama.)
Clearly, there’s been happenings; a lot of them. The question is -and has always been- whether artistes, by default, have a responsibility of addressing these issues in whatever artform they specialise in?
The magnificent Nina Simone once said that she chose, as an artiste “to reflect the times and the situations” in which she found herself and went on to ask “how can you be an artiste and not reflect the times?”
Ghana’s very own Kofi Antubam (O.B.M.) designer and sculptor of the Presidential Seat, the State Sword and a great number of national artefacts also opined “someday when we who share the honour of living in this vital age of evolution of this country are no more, students of art history will have a few challenging questions to ask. They will want to know what part the artists of the 20th Century Ghana played in the great struggle to liberate their country.”
It can be inferred from the above quotes that both individuals believed that an artiste has an unwritten duty to play a part in the ultimate development of their respective society and that a part of this role is reflecting happenings in their respective societies through their art.
So, with all the happening in the country especially this year, quite a number of artistes have, through different platforms and art forms been engaging on the happenings in the country.
This article however, aims to specifically (and briefly) look at how some Ghanaian rappers have through their music or verses “reflecting on times.” And more specifically at why Wanlov’s verse on Shuga Kwame’s “Left Right” is the most outstanding rap verse per the mid-year of 2015 and perhaps for year 2015.
To mention some of the “engaging” rap songs that have been released this year; Sarkodie has released Inflation, The Masses and Dumsor. EL released his State of The Nation Address. C Real came out with Chale We Dey (featuring Wanlov), Kwame Write also put out Wanna Mama with Wanlov, and Dj Juls, together with Pappy Kojo and M3nsa, released Gidigidi.
All of the songs listed are substantive records-records very much needed in light of all that’s been happening in the country lately. The verses in them cover a wide range of issues from the pervasive corruption to ethnocentrism to, of course, dumsor.
What then makes this writer think that self acclaimed Afro Gypsy, Wanlov has the most outstanding rap verse of mid year 2015 among the above-listed rap songs? First, Wanlov’s verse is the most holistic of all the verses- addressing the social, political and the cultural- unlike most of the other songs. Also, Wanlov in that verse, addressed issued that seem to have been totally neglected as far as “advocacy music” in the country is concerned, albeit serious issues deserving of attention as the issues that have been, and are being addressed.
For instance, in the verse, Wanlov raps:
“Check all the prisons// also the jails// review all the cases”
Let’s consider these words against the background of the “facts on the ground” as provided by the 2012 report of the Controller-General of the Ghana Prisons Service:
“In 1957, with a population of 6 million, prison capacity was 7,000. Today, with a population of 26 million, prison capacity is only 9,000. In a Kumasi prison 2,125 prisoners have been confined in cells meant for 416. Nsawam has 3, 648 prisoners for a capacity of 851. Wa Central has 203 prisoners for a capacity for 50. Akuse has 221 prisoners for capacity of 60.”
When we consider the fact that some of these inmates are only on remand-and with some having been in jail for decades- thereby contributing to the overcrowding prison cells, Wanlov’s call for a review of prison cases becomes strikingly relevant, urgent and necessary. Let me state that, the call by Wanlov is for the justice systems to encourage or promote non-custodial terms for people found guilty of ‘non-serious’ offences.
Wanlov calling for the creation more open spaces or parks, provision of more ambulances, the banning of Genetically Modified Foods, a return to the days of Nkrumah where music was part of the school curricular, the provision of relevant education and the scrutinisation of foreigners- most of who come under so many guises, to exploit, destroy water bodies, and grab lands, brings to light the fact that much needed conversations on most pressing problems facing the nation have not been provoked by musicians through advocacy songs.
This verse by Wanlov could easily pass as a development plan; a very solid one at that. The resultant effect on society, after all of Wanlov’s calls have been heeded, seems very utopian; so much so that one is tempted to tag it “too idealistic” or “unrealistic.” But, that only goes to show how much is wrong with and in Ghana, and how much work needs to be done to salvage the nation. For this, ‘Ghanaian Renaissance’ (if you will) to take off though, Wanlov reiterates his call for all corrupt officials to be put away. He put it clearly at beginning the verse:
“Kill all corrupt officials, to make am official”
As at the time of writing this, the song had a total of 579 views on the two channels where it’s been featured which makes one wonder why such a song would be relatively unheard (disregarded?) by Ghana. One would also wonder why Wanlov decided to ‘hide’ a verse this important. Gems are found within the deep bowels of the earth, indeed!
If Ghanaians should someday get serious and decide to make a list of things to rally, protest, push and agitate for, may they not bypass this epic verse by Wanlov. Should our leaders too, finally be cured of deafness, and be able to hear and listen to the grievances of the people, may they also not bypass this very important verse right here.
P.S.Listen to Left Right ft Wanlov
Also, Shuga Kwame is featured on our latest episode of gintar tinz. watch
By: Moshood Balogun