The 8th cycle of the SABOLAI RADIO Music Festival took place over the course of 6 magical days from December 11 – 16th. With this edition, we celebrate the vibrant richness of Ghanaian music and our creative capacity to document our own cultural movements. This has been a primary vision of ACCRA [dot] ALT since we began the festival in December 2010. Therefore, the focus of SABOLAI RADIO this year was to illustrate how this work of documentation, archiving and creating artistic innovation is deep-seeded, ongoing and inherent to African peoples.
The festival featured a multimedia exhibition of works by Ghanaian artists (Josephine Kuuire, Sionne Rameah Neely, Efo Sela Kodjo Adjei, Isshaq Ismail, Comfort Arthur and Elom McCauley), video art and film screenings, interactive masterclasses, artist discussions, DJ sets and live music performances. SABOLAI RADIO 2017 demonstrated that there are visionaries among us – working hard in visual art, photography, filmmaking, music, cultural critique and archiving – who are actively committed to documenting Ghanaian history and social life by creating and expanding the culture with more and more dynamic works.
On Tuesday of SABOLAI RADIO 2017 week, we were excited to share the full 12 episodes of TUKO MACHO, a project created by Nairobi’s The Nest Collective. The series interrogates how a system of vigilante justice would work if the general public decides the fate of those committing heinous crimes. This sparked a lively discussion among the audience about how this scenario would play out in Ghana. How does one decide what punishment fits the crime, who is guilty and who is not, and ultimately, does this provide reconciliation to those who have been violated? There were many different responses articulated. Other key discussions rang out around during the LABS, where facilitators Hakeem Adam (creator of Dandano, an archive of African film and music) and Nii Kotei Nikoi (Ph.D. researcher on Ghanaian art, music and culture practices) led sessions that deeply explored the many meanings created, valued and debated through African art and music. Nii Kotei’s submissions succinctly outlined the role of arts and culture in subverting and decolonizing African social spaces entrenched by neoliberal systems that dehumanize Black bodies, be it on the African continent or Black diaspora.
An Open Producer LABS session with self-taught music producer, Alex Wondergem, led audience members through the basics of beatmaking. At the end of this session, Wanlov the Kubolor, 7’O Clock and other lyricists flowed on top of the beat that Alex created to standing applause.
Artists Josephine Kuuire and Mantse Aryeequaye discussed and shared video art screenings from their installation project, “The Country Formerly Known as Ghana” which reflects an imaginary present where Ghana was never colonized, and was always and permanently free and independent (The exhibition is now up in Winneba as part of the Fancy Dress Masquerade Festival, closing January 2nd 2018). Josephine also joined Sionne Rameah Neely, thereafter, to discuss their project, “Mixtape Notes to the Shadows” and share film screenings and a sound recording from this installation which calls out sexual violence through the personal and intimate accounts of these women. Comfort Arthur joined the discussion, sharing an animation film that also chronicles experiences of sexual violence against Black women and girls. These women artists will continue to expand this project with new stories in 2018.
Ria Boss (singer, songwriter and poet) led a session entitled, “Soundscapes + Tantric Sex” for participants to deepen levels of intimacy with self, partners and environment in more holistic and interdependent ways. This caused some awkward discomfort for some audience members, when Ria announced that we would look into another person’s eyes for 5 minutes straight without moving. It also shows how much we are programmed to be disconnected from ourselves and one another, however, the brave of us, persisted through with some tools to continue self-discovery, pleasure-making and fruitful communication.
The LABS session ended with an in-depth artist conversation with genre-bending musicians Yaw P and Temple. After releasing their Acropolis EP last year, the music artists created a series of short documentaries chronicling the development of the EP and their creative process as well as an acceptance of an award for the documentary project at the Urban Film Festival in Paris earlier this year. It was fitting that we ended the SABOLAI RADIO LABS on this note, as Yaw P and Temple have demonstrated a genius ability to not only create exceptional music but to also document their production process and stake a claim within the renaissance of African arts that has been happening for the last decade. The exciting developments within Ghanaian independent music culture is this understated love for genre-subverting music that is quietly clearing a path for a definitive sound in Ghana. The nature of the sound textures we experienced at SABOLAI RADIO leads one to think differently about the use of electrified indigenous drums and synths and the ways in which they create big transitions into other music forms that add to the plethora of experiments within African Electronic music. This is mostly due to the fact that more and more Accra-based indie artistes are pacing forward their sound through stunning visuals of creation, evolution, nature and space. It’s as if these musicians are finding other ways to lead their fans into places of ‘discomfort’ in order to hear what they are talking about in these songs.
The Yard Party closed out SABOLAI RADIO 2017 with exciting live performances and DJ sets from Aurelia Dey and the Vibe (Sweden), Mina (UK), Rvdical the Kid, Abdel (Togo), Reynolds the Gentleman, Bryan the Mensah, MensaHighlife, Dirty Cursive and the artist named Bryte. Look out for this chap in 2018, he’s bringing Azonto back and you want to hear what he sounds like. Other favorites at the Yard Party were the endless pints of Pito [millet beer], Akpeteshie [locally distilled gin] as well as peppery goat kebabs. We partied well into the Accra night as a way to say well done for another year of creating more art, music and culture with invention, passion and integrity.
Thank you for the community, support and love expressed to us this year. MORE VIM to you and yours in 2018.
Team ACCRA [dot] ALT
All images by Nii Kotei Nikoi