Music is probably the only thing you can take from a moment in time apart from a memory. It leaves indelible prints on the heart and mind. From my trip to Accra I brought back Afrobeats . . . not as though I did not know about it or enjoy it in the past. I’m a fairly international soul, enjoying music from Ethiopia’s Aster Aweke to India’s A.R. Rahman and Cuba’s Silvio Rodriguez.
I already enjoyed the music of P-Square, 2face Idibia, Asa and others, but now I found artists that not only embodied a “culture,” but an experience. To walk in Ghana and listen to Ghanaian Afrobeats is something different. It is to understand the music in a more real and visceral way. It is not only to enjoy the music as it originates from a place, but to understand why, in an emotional, physical and tangible way.
In Ghana I found Efya–this lovely voice is like a bell, leaving a lyrical trail like a green flowering vine, growing ever higher. I first heard her song, “One of Your Own” while on a very long trip to see a Slave Castle on the coast of Accra. I asked my driver after a few minutes, “Please, what is this song called?”
The driver paused a moment, thought about it and told me. I listened, captured by the beat, the instrumental quality and voices. They have voices like the gods! I think listening to African music is good for the heart and the head. I think it makes you healthier and happier–at least as an African-American, it makes me well.
When I got back to the States, I searched up Efya and listened to her music catalog on Spotify. I listened to everything I could find. But while listening to “One of Your Own” , I heard this voice–the most amazing male singer I have ever heard in my life. The song featured an Afrobeats musician, called Bisa Kdei.
I searched Bisa Kdei’s music catalog and instantly fell in love with every song he ever wrote or sang. It is my personal belief, he is the male vocal equivalent of Whitney Houston. I’ve not heard a voice like his in my entire life, it is a blessing to hear. And when I want to remember Ghana or feel close to the Most High, I listen to Bisa Kdei. Each artists leads me to another.
I’m excited to learn about new artists, but more than anything I am happy to hear Africa in their voices. African voices that are singing about Africa and the experience of living and loving on the Continent that gave us all life. It’s refreshing to listen and hear these voices. I wish deeply our own African American voices here in Mainstream American music had the freedom to really sing about the everyday life and loves of African Americans the way Africans do. I’m often dismayed when I hear a beautiful African American voice and an exquisite melody singing about gang-banging, drugs, perpetual cheating, ego and money. It’s disappointing.
I guess that is why I love American music by Mali Music, Aloe Blacc, Musiq Soul Child and similar artists. They speak about the real life experiences of an Imported people–real and human, breathing living, hoping, dreaming and happy to be who they are.
So I found Afrobeats–or Afrobeats found me. I remember, while standing in the Ghana Embassy waiting to get my visa, I heard harmonizing voices coming from within. It is a moment etched into my memory, like listening to Efya’s “One of Your Own,” in Ghana and realizing in a real way how Africans and African Americans needed to rediscover each other–to learn that we are each others own.
In fact, while in Ghana, I watched Africans on TV and listened to the music–it felt natural. In fact, when coming back, it felt unnatural and voyeuristic to steadily look at only one color in media, magazines, and music that was not your own. I don’t understand the feeling entirely, but it persists, making me acutely aware of the absence of African faces and voices–and how much I miss them. I miss them. So I fill my ears and heart with the music–until next time Ghana–until next time Africa, pray I see you again soon.
So Afrobeats won me . . . and lately, its been the only thing I want to hear.