The political world temperature right now is at an historic high. From revolution that began on the streets of NYC to youth in London and the Middle East taking part in uprisings against oppressive governments, a La Résistance mindset rules the day.
In Accra, Ghana, a couple of visionaries are building a movement of their own; one part indie artist collective, one part community dialogue generator, ACCRA[dot]ALT tackles head on the issues facing not only the music community, but society as a whole.
With monthly events like the Talk Party Series, ACCRA[dot]ALT founders Mantse Aryeequaye and Dr. Sionne Neely provide a space for the open exchange of ideas and the non-judgmental exploration of cultural mindsets on topics that may have been deemed too taboo for discussion before now, with a desired effect of increased unity, tolerance and respect.
Interview by Sierra McClain
Now aiming to reach even further into their community and beyond, ACCRA[dot]ALT has embarked upon a film project with REDD Kat Pictures called Gbaa Mi Sané (Talk to Me), to examine day-to-day reality in Accra via discourse on a variety of social issues and musical expression.
I discussed the movement and film project Dr. Neely, as well as the imprint she hopes it will leave on Accra and the world.
WHAT WAS THE MOTIVATION TO START ACCRA [dot] ALT?
ACCRA [dot] ALT began as a series of conversations among indie artists in Accra about the challenges they were facing making their crafts economically viable. Music artists, for example, experience a number of issues exposing their music to global audiences such as payola to radio and television presenters, copyright infringement, street and digital piracy, exploitation by management and event organizers, and the lack of governmental support for the music industry. We provide a safe space for musicians, writers, photographers, visual artists, and designers to come together and exhibit their brave, unconventional work for eclectic audiences in Accra.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE RESPONSE BEEN SO FAR?
Incredible. We have two loyal, growing audiences - one here in Accra (including other parts of Ghana) and the other international. We host cultural events regularly in Accra and in just over a year, we've put on an indie music concert (the second installment of IND!E FUSE returns Dec. 17th) that features live music by the dopest artists in Accra and internationally, the CHALE WOTE Street Arts Festival (the second edition takes place on April 14, 2012) which drew more than 2,000 people into the streets of James Town for the largest free urban festival ever in Accra and was covered by BBC Radio and BBC Focus on Africa. We also host The Talk Party Series, a monthly independent film screening/discussion/live music jam the last Friday of every month which draws anywhere from 75 to 150 people.
DO YOU SEEK TO INVOLVE ARTISTS IN ANY PARTICULAR GENRE OF MUSIC?
We are fans of great music. We enjoy artists who create new soundscapes in their work by fusing a number of genres - for example, hip hop, rare West African grooves, highlife, AfroBeat, and electronic soul into a magic potpourri. There is a growing collective of artists in Accra who are experimenting with some funky stuff and we like to highlight their work in our programming (DJ Juls, Kobby Graham of DUSTLYVE, music producers Kweku Ananse and A.R.T., singers Jojo Abot and Azizaa, rappers FOKN BOIS and Yaa Pono, among others).
WHERE DO YOU HOLD YOUR TALK PARTY SESSIONS?
The Talk Party Series takes place the last Friday of every month from 6-9:30pm in the downtown district of Osu in Accra at a food place called Passions Premium Restaurant. This is a critical space for young people living and working in Ghana to come together and discuss taboo subjects such as poverty and debt, religious conflict, homophobia and sexism, and Ghanaian identity. Artists from a wide range of disciplines work together to find solutions to these deep matters through collaborative projects (IND!E FUSE, the CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival, and a number of short film productions have developed through our Talk Parties).
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE THE DISCUSSION TOPICS AND FILMS FOR THE TALK PARTY SERIES?
The topics we tackle in The Talk Party Series usually come from smaller conversation circles we've had with friends and other artists. Why is God big business in Ghana? What does it mean to be Ghanaian? How are young gay Ghanaians coping under a hostile public discourse against the expression of their sexuality? These dialogues are both critical and constructive and thrive through a persistent re-imagining of Ghana's history and the conditions of possibility for our future. The films we show tend to be indie docs about cultural movements where artists ban together and create progressive change for their communities.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN FOR GBAA MI SANE?**
Gbaa Mi Sané (Talk to Me) is a 20-minute documentary film that examines the compelling conversations of The Talk Party Series and the magic mojo music by a diverse group of eclectic artists that call Accra home. Accra has amazing creative capacity and a growing scene of young artists and scholars relocating here from all over the world. This film illustrates the indie music scene in Accra through unveiling and intimate interviews and performances with the folks who are changing the sound of Ghana. Accra is fast becoming the new pulse of African music and politics and Gbaa Mi Sané will give viewers a sincere look into life in a West African city through the eyes of young visionaries who are changing their societies.
Our Kickstarter campaign ended last Saturday, Dec. 3rd. We have met our goal of $5,000. These funds will be used to pay for the production of the documentary.
Check out the project: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/943963899/gbaa-mi-sane-talk-to-me
HOW DID THE COLLABORATION BETWEEN ACCRA [dot] ALT and REDD Kat Pictures come to be?
Sionne Neely, producer of ACCRA [dot] ALT, has been researching the music industry in Ghana for the past six years and the challenges many musicians are facing releasing their work to global audiences. ACCRA [dot] ALT comes out of this DIY energy where artists here must work quite imaginatively to sustain their craft and a firm belief that if we are working collaboratively that we can produce what's needed to make Accra's art scene thrive. Mantse Aryeequaye, Creative Director of REDD Kat Pictures, has more than a decade of experience in multimedia journalism. He is a remarkable filmmaker and co-host of The Talk Party Series. REDD Kat Pictures has been documenting these conversations since it's first meeting in June 2009.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FUTURE PLANS TO IMPACT THE ACCRA COMMUNITY THROUGH ACCRA [dot] ALT?
ACCRA [dot] ALT is a cultural network that encourages the alternative expression of African art by Ghanaians and emerging artists worldwide. We operate as a conduit to exhibit the work of indie Ghanaian artists for global audiences. Our mission is to create original projects that illustrate Ghana's cultural viability and a capacity for international creative exchange and collaboration.
DO YOU HOPE TO GROW AND HAVE A NATION OR GLOBAL-WIDE REACH, OR IS YOUR FOCUS TO REMAIN SOMETHING ACCRA CAN CALL ITS OWN?
ACCRA [dot] ALT presents original and fresh content by Ghanaian artists, within the country and internationally, for a global audience. Our aim is to keep presenting the exciting work of these artists while also creating opportunities for international exchange and collaboration with like-minded folks.
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN MENTORING SIMILAR GROUPS ELSEWHERE IN GHANA OR ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD?
Yes, we are interested in mentoring individuals, students, and other cultural organizations worldwide.
WHERE CAN READERS GO FOR MORE INFO ON THE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN AND ABOUT ACCRA [dot] ALT?
Check out our blog, http://accradotalttours.wordpress.com for more information on The Talk Party Series and other ACCRA [dot] ALT projects. Visit www.vimeo.com/reddkatpictures for a look at our video work. For news updates on The Talk Party Series and Ghanaian indie artists you should meet, follow us on Twitter @Accradotalt.
Contributor Sierra McClain's website: iwriteyoushouldread.com.