A Visit to Ghana and Chance the Rapper’s FREE Black Star Line Festival was the healing tonic I needed to beat the Canadian Winter Blues

Global Unity in all its forms is seldom achieved, but Music is the sweet force that gently disarms all sides to lay down their guard and simply ..listen and dance. As a middle-aged man, a Ghanaian Canadian music enthusiast, and a singer, a visit to Ghana was the healing tonic I needed. An escape from the wintery, very unmusical, and discordant snowstorm-filled wails back in Canada to sunshine, heat, and the throbbing polyrhythms of Mother Africa!

My daughter traveling with me to Ghana alerted me to the FREE Black Star Line Festival, hosted by Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa, with an impressive array of stars: Erykah Badu, T-Pain, stonebwoy, Sarkodie, Asakaa Boys, Jeremih, and M. Some names I hadn't heard of, but I was excited to be part of a global Ghanaian musical experience at Independence Square on Jan 6, 2023, the beating heart of Ghana's capital city, Accra. The glorious concert was supposed to be the grand finale. Still, the week was festooned with important conferences imploring those from the African diaspora to return to Ghana and the rest of the African continent to celebrate the beauty of African Art, Music, Food, and Drink and bring with them fresh ideas to empower the lives of the ordinary Africans who have been embattled with rising costs post-pandemic on meager monthly wages.

One conference of note was the Pan African Symposium at the International Conference Center called 'Black Star Line X Revolt Summit conversation with Samia Nkrumah. Samia is the esteemed daughter of Ghana's first President, Kwame Nkrumah, who reiterated the need for

Unity amongst African Nations on the continent and beyond. The reverberations of the Ukrainian -Russian war sounded distant but unnerving as its economic repercussions are being felt globally. Global Unity at risk.

In the days preceding the concert, the talk of Vic Mensa, Uk rapper extraordinaire, philanthropic initiative spilled out on social media. Vic Mensa had partnered with his Ghanaian father to provide clean water by building boreholes serving three different districts in Ghana. A wonderful poignant initiative in contrast to the month-long heady club-filled festival parties atmosphere was a welcome real-world endeavor.

Speaking of "real world" endeavors, it is my mission to showcase the stories of my beloved African heritage and the artisans' immense talents and help them to promote and enrich their livelihood through a fair trade price exchange. I believe in trade-not aid- a fair trade reciprocal exchange. Peering into my TANAKA AFRICA email inbox today, I am pleased to find that two new customer "fans' ' have claimed for themselves the exquisitely designed Unity Globe. I quickly alerted our expert wood carver in Ghana. With his ingenuity, this artisan has carved and crafted teneboa wood from blocks of nothing into majestic pieces of sculpting wonder for decades. The Unity Globe, with its sinewy arms outstretched, bodies and heads conjoined, symbolizes the might of the common struggles of humanity together to conquer, withstand oppression, and ultimately hold the globe aloft in victory. Against all prevailing odds!

Purchasing African home decor from these artisans is a tangible and powerful action for social change. Buying African art home decor is a potent tool in the global redistribution of wealth and resources as it empowers artisans' local economy, sustains and creates artisanal jobs, preserves traditional African design practices that have been passed down through the generations and celebrates the cultural heritage of their community. It is Tanaka Africa's mission to help customers understand that they can change the world and make a difference through consumerism and that they can help others by helping themselves.

Africa's stories have historically been muted, and we believe that we can change this tradition through the shifting of our societal attitudes towards power, justice, and equality through purchasing African home decor. Tanaka is a Zimbabwean Shona language term meaning We are beautiful and TANAKA AFRICA believes that we can be beautiful together. Our one-of-a-kind pieces serve as the perfect gift with a story to culturally enrich any home with the flavor of Africa. We invite you to take our artisans' handcrafted handiwork and ingenuity to reside with you in your beautiful home. Take a piece of Africa home!

It does indeed take a village to raise a child, and we must continue to remember that the whole is greater than the sum of its individuals to achieve a better world. Ubuntu (Zulu pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼù]) is a Nguni Bantu term meaning "humanity." It is sometimes translated as "I am because we are" (also "I am because you are") or "humanity towards others" (Zulu umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu). The world is indeed increasingly a splintered globe of the 'have nots' fast rising and indentured to the 'haves' The rise and fall of the currency and its devalued states can reap delightful bounty for those on the lucky side of the world, as for them the sweet milk never stops flowing. In gated communities and air-conditioned villas, wifi streaming, our overflowing bellies and sumptuous meals are served by desperate-to-please chefs, ready to cater to our every whim. Not far in the near distance is the reality that can be easily and wilfully ignored.

Here in Ghana, young children, bellies not nearly as full, playing in hazardous environments nettled with rough rocks and terrain, perilously close to large open gutters of sewage that lack adequately regulated sanitation. Sewage is a direct link to the transmission of diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera and dysentery, as well as typhoid, intestinal worm infections, and polio. If diseases aren't the culprit, then injurious harm comes second. The Unity Globe is a memento to those who dare to improve the conditions of their fellow citizens, making a difference to enrich the lives of not just the chosen and fortunate few but All. The Unity Globe acknowledges that together We can be One. We Must Uplift!

Enough about these sobering thoughts, and back to the concert and Music! As Bob Marley sang in Trenchtown Rock, "One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain'" Our reverie was awakened by the sights and sounds of concert goers as our small entourage of my daughter, cousins, and friends arrived at Independence Square to line up and immerse ourselves in the Ghanaian Festival attendance experience! 'Obroni na ka sen' loosely translated as 'What does the White man Say?' A group of Asaaaka Boys fans shouted outside the gates in anticipation of this local tour de force drill music group's appearance at the festival. These Ghanaian rap stars have built an upbeat and rebellious rap groove. The hearty response to what the white man (obroni) says? 'Asaaka boys! Of course!".

Officially the concert started at 2pm but 'Ghana time' could give you a leeway of 4 to 6 hours. When we got to the gates at 5 pm, we were greeted by a beautiful array of excited concertgoers. Black, White, Young, Old, families all en-masse, all peacefully gathered, all grateful to see major and burgeoning global stars on Ghanaian soil for FREE. My fears were allayed as we all inched closer to being let in, and great care was taken by festival organizers to avoid tragic instances of stampeding fans that occur in concert festivals around the world.

Security was present at every step of the stadium entrance. As a veteran concertgoer, It was indeed a FIRST, FREE bottled water, handed out at every turn inside and outside the gates, as well as FREE delicious coconut water directly from the coconut to cool down, sipping from a straw. Impressive. GoodWill and not corporate greed was revealed by real-time evidence, an eye-opener for me, and helped to soften my well-earned cynicism of past corporate festival media money-grasping intent.

Upon entrance, we were embraced by gigantic state-of-the-art screens above the filled concert stage area chock-full of jubilant concert attendees and another gigantic screen perched above us, the incoming adjunct concert revelers audience space next to the main stage! Crystal clear state of sound emanated from the gigantic speakers, and great close-up screenshots of the performing artists ensured everyone had the Black Star line Festival experience.

Act after Act exceeded expectations; Vic Mensa, Sarkordie, Asaaka Boys, StoneBwoy, etc., broke new ground, and the crowd sang along and danced to songs they had embraced in their childhood or recent hits from their favorites. In between acts, there were DJs and guest stars like Dave Chapelle on stage, and my only quibble was the length of time it was taking for some of the premier stars to take the stage. At about 3am, our entourage had had enough of standing. We retreated to a seated pavilion area, where u could cool your feet and hear the concert clearly. A well-visited vendor area ensured no one was hungry, thirsty, or short of 'Chance the Rapper' merch.

Our group had been patiently waiting for the First lady of Neo-Soul, Erykah Badu. Some in our tired entourage and fans of Erykah Badu were just about to surrender hope of her appearance, and ..like a vision, her Funky self and entourage strode confidently on stage. 5am! We leaped to our feet from the pavilion to the Concert stage area and wriggled our way through crowds to get close to the 5 octaves ranged Super Soul Diva. She didn't disappoint.! Masterful stagecraft, dressed in a regal queen soul Sorceress ensemble. Erykah Badu walking and working the stage runway that reached further into the crowd as she soaked in the love she caught from her adoring fans. She reciprocated with Sweet, Soulful melodic interplays with her backup singers. Harmonies resonated from angelic voices, and Ms. Badu's scintillating golden-throated vocal flourishes to underscore why she wears the crown of First Lady of Neo Soul deservedly. Her efforts showed her warm appreciation. Ms. Badu teased that she would be finished yet kept her deft band groovin' as she belted out hit after hit, one of her many highlights being 'bag lady.'

We wrung out from dance and excitement, opted to bolt; the faithful stayed as 'Chance the Rapper' was the closing headline act. In our ears ringing as we were leaving was hearing Chance the Rapper' grateful for people staying and thanking them for attending a beautiful festival, with the promise of it being the first of an annual event.

A near perfect concert experience, and surely next time, logistics of less wait times will be fixed, but it underscored that African Music's time has come of age globally and the power of music to gather and spread positive vibrations worldwide wielding not only exciting rhythms and beats to be discovered such as 'Amapiano' a hot new beat from South Africa and AfroBeat Nigerian singer empress, the ethereal voiced, 'Tems' and amazing artists abound,.but also underscore how we can fuse Music and dance with socio-economic awareness and address real disparities in poverty and wealth, and issues around LGBTQ violence in Africa; to uplift all and be indeed a source for the greater good. We do not avert our eyes, much like the Unity Globe. We must Uplift! Take a piece of Africa home!

Older Post Newer Post