For example, at a cultural performance held at the State House in , dancer and musical performer Cecilia Adjei "asked why we can't rap in our local dialects. She tried something [in the Dagbane language] and so did I [in the Ga language] and several other artists and people found it to be very interesting and exciting. In the late s, the increasing ease of international travel and expanding access to foreign television, radio, and video facilitated the rapid movement of images, objects, and practices between Ghana and the rest of the world.
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Through the s the development of cultural tourism brought an increasing number of students and tourists to Ghana to experience African culture. After the return of democratic rule in , many young Ghanaians living abroad returned to seek opportunities in the newly privatizing economy. One young hiplife artist told me that if a new fashion or product comes out in New York, the next day it is in Accra. CDs, cassettes, and videos are sent by relatives in the United States or Europe, sold by traders who regularly travel abroad, or acquired by elite youth who travel during holidays.
Cassettes and music videos began to circulate, and images of African American artists began to appear on T-shirts, paintings, and posters throughout Accra and other urban centers. Young men adopted hip hop styles of dress, African American vernacular phrases, and forms of bodily expression. At first it was mostly elite young men in Accra and Kumasi and in coastal boarding schools listening to these radical foreign-sounding beats with forceful new social messages. Children of Lebanese, Syrian, and Indian merchants as well as those of mixed parentage were drawn to the music as a marker of black American coolness, resonating for the second generation born after independence coming of age in the context of the revolutionary coups of and Students in elite secondary schools such as Accra Academy, Achimota School, and Presec Boys had easier access to American images and products and were more fluent in English than their rural counterparts.
School variety shows provided venues for teens to form rap groups.
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In this Book. Additional Information. Table of Contents. Cover Download Save. Identity and Hybridity Mali and Nigeria 6. Schulz 7. East Coast Kenya and Tanzania 8. Popular Music Panoramas Ghana and Malawi Drumming Mali Privacy Notice Accessibility Help. Skip to services menu. Search by title, author, keyword or ISBN. School variety shows provided venues for teens to form rap groups. At first they lip-synched to recordings of American rappers. They soon began to copy American lyrical flows and themes and write their own raps in English Asare Williams interview.
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As these elite youth began adopting hip hop dress and styles, it became a local marker of cosmopolitanism and status. Ghanaians identified with black diasporic images of capitalist accumulation and success that were increasingly appearing in films and television shows. These styles were understood as status markers and quickly became popular among non-elite urban youth with less direct access to them. Young men in Accra marked their identification with the alternate forms of consumption provided by African American hip hop culture using African American vernacular, wearing baggy pants, oversized chains, basketball sneakers or Timberland boots, sunglasses and goggles, baseball caps, name-brand clothing, and knockoff gear.
For poor youth coming to the city to find work, hip hop became a way of differentiating themselves from their rural kinship ties and ideas of traditional culture. He remembers how class hierarchies were reflected through popular culture and how they were enacted around the open-air drinking spots around Adabraka and other Accra neighborhoods. We were into break dancing, rapping, and all the hip hop culture Boys from [elite] schools Then there were the more local boys from down the ghetto, we used them as foot-soldiers They would easily throw a punch for you.
We were the loud mouths, trying to be heard. Menson interview. English was seen as the language of cosmopolitanism, and access to hip hop became the purview of elite youth with fluency in English. As Menson recalls, "Then, you dare not [rap] in the local language. You would be a laughing stock.
Reflecting on the negative connotations of traditional culture among certain urban Ghanaians, Menson continued, "I mean it's amazing. In those days you couldn't wear kente cloth [traditional woven cloth]. We had to wait for someone like [American rapper] Heavy D to wear kente caps before we saw it as acceptable to follow our own traditional forms of dress. While for older Ghanaians, British English had marked elite status, for Ghanaians born after independence, African American styles and speech became signs of authority.
As Menson told me, "Our accents changed We wanted to sound like black Americans. For Ghanaian audiences, the appeal was not necessarily the specific lyrical content. According to Reggie Rockstone, many youth who were less fluent in English did not even understand the lyrics. Instead, American hip hop appealed to them through its formal stylistic elements. Hip hop street culture expressed defiant forms of bodily expression, new modes of dress, and symbols of male sexual conquest and wealth.
This music and style represented the promises of American material success through a particular racial lens. At a time when Ghana was moving away from critiques of neocolonialism in the s and toward an acceptance of Western liberalizing capitalist reforms, these images of black accumulation and consumption became a means for engaging the possibilities and dangers of global free market capitalism.
The perceived toughness and worldly success of African American hip hop stars became markers of status for Ghanaian youth. The Notorious B. Tupac represented both the possibilities and dangers of their changing relationship with the institutions of power and desires for worldly success.