Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy birthday to me and closing Kasiebo

Yee, onwunu adwo, my people, yɛrebɔ dawuro, nti monyaa aso (2x); Yɛkyiakyia mo nyinaa, yɛde nkaseɛbɔ brɛbrɛ mo nyinaa (2x); La la la la la, mmiɛnsa, mmienu, baako, hwii dum; La la la la la, sɛ wɔapie, sɛ asa, afei, ka w'ano to mu;

This is the chorus of Obrafour’s Kasiebo hit single. Kasiebo means ‘news’. This is not exactly the nuz, but it’s just a little write-up of things that have been on my mind lately. Full blog posts will follow sometime in the New Year when I ‘boga’ again to my address in America. If you can't read Twi, ask a friend or learn some at

BarCamp Ghana 2009 went well. We had more than 300 attendees and great breakout sessions and panels. Patrick Awuah’s keynote speech was awesome too. The notes and feedback are rolling in. Look out for a comprehensive report soon. You can always google to find out what people are saying as well. Or hit up the #bcghana09 hashtag on Twitter. Shout out to our sponsors – GhanaThink Foundation, MEST, Google, Web4Africa, Ushahidi, CITI 97.3FM, Ashesi University, Fienipa, SKYY Digital and Studio 8.

I’ve been on radio twice, both times on CITI 97.3FM’s breakfast show with Bernard Avle. The Dec 18th discussion/interview had me, Patrick Awuah (of course I was dying in there), Paa Kwesi Imbeah (my role model) and Estelle Sowah (CEO of Google Ghana). I handled the stage fright well and the discussion on leadership, youth and the motives behind BarCamp Ghana 09 served for a nice interview. The post-BarCamp interview on the 23rd with myself, Eyram Tawia and Henry Addo (and George Minta-Jacobs) about youth entrepreneurship in Ghana went well too. Both audios shall be made available, as well video footage already broadcasted on Skyy TV’s Democracy channel.

Shirley Frimpong-Manso’s A sting in a Tale is a great movie. Some people believe it’s her best. It seems Shirley’s making her subsequent movies more local and more realistic for the average Ghanaian. The movie features more Twi and Pidgin lines. A full review will follow soon.

This movie featured my favorite Ghanaian song at the moment. Sarkodie’s Boga. Boga, boga, ɛna ɛyɛɛ dɛn. Super track. Obidi must make a video for this one.

Ghanaians must learn to be more honest and speak the truth. We dey lie too much. Sometimes we do it without even thinking about it. If you are at the Tetteh-Quarshie Interchange in traffic, let me know. Don’t tell me you are at Madina Zongo Junction.

Mmaa no wɔ he? They still didn’t come to BarCamp Ghana 2009. I understand they are more interested in going to social functions. For real? Tell me, ɛnyɛ nokware. False propaganda.

I can tell you one place they are at. The Accra Mall. It’s still the new hang-out, meeting spot. I visited the SilverBird Lifestyle shop and was pleasantly surprised with what I found there. Children’s books written by Ghanaians, a whole aisle of books about Barack Obama, South African CDs (including Gang of Instrumentals, Lira and Malaika), my friend’s book Harmattan Rain, a book called ‘Bu me bE’ amongst others.

Shiee wow! The girl ebody body chaw. I don’t know why I never really realized this.

Na EhyEm!. Am writing in Naija movie, but before it's done, am gonna live it to make sure it will make a great story. It's gonna be the best Nigerian movie ever. It's called a tale of two sisters.

The new cool term is ‘Chill up’. If you haven’t heard about Capo Cheerz, you are missing out. Megyina me nan so 

The new mantra for Ghanaian politicians is “it’s in the pipeline”. Why isn’t this road done? “It’s in the pipeline”. Oh Ghana!

I attended Smiles for Christmas 2009 at the Labadi Beach Hotel. Mad props to the ladies who’ve been organizing this. Smiles for New Year in Kumasi is on this 3rd January (2pm prompt) at King Jesus Charity at Boadi. If you are near Oseikrom, join us.

Have you heard about Citizen Kofi? You have. Have you been there? You haven’t. Not to worry. Find your way there, it’s the hottest ticket in town. If you are part of Ghana’s elite, you may not even need one. More on this in the New Year.

Sra bi hwɛ herbal clinic. I also saw a signboard for African Institute of Technology, somewhere on the Kumasi-Obuasi road. How many AITs are there in Africa?

Speaking of Obuasi, I was there recently to watch Accra Hearts of Oak and AshGold. It was my first time watching a Ghanaian premier league match. It was the most entertaining goalless drawn game I’ve seen. Is Glo the only sponsor? They haven’t entered the telecom market in Ghana but they have no competition at the nation’s sports stadia.

Speaking of telecoms, they have taken over Ghana. Everywhere is painted Yello, Vodafone Red, or Zain multicolor. Quite impressive.

I have a checklist of food items and drinks I am trying before I leave Ghana again. I had one Chairman (Kyea me) the other day, and became the tipsiest I’ve ever been. Let’s just say I followed it with an Alvaro, which is the ‘truth’.

Anaa yɛse moakye no awe Auntie Muni waakye. I finally went to Auntie Muni to discover what her waakye was all about. Good stuff. Was there at the Facebook Waakye Party. I couldn’t find too many people I knew, which made me wonder which folks were attending this thing.

Fresh boy Chup Chop kɛ fresh girl Lollipop. So I hear Chupa-Chop is actually a toffee. Interesting.

For the first time, my parents and others have been hinting I should get married. Hmmm. my Mrs., I’m coming for you. I am going to SMS love to 1948. I hear they have 100,000 singles.

Happy birthday to me. I’m forever 21 26. Afei na merebɛyɛ no gidigidi. :-) While I am afraid of aging, my brother wishes he was retired. People keep on telling me I look more matured than my age, la la la la la. I don’t know why I don’t think that is not a good thing. Either way, there are mixed emotions about what I’ve done with my life so far and that warrants another entry. Da foforɔ, ma me mmerɛ na menkyerɛ m'adwen. So till then, thanks for all the lovely messages, calls, texts. I really appreciate it.

Thank you. Medaase. Oyiwaladonn. Akpe. Na gode. Ese. Imela. Asante. Tatenda. Ngiyabonga. Nkosi. Weebale nyo. Merci. Spasibo. Spasiba. Gracias. Obrigada. Arigato. Xixie. Shukria.

Friday, December 11, 2009

BarCamp Ghana 2009 - Leadership for our times - cultivating change makers (Press release)

I am very excited about this event. If you have a story of youth making/creating change and leading in Ghana, please come and share it here. Or get in touch.

On December 22, 2008, over a hundred young Ghanaians met in Accra for BarCamp Ghana '08 to exchange ideas on entrepreneurship, innovation and development for a rising Ghana. This summer, the conversations moved to Washington, DC on July 25, 2009 where BarCamp Diaspora '09 brought together the African Diaspora to exchange ideas on doing business in Africa.

This December 21st in Accra, the BarCamp Ghana team, made up of passionate young Ghanaians, presents BarCamp Ghana '09, under the theme "Leadership for our times - cultivating change makers". The event will take place on December 21, 2009 from 8am - 6pm at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) campus at 20 Aluguntuguntu Street in East Legon, Accra.

A BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering where attendees meet for discussions, demos and networking. Unlike a typical conference, at a BarCamp everyone is both a speaker and a participant. The content is provided by all attendees based on their interests, unified under the theme. This year, the focus is youth in leadership and how the youth can create and make change in various ways in various disciplines for the betterment of Ghana. The event would highlight different success stories involving change-making youth. Change makers and youth leaders are strongly encouraged to attend.

BarCamp Ghana ’09 is a FREE event for anyone who is interested in using their skills, talent, and resources to benefit Africa. BarCamp Diaspora gave birth to a Ghana-focused healthcare NGO, REACH-Ghana, which will be presenting its story since its inception in July. BarCamps all over the world have brought together individuals and organizations to collaborate on various projects and businesses.

Panelists and speakers will include Patrick Awuah of Ashesi University, Estelle Sowah of Google Ghana, George Minta of Empretec, Hajo Birthelmer of Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), amongst others. There will be sessions organized by Google representatives and as well as other breakout sessions on various topics and interests as put forth by the attendees. If you are creating or making change in your own small way in your community, consider sending the team a note about your project or business to info at barcampghana dot org. Some of these stories will be mentioned at the BarCamp and all the information will be on the BarCamp Ghana website.

Register/RSVP today at the BarCamp Ghana website. Help spread the word about BarCamp Ghana '09 by grabbing badges and support by donating to help cover costs. You may also contact the BarCamp Ghana team through its website for sponsorship opportunities. If you are interested in organizing a breakout session, let us know, especially if you have special needs.

BarCamp Ghana 2009 is sponsored by the GhanaThink Foundation, Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), Ushahidi, Web4Africa, etc. Our media partner is CITI 97.3 FM.

See you there!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Introducing REACH-Ghana on the occasion of World AIDS day

I was notified about the website for REACH-Ghana today and I must say I am impressed with how far this organization has come in the last 4 months following BarCamp Diaspora at JHU-SAIS in Washington, DC. A few young passionate Ghanaians with interest in the health sector came together after a healthcare breakout session during July's BarCamp Diaspora and started investigating how they could contribute to Ghana's health sector. Their enthusiasm has given birth to Representatives for Equal Access to Community Health-care (Ghana).

I love the use of the Adinkra symbol in the REACH logo. After my previous experience with Kasahorow, Museke & GhanaThink, I am a big fan of incorporating Ghanaian symbols in every way. REACH's logo uses the Adinkra symbol "Boa Me Na Menboa Wo" (Help me to help you), which represents cooperation, interdependence and community. You can see the tenets of REACH's vision in this symbol and the name itself. The symbol embodies the organization's belief that local community involvement is
integral to the achievement of equal access to quality health-care. The organization believes that local community involvement is integral to its mission.

December 1 was World AIDS day and REACH-Ghana already has an AIDS themed project called the REACH HIV Intervention program. This project is scheduled to take place in summer 2010. Read more about REACH's goals and projects on their website. The REACH-Ghana team is made up of various Ghanaian students and professionals in the health sector. The team includes Maame Sampah, Aida Manu, Kofi Buaku-Atsina, Seyram Avle, Edo Bedzra, Aya Ghunney, Emmanuel Lamptey, Jonathan Hutchful and Bennie Osafo-Darko as coordinator of the HIV project. I know some of these people personally and strongly believe in their capability to make REACH-Ghana a meaningful contributor to addressing some of Ghana's health issues and concerns.

Become a Facebook Fan today. Follow REACH-Ghana on Twitter @REACHGhana. You can also become a member of REACH-Ghana and get opportunities to volunteer on REACH-Ghana projects, attend conferences, expand your network and get free access to REACH newsletters and publications. Also donate to help REACH-Ghana, an NGO, which is on track to gain 501c status.

You can also attend BarCamp Ghana 09 later this year on the 21st of December in Accra to hear more about REACH-Ghana. Here's to the birth of more forward-thinking organizations out of more BarCamps and roundtable discussions amongst young Ghanaians and Africans in the future. Yes, we can.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The MIghTy African's real identity and his other online names

It's always interesting when I get questions like - Are you Chale of, or Abocco, or this, or that. Yes, I am those and more. Ever since I got introduced to the world of the internet, I have tried to conceal my identity behind countless pseudonyms and names. In fact, hand in hand with this 'decision', I don't like to see my real name on-line in certain instances. This year, I have been fished out, because I've had to reveal myself in different ways because of some little publicity I got here and there. Why would I want to conceal my identity? Why would I use all these names and where do they even come from? It's time to answer some of these questions and bring y'all up to speed on these names. So just in case, you happen to find these names somewhere, you know who is really behind those.

The fascination with pseudonyms began in high school - Presec. I had joined the the school's media outlet, Editorial Board. We were in charge of publishing the school magazine and maintaining the school's Filla Board. The Filla Board was a notice board at a heavy-human traffic location which featured articles talking about school life, announcements, amongst other things. Each writer chose a pseudonym. Mine was Aristocrates. I had a friend called Aristotle, and came up with Aristocrates as a result. If I wrote an article lambasting somebody, especially someone in a high position, I had the comfort of no one really knowing it was me. It was fun. It was also exciting to listen on conversations of friends praising a certain article I wrote, but they wouldn't know it was me. Eventually, some people figured out who Aristocrates was but the mystery was kinda cool. If you don't believe me, ask some Presecans.

When I came to the US in 2001 and eventually became a major poster on the Odadee (old Presec students) forum, I chose a username - Clue. I could have used my yahoo email username which would easily give me away, but why do that? I followed the Presec-thing. Clue was a nickname I got from junior secondary school (middle school) because I'd organize all these general knowledge quizzes amongst friends and give them clues in case they couldn't answer questions. Most Presecans/Odadees didn't know I was called Clue, because I was never called that as Presec so many people on the Odadee forum didn't know 'Clue' was me. I loved that. The Odadee forum is extinct now but you can find Clue as the pseudonym for my abocco gmail blogger account here.

So what's this Abocco word anyway? Well, I first heard it in middle school (KNUST JSS). It was supposed to mean 'something good or great or super'. For the Ghanaians, it's a synonym to 'JƐ'. I liked the name and used it as 'mine'. So, when I joined the GhanaThink forums in 2003, I used Abocco as my username. It's what I still use today, on the GhanaConscious forums. I'm also @Abocco on Twitter. A lot of people ave their real names in addition to their Twitter name, but not me. Every now and then, I google Abocco to see where it's landing and going and I'm pleasantly surprised with results. Abocco's blog is my blog on GhanaConscious.

Ever come across Maximus Ojah? That will be me too. I am a big fan of the movie, Gladiator and Ojah, well, it means 'fire' in Twi (correct spelling is Ogya). I made up this name when I started to write articles on Ghanaweb and places other than I used this moniker to write the 'Letters to Osagyefo'. Some of you may know that Osagyefo refers to Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first president and one of my idols. One letter I wrote to Osagyefo about hiplife called the "Hiplife Story" became really famous. Hiplife's page on Facebook has the story at its Hiplife info section. A comment on said "it was the best hiplife article I've ever read'. Who wrote that? Maximus Ojah. Who the heck is Maximus Ojah? Where can we find him? You can't. I actually had a username Abocco on GhanaMusic too, but the site owners never really put 2 & 2 together to realise Abocco and Maximus Ojah were the same person. I had written a lot of Osagyefo letters and one April day in 2007, I decided to revive the letters after a long hiatus, only this time, I'd publish them on GhanaConscious. This is where I came up with 'Nwia', which is Kwame Nkrumah's middle name. I still signed off with Maximus Ojah and when I sent the articles to be published by other websites, I sent it as the MIghTy African from my MIghTy African gmail address.

Oh, MIghTy African is the guy who writes this blog right? Right. As you can see, MIghTy features MIT and yup, I call myself the MIghTy African. How selfish of me! I am not the only African who's attended MIT and even if I helped coin the name MIghTy Africans for Africans@MIT, what right do I have to name myself the MIghTy African? Twiaaa! Well, guess what. Someone actually called me that and that's why I took the name. I shouldn't make any apologies, if you think I should, chastise me. Yeah, so when I sent articles I'd written on this blog or somewhere else to different websites for publication, I sent it as the MIghTy African. Some of you may have seen the MIghTy African Music Video program clips on Youtube, where I was interviewed by my friend, Melanie Reynard. When she posted the video, she said my real name, where I went to school and the website Big crime! She gave my identity away. Now, I am not only trying to battle with my name being out there, but people could see what I actually look like. And find out I am (one of the) guy(s) behind

This brings us to Having people not know I am the one being behind this website which is being called the "African music bible" is my best magic trick yet. A while ago, a friend said she felt I only just loved to promote the site. Of course! Isn't it spectacular? Y'all should be doing the same. :-) My name on Museke is Chale, which is pretty easy to figure out if you know me and you know I am part of the Museke crew. How did I come up with Chale? I said Chale a zillion times at my time at MIT, that people ended up calling me by the name. Chale became a filler word for me. Where are you going, chale? What you did wasn't cool, chale. Exasperation was replaced with "chale, chale, chale". If you've hanged around Ghanaians a lot, you'll know what Chale/Chalay/Charlie/Chaley/Charley means. It's basically a name to address a friend with. Comes from the coolest language on earth - Pidgin. I know the Mexicans are stealing my shine because they have some chale word like that, but next time you see something wrote by Chale or a Chale reference on or to, remember that yours truly is behind it. Once, someone mentioned my real name on the site, and it got to me so much.

Talking about my real name, I am not really happy to see people address me as such on this blog. My blogger profile doesn't have my name and I haven't (really) mentioned my name yet, have I? Well, people, I am Ato Ulzen-Appiah. There, whew, that was difficult. I may not have mentioned my name but I do I feed my blog entries into my Facebook notes and everyone who reads those knows I am the one writing them. But if someone happened to end up on my blog and read my entries, would they know it is 'me' writing these? Maybe. Maybe not. Truthfully, I don't really want people to know this is me, I don't want to be popular like that. I'll take more pride in people loving some Maximus Ojah guy's articles than associating those pieces with 'me' and having my name all over the place. Obviously, it is kind of contradictory with the kind of things I've been up to over the years and the number of Facebook friends I have. I am not telling you the number, go find out. That's fodder for another blog entry too.

Every now and then, I google myself to see where I am appearing. I also google my 'names'. I can't control people getting know to I am this or that any longer. I am beginning to accept I cannot hide for too long. I will continue to use these pseudonyms and leave the figuring out to everyone. I think it may be good for me to use my real name because it helps build my profile and may open up some opportunities. That said, the thrill of people looking for Museke's Chale and then realising it's me is pretty cool. I am all for cool, I don't like to do things the traditional way. It makes my day for someone to say - "Oh, so you are Abocco? I kind of thought it was you. I liked that article you wrote. Good stuff". Lekker. Abocco. JƐ. Ebe so! Super. Now that's what's up :-D

"Kasiebo" and the issues surrounding Obrafour's "Asem beba dabi" return "in hip-life"

Culled from Chale's blog on

I was so excited when I heard Obrafour was releasing some new singles after his Heavy album in 2006. Obrafour is my favorite rapper and through the years, he's faced a lot of criticism, but I don't think he has hardly put a foot wrong. Obrafour is a wise man, like we see from his lyrics and he knew he was re-entering the music industry at an interesting time that called for some creativity and hard work. He delivered his singles and he has quickly become the talk of the town. I am really looking forward to getting his "Asem beba dabi" album and I hope it does really well and Obrafour becomes an international superstar. It's about time. His singles have caused some controversy and I'll like to discuss the issues arising.

Obrafuor's first single is Kasiebo (Nkasiabo). Kasiebo in Twi means news. In the song, an Execution FM radio presenter called Guru (who's a new hiplife artist) talks about "hiplife news". Like most radio presenters, Guru calls the subject of the news item, Obrafour, to seek his opinion on matters. They discuss how the hiplife game has changed and Obrafour offers advice amongst other things. The song gets controversial when Guru mentions a Kumasi-based rapper called OK raping a young girl. He also mentions how those behind the "Killing the game" song could try to resurrect hiplife with a song like Atopa Jenjen. He also queries how someone who has less than 5 solo albums can call himself the best rapper alive. "Obi agye abɔso 'Best Rapper Alive', nanso yɛhwehwɛɛ mu, ne albums mpo nduruu five". These lines have been seen as direct attacks on Okyeame Kwame (who calls himself best rapper alive) and Obour (singer of Atopa Jenjen), who both released the "Killing the game" song with Richie, Ghana's most prolific beatmaker at the moment.

The song is very creative with the radio call-in conversation, the beat is excellent, the hook and choruses are on point and Obrafour's lyrics are timeless as usual. In response to the controversy, Obrafour has said OK doesn't necessarily refer to Okyeame Kwame like people believe. He has an issue with the Rap Doctor's assertion that he is the best rapper alive. DJ Black, one of Ghana's best deejays tried to get Obrafour and Okyeame Kwame in the same studio to do battle and settle their differences. Only the latter showed up, and Obrafour has called on him to do a reply song. We've not heard much from Obour but Reggie Rockstone has also said Okyeame Kwame should do a reply song. Okyeame sees no reason in doing so, not wanting to stoop that level. It seems most Ghanaian music fans side with Obrafour though, he commands a lot of respect amongst hiplife fans.

This is not the first time Obrafour has seemed to stoke fires with other artists. He has well-chronicled 'battles' with Lord Kenya. Lord Kenya had lines in 'Aka esi ani', Obrafour had lines in 'Oye Ohene remix'. Obrafour even called out the legendary Reggie Rockstone in 'Bra be hwe' saying "Yɛanwo obiara a, microphone da n'ano; Insha Allahu, w'anka no yie a, mɛte wo to". Can't think of any response from Rockstone though. Kontihene got involved with Kwaw Kese concerning Migizigi and when Obrafour returned from a short hiatus with 'Ako', he went at Kontihene. You may criticize him for stirring up beef, but the way he does it is genius. Personally, I think, it's good for hiplife, so far as it doesn't generate any violence or useless banter. These musicians are still friends, they just battle with their words in music. You won't see them on radio insulting each other, that's not what we want.

People may feel Obrafour's taking advantage of the popularity and goodwill that Okyeame Kwame has now and I'll agree with that. He also made passes at him in his single, Asem beba dabi, talking about "wodi mmaa yi mu sɛ woyɛ Opabeni". Obrafour featured Okyeame Kwame as one of the established hiplife artists in his Execution Diary compilation in 2004, so why is he going at him so much now? Inquiring minds want to know. I've met and interviewed Okyeame Kwame and he is really a great guy. In fact, he and Obrafour are my two favorite Ghanaian rappers now. I really hope they come together to make a track soon.

Back to Kasiebo and The Game controversy, do you guys know Shatta Rako, a Kumasi-based musician has recored a song called "Da shame of the game" which is an answer to "the Game". Shatta Rako worked on Okyeame Kwame's award-winning "M'awensem" album so for him to criticize him is very interesting. He actually makes reference to a paedophile, referring to a rapper with no style and telling One Mic to "cry your own cry". Read the lyrics here. I am yet to hear from Shatta or Okyeame Kwame (both good friends of mine) about these issues. I think Okyeame, Obour and Richie's song was great and needed when it was released. A remix has been released and you can listen to it here. Will report back later.

I believe Obrafour's newest album would be legendary. His single, "In hiplife (In this life)", featuring Sarkodie, is a marvelous track. Here, he gives Sarkodie (who's seen as the most promising hiplife artiste today), advice on a long-lasting career and seems to pass the hiplife mantle onto him. It's nicely done. He also has a track called "My praises", which is a gospel one and he promises to release a video for it. He talked about how radio never really pushed his gospel-related tracks. If you've followed his Facebook page, Obrafour has a new-found religious attitude and vigour and plans to praise God for all He's done for him, especially in the last few year when Ghanaians didn't hear much about Obrafour. He has other tracks with Samini (How will I know) and some other upcoming musicians. And yes, he's working with Hammer of the Last 2 as well, though none of the three released singles feature him, but JMJ and Kaywah.

It's great to have Obrafour back. Hiplife is alive!

Friday, November 13, 2009

I ask for more Patrick Awuahs and more Ashesis in this life

Earlier tonight, I met Patrick Awuah. Again. Up close. This is the second time I am dedicating a blog entry to him. Why not? He's awesome. He gives me goosebumps when I meet him. Yes. Sounds weird. I told my roommates I had a crush on him. Oui. Of course, I am straight and straight up drumming home the point that we need more Patrick Awuahs in this world. If you didn't know already. But the focus of this entry is really about what he talked about tonight. What brought him to this area so I could be in the same room as him is not important. His words, actions, character are. Let's dig into what he said.

As some of you may know, Patrick and Ashesi University just won the Aspen Institute's McNulty Prize for 2009. Doesn't matter to me how relevant or prestiguous the prize is, but the fact that Patrick has yet another honour. Judges choosing the McNulty Prize included Madeleine Albright, Bill Gates, and Olara Otunnu; go figure. He won $100,000, a nice sum of money that will go a long way. It felt quite good to congratulate him in person, just a week after I had heard of his award from an Ashesi mailing list. The prize was in the conscience of most of the 30 or so students who gathered earlier tonight to have an evening with Patrick and Patrick started the night off with a short film prepared about Ashesi University which won him the prize. The film told a few stories Patrick had mentioned when I met him earlier this year and this is a time to share.

Araba Amuasi was one of the brightest students (computer science) graduating from Ashesi in 2007. Judging by the kinds of job offers her colleagues got, she could have landed a very lucrative job and a great career. Her community service project through Ashesi University was heavy on her heart and she knew she could positively impact many lives in a different way. She chose to go into management; become Operations Officer at an orphanage. She plans to use her computer science skills to completely overhaul the orphanage curriculum and to one day lead a transformation of primary education in Ghana. Ghana doesn't have a culture of community service, but here, you have a lady in her mid-twenties, spurning conventional Ghanaian wisdom to face some of Ghana's problems head on. No wonder Patrick speaks so highly of her. Patrick didn't mention his alumni who work at the McKinsey's, DataBanks and other reputable firms, he mentioned the societal change makers. You can tell this man is very different in a very good way. He cares deeply about our society and celebrates those who do the same.

Patrick's goal with Ashesi is to build ethical leaders, people who will change the status quo in Ghana and Africa. He identifies leadership failures as the biggest problem Ghana faces and that is what he's tackling. He's doing it in the most challenging way possible, in education. BarCamps, workshops and conferences may do the same thing, but educating a generation is much more powerful. Like Patrick mentions, at Ashesi, community service is not an extra-curricular activity. It is part of the curriculum. Think about that for a second. He understands what we need to do as a people and all those things are littered over an education that we will begin to cherish and revere in the years to come. To him, Ghanaian universities should be competing on whose students are the most ethical. Call us crazy, but isn't that one way to solve corruption? We have to start from somewhere. Patrick and Ashesi have started it.

It gave me extra thrills to see a couple of people I had met in the Ashesi McNulty Prize video. I have mad love for Ashesi and all the people associated with it. All these people are awesome and Ashesi students are top-notch, and have most of the traits you'll want in a young African that will make our continent a better place. Patrick told a story about his interactions with a beggar when he was young that made a difference in his life. The takeaway was to talk more with people. If I have been doing a lot of talking, "social animalism", networking, etc, I am about to take it to a whole new level, especially with people who may be of a lower class. We have to care deeply about our society. I don't know if our political leaders get it, but I know Patrick does. Recently, Ghana's ministers decided to use the public transport to experience it. I heard this from a fellow blogger. To me, this was a big deal. Did the media pick it up? Maybe. We have to care more about our environs. Like Patrick argued, aid may not be that bad, but it has to be aid with compassion. Our leaders don't get it, but Araba Amuasi does. Thank Ashesi.

Patrick also talked about his worries about the future. Other institutions in Ghana have been started with strong driving visions, great support and enthusiasm. Their founders may not like the state in which their 'babies' are today. Patrick worries about his handiwork, will it really pay off in the end? Will we have a better future and Ghana and Africa? Would his honor code experiment yield spectacular results? I choose to be optimistic and like Patrick, I have faith too. We can make a difference. It only takes a few committed citizens to make a change. And they don't have to be politicians. They can be computer scientists who choose to ensure a better education for kids who wouldn't have gotten it. They can be sportsmen who dedicate their free time to teach their neighbours about keeping in shape. They can be bankers who spearhead market clean-up campaigns because they believe the market women must work in better conditions. That's the vision.

Here are a few must-watch videos.

PS: Just remembered a soundbite by Patrick that I want to share
Ashesi can be the most expensive university in Ghana and the least expensive university in Ghana. This was in reference to Ashesi's higher costs of attendance and the financial aid options they had for students

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The much publicized Ghanaian movie, "The Heart of Men": A review

Majid Michel said "The Heart of Men" was his best movie ever. I agree. I watched the movie just recently and I was impressed. At some point, I was saying, "haha, this movie is freakin awesome!" Frank Rajah Arase's latest movie was introduced to us with a movie website and a trailer that became to the talk of African cinema. I was one of those who lambasted the trailer which looked 'soft-porn' ish and how the production team was just buying publicity so people would watch their 'poor' movie. Well, the publicity stunt worked. I only watched the movie because a few other friends satisfied their curiousity and gave it good reviews. Kudos to Heroes Productions for a great film but shame on them for that trailer.

Frank Rajah Arase is synonymous with what I call the 'Accra movies'. These are the Ghanaian movies set in English, shot mainly in Accra and Takoradi; the Beyonce President's Daughter, Passion of the Soul, Crime to Christ, Pretty Queen, etc films. I've always argued they've been outdone by movies from the stable of Sparrow Productions, the latter whose movies I've spent time to review and publicize on this blog. Personally, Sparrow's movies are better quality, better made and deserved my money. Heroes Productions, I believe "Heart of Men" is their first movie, probably will join my good books if they build on this.

People will criticize me for watching "Heart of men" for the soft-porn scenes. Well, you'll be disappointed, because I had to wait 32 minutes (and countless movie drama) to see anything of that sort. In fact, the trailer just picked scenes that would get Ghanaians (and Africans) boiling, because it doesn't communicate what happens in the movie at all. I think Heroes' did a spectacular job concealing the movie's story. It's an amateur and shameless way to do it, but it worked. That doesn't mean I am applauding the way they did it, they can definitely do better.

I don't rate these Accra movies highly. Especially when you have the usual crew of Majid Michel, Nadia Buari, Jackie Appiah, Yvonne Nelson, John Dumelo, etc, in the same movie, I don't expect much for those films. I'm sorry, but I am talking about their body of work. The whole Beyonce movie euphoria is so yesterday. I must admit that Majid Michel is one of the best actors we have in Ghana now and I am very happy he had a role in Shrley Frimpong-Manso's latest movie, "A Sting in a Tale".

One big plus I give to this movie is the different locations used. They shot scenes in Northern Ghana and Kumasi. If you've followed Ghanaian movies recently, you know if a movie got shot in Kumasi, it's a Twi movie with various Agya Koo related antics. Way to unite Ghana in this movie. Just when you thought they had reconciled the Accra-Kumasi crews, you have this: "Accra is fun you know, each time I come from Kumasi, I just never want to go to Kumasi". Sigh. John Dumelo even spoke some Twi lines, isn't that just super? It was interesting that the language of choice in the Northern Ghana scenes was Twi, I would have wished it was Dagbani or Hausa for a change. Can't blame them though, Twi is spoken all over the country, and arguably it's more widely spoken than English. Talking about English, is it okay for people to be speaking grammatically incorrect English in a Ghanaian English movie? Were they just telling us that it happens or they couldn't bother to edit it?

The sex and romantic scenes were a little bit tacky. Was Jackie Appiah crying or moaning in her scene? Looked like she was trying too hard to carry across an obvious point. Compare that to the famous scene in "the Perfect Picture". I thought we were not supposed to be touching black women's hair. Are we not in the "Good hair" discussion days?

Let's talk about a few things I loved. I loved the work they did with the soundtrack. They had me singing along when Samini's African lady was played in the club scene. "I like the way the girl a praka praka; From West Africa, she blacka blacka; Check the way the girl a rocka; Pull up the truck, she dance like shaka shaka;. The Heart of Men soundtrack by Dela was nice too and they went through the effort to make a music video as well. I thought it was interesting when the ladies were singing "Scrubs". That wasn't a truer statement uttered in the whole movie :-)

I thought some of the quotes were marvelous! Man: "You want to tell me no one has been going in there from time to time?" Young lady: "Going where uncle. Man: "Don't pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about. Come here Lmao. "My mum of blessed memory has taught me to wake up for 3am prayers; I've not been able to grow out of it; Do you pray?". Classic. "Is it a phone call or your pants down?". Pants down? not so fast, you'll want to watch this movie.

Concerning the movie's production itself, the video and sound quality was still reminiscent of movies in this stable. Jackie Appiah played two separate character, who happened to be in the same room. Showing off huh? Nice. A few times I couldn't hear the dialogue, I think they were churning the lines a bit too fast and they weren't that audible. There were some really nice twists in the movie, the suspense was there and they passed the major test for new Ghanaian movies, it must be unpredictable. A few times, I was confused about which places the scenes were set - Accra versus Kumasi, etc. The scene at the end of Part 1 was excellent. Just when we thought we had found a great Ghanaian detective, he shows his worst side at the climax. Yes, the movie is in two parts, this is nothing new. Movie automatically falls behind Sparrow's work with a prequel and sequel concurrent release.

We see the worst things that men can do, but I wonder if 'men' hears refers to human beings in general. Because, kai, like the movie showed, some women can get up to some pretty bad things. A few other things caught my attention. Does Ghana have that many policemen who smoke? Ghanaian movies do a great job hiding traffic problems in Accra. The movie covered a whole lot of issues in this movie, which would probably require another blog entry. That's what makes the movie great. Trashy trailer aside, the movie breeds a lot of talking points, features great acting performances, a variety of locations and sounds, and a great story. Kudos Heroes Productions and Frank Rajah Arase. I expect better from y'all from now on.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Now, about that campaign for president...

It's been very difficult for me to write this particular blog entry. It's about the Facebook presidency campaign. Some of you might have cross it searching for me on Facebook, invited by a friend (not me), or seen it in Google results about me. On the one hand, I don't really want to be a president and thought writing about this group will only fuel rumours that I am actively looking to stage a run in the future. Some of you have seen me battle with leadership through these entries anyway. On the other hand, talking about this campaign could be taken as a publicity move to get more people to join my self-serving Facebook campaign for President. That will ultimately cast me as selfish, full of pride, boastful, etc. I can't win here. But it won't stop me from talking about the subject. So here goes the blog entry.

Like I wrote earlier, people likened me to Kwame Nkrumah when I was in elementary school because I had a similar forehead. I didn't get the whole 'you can be president' talk till I entered college and found myself acting/pretending to be/representing Ghana and Africa all day everyday. The other day, a classmate told me I was really patriotic because I was always wearing some African shirt or some African-themed shirt. The secret is, most of what I wear was given to me by my mother or relatives as presents or I got them for free. So I wear them because I can't afford to buy new shirts really love to wear them and represent Africa all day everyday. Obviously, if you care so much about something, you'll be the most likely to give your all for it. That may be true, but being a leader is an entirely different ballgame. Discuss.

"But you koraa, no one has called on you to be a leader or president or whatever the F!" Yes and no. If you were in my ear, you'll know I ain't lying, but standing on the truth. People joke around all the time, and we can't always take them seriously. For the 244 strong group, maybe some people joined the group because like myself when dealing with Facebook friend requests, am/we are too nice. Heck, I marvel at Yaa Pono's freestyles and though, I am not his Facebook friend, he has joined "the group". He's not the only one in the group who doesn't "know" me. I could argue many of my friends don't even know me that well but that's a story for another day. I frankly don't know what I've even done to win votes already.

It's only last year that Obour went around Ghana talking about the need to allow Ghanaian youth to run for President. There is some buzz about having African youth taking charge now. I know African youth are eager to create and effect change, but we have to wait our turn. At least politically. But maybe not, maybe with some united front, we could have a voice to push whatever agenda we believe is awesome for Africa. It is possible to be patriotic without being political right? It's been argued that all the NGO, goodwill, volunteer stuff that we are doing is politics anyway, even if if it's not in the name of some political party. Ghana eats, drinks and breathes politics, but inherently, a lot of Ghanaians also hate politics. How do we reconcile that?

There is even talk of a "youth political party". I was very surprised when my uncle called me Obama, Obama last Christmas. But why should I be? I am the member of the family who lives in America and is holidaying in Ghana (a country still high on Obama fever). Nothing doing. Around this same period, I addressed these presidency/political issues with my advisor, my father. His message was simple. Make your money/success/name before you take on such a venture. We've seen some Africans make their money/success/name by entering politics and becoming millionaires but y'all understand my father's point. It's true. My father is never wrong. He went on to use Paa Kwesi Nduom as an example, how we made his money and success and was now seeking office at the time. Like we realized in Ghana's December elections, "Yeresesamu Nduom" didn't quite have the popularity and Ghana wasn't ready for him either.

I didn't start the Facebook group and I can't end it. I didn't start the presidential talk and I can't end it either. I've heard all your requests to be made ambassador of this, minister of that, awardee of contracts, etc but time will surely tell. "Beh you, why you dey take this seriously?" If I take this seriously, it's because we need to be serious about Ghana/Africa. If I rep Africa as hard as I do, I do it because most Africans don't bother. I felt some folks didn't care about being proud from where they were from so I made it my job to show them that they could care and be about being proud. I wear my culture, origins and home on my sleeve. It was never meant to make a political statement but in the eyes of many friends and loved ones, it seemed to make one - the boy wants to be president or will make a fine one. If we all followed this lead, that assumption could be thrown out of the window. This is the price to pay for being different. And I'll keep on being different. The talk won't go away but like I said before, time will tell.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

South African movie, White Wedding: A review

I just watched the South African movie, White Wedding again. After going through Tsotsi, Yesterday, Catch a Fire, Jerusalema and District 9, it was nice to watch an Mzansi movie that didn't deal with crime, AIDS or apartheid. Not that all super South Africans are about those subjects but you get my point. Local is indeed lekker and am loving South African cinema. I've been looking forward to see White Wedding ever since my friend told me about it and I had to have a friend who was in South Africa over the summer get me a copy. I've not been disappointed. The movie is great, maybe not spectacular like I thought, but great. And as usual, I got a whole lot to say about it, which is an even greater thing. Sharp, sharp!

"Marriage is one of the things God got right". White wedding is a movie about Ayanda and Elvis' wedding, though it doesn't happen the same way as originally planned. The movie takes us through what goes wrong leading up to the wedding day, amidst laughs, worries, twists and turns. The movie is well-made, and shows different places in South Africa. It also touches on different issues which I'll discuss, and features many languages - Xhosa, English, Afrikaans, French, etc. And then you have the soundtrack, :-). I was so excited when they played 'Thatis'gbuhu'. The two friends parked their car in the middle of the road, got out and danced. Now, isn't that just awesome? I am so enamored with South African music and culture. The wedding party was singing and dancing in the streets was particularly intriguing. Woza 2010!

"You hate your wife!" "That doesn't mean that I don't love her". The movie delves into different relationships. We have Tumi the player, who never gets out of character. His cunning smiles; his whole body language spits game half of the time. Awesome. The issue of trust and truth in relationships is central to the plot, with different characters having different takes on it. No matter what it is, if two people learn to trust each other, nothing really can come between them. It wins in the end. So love is not a load of bullocks. You can love someone to the point where "You can just enjoy long silences".

"I've been planning your wedding since you were born". The times have changed the way weddings and marriages are done. These days, we have the court wedding, the church wedding, the house wedding, the engagement and wedding weekend, amongst others. The way our forefathers used to marry is not the same way our generation seems to do it. But that does it matter? In Africa, weddings are not just about two people, they are also about families. Families want to be involved in which partner gets chosen and how the wedding goes down. Sometimes, following family fanfare can lead to bad choices but those choices must resonate well with relatives because in the Africa that surrounds us, family will not go anywhere. "You're a man with a nice car, no problem, women will throw themselves at you". Maybe, maybe not.

"Darkies don't use maps. Well, darkies get lost". Black South Africans call themselves darkies? Why do I think that may be a derogatory word? It's probably not the same as nigga but that caught my attention. I guess African directions are the same everywhere. "Then you come to 3 big threes". There was even mention of some woman you'd meet on the way. Black people don't use maps and we probably never will, now that we have GPS and smart phones. Who gives a goat a name? White people :-). If you give a goat a name, you'll definitely be a vegetarian, that's why you have to stay away from such. South Africans love meat! "Why hasn't the animal been slaughtered? Take it away, we need more meat". Now that's what's up!

"This is Tumi, if you want to talk, talk". (now, that's a fantastic voicemail prompt message). Even the word Kaffir got a mention. If this movie is anything to go by, racism hasn't disappeared from the South African landscape. I like how Elvis resisted blatant racism by forcing the white guy to have a drink with him. That's what I'll do. It will take a while before we see out the inherent fears different races have for each other. The reaction of the white guys at the pub to their black visitors was appalling. Elvis singing the Boer song (Delarey, delarey) was sweet though. Then again, he was drunk and alcohol can make you do some wonders. There is a bit of ignorance too when it comes to racial issues. Is it ignorance or confidence when a white lady jumps into a black stranger's car to hitch a ride without his knowing? And yeah, white people don't have rhythm like black people do. See movie for exhibit A.

Wait, there's Greyhound in South Africa? That was a surprise. That's what you call franchising. Kai, I hope they perform better there. After the way Nigerians have been portrayed in recent South African films, I was looking out for mentions of foreigners. We had one, a Congolese guy, who wasn't a drug dealer, but a party planner and car dealer. He knew how to get the party started. Now that's a favorable portrayal, because we know the Congolese are Africa's party starters - soukous, rumba, lingala music, etc. And then the gay wedding planner? The movie had to have a gay man pleading a major role? Why? Mxm.

"Vul'indlela we mamgobhozi; Vul'indlela yekela umona". It's always great to see your loved ones get married. What an appropriate song to round off the movie! You could see how excited Ayanda's mother was for her. Side note: South African women are fine (ayayai). I recommend 'White wedding'. The movie features one of my favorite South African actors, Kenneth Nkosi, as well as Rapulana Seiphemo, Zandile Msutwana, Jodie Whitaker, Lulu Nxosi, Marcel Van Heerden, Sandy Mzolo and Sylvia Mngxekeza. Kenneth and Rapulana were two of the writers behind the movie and they did a great job. The movie features black and white South Africa in a happy ending. "It will only be a mess if we make it one, let's choose something different, like a happy ending".

Friday, October 23, 2009

Political satire by KSM (Kwaku Sintim-Misa)

I was at KSM's Nifty @ Fifty concert held in Accra in December 2006. I recorded a bunch of videos and the ones I am posting on the blog today are about politics. KSM is arguably Ghana's best stand-up comedian and if you haven't seen him perform live, you are missing out. Well, not exactly, because with friends like Youtube, we can all revel in KSM's talent and artistry. :-)

First, he prays for a funky president. Can you imagine Ghana having a leader making a speech and everyone is bumping their heads because they are enjoying the speech so much? I know I want a funky president for Ghana. No more old heads taking up these positions because they need something else to do after retiring. Let's get some youth in here.

I think we had a funky president once, by the name of Jerry John Rawlings. KSM proves this by describing the scenes of a taxi driver overtaking the former president's motorcade.

Next, he makes fun of former President John Agyekum Kufuor and his lax-lackadaisical ways. He's not funky at all, though Mr. Sexy Eyes has got some charm for the ladies. Remember the Gizelle Yajzi story? "JAK, you lie bad!"

If you've lived in Ghana for awhile, you'll quickly learn almost everything is about politics. "We sleep politics, we eat politics, we drink politics"

As usual, I am the one laughing hysterically in the background.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ghana's Black Satellites - FIFA U-20 World Champions

Last Friday, the Black Satellites put in a finale to cap an impressive outing in the FIFA U-20 World Cup by beating mighty Brazil on penalties to emerge champions. I had watched every single Ghanaian game in the tournament, following the boys' men's progress. It was such an awesome feeling to finally win another World championship after the Black Starlets ruled the world at the U-17 level in 1991 and 1995. Congratulations to the whole squad, the technical team, and the fans who supported the Satellites with their prayers, and encouragement. This world triumph has not been without talking points and I'll seek to address some in this post. Being world champions at youth level is not the end, we have to build on this and become a world-class footballing nation at every level. The name Ghana should be on the lips of football fanatics all year round, forever.

This class has been magnificent from the get-go. Two years ago, they lit the FIFA U-17 World Cup and just fell short at the semi-final stage to Bojan Krkic's Spain. Fortunately, Nigeria's team emerged as world champions, interestingly, on penalties as well. The Flying Eagles were not able to repeat their run in this year's U-20 tourney in Egypt, bowing out disappointingly early on. The Black Satellites featured a good chunk of the Starlets' team from 2007, with the addition of some stellar youngsters. Consistency is key. Michael Essien and his Satellites mates made the final of the U-20 tourney in 2001 and now mostly make up the Black Stars. There is talk of drafting some of the present Satellites stars into the senior national team and eventually, they should make up the core of Ghana's shining golden stars.

I have a lot of admiration for Andre Ayew. He's had the pressure of being Abedi Pele's son on his shoulders, and was a magnificent captain for the Black Satellites. I believe he's gonna be world class as well if he keeps on working hard. He disappointed Ghanaians with his senior performances, especially at the African Cup of Nations last year held in Ghana, but we have a renewed faith in him. Samuel Inkoom has been capped by Ghana and he really helped his case with a fine tournament. David Nii Addy was also stellar and as a natural left-back, he has the chance to lock up that position in the Black Stars for years to come. Emmanuel Agyemang Badu had also gotten the chance to play for the national team and he's a gem too. He's a great defensive midfielder and eventually, would be in the reckoning for Ghana's midfield. Opoku Agyemang has played for the Black Stars but he was the one disappointment in the Egpyt tourney and has to show some more to challenge for a Black Stars' spot.

Dominic Adiyiah was the revelation of the competition, winning both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot. We've been here before, with Ishmael Addo, Owusu 'Bayie' Afriyie, and the countless Black Starlets strikers who lit the youth tourneys and didn't become world class. We have to do what we can to make sure Adiyiah and Ransford Osei (who I rate very highly) make the right decisions and improve so we can have some new Tony Yeboahs. They will get chances to play with the Black Stars. Ishmael Yartey and Saadik Adams were absent at this tournament but are very good as well. Together with Abeiku Quansah, Kelvin Bossman, the future attacking line looks bright,etc.

Daniel Agyei was the hero of the final, keeping us in the game and saving twice in the penalty shoot-out. He'll get a chance with the national team too and I believe he will be great. The centre-half duo, Daniel Addo and Jonathan Mensah are stalwarts too. Jonathan is already being dubbed the 'Junior Rock of Gibraltar' and I personally think he's ready to start for Ghana. Daniel Addo was the unlucky victim of a terrible refereeing decision in the final, with his red card making Ghana play a man down from the 37th minute till the end of extra-time. You have to admire the Satellites' resilience as they didn't get broken. A Brazilian friend complained Ghana played defence all game, but you don't have much of a choice when you are a man down and we still created some chances.

Sellas Tetteh did a great job coaching, though he was suspect at times. A Ghanaian coach has brought Ghana yet another honor and the case for a local coach for the Black Stars will only get stronger. I will argue Sellas had a great bunch of lads and he shouldn't get all the credit. Our Ghanaian coaches are not as technically gifted as some of their European counterparts and they need to get better there. We have to stop the favouritism in player selection, do more scouting of opponents and learn to use the squads better. I am all for a local coach but I am more a proponent of excellent coaching and team management. Sellas should be drafted onto the Black Stars bench to help Milovan Rajevac. We should nestle more Milo bicycle kicks in conjunction with some Borbor dances. It's a great recipe for success.

Many people have argued that the U-20 tourney has lost some of its glory. Surely, as many European teams don't really feature their star youngsters. England, Italy, Germany, Spain and even Brazil had some youth world-class players unavailable because they were warming benches for world-class teams. That shouldn't take the shine of the tournament, because those excuses cannot be made once the tournament starts rolling. Many Ghanaians would also argue and joke many of the Satellites players are 'older than 20'. This notion has bedevilled FIFA youth tourneys since time immemorial. I must admit Ghana has been doing a better job with controlling age-cheating with more stringent measures taken and the use of the Academicals system. The age-cheaters have seen their age catch up to them later in their careers, as their careers are cut short or the trajectory is unlike what its promise was. This problem starts at the colts level and with better Ghanaian institutions, we can get rid of this problem.

Ghana's triumph has been attributed in many circles to a Nigerian pastor called T.B. Joshua. Prophet Joshua apparently told Sellas 'what to do' and backed the Satellites with prayers, like Ghana's many fans around the world. We thank God for His favour but Prophet Joshua shouldn't be owning all adulation for a valiant effort by the Satellites team. We have to put ourselves in positions to succeed and as the saying goes, God helps those who help themselves. The attitude of waiting for God to do it isn't the way forward, we have to work hard also. This is the precedent we have to set. I am sure President Atta Mills understands this and would be able to use the example of the Black Satellites to spur on Ghanaians everywhere.

I also want to shout-out Egypt for organizing a successful tournament and especially getting behind the Ghanaian team after they were eliminated. Africa, this triumph is for you. This was the first African championship squad at the World Junior championships. This is a really good omen as the African game improves. The World Cup in South Africa is less than a year away and we have to believe an African team can win it. Ghana, remember the name. It was the most-searched item on the internet during the 2006 World Cup, still holding such a record and Ghana was a trending topic after the world-beating job was done in Egypt. We're not done. Go, Ghana, go. God bless our homeland Ghana ei, nkunimdie yɛ yɛn deɛ a!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Leti Games unveils iWarrior (iPhone App) & Kijiji (J2Me)

Earlier this year, I blogged about my friend, Eyram Tawia's work on Leti Games. Together with Wesley Kirinya, from Kenya, they've launched a couple of games produced in Africa. The major one is iWarrior which is receiving a lot of buzz and is an iPhone app (game). So if you have an iPhone, pick up the app today from the Apple appstore and support African-made. I haven't been able to play the game yet but from what I hear, it's a lot of fun. What else do you want in a game? And it's an African-made too :-)

I've already blogged about Eyram Tawia and his work on Leti Games. I am excited for both these guys. We had tried working on a computer game for the African Cup of Nations in Ghana in 2008. Through my working experience with them, I knew they would go on to do bigger and better things and are quite capable of competing worldwide. Eyram had already proven his mettle by winning GhanaThink's Programming Contest while a final-year student at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST)., primed to be Ghana's tech hub, also had an article about iWarrior.'s Nana Kwabena Owusu asked Eyram a couple of questions about it too. (Kwabena, Eyram and myself all grew up in the same neighbourhood). Gameli announced the entrance of Leti Games into the global games market in his blog post about Leti Games' iWarrior. The WhiteAfrican also shared some thoughts on his website. Read a full review of iWarrior from the AppStore.

What's special about iWarrior? Other than the cool name, the game is set in Africa. How many games can you say the same about? Your mission is to protect your village, farm, inhabitants, etc from marauding animals. Fun. It's a wholly African-made production with African art and sounds. Leti means star or moon in Ewe, a Ghanaian language, and Eyram and Wesley are quite Africa-conscious in their work.

Download the game from iTunes

KIJIJI is a port of iWarrior for most j2me midp2.0 devices. It is code named the BIG FIVE. These big five beasts of the safari include the Rhino, Leopard, Buffalo, Lion and Elephant. The game is made up of five stages in which the bushman protects his village from these beasts. Kijiji means village/town in Kiswahili. Learn more about Kijiji from the Leti Games' website.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Africa they never show you - African cities

I've seen a couple of friends post this video on Facebook and I finally decided to watch it this week. I was impressed. I knew some African cities had some nice 'buildings' and all but this video was a little eye-opening. This is because it didn't show just Johannesburg, Nairobi and Abuja. It's the Africa they never show you in the media. It's the Africa Africans themselves never really see on their televisions as well. It's the Africa we don't talk enough about. It's not the real Africa, but it's a part of Africa.

When I first came to the USA in 2001, the big things were the big things that impressed me. The big buildings, large roads, highways, interchanges, etc. There are many differences between the US and Ghana, but I must say the skyscrapers and infrastructure takes the cake. I had thought of doing some form of engineering for undergrad, but the awe of the infrastructure wowed me and I settled on the first type of engineering known to mankind - building. When I was in Ghana for the first time after being in the US, the first things that struck me were dust, dirt and 'development'. You probably won't see too much of that in this video above. We can strive for more of that.

Obviously, we'll want more of the video's images for our Africa, but we have to be careful. With more industrialization comes more pollution. We have to check for matching rising costs of living with adequate standards of living. We have to plan for the attendant traffic. We can't leave the infrastructure development in private hands when public policy doesn't put in place measures to make it sustainable and effective. The most fun class I am taking now is one about infrastructure. This stuff is exciting. We may be a 'developing' continent, but we must know that the so-called developed places have not stopped and will not stop developing. Our shoulders shouldn't drop though, because the video shows we are capable too.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: Issues, reviews and Botswana

Dumela Mma! Rra! Kea leboha! If something's nice, you do it twice. Completed the first season of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. It's highly recommended. Alexander McCall Smith is a great writer, maybe I should break my novel reading duck and get hooked onto his stuff. For real though, I'll rather find out the story on the big screen. Here's hoping for more of Africa's stories to be told through film or television. This story is set in Botswana. For people like me, who've never been to Botswana but heard about the nation, this was a chance to continue learning. At the start of every episode, we saw a map of Africa and then exactly the location of Botswana. And then we've have to sit through 55 minutes plus of life in Botswana. Or not. Or just whatever stories the writer/producer wanted to tell. Or maybe what I have to say today :-)

I already talked about the TV series on HBO, BBC, and DSTV in this blog entry. You can find out more info on HBO's website. We complain about the images of Africa shown in Western Media. No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency falls into the category of images we should want to see and broadcast. Sure, it's just Botswana, which only is a small African country with no record of civil war or military rule. Yes, it's possible in Africa. They speak Setswana, just like in South Africa. They listen to Kwaito as well. Why they are not part of South Africa is something for the history majors to tell us.

I had been wondering where most of the actors were from. I had believed most of them were Motswana but once I saw my favorite South African actor, Kenneth Nkosi, in one of the episodes, I began to doubt. Sure enough, most of the cast were South Africans. I began to recognise some of them from South African movies and series. I began to research the cast's background and gave up finding out who was Motswana. There are some excellent actors in Botswana, nnyaa? Ee. A friend of mine is not impressed with the fake African accents. I understand Jill Scott and other American actors getting parts, it' an American (foreign) production anyway. They didn't exactly do the wrong thing. For a second, I thought the scenes were set in South Africa too, but no, the production company has constructed Kgalewood to bring us the life of Kgale Hill on this series. Investment always pays. They did a great job.

Great drama always comes with great dialogue. I caught myself beginning to note some quotes here and there. "I am as single as Jesus Christ". "I will not be judging books by covers, I will read every chapter". "I know how men react to low marks and high hem lines". "I am despite superficial appearances, working extremely hard". LOL. I was a little disappointed with the lack of subtitles, but they spoke enough English to render the Setswana and other native lingua soundbites not confusing for the viewer. I learnt some more Setswana anyway and will probably never forget the little I had been taught by my Motswana friends before.

I think Jill Scott (Mma Ramotswe) did a good job but like many others, I loved Mma Makutsi's character played by Anika Noni Rose. Lucian Msamati (Ra Matekoni) did well too. I questioned the character of BK in my previous entry, but as I watched more episodes, I liked his presence too. We saw several characters - the gangster (played by female favorite Idris Elba), the womanizer who had a million pick-up lines (now that's someone interesting lol), the corrupt policemen, etc. We were even introduced to charismatic apostolic Africans. That was a scene. I didn't know what to think about the various animals shown - the 'intelligent' monkeys, the missing dog, the giraffes, the uninvited chickens, etc. I'd have loved to see a chicken being slaughtered though. If Americans can watch donkeys and chickens in close proximity to Africans in Africa, they can witness how we prepare dinner too. Yebo! Ee.

It's interesting how the American guy who was the subject of one of the mysteries had attended Stanford. Whoop whoop! Stanford people doing it big! Going around the world doing great charity work and wooing the ladies. Now that's what's up! Xenophobia wasn't shown only in our Nigerian dentist's case, a Zimbabwean doctor who was the natural person to blame when there were 'supernatural' deaths at the hospital. It's sad how Africans treat other Africans who are immigrants in their country sometimes. I hope we can get past these xenophobic tendencies and welcome more co-operation, trade and community. We practice this when we find ourselves in foreign lands with little numbers as minorities. We can do the same back home. I thought it was interesting how the Indian salesman had a huge house compared to the other characters in the movie. Are there not that many white people in Botswana? Don't remember seeing any white characters in the series.

Okay, so, I vividly recollect someone using a GPS in Gaborone, but do I remember someone using a cell phone? No. What was up with that? Isn't this set in pretty much present day Botswana? That did not make sense to me. So did the typewriter. "Is this the 21st century or did I sleep without realising into a time warp?" "At secretarial college in history class, we were told of a former time before computers, when typing was done on machines and our country was called Batswanaland and dinosaurs roamed the earth!" We didn't see much of the 'developed' parts of Botswana but the little I saw was good. For the most part, Botswana wasn't too different from Ghana. Life on the university campus seemed the same, and had its own 'bad' lecturers. People gave pulas (money) freely when they had favors done for them. Contrary to what you may hear, Africa rewards good deeds.

I love the way Mma Ramotswe solved cases and what came out of them. The African heart is forgiving. I like that. The point of the investigation was not exactly to imprison the perpetrators but to reconcile and make the parties involved 'happy'. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency DVD cover mentions "Never underestimate a woman's intuition. We learn women can tell and see things men gloss over and don't see. It may very well be true. Hey, when Mma Ramotswe finds competition in her line of work, it's a man, who in the end, never really proves to be better. It's really about how we go about unravelling the mysteries that surround us and solving the problems that burden us. A little more talking, listening, investigating will go a long way to breaking down our social vices and menaces and as a result correct the wrongs that are being done. We don't always have a take a hard line like the series shows. It's the African heart at work. Anyway, I have to go return the DVD. Oyee Botswana!

Monday, October 12, 2009

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: selling Africa through feel-good television

I have only watched a couple episodes of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency but I am so excited I had to write about it already. This series is adapted for television from a bestselling novel. It features Jill Scott as the major actor and is set in Botswana. It's not exactly produced by Motswana or Africans but it is pretty 'African'. I have only seen two episodes but it didn't mention one thing synonymous with Botswana - HIV-AIDS. We also know Botswana has one of the best performing African economies and is one African country with no record of military rule. The series doesn't broadcast these, but celebrates Africa. You have to watch to understand. I had heard about this series before but while I was populating a list of African-themed films I wanted the Stanford libraries to have, someone suggested this addition.

From Wikipedia, we learn about the novels. "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is a series of ten novels by British author Alexander McCall Smith. The agency is located in Gaborone, capital of Botswana. It's founder is a Motswana woman, Mma Precious Ramotswe, who features as the stories' protagonist and main detective. The episodic novels are as much about the adventures and foibles of different characters as they are about solving mysteries. Each book in the series follows on from the previous book. They have been adapted for radio and television."

The first episode, Pilot, is a film by Anthony Minghella, and presumably longer than all the other episodes. Minghella looked like a Tswana name when I saw it, but dude's from Britain. Yeah, there's a huge British influence on this series. I didn't know Botswana drove on the left like the Brits (and South Africans) do until I watched this. Alexander McCall Smith is a white Zimbabwean-born professor based in Scotland. Too bad he probably would not be contributing to a similar spectacular production out of Zimbabwe thanks to Uncle Bob. This episode was great, witty conversation, a nice soundtrack, great picture and video quality (something you'll expect from a BBC-HBO production) and some good acting.

Here's a promo

Like their neighbours in South Africa, Botswana must be a nation that loves to sing. Jill Scott was clicking away leading the chorus in the first episode. We know Jill Scott is a professional singer, but it's another thing to be battling with x's, q's and clicks in Southern African languages. That was a beautiful scene. We heard some Kwaito too, though I am not too well-versed in Kwaito to tell if it was from South Africa or Botswana. I hope it was from the latter.

Most of the series is set in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. I expected to see some skyscrapers, great infrastructure and flashy cars. Don't quiz me, haven't you heard about Botswana? I like how Mma Ramotswe decided to settle on an office in a place that wasn't downtown Gaborone or a place that looked really nice. She probably wanted to work near the people whose problems she'd end up solving hanged out. And it worked. Some have complained about having AMerican actors, etc. We must understand this series has the backing of an American company so we can't fault that. The cast includes Anika Noni Rose and the ladies' favorite, Idris Elba. I love how it features many Southern African actors too. Didn't take the time to find out if they were all from Botswana, or South Africa, or not. Botswana and Africa is winning here.

One interesting thing about this series is the BK character, the male hairdresser. Now, I don't know how much homophobia there is in Botswana but was there a need for this character? I couldn't help thinking, "oh, let's do some groundbreaking theater, let's put in a 'gay' acts like a woman-man character in this series". It's happening all over, in many productions these days. It's almost like, you can't validate a new movie or television series these days until you have a gay character in there. Is this necessary? Is this idea being driven by diversity or the gay producers/directors/actors out there? I don't think the way to get people to understand/appreciate/not kill/not chastise gay people is putting them on the big screen. Maybe it's just me thinking this way.

In the second episode, we get introduced to our first foreigner/immigrant in Botswana. Take a good educated guess. Of course, he's Nigerian. Only this time, he's a dentist. That was pretty exciting, considering the Nigerians we saw in South African movies were portrayed very badly. Maybe Nigerians in Botswana are a little different? Maybe, the American influences on the drama caused the Nigerian to be something other than a societal menace? Not so fast though, our Nigerian dentist was a player in one investigative case. So even those seen to be doing good deeds could not be exempt from crime. But this whole scenario begs the question, if there is a foreigner who is a bad nut in some African drama, does he/she have to be Nigerian? Why is it so easy to pick on Nigerians? Can't we stop this already? Anyway, turns out this Nigerian dentist is a bad man. Won't tell his crime, that's something you'll have to find out. In the context of the episode, it made for good television but in the big picture, I am disappointed another screen production had to demonise Naija. Let's stop this already.

I still have a few episodes to watch. I am loving this series very much and think it's a must-watch for people everywhere, especially Africans. We can't miss the little things. I'll speak the truth. For many Africans and lovers of Africa, we love African films that bring back nice memories. That is how movies of bad quality and bad acting can do well anyway. Seeing kids play soccer with bare feet and wooden goal posts, dirt roads, singing at funerals of people who lived full lives (108 years), seeing car mechanics dance to Kwaito instead of working, seeing that people appreciated full-bodied thick women, the smile of an African queen, can sell. It's these little things that make us smile and appreciate what we are watching. It's really not that difficult to sell Africa. Go find this series and watch it. Oyee Botswana!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Leading into leadership – the MIT years

I've been meaning to write this entry for about a month. After the facebook campaign for presidency got its 233rd member, I decided it was time. If you didn't know, 233 is Ghana's country code (phone). It's of major significance to me. I've been honoured to see people speak highly of my leadership skills, etc and it's been making me wonder if I am up for such things. This is the 4th in my leading to leadership series, if you missed earlier entries, here they are: Tech/KNUST Primary & JSS (pre-high school), Presec (high school), and Syracuse (pre-college). In this entry, I will talk about the MIghTy years. A dream to attend the best engineering school had come alive. A prayer to be in a world-class institution had been answered. How did I deal with leading? Let's find out.

Before we get into the stories surrounding 77 Massachusetts Avenue, we must understand how we got there. One joyous day in March 2002, I received a phone call. It was from MIT. I had been admitted. I told the dude on the other line to hold on, left the phone, jumped and shouted for 10 seconds to the bewilderment of my father and his visitor as I celebrated maybe the best thing that could have happened to me yet. Such memories serve as personal encouragement in times when I am struggling. That's why I decided to tell y'all anyway. I knew of Arthur Musah at MIT, and surely I was going to get to know the other Ghanaian students there as well. I attended Campus Preview Weekend where I made some friends with whom I am in touch till today. I quickly discovered I would want to stay in a dorm with no dining halls but with kitchens, since the 'chiselled' miser in me was not gonna spend plenty to buy food and would rather eat the rice and stew he'd been fed all his life. I also discovered my friends would be those who most identified with me culturally - Ghanaians Africans.

As a freshman in college, you have more chances to lead than being a 'nino'/1st year student in a Ghanaian secondary school. You could start your own organization sef. Not exactly the 'Jollof lovers' group types on Facebook, but something like 'Bridging the Digital Divide by sending unwanted MIT lab computers to primary schools in Ghana'. I was in a liberal school, but I don't do PC. I do Linux. Yes, our clusters had computers with Linux installed, not Windows, Doors DOS or Macs. Geeky eh? I would have none of that. So, I had to learn the ropes, joined a couple of organizations; the campus newspaper - Tech, EASE, AITI, the African Students Association, NSBE, and a campus ministry. I didn't survive two weeks at the newspaper (I give up sometimes). Sure, I had wanted to continue my Presec editorial board exploits but the work I had to do to write one story made me think twice. I give up sometimes. Maybe leaders do. Maybe not.

For one reason or the other, my 'shyness' shed itself when I was in Boston and I became a 'social animal'. I wanted to go to every African-themed event. Far or wide. Party or presentation. Ghanaian or 'can't you see you are the only Ghanaian over here, what brought you here' event. I can't even tell you why I was doing this. Maybe making up for lost time perhaps. Quickly, I was the one who knew plenty people and the default assemblyman. :-) Hence, the favorite position for me to take was Recruiting co-ordinator. Go use your charm, friendship links, influence, juju, tallness, %#!@%$%# to get us some members. Some of these may be elements of leadership actually. But then again, it's a position someone other than the leader holds. I can't confirm I performed my duties excellently but it became my default position in EASE and I never really took any steps up. I tried to start sister EASE organizations in other US colleges. Yes, there's still only one, that dream whispered and got shut up eventually. I tried but couldn't use my networks to do jack. At least not as much as I jacked up the aspirations to be.

I had also joined AITI, which ended up giving me one of the best times of my life - sending me with a group of MIT students to Ghana to teach university students JAVA programming and entrepreneurship. I ended up spending the whole 2004 summer in Ghana, on AITI business, planting seeds for what is today, working on GhanaThink (more on this in another entry), amongst other things. Being the only Ghanaian in the group, I was handed some leadership responsibility - logistics. I did good, related well to our students and forged a bond that still exists between our MIT group and our students. Teaching was so empowering, made me feel I was contributing to my country. That period also made me very confident in the ability of Ghanaian youth and students, part of which drives me till today. It was during a time, many Ghanaians were not too giddy about Ghana's future, but experiencing the ingenuity and talent of the Ghanaian youth I communed with for weeks gave a great outlook. It made me believe we can do it, long before Barack Obama delivered 'tough love' to Africans in Ghana earlier this July. After that Ghana trip, I hanged around AITI for a while, but never took up any serious positions. Is that what Obama would have done? Of course, I supported it in many ways, especially the one-way I know best - recruiting and marketing. Dawuro bɔ. You have an awesome project with an African slice? Count on the MIghTy African. Promoting African excellence everywhere.

The African Students Association was the ish though if you asked me. Our semi-formal was grand and the party that followed was unmatched in terms of African spirit. Right from the get-go, I was getting involved, acting, performing poems, helping out, etc. There were times, we'd have the semi-formal and I'd be the sole performer from our group. Of course, that's not leadership, it's called hogging the spotlight. Just kidding, it's called wanting to share talents. Mxm. The president of the association was normally a junior. When I was a junior, I was nominated to run for the highest office in the land ASA but I backed out. By this time, I had decided, I was at my best following and not leading. In fact, I never had a single position in the ASA in my 4 years. The one-time I run for anything, it was for sports chair and I lost. Pɔtɔɔɔ. You think I didn't advise myself? I chickened out but to be truthful, I just didn't think I was cut for such. I enjoyed being a common floor member who contributed wherever and whenever he could and put his all into fulfilling the goals of the organization. And that I did.

I was a common-floor member on the religious scene in Presec but at 'don't mention God' MIT, I was the spirito/pastor/chrife/ person. And here, I was, a million times less religious than I was in Presec, but in MIT, I was at the forefront of a campus ministry. When I somehow became president because I was a senior, I was the face. Victory Campus Ministries. Impact. Tall task. I could recruit some new members, but not much. I just don't remember doing a great job in that position. That's the way the cookie crumbled. Being in VCM was great because the church I attended was very diverse and youthful. I met a good number of my good non-African friends through this ministry. God is good. When it comes to matters of Christ, differences are submerged in our diversity. I know this, because the same things didn't work too well for me in my classes when I had to join teams to do projects. I was almost never a group leader and just didn't seem to be a great member otherwise. Maybe they didn't know how to use me or understand me, but would we blame them? No. I plead the Akonth (fifth) here.

So as we can see, I didn't improve my leadership skills in four defining years of my life. Sure, there are things we can point to; the community service through EASE & AITI, the impression I made on the people I met, the initiative I took to do various things, the announcing of excellence that defined me, the I-love-all-things-Ghana stand I took, the lets-support-Africa-to-be-better campaign I waged, amongst others. Someone will call these elements of leadership which offers some juice to the subject. These memoirs are for me to judge and for you to learn. It may look like I'm putting my business out there, but I believe it serves as a case-study for us all. I was focused on a bunch of non-MIT initiatives while I was there so I couldn't have taken too much responsibility on campus. You don't want to know what all these initiatives are, but I could have leveraged MIT resources for them. I didn't do much there. I didn't form any groups either though I had a few ideas. Didn't send any computers to a village school in Ghana either. Tscheeew. Disappearing into some hole somewhere.

But on our turns backward, we must face forward with even greater focus. The tree branches into various ideas, we can hop onto another one if one is getting cut. I talked about the facebook presidency campaign eh? That's a whole other blog entry. Subconsciously, my MIT experience shaped my capability to lead and offered lessons and decision-making. I did improve my time management skills, maybe not my priorities though I found out what was important to me - doing the little things to support my cultural home, and great multi-tasking. There were the decisions I didn't make, and those that I made to not be the decision-maker. I managed to not lead into leadership as much as I could, but still got the odd leadership thrust and blessing. Do we understand leadership like we should? Or is it just me? We'll see in the next entry.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ghanaian films - A Sting in a tale, I sing of a well, Heart of men

My current favorite movie house, Sparrow Productions, is back with another movie called 'A Sting in a Tale'. A few other new Ghanaian movies are making the rounds. Haven't seen any of these films but wanted to keep y'all posted. We still haven't settled on a name for the Ghanaian film industry, don't give me any Gollywood (already taken by Johannesburg anyway), or Ghallywood, etc.

A Sting in a Tale is Shirley Frimpong-Manso's fourth film after Life & Living It, Scorned & the Perfect Picture. I have been crying for her to feature Agya Koo in a movie but this time she chose Majid Michel. Most Ghanaian movie enthusiasts would tell you Majid's a better actor than the big celebrities like Van Vicker, Nadia Buari and Jackie Appiah. I agree. We'll see how he does in this production. The movie also features probably the best female actor in Ghana now - Lydia Forson, arguably Ghana's best in Adjetey Annan (Pusher), as well as Doris Sackitey, who we haven't seen on the big screen in a while. There are a few new faces, which is always good for the 'industry'. The Grand Premiere is on Friday, Nov 6 @ The Conference Center, Accra, Ghana. Watch the Trailer below

Synopsis - A twisted tale of two unemployed graduates who embark on a journey to make it in a world where you need more than what you have to get what you want. Kuuku is overwhelmed with the urgency to succeed and frantically searches for a reward to his several years of school. Frustrated and constantly reminded of his failure by the presence of his girlfriend, (Frema) ; Kuuku will do anything to make the odds work in his favor. Nii Aryee, Kuukus abstemious looking friend is more positive about the future until the rejection letters begin to mount and his landlord comes to town. Driven by the fear of poverty, these two friends go in search of a destiny that takes them to the most obscure places. In a tale where the unexpected is always lurking in the shadows, from the natural to the supernatural, among all ploys, grief and struggles, nothing prepares you for the sting, in a rather bizarre ending.

Majid Michel recently stated that his best movie ever was "Heart of men". This movie has become a real talking point because of its trailer. The trailer is said to be advertising a soft porn Ghanaian movie. Yeah, I just went there. It features Majid, Jackie Appiah, Nadia Buari, Yvonne Nelson, John Dumelo - serious star power. I am not expecting much from the movie, though we've been advised not to judge the movie based on the trailer. And if what Majid said is anything to go by, it probably is a must-watch movie. This movie is from Heroes Productions.
Trailer below

Last but not the least, is my friend Leila Djansi's work, I sing of a Well. Now this movie looks quite promising and is a little different from what we've seen lately. It's about slavery though, a touchy topic. The movie welcomes back Akofa Edjeani Asiedu, who doubles as the producer. The cast includes JOT Agyeman, Godwin Kotey, Mary Yirenkyi, Kofi Middleton Mends and Luckie Lawson as Oleka. The movie is tipped to be Ghana's best ever and was shot on a $100,000 budget. It's on IMDB. Watch the trailer here

That's all folks. More on African movies coming soon. Watching a few that I would blog about later

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