Friday, October 28, 2005

More on Rep Busters Nkasei (click here for a great article on "Yefri Tuobdom" in Ghana Review International)

While doing this research on hiplife in Ghana, I often took fieldnotes or memos in addition to all my filming. After a long day, I would just write out my thoughts and experiences and impressions...Kind of like this blog. I don't believe in scribbling notes the whole time while chatting with people, so I prefer to go back later on that day or as soon as possible after the interview or performance and write down some of things I thought were important or interesting. Memos helped me summarize and organize my thoughts during research.

This is my memo from the day I interviewed Nkasei

18/08/05 Interviewing Nkasei- Shy's house, St. John's, Accra

I arrive and meet the people who own a liquor and drinks shop attached the house where I am supposed to finally meet the group Nkasei. After weeks of phone tag, waiting, getting stood-up at least twice, I was going to get my time with these cats who have recently blown-the-fuck-up.

The guys arrive a bit late but I enjoy myself chatting with the neighbors. They show up in an SUV, dressed in typical low-key hiphop gear, nothing too flashy. One guy, Shy, has bleach blonde dreads, while the other, Naa-K has a bleach blonde beard. We are meeting at Shy's place it turns out, which is very comfortable: plush couches, big stereo, big screen TV. The guys seem to be enjoying their current tide of success.* "Yefri Tuobodom" is all over Ghana right now: radio, TV, newspaper, etc. The controversy surrounding whether or not the song denigrates the people of Tuobodom in particular and Brong-Ahafo region in general has drummed up a lot of media coverage (unprecedented as far as I have seen for any one song). Daily, I see letters-to-the-editor concerning the issue across the entire spectrum of newspapers and magazines. I hear radio call-in shows mention the topic while the song is played at almost "Konkontibaa"** levels of repetition, only for me "Yefri Tuobodom” never gets old for some reason. I see the video, interviews with the artists, and mention of the song on TV (can't remember which stations). The impact of the song is clear, just walk around town and listen. On numerous occasions I witness hilarious but, often serious, exchanges between passengers on buses that spring out of one being accused of being from Tuobodom (because they acted stupid or ignorant or "bush” in some way). In any case, the people of Tuobodom, as they were depicted in the song (and in the words of the song's composers), are people of the past. They are not meant to be a representation of the modern people living in thatbrightly-bush, brighty-lit town by the roadside just outside of Techiman, BA.

*- One thing I noticed with hiplife musicians in Ghana, if they got some cash they were quick to style themselves (and their friends and family) out poss. This means getting name-brand clothes, a car, their own pad, rocking the expensive clubs, etc. But most of these guys aren't really making enough to support this kind of lifestyle. They often feel pressure from people around them to spend more and be generous, which is something they don't seem to have a problem with. It's just that the large amount of image maintainenece involved with being a mainstream hiplife artist means that many of the stars are actually kind of broke, though relatively they aren't doing too bad...more about this whole issue in a near-future post!

**-"Konkontibaa" turned out to be THE hiplife anthem during my entie year in Ghana. It is not possible to compare its popularity and prevalence with any one song in America for two reasons: one, we don't blast music in public spaces (24-hours a day in some cases) , and our radio playlists and formats are not THAT homogenous (relatively compared with Ghana).

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