PEER PRESSURE FROM DEAD PEOPLE: CRAZINIST ARTIST

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In one scene, she’s in a short red sleeveless glitter dress, knees kissing the ground with hands outstretched, face to the heavens, a lone candle surrounded by other objects sit on the floor. We will call this scene 1. 

In another scene, she’s naked, one hand clutching on to a few strands of braided hair, the other hand holding a knife to the braids with a determined expression. We will call this, scene 2. 

In a third scene she’s in a longer red dress, knees bowed down with arms clasped against each other as if in prayer, bits of cut braids adorn the floor. In all three scenes, a partitioned projection of a white man in a suit is splayed on the wall behind her. These are scenes from Crazinist artist aka Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi’s 2019 performance – “Ritual reALITies

Va-Bene’s description of Ritual reALITies is that “it explores the politics of identity as a collaborative ritual between an individual and their communities. It questions the fate of trans bodies, queer citizens, non-binaries etc at international borders”

Rituals tend to be performative routines which are often learnt or borrowed. According to hipdict, tradition (which is a synonym of ritual) is peer pressure from dead people.

Although I did not have the privilege of experiencing this live performance, the documented imagery tells an undaunted story. 

In scene one, it is as if to pray to a god you do not entirely believe hears you, but you still question, hoping for an answer – father this is who I am, this is how I became, all sparkle, neither woman, neither man, both man, both woman. Does my existence come with a siren announcing my validity before I receive acceptance? 

Scene 2 is defiant and relentless –says to all who will listen – that if they ought to fold into your fixed forms to be called one of you, then they rid themself of this label. They strip and peel and toss and cut with abandon. They will not be folded and laid out to be hanged dry.

Scene 3 is calmer but focused. Poised for claiming space, however hard and long it takes. Clothed for ease, here to stay. 

What I infer from Ritual reALITies is that, – if identity is a result of a collaborative ritual between individuals and their communities, a re-visitation of rituals (whether it is to chop off, chip in, add on, create another) shouldn’t be labourious. 

It reminds me of Drag performer & writer Amrou Al-Kadhi’s use of the theory of quantum physics to explain gender. “If subatomic particles defy constructs all the time, why should we believe in fixed constructs of gender or any kind of reality?”

Even the smallest units diverge, why can’t the whole?

Written by @asantewawith1a

Lit and black is a product of Black Girls Glow, we’re building community for women artists to create and collaborate. You can learn more at blackgirlsglow.org. If you’d like to support us please go to our patreon, there’s different levels and you can support at a level as low as $1. Thank you, and support black women artists.

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HOW LOW IS YOUR REGISTER?: GYAKIE

There are songs that you hear and your body just starts moving. There’s possibly a science to this movement. There are certain songs that dictate which part of your body moves. Some songs you hear – and you dance with your head, summoning all the sauciness your body can muster, some songs get you snapping your fingers along with it, and there are some songs where you dance with your entire body. But there is a particular kind of song, the minute you hear it, the lower part of your body starts moving unconsciously. And by lower part I mean your belly, waist or ass. It’s either your belly moves in this fluid upwards and downwards motion or your waist draws ovals in the air, or your ass moves in a calculated rhythm that can only be described as hypnotizing. One such song is Sor Mi Mu by Gyakie ft Bisa Kdei. 

Gyakie is someone you would call an emerging artist, simply for the fact that she is new to the entertainment scene and released her first ever single a little over a year ago – in 2019. If you do listen to any of her songs (however few there may be at the moment) she sounds like someone who has been doing this for a while.  

What immediately draws me to Sor Mi Mu is Gyakie’s mastering of her lower register. 

There’s no tension in her chords, there’s a gracefulness to her singing; e be smooth pass cocoa butter. In the same breath, she manages to sing with both care and abandon that it makes the song sound very soothing and sensual regardless of what she is singing. And it manifests in her lyrics. There are some words that are just forceful by nature. Some words were born to be audacious, to announce themselves without introduction, to cause you to pay attention – and one such word is walahi – 

Walahi is a lot like the word “fuck” and we know how versatile it can be in how we say it, in which words we choose to stress on or speed over. 

Walahi,. Walaahi. Walayi. 

How you say it determines the degree a neck will snap to listen to you better. And in the first verse of Sor Mi Mu when Gyakie sings 

Y3d) na akyekyere me
Odo yewu fa me
I never think say me den you go dey I swear walayi

– the last three words carry a certain kind of intimacy, a sense of urgency and an assuredness of an emotion sitting in your chest. 

I also really love Gyakie’s songwriting. Good songwriting is something that has an easiness about it that makes you simultaneously feel like you can totally relate, or you could totally write this. But the truth is, good songwriting is a very hard skill. This song has both Twi, English, Ghanaian English and Pidgin in it. Ghanaian English is taking things that are uniquely Ghanaian and fitting them into the English language in a way such that it creates an improved sound or meaning, peculiar to Ghanaians. We do it all the time in our everyday life without even realizing.  I liked the parts where both Gyakie and Bisa Kdei squeezed English into Twi pieces and the puzzle fit perfectly. And so the parts where she sings 

“Odo nsuo aka ma no ama ma’falli” – ma’falli is something that any twi-speaking Ghanaian will understand. It isn’t English, and it isn’t Twi either. It is a conjugation of the Twi word me and the English word fall. I love hearing these subtleties come together to create one beautiful song. I cannot wait to listen to a full project from Gyakie.

Written by @asantewawith1a


Lit and black is a product of Black Girls Glow, we’re building community for women artists to create and collaborate. You can learn more at blackgirlsglow.org. If you’d like to support us please go to our patreon, there’s different levels and you can support at a level as low as $1. Thank you, and support black women artists.

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PAST/PRESENT: PAPPY KOJO

Joojo Afful’s front teeth had a slanted chip that made it look like God inserted the tiniest marble white triangle, right at the front center of his mouth. But it’s just a souvenir from the scuffle his parents had in each other’s attempt to grab him, to spite the other when he was 8 months old. His mother met a man in Asamankese when he was three years old, moved into his house and had three more children with him. He never saw his father but his grandmother swore he was the spitting image of the man. Right from his bushy eyebrows, chiseled jawline, big bronze eyes, big feet and lying to multiple women like he had nine lives. He was a teacher at Agona Nsaba but went home whenever he could to visit his grandmother in Nyankomase Ahenkro and pay for the up-keeping of his two year-old daughter – whose mother, Gyamfuwaa, was still waiting for Joojo to marry her. Girls loved him and he knew it. His shirts were so crisp you could bite into it, I kid you not. One pair of any of his trousers could slice through day-old bread. He starched them overnight before pressing it with a well heated box-iron. The boys in Nsaba used to think of opportunities to slap the sleazy smirk off his face. He worked hard. He was one of the few well trained teachers, not because he was exceptionally smart, but because his Uncle Otuo had had the good sense to send him off to Akropong Training College. And boy was he glad for it. The salary wasn’t bad, plus he had a bungalow to himself and two girlfriends in Nsaba – who unknowingly took turns cooking for him every other week. And of course the mother of his child in Nyankomase Ahenkro. If he had stuck well to pulling out, he would have had only one child, instead of the seven girls he fathered in his lifetime. He spent some of his evenings dancing to songs he played on a record player he borrowed from the Headmaster occasionally. When he finally bought Pappy Kojo’s Balance , everybody on the block knew the song by heart in a week. The minute Pappy Kojo’s verse came on, he would channel his inner James Brown and move his feet and arms to the beat. Every other Friday, girlfriend number 2 was his date (she was the best dancer out of the 2). She would tuck her hand in his left hand, he would tuck the vinyls of Pappy Kojo & The Psychedelic Aliens in his right armpit, and they would walk to the dance hall and dance all night.   

Written by @asantewawith1a

Lit and black is a product of Black Girls Glow, we’re building community for women artists to create and collaborate. You can learn more at blackgirlsglow.org. If you’d like to support us please go to our patreon, there’s different levels and you can support at a level as low as $1. Thank you, and support black women artists. 

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SEX IN THE VILLAGE: WIYAALA

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Categorizations exist everywhere. Age. Gender. Blue collar jobs. Developing countries. Wack rappers. They exist everywhere. Sex too – is put in boxes. There’s breakup sex, there’s new love sex, there’s after-shower sex, there’s I’m being extra nice because I’m about to do something you don’t agree with sex. There’s unemployed dude sex (thanks twitter, what would I ever do without your timely wisdom?) There’s all types of sex. And, thanks to Wiyaala, I now know of Village sex.

The song starts like a tease. – a riveting strum that slides down to make way for Wiyaala’s soothing soulful hum – and then – a rhythmic cadence that softly lands on percussion, which drowns on – eases out, and then it starts all over again. This is where I realize that the beat of this song is modeled after sex. I’m going to have to repeat that. The beat of the song is modeled after having sex. Surely, I’m not the only one who is blown away by this? 

The song is executed in a way such that the beginning of the song (both vocals, delivery and production) alludes to foreplay, and then the tempo picks up to match a back and forth groove. If that’s not accurate, I don’t know what is. Just perfect.

And we haven’t even gotten to the lyrics. The song is in Sissala, but Wiyaala was kind enough to add an English translation and I just want everybody to know, that, an indicator of a good song, is when its first line translates to:

Wow! Kantinbajaga is vibrating because of vagina

Village sex is a very beautiful unapologetic sex song. I love it especially because she didn’t try to use a word to tone down or disrespect the word vagina. She didn’t use “down there” or “coochie” or “Jerusalem gates”. It was Wia. Vagina. Can I get an Amen? 

Also, in the history of opening tracks for albums, THIS is an opening track. This post is about Village sex , but I can’t end it without mentioning her rendition of Osibisa’s Woyaya on the same album – Sissala Goddess. It is both inspiring and interesting to me, that the same song, sang by different people can deliver different messages. The timbre of the voice, the choice of instruments and delivery on both songs give different vibes. . The original Woyaya by Osibisa sounds like a triumphant hope – a “yes we can” kind of vim. And Wiyaala’s Woyaya is a prayerful “face-lift”, easing you into the kind of rest you take just before you prepare for a work day. 

Written by @asantewawith1a

Lit and black is a product of Black Girls Glow, we’re building community for women artists to create and collaborate. You can learn more at blackgirlsglow.org. If you’d like to support us please go to our patreon, there’s different levels and you can support at a level as low as $1. Thank you, and support black women artists.

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ON HEALING & GRATITUDE : YAAYAA & MS.ABA

Raise your right hand up if you’re one of those people who, when sad, purposely seeks out sad songs so you can wallow well in your pit of sadness? Are your hands up? Okay, I got a question for you. Why do you do that? Is it meant to squeeze all the sadness out? Is it to keep your sadness company? I need to know. 

I’m not one to particularly avoid sad emotions, but I’m not sure I want to nurse them either. I love sad songs but I prefer hopeful songs when I’m sad. I think the thing about sentimental songs are their relatability. We’ve all been through some kind of shit. We’ve all been sad as fuck, we’ve all had said sadness linger around for far too long, and we’ve all clung to hope like second skin. Whoever you are, however your life is or may have been, sadness and hope are familiar things. And this is one of the reasons why the first few lines of YaaYaa’s song “Time Will Heal Us All’ off her debut album Agoo, instantly snags at your heart. 

I know somebody is praying tonight/tryna find a way/tryna get to a place
I know somebody is singing tonight/ to the Lord most high/to show the way

Girl. It’s me. No lies detected.

This is her debut album, but YaaYaa isn’t new to the Ghanaian music scene. Our introduction to her was when she won the 2009 edition of Stars of the Future, she has gone on to release a couple of singles and work with other artists. Time will heal us all is the 3rd track on her album – Agoo.

The song begins with a gentle strum of an acoustic guitar, followed by YaaYaa’s deep and full singing. The first thirty seconds of the song feels like the way your hand shoots up in excitement when you know you have the correct answer to a question in class. And it might as well be, because right after her crooning, the tempo switches up from the gentle strum to head-bopping-shoulder-raising electric guitar cum soft drumming, with matching energetic tone, laced with harmonious melodies. The cadence of the song follows this formula. The song is a lifter-upper for anyone who is lost or in a period of waiting – not to give in to despair, for good old Time will heal you. 

When it feels like the darkness is caving in on you
And you really don’t know what to do
Don’t fear, one day your light will shine

YaaYaa is aiming for a soothing assuredness. And she nails it. 

I do wonder, though, if time will heal us all. Let me rephrase that – I wonder if time will heal everything we want or need to be healed. Maybe some things are meant to remain wounds. And maybe some things just don’t heal well. Reminds me of Joy Harjo’s sturdy poem Perhaps the World Ends here 

“We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here. 

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks” 

Despite these wounds we have to find a way to love ourselves through the pain. And one way to do that is to be deliberate about gratitude. Kind ‘a Love is a funky danceable song by MS.ABA that does just that.

What kind of love be dis
The one who thinks I’m special
His love is over me
He thinks I am to die for

First of all, I love that more and more women are fusing pidgin into their songs. MS.ABA has branded herself as an afrocentric r&b/soul singer/songwriter with a gospel foundation. 

Kind ‘a Love, is an afropop song. Not only does the song have a swang to it right from the beginning, MS.ABA seamlessly switches from singing to afrofunk rapping and then back to singing. Her singing has attitude, she sings the word “special” like she’s singing it with three exclamation marks interspersed with random $ and @ signs for added emphasis.  She’s definitely one to bookmark.

Written by @asantewawith1a

Lit and black is a product of Black Girls Glow, we’re building community for women artists to create and collaborate. You can learn more at blackgirlsglow.org. If you’d like to support us please go to our patreon, there’s different levels and you can support at a level as low as $1. Thank you, and support black women artists. 

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PAST/PRESENT : THE 60s WOMEN WHO WILL LISTEN TO EFYA

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Even at twenty-one Nana Akua Benewaa reminded you of the defiant Julie Marsden played by Bette Davis in the film Jezebel. It had something to do with her strong hands, and her no-nonsense tone. Even her laughter had an assertiveness about it that made you inadvertently pause yours and make room for hers. Or maybe it was exactly her eyes – half glint, half deadpan. Or all that baby-soft skin posing as ego. Whatever it was, it reeked of audacity. Everybody called her N’akua. N’akua had big boobs and tough hair. She wore her natural hair in cornrows and wore pleated skirts with lace shirts to church. She kept a nail clipper cutter she stole from her maternal uncle in her purse in case she needed to teach random men who feel up on girls in town a lesson. She was the first of all five of her mother’s children – who after 5 pregnancies had given up on giving her father a boy. Her mother, was one of the big market woman in Koforidua market and had promised to give her her own portion of the produce to sell and keep when she was done with primary school. Somewhere in May 1951 when she was 12, her father came back home with a skinny woman holding a newborn boy. As if that wasn’t enough, he gave three plots of the land his mother was farming on to his new wife, and there was nothing her mother was able to do about it. Because although her mother did all the farming, the land belonged to her father. The next day her mother sent her off to Akropong to stay with her grandaunt and attend the all-girls boarding school in Aburi. She worked hard, finished top of her needlework class, and went off to the Korle-bu midwifery school to be a nurse. All in ten years. She loved men as much as she hated them. Once, she laid a mat in front of Akwasi Awuah’s room and refused to move until he promised to marry her. Two weeks later she broke up with him for letting Agartha wash his dirty clothes instead of doing it himself. She loved politics. Adored Nkrumah and read everything she could find about Marcus Garvey. She also thought a lot of government officials were full of shit. Lumumba’s assassination broke her heart. She showed up to the mourning parade with her loud poster and unsmiling face demanding for justice. Went back home and danced to Efya’s Boy Bi Beh Gye in nothing but her underwear, until her head spin. Valentine’s day was in 3 days, and she knew exactly what she was going to wear. She sang along to the chorus with verbatim, sure as hell it was written for her. The song made her feel like she could dream any dream she wanted in this small puny slick city of Accra. And she damn sure did. She damn sure did. 

Written by @asantewawith1a

Lit and black is a product of Black Girls Glow, we’re building community for women artists to create and collaborate. If you’d like to support us please go to our patreon, there’s different levels and you can support at a level as low as $1. Thank you, and support black women artists. 

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KPA FOR KPA – FELI NUNA & JEAN FEIER

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The year is 2020. It’s a Friday night, a little after 9pm. Accra traffic is a slick monster that spits out cars in a stuttering formation as if it has a scratchy throat. Everybody is trying to get to a destination – home, awoshia, or drinks with boys boys. But not you. No, definitely not you. You are with 3 of your girlfriends, on the dance floor of a bar with just the right lighting – not too dim, not too bright. You’re in a fitting neon dress that accentuates your hips, with loose braids, glossed lips and silver pump heels, waiting impatiently for the music to enhance your mood. Five seconds pass by, an Afro pop-y song that starts with a slow percussion interspersed like the beat is on a mission to woo someone for the night. A harmonious chorus of ei ushers in a silky voice. It’s Feli Nuna’s Afro Magic song. You’re not even aware your body has started swaying to the song. Next thing you know, all four of you are dancing in rhythm. Hands point out, elbows go in, legs imitate the pattern, shoulders and hips move sideways like a puppeteer is up the ceiling, flesh happily wobbles. On the 2:02 mark, you’ve all memorized the chorus enough to sing along.

3y3 no f3 o
Me se 3y3 no f3 o
Boy says I give him afromagic
3y3 no f3 o
Me se 3y3 no f3 o
Boys says I give him afromagic
Ghana girl go down down go down down

And when that last line takes a spin, you all go as low as your knees can take you.

That’s the feeling I associate Feli Nuna’s afromagic with. A good song to have a good time! And I believe that is her marksmanship because a good chunk of her songs have an upbeat tempo and a high energy to match with it. Feli is a double edged-sword, a singer and a rapper, she delivers both superbly. I also love that she harmonizes local sounds – a lot of harmonies are oos and ees and ahhs and mms. But how many singers do you hear harmonizing “kpo kpo za”? She does it well and does it beautifully. I’m very interested to see what a collaboration between her and Gafacci will sound like. Gafacci is one of the best to incorporate local sounds seamlessly into beats. His electronic-afrobeats vibe + Feli’s versatility = a hit waiting to happen.

Speaking of double-edged swords – Jean Feier flames the edge. Star Baby on her Grand Theft Demo EP (dope title btw) is an immediate bop. As in, no delays, this is an emergency please. And the production is what started the fire. Hiphop is one of those genres that is heavily reliant on production to nail perfection. A lot of factors contribute to making a great song, – it could be lyrics, flow, melody, valence, tempo, energy – to mention a few. A good production does half of the job, and the musician does the other half with songwriting, flow and matching (or raising) the energy. Star boy, produced by Pilgrim is a stellar production. And Jean Feier matches the producer’s energy kpa for kpa. 

This is a workout /getting-over-your-ex /vim song /a song you put on to test your miming skills. If it’s not on your playlist, you’re slacking. You’re very welcome.

Written by @asantewawith1a

Lit and black is a product of Black Girls Glow, we’re building community for women artists to create and collaborate. If you’d like to support us please go to our patreon, there’s different levels and you can support at a level as low as $1. Thank you, and support black women artists. 

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