Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sparrow Productions' The Perfect Picture - The soundtrack

After the Perfect Picture review, comes the blog entry about the soundtrack. if you know me well, you know I love music, especially African music. Sparrow Productions has been doing a great job concerning soundtracks, with the other movies like Life and Living it and Scorned. When the The Perfect Picture was being premiered, I knew a little about the soundtrack. After going through the movie, I'll like to talk about the songs featured, including the main soundtrack which brought to us Kwabena Kwabena's first music video, 'Do ne bi'.

I couldn't help but smile when I heard Asem's Pigaro played. That song has been a huge hit but to play it in that scene was interesting. I wanted the song to be played in some club scene so we could introduce the Pigaro dance to movie viewers. The movie began and ended with hiplife songs, way to go Sparrow. Shiee, wow! The song used here was a remix and I loved the machine gun shots. "Pigaro 1, pigaro 2, pigaro 3, pigaro 4, pigaro 5, pigaro 6! Do the pigaro, baby do it like this!" I love how they ended the song in the movie. Haha.

There were three Kwabena Kwabena songs on the soundtrack, chief amongst which is 'Obi dɔ wo, dɔ no bi (Do ne bi)'. I loved seeing Kwabena squared perform in the movie, I am a big fan of live music and Kwabena is a fine singer. That voice drives the ladies crazy. The club/bar scene was cool and quite reminiscent of scenes I've seen in Ghana. It seems that scene was shot in Boomerang Nite Club. You could see they were feeling the song. Kwabena has a lot of mellow songs and 'Do ne bi' is one of the few up-tempo jams. 'Me ne woa' was played during a Larry-Aseye scene which begged for two lovers to try and understand each other and just do a little talking, I guess that was appropriate. 'Meye', which I believe is the best Ghanaian wedding song I've heard, was played during the wedding weekend. Shirley knows what's up!

Amakye Dede's music brought people from two worlds together. This is one of the underrated things about the movie. Akese and Fela's scenes became synonymous with Amakye Dede's songs and yes, they were appropriate. Abrantie Amakye Dede sings about a whole lot of things. My favorite Amakye track is not 'Ɔdɔ da baabi' but 'Ɔdɔ ho akyere no a'. 'Mefrɛ wo', 'Kanea mayɛ kyerɛ me', 'Ɔdɔ da baabi' and 'Mma ɛndi awerehoɔ' were not out of place and added a nice local tone to the movie. Twi soundtrack with English lines, that's quite interesting. Makes me wonder though, is Amakye Dede's music for the poorer class and blue-collar workers? I mean, Taylor couldn't believe his executive lady of a girlfriend could be listening to Amakye Dede. Taylor is your busy business executive who doesn't have time for his girl, but has money for expensive gifts. Serious props to the Sparrow crew for their choice of Amakye Dede and the particular songs.

I don't know too much about the non-Ghanaian songs but I did recognise that 'My girl' song by The temptations and 'What a wonderful world' by Louis Armstrong. Those timeless classics are popular in Ghana and worked well with the movie. They also had T-Pain's Church; let me guess, they had to have some autotune in there huh? We all know T-Pain is the hit-maker of today. Shirley knows the times well. I had never heard Beyonce's 'New Shoes' song before. With new beginnings and after 'months later', people get new shoes abi? Yes, and at the mall too. The soundtrack also featured Shontelle's T-shirt. Excellent choice of Robin Beck's 'First time' as well. Doris Day's 'que sera, sera' and Fish Go Deep's 'The cure and the cause' also featured. Ghanaians are big reggae lovers and Muta Baruka is a favorite. They used 'I am black and proud'.

My brother introduced me to Souljas' Inn's music a while ago. Nabil and his crew are good but I never took them seriously till I watched the 'Perfect Picture'. 'Broken' is a great song as well as 'One day'. "One day, you'll find out I love you so; And you'll be wondering why you wanted me to go, go, go". The songs were chosen really well, I mean who did the fact-finding? Searched the whole of Ghana to find the most appropriate songs. Great work. "Look at the state of me;
Left me broken; You said you'll never leave; Look what you've done to me; Left me broken". Ghanaian music don dey catch far paa.

Is it just me or do Jane Awindor and Irene Logan sound alike? I'd have loved for them to stay together but they are both quite versatile and would both enjoy solid solo careers. MissJane had two songs on the soundtrack. 'Nothing' was played when we were introduced to happier times for Larry and Aseye. Excellent. I am really feeling that 'Nothing' song, I see Jane is using her Nigerian friends to good use, using a couple of Yoruba lines. Everyone will be talking about that last but one scene and is there a more appropriate song than Jane's 'A Moment's Notice'? Ever since I heard the song, I knew it was excellent and tailored for a scene like that. Kudos Jane, you'll go places. If Shirley had a record label too, she'd sign you.

Wutah's one of favourite groups and it warmed my heart to hear their 'Koto sa' track at the end of the movie. However, here is the scene where the culture confusion occurs. Were they really doing the 'electric slide' to a hiplife song? Are there no hiplife dances? Wutah has been on the down-low for way too long after the success of Anamontuo and songs like 'Esikyire (Change your style), Goosy gander and Big dreams. Kotosa will be a hit - "love goes where love is, I can't deny this."

I love how Shirley Frimpong-Manso has been able to bring together great and varied songs on one good soundtrack. I believe Chris Attoh had a hand in it too. I am sure they got authorization from the musicians to use their songs though getting through to Beyonce may be much of an ask. One wonders how much the musicians are paid to feature their songs, or is the reward in the airplay the song gets in the movie? It won't be too long and the movies will feature only local productions with the way Ghanaian music is growing and changing. Kudos to all who worked on the soundtrack for the movie. Now, make a CD and sell it together with the Perfect Picture DVD.

Sparrow Productions' The Perfect Picture - A review

Following the success of Life and Living it and Scorned, I was excited to hear about the premiere of Sparrow Productions' The Perfect Picture. I talked about the excitement of Shirley Frimpong-Manso drafting Jackie Appiah and Kwaku Sintim-Misa into the movie. I got the VCD recently and have watched it twice. The first time, I didn't know what to make of the movie, it's not your average Ghanaian or African movie for that matter. Watching it a second time, I appreciated the movie more, and I am in love with it. Sparrow Productions, I salute you! Keep it up. Looking for Agya Koo in the next feature film though, so let's make it happen. Here's a review.

The settings in the movie were great. It's clear the movie shows characters in a Ghanaian middle class; young affluent people navigating their love lives. The houses used were a little glamorous, is that how young executives in Ghana live these days? Which begs the question? Where are the young returnees and young workers in Accra living? Hostels? Trasaco valley? Company housing? Government housing? With all the real estate activity booming in Ghana, there should be some apartment complexes springing up for the youth who are moving out of their parents' cares into their own places. I like how the scene after the 'months later' portion was set in the Accra Mall. It was almost a progression in the movie and made great use of one of Accra's most recent developments. You could see the scenes of the bustling Accra as Sparrow tried to promote everyday Accra scenes. I liked those. I also noticed the different hairstyles the ladies spotted which I thought that was cool.

Different people have had issues with the movie's story. The story differentiates the movie from other Ghanaian ones. It's a bold script and the big challenge with Ghanaian movies these days is to make the end unpredictable. I believe the movie scored well there. The issues in the movie are not talked about in Ghanaian circles much and great movies are supposed to raise issues which is what the 'Perfect Picture' does. If we can be debating about the story and issues and not some technical glitches or bad lines then we know we have a great production. 3 different stories are told of 3 different women, somewhat independent but then related. The script was good in my opinion.

Like I talked about in Jerusalema, dialogue can 'make' a movie. Watching this one a second time made me appreciate the dialogue and lines more. I am not going to dedicate a whole post to the lines because they weren't as many. The talk of fairytales, the few profound lines, the 'exchanges', they were all good. "It says fairytales; (but) you and I, we live in the real world". The real world is not fairytales 'ampa'. "My mother said if something was good to be true, then yes, it was too good to be true. But think about it, wouldn't life be bothering without believing in a little lie?" I feel the Beyonce and Princess Tyra type productions try too hard to use big English which frankly doesn't happen all that often in Ghana. But when you have profound statements and simple witty conversations, it's more believable and interesting. I thought Sparrow missed a couple of chances to feature some more local language lines and appropriate subtitles. Hope to see more use of local lingua next time. The Ghanaian middle class does speak a lot of Pidgin and use a lot of lingo, it wouldn't hurt to use those routes more.

I appreciated the modernity of the movie. Since when did Ghanaians start doing this or that? Ghana has changed. Different things should not surprise us anymore. Including Ghanaian dating sites and whether they actually work or not. And yes, that lady should browse more. How about Dr. Andreson's suggestion? Are Ghanaians into that? Is it beyond us? No. Let's stop pretending. We may be a religious church-going people but that may not necessarily reflect what happens behind closed doors. Shirley knows it and was throwing light on some of these things. If the sex talk was overdone, note that the movie was rated 18 and up. A few references may have been unnecessary though. How many Ghanaians would have used the 'f' word in Dede's situation in the aftermath of her 'mistake'?

One of the most important parts of any African movie to me is the music. It's so important that I will have a separate post about the soundtrack. It's interesting how Sparrow's movies feature these dance scenes. I find myself timing them all the time. When it goes on for more than 3 minutes, it gets irritating. I know we do like to have a good time but Ghanaian movies are not avenues for music videos. The score was great, especially that Casino Royale bit when Akese saw Fela's car. Hilarious.

The movie has a story about different Ghanaian classes. How can a working middle-class Ghanaian woman like to listen to Amakye Dede? Maybe Kojo Antwi, but Amakye Dede? It's easy to see how a random air-conditioner repairer or mechanic would live off Amakye Dede tunes but a young rich Accra resident? If it teaches anything, it means that when it comes to do it, no matter how globalized or westernized we become, our culture always unites us. Another interesting thing about the movie was how all the rich guys had English first names and the 'poor' guy had a local name. Decolonization of the mind; Shirley, was this intentional? The ladies had local names though, something I can't wrap my mind around. Haha, the fella was called Fela. And the lawyer?

Also, why was Kwaku Sintim-Misa in only one scene? I wanted more KSM. Hope he returns in another production. He did play his role well though as did most of the other actors and actresses. I couldn't help but be more critical about Jackie Appiah in the movie. I'm used to seeing her in many movies which I don't rate highly and it was tough to look at her independently in this role. She didn't look much different, she seemed to have the same demeanor all the time. I love the way Chris Attoh says 'I love you'. Lydia Forson is great, she's gonna go places. I think she shined in her role, and showed the different emotions well. I am beginning to like Mensah-Doku as well, other than her hysterical laughing. Adjetey Annan is one of the best actors we have in Ghana today, Pusher can shine in any role. Kudos to him. Nana Kwame Osei Sarpong had a bigger role in this role after his one-scene-act in Scorned and I think he did good too. You can see the production crew took time to make sure the roles were played well and right. This was no one-month-let's-get-done-quickly-so-we-can-shoot-another-movie production.

In fact, 'The Perfect Picture' was well-written in my opinion. It caught me off guard the first time with all the 'bedmatics' but another viewing had me at ease and appreciative. I still rate 'Life and Living It' higher, maybe because it was the first from Sparrow. You know how it is difficult to outdo something that's already good. We'll see if it goes on to win any awards. The first two from Sparrow's stable did not sweep the accolades but maybe things will change with this one. The set, sound, and video quality was excellent as always and Ghanaians should be proud of this production. Excellence is not an act, it's a habit, as one wise man put it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

My 10 favorite South African songs

If you ask me where the capital of music is, I'll have to tell you Johannesburg or in a more general case, South Africa. The number of music genres in South Africa is huge, from kwaito to rock, house to mbaqanga, and afro-pop to fusion. South Africa is surprisingly more diverse than people think it is, so I won't be surprised if there are South African bhangra or asian pop artistes. They do have a 14 year-old Chinese violinist prodigy. The Confederations Cup just ended in South Africa and the Bafana Bafana were third. It's sad the 'vuvuzelas' drowned out the melodious singing of other Mzansi folk :-) Before I get into a run down of my 10 favorite songs from South Africa, check out my 10 favorite Nigerian songs and 10 African songs I think you should know about. Go South Africa! Local is lekker! You may discover your next favorite song. Click the songs to find the lyrics, video, audio, etc.

Black President - Brenda Fassie (Afro-pop)
This song resurfaced a little when Barack Obama was elected America's president. It was originally composed for Nelson Madiba Mandela. I love MaBrrr's storytelling. Nelson Mandela is an inspiration to many around the world and is probably one of the few respected leaders ever. Brenda is one of the famous African musicians of all-time and though she died under some bad circumstances, her music will remain timeless, especially this song. "But the spirit was never broken". "Let us sing for our president, let us pray for our president". "I will sing for my president, I will stand and say, Viva, viva, viva!"

Thathis'gubhu - Bongo Maffin (Afro-pop)
I have no idea what this song is about but it made an impression on me the very first time I heard it. I heard it at Mount Holyoke's AC Day (MHACASA's African-Carribean day). The ladies did a great kwaito dance to it and it had me moving to a new sound with a new groove for a new dance in my seat. I have sung along to the song a bunch of times I think I can sing it without help except a couple 'la-la-las'. I do enjoy Bonfo Maffin's stuff over Thandiswa's solo stuff though. You should check out Thandiswa's new song, Ingoma, it's doing quite well.

My number one (Kudala ngizula) - Gang of Instrumentals (Rock/alternative)
This is my favorite Mzansi song to listen to recently. I don't know if it's the rock beat but there's just something about that song. Maybe the drums at the beginning/ And some non-South African friends have agreed. Gang of Instrumentals is a group of 3 (2 of which are an item). There is ragga, rap, pop, reggae, rnb, their albums are complete packages. This is some of my fave lyrics ever "You are my love; My sun; My reason to wake in the morning; The reason I smile all day; You are my one"

African dream - Vicky Sampson/Soweto Gospel Choir (Gospel)
Most people have an idea what the American dream is but have you ever heard of an African dream? Is there one? Is it different from country to country? I don't know. I do know that this song is one of the best I've ever heard. Telling lyrics, smooth instrumental and the part where they start singing in Zulu is just so heavenly. "Bawetu we Afrikaaaa". "Cos in my African Dream; There's a new tomorrow; My African dream; Is a dream that we can follow" That's great four lines of spirit uplifting. I don't know much about Vicky but I did see the Soweto Gospel Choir (SGC) perform live. They were 'heavenly'. :-D Choirs like SGC just prove the vocal talent that South Africans are spoilt with. All those R&B crooners and fake autotune people should move aside for the real singers.

Crazy party - In-Cha, Danny K, HHP (Violin hip-hop track with no strings attached)
In-cha is a teenage violinist supremo from South Africa who is Chinese. And she's not an immigrant. Danny K is a white singer from Mzansi as well, performs mostly R&B and Pop. HHP is one of the most popular rappers in Africa at the moment. Diversity scores on this track. Clap clap clap, come join this crazy party. Great music.

Dubula, dubula, dubula - Kabelo (Kwaito)
I already mentioned 'High I go' in my 10 African songs entry and Kabelo makes another entry here. This time, it's his 2006 megahit dubbed Dubula cubed. "Cuz you can't keep a good man down". Kabelo is one-third of the famous South African kwaito group called TKZee who brought us Shibobo. He's now busy marketing Reebok, living a born-again life and making more great music (Booga Luv). "I'm not gonna shoot anybody; I'm just having fun with my lyrical prowess". This line should end all rap battles.

Never change my mind - Malaika (Afro-pop)
Malaika is my favorite South African group of all time. Never change my mind is the major hit from their latest album, Sekunjalo. It's the only song I own on that record but it's enough. It's sad Jabulani passed away not too long ago, the video for this song was a fitting tribute to him. The video was kinda hilarious and well-done too. Those melodious voices on this song are catchy and do grab you. More on Malaika later. "Ngithanda wena; Ngizikhethele wena; Sthandwa sami siyofa silahlane; Bazokhuluma bakhulume bampempethe bakhathale; Ngikuthanda ngoba ngiyak’ncanywa" Buriful.

Muntuza (2bob) - Malaika (Afro-pop)
Here's my favorite group again, this time with the song Two bobo. Malaika makes some really great party music but they have some mellow and slow tracks too. I shall say no more because Swazibella offers a translation - "2 bob literally means 20 cents, and figuratively, a fine woman (like myself neh)...I dont know why they would compare a fine woman to (only) 20 cents, but it's a huge compliment in South Africa." The song basically says "who is that fine woman next to you" to different people (including Thabo Mbeki!). Ha ke sa chechela morago is Setswana for "I'm not turning back", to mean, I'm not turning back now that I've found this fine woman!"

Muthaland - Jozi (Hip-hop)
This was between Tuks' 525600 minutes and Jozi's Muthaland. Picked Muthaland because the song references Africa. I love the way the song starts, everytime I listen to this track, I have to rewind the first minute. In the motherland, we gets down. Africa is one big party. I love hearing loud radios on the streets and chop-bars parties in the evenings. You bet they do it better dancing and singing in South Africa though. South Africa 2010, I must go to this world cup and visit South Africa. I have to experience the music, the vibrancy, the culture, the spirit, the sounds, the scenes, the whole shebang. "All my peeps across the land; Stamp your feet and clap your hands; If you feel it, raise your hand; This one's from the motherland".

Wa mpaleha - Lira (Jazz)
The most played song on my iTunes and iPod now is Wa mpaleha by Lira. Lira's my favorite singer from South Africa now, because she's a friend (hehe). Wa mpaleha is a nice jazzy, slow jammy track that is very easy to listen to. Lira hasn't sent me the lyrics or translations yet so we'll have to make do with the music video and music for now. You'll have to increase the volume and enjoy Lira's talent. It will make you feel good. You should hear her tribute to Nelson Mandela on his 90th birthday, one of the best birthday songs ever composed.

These are the first 10 songs that came to mind. If I remember one injustice that I missed, I will comment about it. Just like last time, I want to list a few honorable mentions. Tuks' 525600 minutes borrows the chorus from the Rent soundtrack. I am also a big fan of Zola's music, the guy who takes credit for most of the Tsotsi soundtrack. Check out Phezulu. Also check out Lira's Ixesha and Feel good. I also love SGC's I'll remember you and Hlohonolofatsa. I recently heard Life & Death by Lulu Dikana and Ngeke Ndiphinde by Jaziel Brothers. I also like this Ngumunt'onjani lo track by Ntando and Nhlanhla of Mafikizolo fame. Other favourites are Fiasco (TKzee), Emlanjeni (Mafikizolo), Umqombothi (Yvonne Chaka Chaka), Motherland (Mamaland) (Yvonne Chaka Chaka), Remember when it rained (DJ Sbu), Magic & Ndawo Yami (Zamajobe), Moni fere (KB Motsilanyane), Eyakho & Sondela (Ringo Madlingozi), Doo be doo by Freshlyground etc. Last but not the least, I want to shout out my boy Tumi for his lovely Give me youtrack which was actually partly recorded in Ghana.

I know the World Cup in South Africa is coming up next year, if you need one more reason, let it be the music.

Long live South African music.
Long live African music.
Long live Africa.

What is change? Change is....

Frankly, I forget why I began writing about change. I don't know if this counts as a poem, it's basically a sequence of lines about change. But even changes have an end so I had to find a way to end a bunch of change lines. You can tell me whether I did a good job.

Here goes, change is.......

Change is what I wear every day
Change is a constant k
Change is a constant c, u c
Change is seeing a different customer every day
Change is having your peace disturbed
Change is having your piece reduced
Change is having your faith renewed
Change is having your new dirtied
Change is having your dirt publicized
Change is having your Sunday
Change is what you get after you get your sundae
Change is what the seasons do
Change is what the beggars press for
Change is what the oppressed beg for
Change is what we get when we travel
Change is what we catch in our hands
Change is what we grab with our hearts
Change is what we stand for when others sit
Change is why we are sitting when others stand
Change is missing someone
Change is when someone goes missing
Change is what I eat every day
Change is a false diagnosis
Change is this being the last line
Change is finding a new line
Change is urban migration
Change is a trip to the village
Change is beginning a new chapter
Change is every different word I say
Change is finally putting a full stop.

Friday, June 26, 2009

President Obour - Having the youth lead now, case study Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa

Sometime last year, news broke of Obour, a Ghanaian rap artiste, wanting to run for president. It turned out he wasn’t serious about it, but he wondered why ‘young people’ couldn’t run for the highest office in the land. He wanted the minimum age for seeking for the presidency to be reduced from 40. He started a Youth for Presidency campaign saying the constitution was not fair to the youth. Kufuor was more than 60 when he became president and Atta Mills is 64 at the moment. Is the presidency of Ghana for retirees? Maybe it is. We are seeing a youth movement in the present NDC government though, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, an Odadee, is the present deputy minister of information and he is under 30. His age mate, Obour tells us what he would do if he were president in his ‘President Obour’ song. How will the youth handle such responsibility? Do we need more young leaders like Samuel? If we have to pay our dues before we get that type of responsibily, what are those dues?

Bice Osei Kuffour, popularly known as Obour, is one of Ghana’s foremost musicians. He emerged onto the scene with interesting lyrics in his ‘Atenteben’ hit and has continued to remain one of Ghana’s top rappers. He is one of the few hiplife artistes who has a university degree, from the University of Ghana no less. He started his own sports’ bar in the heart of Accra and has other enterprises. He organized one of the best tours ever seen in Ghana, taking his Project Obour.com/Atumpan concert tour to over 35 towns in Ghana. He is also known for his various public campaigns; Road Safety campaign (Okoaba), Peace in Ghana campaign (For Election 2008) and the ABC Ghana Reads campaign. He understands the influence he has as a celebrity and entertainer and is using his fame for socio-economic development and for socially conscious programs.

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa is one of the shining stars of Ghanaian politics. I knew him when he was at Presec, he was only two years my senior. He was one of the SRC executives. The juniors (especially Form 1 boys) liked to call the SRC exec ‘the opposition party’. The prefects handed us the discipline and punishments, while the SRC exec fought for our rights. It was common to see the SRC and thePrefectorial council clash. Samuel Ablakwa saw his fair share of clashes in Presec. There was also the editorial board, which acted as the media. Every major player in the Ghanaian political atmosphere was represented in Presec during those days. Wetin we no see before? The SRC also made sure the students had better terms of service and living, battling the school authorities for better conditions. They represented the ‘oppressed’ and ‘weak’. Great preparation for Samuel, if you ask me.

I could tell Samuel Ablakwa was going to be a leader or politician in the future. He was passionate about his work in the Students Representative Council. He was also a debater. Debating in Ghanaian high schools is no joke. You take countless verbal blows and have to come back strong. It may be worse than rap battles. After Presec, Samuel went to Legon where he was the President of the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS). There was some controversy surrounding him and Lord Hama (another Odadee) while he was there. In the midst of all of that, I am sure he did a remarkable job in his position, following the job he did while in Presec. Later on, I realized he was part of the Committee of Joint Action, a group I wrote off as a pro-NDC noisemaking pressure group. Before we could keep wrap our mind around his CJA exploits, he was on local television shows representing the NDC. He contributed to the NDC’s election victory. I pointed out to my father that Samuel was my senior in Presec when we watched him on a Metro TV election coverage show and my father told me how much he liked the ‘boy’. The ‘boy’ Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa routinely outshone political opponents and analysts on TV. The Presecans are going to take over 

I normally dwell a lot on the song I choose for these entries but Samuel Okudzeto is a minister and Obour isn’t really going to run for political office. Samuel can learn a few things from Obour though since the latter has many great and feasible ideas for Ghana’s development. Read Obour’s address at the time (from the music video) – “Fellow youth of Ghana, I am happy to address you what will go down in history; As the greatest youth revolution in our dear country; My brothers and sisters, the time has come for youth to aspire; To the highest office of the land, the Presidency!” A youth revolution always sounds good, I will like to see more youth or younger politicians given the reins of power if they show promise and show they are hungry to institute change.

Obour calls for a better performing Akosombo Dam, and free health insurance. He will also institute a Ghana day which will be Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday which doesn’t have to be a holiday. On that day, we’ll only eat Ghanaian food and speak Ghanaian languages. Does that sound like a good proposition to you? Recently, there was a lot of talk about making Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday in September a Founder’s Day Holiday. I don’t know what happened to the debate but I agree with what this guy had to say. Obour promises to bring cocaine dealers to book as well as corrupt officials. He also announces a better system for urban planning and making sure the country’s infrastructure works appropriately. It’s the little things that count as well as his plans to make youth employment his agenda. Our politicians have said similar things but have we seen significant changes? No. As a youth, you best believe Obour or someone as young as him would push for better youth employment.

One of my biggest problems with Ghanaian governments is the lack of communication and information. Samuel is a deputy minister in one of these industries and I hope he can work to improve this. If the government fails to inform the people about its work, and the strides it is making in moving Ghana forward, the populace would busy themselves talking about Ecomini ringtones. Samuel is not new since he’s been involved in the body politic for awhile but he is the most likely candidate to inject novelty into Ghanaian politics and statesmanship. Thankfully, I have access to Samuel, though he may be extremely busy in his new role but I believe he will listen just like he listened to me when I was being treated unfairly as a ‘nino-greeno-knows-no first-year student at Presec”.

The youth of Ghana must demonstrate leadership and great leadership while we are at it. There are some who are making waves in their various chosen fields and they need to be praised and their works and laurels shouted from the mountain-top. We need more community leaders taking charge to solve problems and implement ideas for which we have capacity. The powers-that-be will take notice and increase the youth’s mandate. While we continue to search for role models, we can be role models for our mates. Samuel used his NUGS position to great effect and there are many other ways Ghanaian youth can pay their dues. Barack Obama was a community organizer and following in his footsteps is a start. We can organize people in our communities for clean-up exercises, information gathering, empowerment through business and providing services, amongst other things. Dialogue is another easy thing we can do, brainstorming, sharing ideas, educating each other on our community’s and country’s needs and taking steps to do whatever little we can to help. That’s also leadership. Ketewa biara nsua.

“What other people couldn’t do, Obour came and did it”, sings Obour. What our leaders have failed to do, the youngsters can come and do. The youth may be too young to lead and govern, but the youth is not too young to offer opinions and push for better conditions of living and systems for them to succeed. There must be better co-operation between young and old for Ghana’s development. There have been countless calls for a national youth policy. Who is going to formulate one and who will make the right stakeholders are involved? Obour brought old and new (young) together through his ‘Best of the Lifes’ project with A. B. Crentsil. Can the Fiifi Kweteys, Omane Boamahs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwas, Zita Okaikois, Agyenim Boatengs, Elvis Afriyie Ankrahs, and Haruna Iddrissus do the same for our country’s development? The youth will be watching.

Photo from Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa's Facebook

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My 10 favorite Nigerian songs

I already blogged about 10 African songs I absolutely love and wanted to share. Nigerian music is doing very well these days and their artistes are among the most popular around the continent. I will look at 10 Nigerian songs that mostly have lyrics in English. I understand the message of these songs and it is a major reason I love them. I have always been a big fan of conscious music, they end up being the most played on my iTunes or iPod. I hope you will check them out and listen to them. You may discover your next favorite song. Click the songs to find the lyrics, video, audio, etc.

Ebe like say - 2Face Idibia (Reggae/R&B)
This song is probably my favorite English song from an African artiste and one of the songs I sing most in the shower. 2Face Idibia is my favorite non-Ghanaian musician as well. The song talks about the relationship the voter has with politicians. It was released on Tuface's second album (Grass to Grace), just in time for Nigeria's 2007 election. The song talks about how politicians come with stories to tell the voting populace only to go back on their words. It implores our politicians and leaders to do better. Favorite lines - "But the power is nothing, If your people cannot get quality education; The power is nothing, If your people keep on dying of disease and starvation; The power is nothing, If your people have no peace; The power is nothing, If your people cannot live in unity" Buriful. More about my boy 2Baba later.

I go yarn - Eldee (Hip-hop)
This was one of the very Nigerian songs that I heard and loved. It's easy to understand why because of the lyrics. It spoke to me then and it still speaks to me now. Many Nigerians who live abroad can relate to this song, as Eldee was at the time, as well as Nigerians back home. "Me, I go yarn; Me, I go speak my mind; Me, I go yarn; Them think say we blind; Make we yarn; Why are my people so poor; We can't take this no more". Have you ever felt this way too? - "As I reach Yankee; I see say to solve our problem; Eno hard, common sense"

Celebrate - D'Banj (Pop/R&B)
The Koko master is known for his funny lyrics and up-tempo songs but my favorite D'Banj track is this one called Celebrate. It's an uplifting, happy, positive song that calls for time to celebrate. As the reigning best male artiste at the MTV Africa Music Awards, and different businesses in his Koko empire, he has a lot to celebrate. The track features his favorite sidekick, Wande Coal. "I go dance o; Them no fit trouble my mind o; Leave all my worries behind o; It's time to celebrate".

I no dey shame - Djinee (R&B)
Djinee is one of my favorite singers and the lyrics in this song are just heavenly. He sings in Pidgin English and he makes it sound so good. This song has been underrated since it came out and I can't understand why. "I no dey shame for you, for you anything I go do". Lovely. Check out Djinee's Ego as well.

Bi'banke - Asa (Soul)
I don't know where to start with Asa. Her music and lyrics are just so marvelous. Bi'banke is my favourite because of the great fusion of Yoruba and English lines and the emotion the song oozes. Bukola Elemide's voice is super, I love it and 2Face's as well. I'll listen to her songs just to hear her sing. "When I'm crying; When I'm dying, just leave me alone; I could cry you a river; Or a waterfall; Just leave me alone". Could a song about crying be this good?

If love is a crime - 2Face Idibia (R&B)
This song was hailed as the second coming of African queen though it never became as popular. The video was shot in Ghana and featured 2Face wearing a Ghana T-Shirt which caused a little uproar in Nigerian circles. 2Face shines at singing love and relationship songs and his songs have lasting effects. "If love is a crime, then I want to be wanted?" "If love is a crime, then I am willing to be hunted?" "If love is a crime, then I'd like to dey go jail?" Call it cheesy, but I love the track to bits. Another of my favorite songs to sing in the shower.

No one like you - P-Square (R&B)
Here comes the hottest African wedding song. I know for a fact that it will be played at mine. The video is spectacular. P-Square is probably the biggest African act these days and tracks like this prove their standing. Their use of Pidgin English and regular English is great and the lyrics to this song is great too. The song starts off really well in my opinion, "Hello how you doing; My angel, my one and only the only one that am missing". Aww.

With this woman - Darey (R&B)
This is another Naija song that I feel hasn't gotten enough props. It's another great wedding song. Erm, hmm, sign? Anyway, the lyrics are excellent in this one too and Darey is a very good singer. He's probably the king of African R&B when it comes to singing in English proper. "Even if her time is over and she has to leave; I'll be happy that I had the chance to be; With this woman, who takes care of me". Song's so good, I gotta give y'all bonus lyrics - "Have you ever had a girl who would make you cry (cry like a baby); You'll become so lucky you'll be asking why" :-D

Street credibility - 9ice (R&B)
This is one my favorite collabos of all-time featuring two heavyweights. I'm a huge 2Face fan, and I like 9ice as well. My favorite part is where they sing lyrics from gongo aso, african queen and ebe like say. Who doesn't want street credibility? It's all about the fans and the support. Because at the end of the day, 9ice and Tuface are guaranteed to always 'nice up' your party.

African Queen - 2Face Idibia (R&B)
It's impossible to complete this blog post without mentioning the biggest African song of the 21st century. When you have little kids from Guam singing an African song, you must know how popular it is. 2Baba, I salute you. His groundbreaking 'African Queen' hit set the pace for Nigerian songs to break into the African scene and for different African musicians to find markets in different African countries. African Queen became the favorite song of many African women and restored self-esteem across a continent. Who cares about what beauty is defined in today's Western world? The only important thing is that you are an African queen. And that you are loved. And that you love this song. :-)

These are the first 10 songs that came to mind. If I remember one injustice that I missed, I will comment about it. Just like last time, I want to list a few honorable mentions. Sound Sultan's Area (acoustic) sings about home so beautifully. I am a big fan of Sasha P's newest single called Gidi Babe. I adore Asa's Fire on the mountain as well as her collabo with Jeremiah Gyang called Comforter. Other favourites are Gongo Aso (9ice), Kpo kpo di kpo (Faze), Africa (Modenine), Omo too sexy (Justine), Oruka (Sunny Nneji), See me so & For Instance (2Face Idibia), Roll it (P-Square), Obi mu o & Onyinye (Obiwon), Ololufe by Wande Coal etc.

Long live Nigerian music.
Long live African music.
Long live Africa

Saturday, June 6, 2009

South African movie Jerusalema - The review

I have already written two blog posts about Jerusalema, about the issues and the quotes. Why would I spend so much time on this movie? It's not from Ghana. I don't know any of the actors personally. It's from South Africa but it doesn't even have Terry Pheto or Leleti Khumalo. Especially Terry. But hey, I loved Jerusalema. It's lekker. And I feel like writing. So there. Why did I love it? Chao (many) reasons. What didn't I like about it? Some as well. Here are a few thoughts and observations.

Let's start with the soundtrack. Music is a very important part of movies, nota bell to African movie producers. The movie featured Brenda Fassie's Nomakanjani, Vul'indlela, and Black president. These are all massive songs especially Vul'indlela which is highly recognisable all over Africa. The songs had nothing to do with the scenes when they were played but this is the "Madonna of the Townships" singing, her music is synonymous with Soweto and Johanessburg. Black President is one of my favorite songs, I get excited when it is played. How couldn't you?

I am not sure what the Jerusalema song was about. I had never heard about Alan Lazar and Sipho Nxumalo. You think singing at the subway station is interesting, try singing in the train! They sang Jerusalema all over the place. Is there a nation in this world that is more in love with music than South Africa is? I mean, even the prisoners in the movie were singing in jail. And it's not two-by-four singing. I like how they played the Parlotones' Nowhere to hide', when the movie moved to the white neighbourhoods. The club scene with Lucky Kunene and Leah featured some house music which I suppose is a constant feature of Mzansi clubs. And who can forget the Kwaito? Mandoza is the truth.

The action/violence scenes in the movie were brutal and sometimes hard to watch. The scenes of the 'Nigerians' being thrown off buildings were particularly disturbing. Did anyone notice the soundtrack for the 'last show' where Lucky was tracking down Tony Ngu? African action music is 'drumming'. Lekker. One of my favorite scenes was the car screeching part. In high school (Presec), we called it 'atwetwe'. I loved that scene and you could see how the audience was thoroughly entertained. It's a dangerous activity but these people lived in Soweto, danger is part of the life somewhat.

I thought the acting was great, especially on the part of Lucky Kunene and Nazareth. I admire Kenneth Nkosi and I think he can progress to take on Hollywood. I didn't see any flawed scenes or talking points. I see countless hitches in Ghanaian and Nigerian movies so bear with me. I can't think of any scenes that didn't make sense. Remind me if you did.

I thought the storyline was super too. I loved the way the story was told and I think more movies should follow that. Many African movies use flashbacks, but Jerusalema used it really well. The transition between scenes was great too and the scenes were shot in many places. I feel a lot of African movies don't go into much depth, end up featuring a couple of main roles and very few settings. It does cost more money to make a quality movie with many settings and actors, but quality sells at the end of the day and gets you blog posts that open more doors in the future.

Why do Africans always react funnily when there are love scenes in an African movie? It's not unnatural you know. There were some nude scenes shown at the club too which would also turn some heads. But were those nude scenes necessary? The female characters in the movie didn't have major roles and were not represented too well. The one character who maybe was good was the white lady, Lea. There were no 'angels' in the movie though, even Lucky Kunene was a slumlord.

Jerusalema was well-done and everyone associated with the movie should be proud of it. The challenge is build upon the success. I'll love to see some South African movies that don't deal with the subjects of violence, AIDS, crime, etc. White Wedding is a start and I know with the growth of the industry, we'll have more movies like that. Kudos!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

South African movie Jerusalema - Memorable quotes

Most classic movies have great and memorable quotes. I have always had an issue with the "Kumasi" or "Agya Koo" type movies coming out of Ghana. I feel the language and dialogue in Ghanaian non-English movies is great and should be communicated adequately for people to appreciate the movies. The subtitles are terrible and don't carry the weight of the language's beauty. South Africa's Jerusalema has earned rave reviews but one of the greatest things about the film is the dialogue in my opinion. The quotes are so great that I saved a few to share with you all. (If you missed my earlier blog on issues arising from Jerusalema, read here.

If you are going to steal, steal big and hope like hell, you get away with it. All property is theft
I can't say I agree with the statement above but all property is theft? What a bold statement!

Why is it that pretty girls always have big brothers?
Has anyone experienced this too? I'll like to be the big brother to some pretty girls. Awesome.

Boy: When did you get out of the bush, gorilla?
Exiled returnee: It's not gorilla, guerilla.

What is the difference between guerilla and gorilla anyway? They both hang out in the bushes.

Hijack is a dirty word, it's called 'affirmative repossession'.
This may be my favorite line in the movie. What a beautiful way to sugarcoat language?

God helps those who help themselves. And God help us, if you don't.
Classic.

Every man for himself, and the wealth of the nation for the rest of us
Erm, I don't know if I agree about this one. Every man must help the other too. Ubuntu abi?

Lucky, if you're looking for guidance, the Bible is the book to read
Nice reminder here. Now to find the best way to search the Bible for guidance is the enigma.

I've got a wife, three kids, .... and a girlfriend
When you are threatened with your life, you will say the truth. This statement resonates with and applies to many married African men.

A car is like your girlfriend, you have to understand her.
And treat her well. Or else....

In the New South Africa, everyone deserves their entitlement, preferably in this lifetime.
Everyone deserves the most everyone can get when they are alive. See the way we celebrate death in Ghana with expensive funerals. Here's a song for you - Dabi da by Reggie Rockstone

What are you gonna eat? books?
It's really hard to go to school and not have money. You must work part-time and save money for school because once you are there, you may have to eat your books.

You can't quit from crime. Crime is the biggest growth industry in the country.
Erm, crime really isn't the biggest growing industry in Mzansi, right? Right. Private security is.

AIDS is the work of the devil. Someone shouts Hallelujah. The condom is the devil's instrument
A pastor said this. The age-old religious debate about HIV-AIDS. More controversial statements followed this one in the movie that I cannot share. Go watch the film.

Johannesburg, a city fathered by gold, mothered by money, then commandeered by white men with cruelty and greed
Jozi people and Jo'burg visitors, agree?

But if I was going to graduate with this shit-hole into my beach house, it will take a gun in one hand, a briefcase in the other, and my best shit-eating queen.
Enuff said. And a smile too.

Lucky: This is how the other half live.
Zakes: The other man's grass is definitely greener.
Lucky: Yeah, that's because he's got more shit on it.

Next time you hear talk about green grass or the grass being greener on the other side, remember it's only as green as the amount of shit it has on it. :-P

And all that time we are collecting rent? Hallelujah, my brother.
It's funny how Hallelujah can be used in cases that don't even glorify the Lord. Where else in the world do people say "Halleluyah, my brother"?

This is the only country where we have to take shit in 11 official languages
Hehehe. Isn't this statement hilarious?

Lucky: What's it with you white people?
You have nice houses, smart cars, fancy clothes, and you still come here, why?
White lady: I guess when you're rich, poverty seems glamorous, it's got a certain charm.

Got a certain charm? Is this reasoning the same thing that makes me feel I'd have wanted to grow in a village growing up?

White cop: And I suppose no one saw anything? Black cop: Well, welcome to Hillbrow.
Snitching is out of coverage area over here.

Lucky: Look what I've brought you.
Kid: What's that?
Lucky: A rugby ball!
Kid: A rugby ball, I am not a whitey! I play soccer
Lucky: You play soccer?
Listen here, this is the new South Africa
How about a little multiculturalism?
Don't be so backwards

Of course Lucky only thought to buy his young relatives a rugby ball after he started dating a white woman. F that. Soccer is the ish and its lovers don't do multiculturalism. Signed, a lover of the beautiful game.

Swart: Lucky Kunene
Lucky: Who are you? (Lucky gets a slap)
Swart: Tell me what do you do for a living, Mr Kunene?
Lucky: I drive a taxi (Slap)
Swart: Business must be good, eh?
Lucky: People need transport (Slap)
Swart: Tell me, do all your passengers pay with 100 rand notes?
Lucky: Buy yourself a cold drink, (Slap) Jesus!
Swart: You leave Jesus Christ out of this
My name is Blacky Swart and I will be your reckoning from now on
You see, Mr Kunene, we know who you are
We know what you are doing, we know where to find you
So your days are numbered, Mr Kunene.

"I shall be your reckoning from now on". You have to see this scene.

Lady: Hillbrow is the crime capital of the world
Lucky: It's just a place where poor black people come to make a living
Lady: Don't play the race card on me
Lucky: Old habits die hard

Just because. It's memorable.

Lady: I am a nutritionist, I teach people how to eat properly
Lucky: What kind of people don't know how to eat?

Ask her again, Laaaki. Of course, Africans know how to eat. Especially South Africans, who love meat like fat kids love cake.

Guy: That was over too quickly. Lady: I've got all night.
I want to re-enact this scene in real life soon.

Nazareth: Lucky, he's clever.
Lucky: A clever is a person who doesn't use drugs. A clever is a person who sells drugs to you and drugs make you think you are the clever one. If that is clever, then it's too clever for me.

Lucky Kunene don turn philosopher. What a chaa! Haha.

Lucky: Just tell me this, why did you come here? I mean, to South Africa.
Tony: It's fine to hate us
While you sit there on your asses, waiting for your entitlement from Mandela
If you think he's going to come and part the Dead Sea
and lead you to your promised land, you are wrong, brother.

Lucky: So, you fucked up your own country, now you want to fuck up this place too
Tony: I don't want to fuck anything
I sell drugs, that is business
They call us pushers, but I don't push, it flies off the shelves

Read that again - I don't push, it flies off the shelves. Buriful!

Lucky: You're late.
Nazareth: Traffic. It won't happen again.

Wait, what won't happen again? Your being late or the traffic? Traffic is a killer in African cities. I don't miss that.

Zakes: They say it's a betrayal.
Lucky: Why should we embarrassed about being rich? Those days are over. Just because I'm a darkie, doesn't mean I have to live in the slums. I'll live as I choose to live and 'f' who I want to 'f'.

See how brotherman in eye open as he start dey chop white woman? Trouble.

Lucky: Forget about the girls and focus. Nazareth: Relax man, I am focused.
Okay. Wait, focused on what? The job or the girls?

This is what I call redistribution, via back door.
Remember back-door aka protocol admission? Most back-door processes are illegal.

Do you know how much money we can make? Millions, cash
Of course, it was the Nigerian talking here. And he's Igbo. If you don't know anything about Igbos, understand this. They love cash. They make it rain.

Guy: I mean, how many people die of chocolate?
Lady: Well I don't know, sounds like a good idea.
Guy: Oh, be serious, how many people die of lung cancer and enphezema?

Wɔntɛllɛ wo anaa dɛ wɔnblow wo? If something cool could send you to the grave, why not chocolate?

They say behind every fortune is a crime
The greater the fortune, the greater the crime
But I don't know about that
It seems the only people who say that probably never made one
What's important in life is to set goals and go after them
After every new revolution comes a new order, but before that comes opportunity
Adapt or die.

That is how the movie signs off. Like that. Marvelous.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

South African movie Jerusalema - Issues arising

I have watched the South African movie, Jerusalema, about 4 times in the last month. It's pretty good. I personally enjoyed Tsotsi more but Jerusalema has a little more depth. South Africans in general seem to rate it higher than the Oscar-winning Tsotsi. Jerusalema is a movie about Lucky Kunene (played by Rapulano Seiphemo), a regular black South African who tries to make a living in the 'new South Africa', hatches up a plan to enrich himself and then must use his street smarts to survive. Lucky Kunene becomes a crime boss who takes 'affirmative repossession' to a whole new level. The movie won't be as great as it's claimed to be if it didn't throw light on various issues. I am going to discuss a few here.

One big theme in Jerusalema is 'stealing'. The movie takes us to the late 1990's, whene Lucky Kunene and his friend Zakes are introduced to the carjacking business by an older friend, Nazareth. Nazareth has just returned from Russia, when he escaped to during the apartheid days. He is a fugitive pretty much and in his time abroad, he doesn't learn much apart from Ak47's. He calls 'carjacking' affirmative repossession. In the 'new South Africa', black people are bent on recovering some of the riches stolen from them by whites. The cars may not be theirs, but to many people on the streets, it's affirmative repossession.

My Nigerian friend borrowed the movie to watch and didn't miss the Nigerian references in the movie. The Nigerians in the movie were portrayed as drug dealers and pimps. I don't know why they had to choose Nigerians to play such roles in this script but that wasn't cool. Could this be the life some of the Nigerians in South Africa are living? Yes, it turns out some. Lucky Kunene had a line where he claimed Tony Ngu's people had messed up their own country and came to South Africa to mess up theirs as well. Tony Ngu in turn talks about 'entitlement' from Mandela. In 2008, news of xenophobia attacks in South Africa made the rounds and some foreigners there lost their lives. Some people argue the South African government is not doing enough to empower the blacks as their jobs are taken by the 'makwerekwere'. One other thing to note here is that these Nigerian roles are not played by Nigerians. Discuss.

The movie also contrasts life in the townships versus that in the cities. We see a bustling Johannesburg with skyscrapers and busy streets. Hey, they have trotros, danfos, matatus and mini-vans in South Africa as well. Who would have thought? The mini-van scene showcases a preacher doing his work too. The cities have their own projects as well. Hillbrow features many overpopulated apartment buildings which have been run-down. We see a scene shot in the gated communities as well.

Most of the black-white relations we see have to do with law enforcement. There is one relationship that takes form during the movie, an interracial one. Does Lucky Kunene upgrade himself by dating a white woman? That said, I want to see White Wedding. I find it interesting that the white lady was a Jew. Is that so because the movie is entitled Jerusalema? She also made a comment in the movie about white people finding poverty glamorous.

"After every revolution comes a new order". With the Blacks ruling the country and trying to empower their own people, Whites sometimes receive the worse end of the stick. No one goes around snitching in order to get their brother or sister in trouble with the law. The solidarity that existed in the freedom struggle trickles down to most places. Jerusalema is the promised land for Black South Africans, where they can get opportunity and control their destiny somewhat. Lucky Kunene uses a smile, a briefcase and some force to get what he wants.

This was a difficult blog to write. I can't tell how tasking it was to write 'Blacks' and 'Whites'. Ask me why. I don't know. I didn't want to come off as an expert in South African affairs. I was only elaborating on some interesting themes in the movie and setting it up for further discussion. A movie that draws up this much chatter and controversy is a worthwhile watch. I highly recommend the movie, it's one of the best African movies I have ever seen.

(Blog on Jerusalema quotes) .

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