Accra, the city that became the capital of colonial Gold Coast in 1877 is a dreamer’s paradise. It is the heartbeat of Ghana, the country, and the heartthrob of many residing outside the perimeters of the city. In the eyes of many of such people, Accra is where dreams become reality.
According to the 2012 population census figures, Accra is inhabited by 4 million people, made up of both urban and peri-urban residents. This city also plays a dual administrative function: as the capital of the nation Ghana, and the capital of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly.
Like any other great city in the world, Accra is a melting point of many things including culture, arts, activism and economic undertakings. It’s a place where the clash of these various activities produce fissures that often engulfs other regions. Accra is also the intersection between riches and poverty. That is, the stark difference between the super-rich, middle class and the poor is very poignant. They live side -by- side of each other.
Like scars on a body, the unprintable affection for the city, especially while away from home cannot be denied. Once you’ve lived in the city and tasted its ambience – whether positively or otherwise, you are bound to miss it when you are domiciled elsewhere. Whether the city handed you a raw deal or tapped your back with success, the love and affection often runs deep. Once you are away, nostalgia floats on your mind like a foam on top of a stout.
Blitz The Ambassador (real name Samuel Bazawule) captured this feeling of affection and longing for the city he lived in as a teenager prior to his sojourn to the United States on ‘’Accra City Blues’’. Blitz The Ambassador’s cry for the love – and pain the city offered him is one that can be easily forgotten.
Found on his acclaimed ”Native Sun”, a title I surmise was inspired by Richard Wright’s seminal 1940 novel about race relation in America’s Deep South, Blitz The Ambassador’s album was an exploration of themes on Africaness, Neo- colonialism, stereotype construct of Africa and the power of positive thought and black excellence.
Saturated with a production style that has become a signature template of Blitz (formerly known as Baza of Last 2 fame). “Native Sun” leaned heavy on chopped classic Ghanaian highlife, Fela’s afrobeats and other old African songs – either sampled or re- created. These vintage works are fused with highly energetic and riveting hip hop drums.
“Accra City Blues” does not deviate from these production qualities. The song reeked of soothing, almost orgasmic feeling. Its low-tempo character coupled with the dusty aura of sampled or recreated highlife chops added to its overall enchantment. The classic highlife sample on which the song is built sounds like “Kyenkyen Bi” song made by Alhaji K. Frimpong.
The breezy nature of the opening, led by a radiant syrupy bass guitar and the gorgeously yet morose horn section perfectly set the mood for Blitz to croon and rap about feeling home-sick. One of the ultimate features on this song was the singing done by Blitz, especially the first verse which was delivered entirely in Twi. This was a shocker since I had never heard Blitz rap or sing in full blown Twi. (He did rap in Twi on “Akwaaba” off the same album).
“Accra City Blues” is an expression of love with ‘’Accra City’’, as he called it. Blitz The Ambassador metaphorical addressed ‘’Accra’’ in feminine term- a woman of his affection. On the song, he talked about how much he longs for her due to his long sojourn. To convey the emotional sentiment stirred up within, Blitz borrowed the story of Cinderella as reference. ”Accra City Blues/ Oh, she left her shoes/ Need her, want her / Tell me, where did she go’, he sang, his voice evoking steams of unabashed loss and a tingle of reunion.
On the second verse- where he rapped, Blitz described the tumultuous relationship he’d had with her (Accra): ‘’its funny how things change/ Used to be familiar now it all feel strange/ Screaming at each other all crazy and deranged/ Love shot me in the heart/ Point blank, close range’’. What followed was a chain of flashback of tragedy mixed with beautiful moments: he lying on the floor ‘gasping for air’ his mind paddled back to the time they listened to ‘Sade’s ‘’Love Deluxe’ album, the polarized picture and the memories she left behind.
One would have thought a soothing afro-soul ballad like “Accra City Blues” would have stood on its on hind without a rap verse. But, Blitz thought otherwise. His rap verse, however, did not dim the brightness of the track. Again, Blitz and his Embassy MVMT band revisited something that was associated with traditional highlife songs: enough space for the beat to rock uninterrupted by any vocal deliveries, chants or any form of distraction. The relatively ‘long beat’ meant the listener could imbibe the beauty of the production while also, appreciating the piece of art that the Blitz and his band mates had served on the record.
“Accra City Blues”, similar to other songs on the “Native Sun” album combined aspects of live recording and digital aesthetics. This fusion of styles is easy to spot across the album. As someone who loves to perform live, this approach- which has become something of a trademark was/is a calculative move. And if you have seen Blitz live in concert, you would appreciate this approach even more.
“Native Sun”, released under Jakarta Records in 2011 reverberated with a lot of socio-political and economic commentary bothering on black power, a sharp critique on poor governance and the machinations of Western powers to exploit the continent to fuel their development and not ours. He channeled the spirit and thoughts of his heroes like Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara, Fela Kuti, and Nelson Mandela across songs like “Akwaaba”, “Dear Africa ft Les Nubians”, “Free Your Mind”, “Victory”, and the ebullient “Wahala” ft Keziah Jones. Despite each track echoing a certain degree of feeling in the listener, “Accra City Blues” towers above the rest in this respect.
Blitz The Ambassador’s debut film, “The Burial of Kojo” would be screened on Nextflix on March 31 after it was scooped by Ava DuVernay’s film collective, ARRAY.