For two days, the Old Kingsway Building at James town (for those unfamiliar, it’s next to Ussher Fort) was home to hip hop. Rappers, both semi-mainstream and up-coming, took their turn to thrill, selliing their artistry to the hundreds present within the graffiti blemished walls of this iconic ground.
The organizer of the event was Yoyotinz, a media outlet with interest in promoting Ghanaian brand of hip hop music and culture. For over four years, the Yoyotinz crew has put together what began as the Yoyotinz Block party to now ‘Yoyotinz Shrine’. The venue has moved from the Bible House area (‘Gbobalor Hip hop’), then to space close to the Post Office (with Yoyotinz Shrine). The Old Kingway Building has hosted two Yoyotinz event (Robosapien in 2016) and Yoyotinz Shrine this year. This current place is now the permanent home for Yoyotinz. The crowd has been growing each year like the Chalewote Festival from which the event takes its soul.
This year was the first year in my four year ‘Chalewote pilgrimage’ that I attended as an ‘observer’. The last three years were mostly to work- rigorously updating social media pages for those unable to attend follow the event, shuffling from one event to another just so I don’t miss anything of importance. This year was different. I was there to chill-lay back, hang out with friends, walk to other event venues at my own pace, not because it was urgent. The 19th and 20th of August were the days that I never really cared if my phone battery died because I was there not to work.
Aside the many shades of humans you meet (to put it aptly ‘mom ma yenka na Ghana mbaa ho y3 f3 (It’s no lie that Ghanaian girls are beautiful), the dope graffiti works, art installations, many food joints, open air bars and the many shops that lined the streets of Jamestown, I was impressed by how relatively easy it was to navigate through the crowd compared to last year. The organizers, AccradotAlt deserve some plaudits for taking the feedback from last year and improving on it. I know the debate on whether Jamestown could continue to serve as the ‘home of Chalewote’ or a new venue need to be found shall continue.
Aside these interesting observations, most of the things that appealed to me happened at the ‘Yoyotinz Shrine’, a stage for artistes to have a good time with both old and new fans. Yoyotinz is big on spotlighting newcomers. They have played a part in propelling some of them to where they are currently through publications, promotions and putting them on their stages. I must state that, I didn’t catch all the performances especially on Saturday 19th August but I saw the tweets and videos.
First observation was the location of the venue. It’s the first activity spot you’d encounter on your way to the festival grounds, when coming from the High Street. Whether this factor influenced the choice of location or not, it without a doubt, became a shrine to visit (no pun). People came in there either on the grounds of curiosity or legit desire to witness some very remarkable performances.
Second has to do with the reaction of these fans when it came to new artistes whose music or set were outside the borders of hip hop. Case in point was when new act Sofie took her turn to perform on Saturday. The hyped audience, who had been treated to some dope hip-hop music courtesy the incredible DJ Vimtimz hours before, stood and watched the acoustic renditions from this young artiste performing this ‘strange’ music set.
The fans had the option of exhibiting their displeasure via booing or aloofness, which could have negatively punctured her confidence. No, they rather listened, applauded and hummed along to the melodies even if they knew not the words. This reaction, I’m sure did her confidence some good. Another artiste who got an impressionable ton of applause was reggae artiste/producer Oga Chux.
This kind of patience from the fans is one of the nuggets of this event.
The Yoyotinz Shrine served as a ‘home’ for some artistes like Worlasi, Akan, AYAT. It’s always a great reception whenever they’d graced the stage. The fans go crazy, each time they step on the stage. Sunday, August 20th was not different. Kwesi Arthur knows how to get the fans going. Things got underway on a mellow note till he took off his white ‘Free The Youth’ inscribed t-shirt. Fever pitched performance it was. The estactic fans kept cheering, with some hopping on stage at some point. It was dope as hell.
The ‘Shrine’ serve as a platform to introduce new acts. Prior to the event, names like Tripp Nie, Abena Rockstar, Ntelabi (whose name I’ve heard but not many of his songs) among others were unknown to me. But, I became a fan of them both especially Tripp Nie. It was exactly on the Yoyotinz platform that I learnt of Haywaya two years ago. Today, he’s counted as one of the best rappers around.
Unfortunately, I can’t forgive myself for missing both the sets of Kay-Ara, Bryan The Mensah, Fu and the legendary Illa Shaaz (if you don’t know him, find him). From the videos I saw, it was super lit.
It goes without saying that Yoyotinz is doing amazing stuff. Not only are they documenting the hip-hop scene in Ghana through writing and visuals, such events like this year’s, help advance the culture forward. They connect artistes with both new and old fans. This helps grow their fanbase organically. The stage is also a confidence grooming one for young, up and coming artistes.
The good folks at Yoyotinz (Selorm Jay, Hamza Moshood, Esse and the other members) know how important the culture. And music is a powerful medium. By creating an avenue like the ‘Yoyotinz Shrine’, artistes don’t only get to perform, gauge the level of appeal for their songs and bond with fans, they help in saving the music that we love.
The crew at Yoyotinz may not be your quintessential A&Rs. But, their role in providing the outlet for up and coming artistes to showcase their talents and works is their way of supporting and sustaining the culture. KEEP THE YOYO Going.
All photos courtesy Kwesi Hassan (@the_KwesiHassan)