Visions of a New World – Ghana


Ghana offers a great range of contemporary music, inspired by international trends like trap and dancehall, mixed with local rhythms and melodies, sung in different languages, with topics related to corruption, to religion to champagne. Enjoy this round up with recent tracks and video clips.

Still from video clip «Crazy» by Preachers (Ghana)

Still from video clip «Crazy» by Preachers (Ghana)

In Ghana they call it hiplife or just afropop or local songs, in Anglophone African Diasporas they sometimes use the term afrobeats. These popular sounds co-emerged with privatisation of media in Ghana in the early 1990s, promoted through then new private radio stations, produced in small studios by pioneers like Reggie Rockstone. Local rappers started to spit lyrics in local languages like Ewe, Ga or Pidgin, and thanks to digitalization of production and promotion these sounds became less and less music of an elite, but a sound through which young people from different regions and backgrounds in Ghana aspire to reach status, popularity, fame, money, success.

These tracks at times use local rhythms, or melodies and harmonies from local highlife music – the former popular music in Ghana. Others are full of international flavours: dancehall, ragga, reggae, and recently US American trap – similar to a lot of rap music worldwide that today is inspired by OG Maco and other trap rappers. Some of these tracks and clips are socially and politically engaged. Some celebrate lifestyle in big villas, swimming pools, expensive cars, and champagne. Others deal with slavery, the colonial past, and with religion – especially with the fast growing number of Pentecostal churches in the region. Others again are full of exoticism: videos play in traditional villages, and they picture lions, zebras or giraffes – similar to house music videos in South Africa (see article by Percy Mabandu on Norient).

Today, these sounds make around 40% of the Ghanaian music market, while most of the rest is Gospel music (see article by Florian Carl on Norient). Today’s big stars – i.e. Sarkodie, Fuse OGD, R2Bees or D-Black – became ambassadors of international brands and produce expensive clips in Ghana and abroad. The music again is well connected to Ghanaian Diasporas in the US and Europe. Many singers, producers and DJ’s lived abroad at least once in their lives, and some do so today, but try to keep one foot into Ghana.

Overall this music is a sign for changes on many levels: of growing transnational networks between Africa and the world, of new business ideas in music production and consumption, for changing power and speaking roles in Ghanaian society (usually the elders spoke, now young rappers and poets do), for the vision that international urban music trends increasingly come in fact from African cities. Think of Kuduro, Azonto or Mahragan.

«They only hear you when you show them nudes
They never wanna hear you when it’s about the people
Never wanna hear you when it’s about the country
Never wanna hear you
Never wanna hear you»
(Poetra Asantewa «Naked Listeners»)

Recommended Literature
> Jesse Weaver Shipley. 2013. Living the Hiplife. Duke University Press
> Nathan Plagman. 2012. Highlife Saturday Night. Indiana University Press

Linked Projects
> Film contradict (see here and below)
> New Norient Book Seismographic Sounds – Visions of a New World (see and order here)

Track, Trap and Video Selection

Enjoy some of the latest and few older tracks and video clips from Ghana and from the Ghanaian Diaspora: Hiplife, Afrobeats, Afropop, Azonto, Spoken Word, Trap, Trapzonto, and other styles and sub styles. Collected with the help of Benjamin Lebrave from Akwaaba Music, Wanlov the Kubolor and M3nsa from the FOKN Bois, our friends Jay Rutledge and Georg Milz from Outhere Records in Munich, Awesome Tapes from Africa, and others. Thanks a lot of your work, efforts, and support.

With: the FOKN Bois, Worlasi, Jojo Abot, Akan Music, Poetra Asantewa, M.anifest, Kwame Write, Yaa Pono, Kofi Kinaata, Lady Jay, Kuvie, King Ayisoba, Tony Harmony, Ko-Jo Cue, Bisa Kdei, Edem, DJ Katapila, Mutombo Da Poet, RedRed Music, Dark Suburb, and others.

Recommended Links
> Playlist «Visions of a New World – Cairo 2015» (here)
> More Tracks from Ghana (here)
> More Clips from Ghana (here)

Film contradict

This Ghana-Round-Up is part of the research for the film project contradict (Recycled Tv AG and Norient). See more info here.

Quotes from Ghana and new FOKN Bois Album

Few quotes collected for the film project «contradict» and for our book and exhibition project Seismographic Sounds- Visions of a New World (book / exhibition) And: The new album by the FOKN Bois is out.

«We were never raised to care about our country. We were raised to know whatever we are learning is for us to get a visa to somewhere else, or to go to heaven.» Wanlov the Kubolor, FOKN Bois

«In Ghana, you don’t make money from selling your songs online or selling them on the market: everybody is downloading or bluetoothing. As an artist you get power from the number of downloads of your songs. If your song has over 10,000 downloads, it means that it is popular. You can then try to push yourself on radio stations and get TV interviews. As soon as the song is on everybody’s lips you’ll get shows. And when you get shows, you get paid. All famous Ghanaian musicians or bands like Sarkodie, D-Black, or R2bees made it because they’ve been able to publicize their work and sell themselves well on the Ghanaian market. Big companies are coming in and supporting artists in Ghana. Sarkodie now has brand endorsements from Samsung, Fan Milk and other global companies. I make my living as a DJ, writing adverts, editing, doing voice-overs, hosting concerts and finally being a brand ambassador for companies like DSTV, Smirnoff, and some clothing lines.» DJ Black (Ghana)

«FOKN Bois is a place where we say things that people are thinking but never saying.» M3nsa, FOKN Bois

«We do it as a self-therapy. If you guys have the power to walk around at 3 am with loudspeakers on the street and wake us up with your message from god, then we should also be able to express our views. And it comes out as teasing, making fun, and people say blasphemy. But we don’t know any other way to win. We make fun as our form of self-expression, so that we remain sane.» Wanlov the Kubolor, FOKN Bois


Dr. Thomas Burkhalter is an ethnomusicologist, music journalist, and cultural producer from Switzerland. The founder and director of Norient, he published the book Local Music Scenes and Globalization: Transnational Platforms in Beirut (Routledge) and co-edited The Arab Avant-Garde: Music, Politics, Modernity (Wesleyan University Press), Seismographic Sounds – Visions of a New World (Norient) and Out of the Absurdity of Life – Globale Musik (Norient/Traversion). He works as a researcher and project leader at the University of Basel and the University of Arts Bern (HKB), financed by the Swiss National Foundation (SNF). As the director of the Norient Musikfilm Festival, a documentary filmmaker and audio-visual performer, he places emphasis on transdisciplinary approaches between theory and practice.

See CV, publications, films and projects: Here

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2 responses to “Visions of a New World – Ghana”

  1. […] Ghana offers a great range of contemporary music, inspired by international trends like trap and dancehall, mixed with local rhythms and melodies, sung in different languages, with topics related to corruption, to religion to champagne. Enjoy this round up with recent tracks and video clips. More Info Here. […]

  2. […] Thomas Burkhalter: «Visions of a New World – Ghana» > Wanlov The Kubolor: «In Ghana, Stromae Wouldn’t Be […]