2007. University of Ghana. Tyme Out, Legon Hall.
It was the night DJ Black and his crew from Joy FM hosted the “Open House Party” live from the University of Ghana campus. The days leading up to the event had witnessed students making plans to be in attendance. I was not certain on going.
So, when the day came, I sat in Room 307, Okponglo (Sarball Hall Annex B), headphones on listening to the live broadcast on Joy FM. But, music and friends persuading you to go ‘catch a feel’ of how things are popping off can be a weird mix. The potency could be both thrilling and yet exhausting.
I found myself at Tyme Out on the night. I arrived at a packed venue. The only place I could stand was the back end of the room. The crowd was unsurprisingly huge for that small venue. The pulsating adrenaline from the crowd matched the mixes from DJ Black’s decks. It was trance-like, with the crowd singing out loud lyrics of each one of the songs Mr Toomtoom dropped. How I meandered through the testosterone spilling crowd to the front was a hellish trip. But hey, I got there. I had a better view of the magic DJ Black was working on his turntables.
Then, it was announced that a guest artist would be making an appearance that night. A couple of mixes later, the mic was handed to the African Gypsy, Wanlov (The Kubolor). It was around the time that his album, “The Green Card” was released, and two singles from the album- “Smallest Time” feat Anjolee and the award winning “Konkonsa” were courting mainstream traction. It was that same night that I bought a copy of “Green Card”. Wanlov was kind enough to autograph the CD for me.
The album was an introduction of Wanlov to a section of music lovers. If there was anything I noticed-and loved about Wanlov that night, it was his ability to bust a freestyle effortlessly. His ability to reference anything in sight, embellish his raps with humor and still got the crowd excited was a rapper’s dream and a rap fan’s delight.
Spurning 20 tracks, and covering socio-political and economic themes in a satirical, sometimes sarcastic manner made “Green Card” a timeless piece of work. Songs like “50the Dependence”, critiqued the economic bondage Ghana reels under, thanks in part to the neo-colonial economic system and the selfishness of our political heads. Interestingly, the situation Wanlov hinted at a decade-plus after the release of his album still pertains.
A song like “Skin” tackled racism; “Never Die” talked about survival and his resoluteness despite the odds stacked against him. The album title “Green Card” touched on immigration and it’s associated challenges.
One of the stand out of the album was “Human Being”. Built around live guitar riff and hi-hats, Wanlov chose to sing his lyrics rather than rapping them out; a smart move considering the importance of the message. Melody has an intrinsically seductive appeal which get people to open up to the message being expressed.
“Human Being” was a song about acceptance, respect and fellow- feeling for someone who is different from your creed or hue. The religious saying ‘’love your neighbor as yourself’ ’capped the sermon he preached on the song.
Wanlov on ‘’Human Being’’ was not only speaking against discrimination, vulnerability and racial profiling- where a certain crop are people are considered ‘less’ than other humans, he was drawing attention to the importance of having empathy for those in need. Rendered in simple, digestible English (pidgin to be specific), Wanlov declared with profundity :
All we want is a little piece of bread and mind / You keep the rest
Born into this world just like you yet I don’t have a say
When gunmen com to split my family I pray , Please go away
I’m hoping that you will come and help me oh! So, please try your best
If I’m to make a wild guise, this song might have been inspired by the discrimination suffered by certain people- mostly Muslims after the infamous 9/11 terror attack that hit the US and part of Europe, the significance of the song reverberates today.
If one considers the ‘Trump border wall’ tiff, the Muslim ban, arrest and detentions at some US border points and how blacks are treated in America, and in other parts of the Europe and within Africa, the cry for governments, people to recognize that ‘I be human being just like you’ is a cry for justice and fair treatment towards the amelioration of the hardship people endure instead of compounding their suffering.
So, when Wanlov said: ‘’If my brother dey struggle for Kenya/ I be Kenyan o’, he was not just identifying with their struggles or putting himself in their position. What he was emphasizing was a call for universal communalism where we see ourselves as one people; one family. He was also reminding us about the unpredictability of life; where the peace and prosperity we are enjoying today could turn into a ghoulish experience.
That is, when you are no more the cock of the walk but rather a feather duster, how would you wish to be treated by others on the other side? With respect? Utter disdain and contempt?