Monday, April 17, 2006

A Snapshot of Popular Music in Tamale

There are so many musicians doing creative things in Tamale, Northern Region, Ghana. I wanted mention just a couple of them. Hopefully, there be time in future to devote to talking about more of these singular local artists.

I met Abada when they played a VCD (yeah, that's right. that's what's often used in Ghana) release party for one young hiplife group called B.F.G.s. Their name, which stands for Big Friendly Guys, subverts the stereotypes amongst ordinary folks that hiplife dudes are trouble. This is the first Tamale hiplife artist to release a VCD, so this show was big. Abada were part of a line-up that included most of the top Tamale musicians of the last several years. The show and after-show lasted til late. At least 10 different groups and individuals performed a mix of hiplife, their local brand of highlife, and reggae. The parking lot outside was a sea of motorbikes and ice cream sellers and all sorts of local teens. Most people ended up at another place on the other side of town where there were DJs spinning the usual mix of r&b, hip-hop, dancehall, and local sounds.

This song is a good example of the kind of different approaches some people have to hiplife up north. As opposed to the straight hip-hop groove of producers like Hammer, or the folk/dance-related styles of other Accra- and Kumasi-based producers and programmers, Northern musicians are using a broader spectrum of influecnes in their creatiaons. This is track is both simple and deep. This use of indigneous-sounding melodies is rarely used in this fashion by mainstream hiplife artists from the southern part of Ghana.

Abada, interviewed at their hang-out. An area they call Yaari ghetto. Black Moon on the right, Black Shanty on the left

Here they are on stage at the release party the night before. This is at one of the main nightlife spots in town, Picorna.

Black Moon, the the sweeter, highlife-oriented half of the vocal duo.

Black Shanty, the ragga boy with the rough and deep tones.

MC Rauf, aka Shoe Shine Boy, is one of the well-established veterans of the scene these days. I met him when I first came to Tamale in 2002 and we chatted at his barbershop. He was initially a shoe shine boy, he told me. To be a shoe shine boy is one of least desirable or profitable gigs in Ghana, but it also connotes a sort of dilligence, which Rauf seems to embody. Listen to one song, aptly titled "Shoe Shine Boy," is from his first record. This is reggae, Tamale style. That's the style for which MC Rauf is known. It might sound a bit different to your ears. Production facilities in Northern Ghana even to this day are lacking in most cases. This music is not very recent, but Rafu still plays it live, as he did at Picorna that time more recently for the VCD release party.

I was lucky to come back to Tamale after about three years and kick it with Rauf again.

I've enjoyed checking out your site. I'll be traveling to both accra and tamale for a couple of weeks for work. I'd love to get any recs you have for good places to find vinyl (afro-beat in general and good local current sounds).


my name is Alhassan Aziz but now called Jamis Lee Lewis a ghanaian from north, but now a citzen of united states of america,you know what my sweet brothers i miss you alot and your wonderful music,i dont know what to do because i dont listen to radio anymore. i am really in is always my prayers that someday all our northern music will be playing international,take heart guys,God less you,and stay bless,nothing less but peace and unity. Jamis (Aziz)
this shit is dope
me n my homies got a hip hop blog that you should check out too

not too many cross overs but we know hip hop too
hope you like it
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