It is a long-standing tradition for artists in Africa to use their music to talk about the issues that their countries face. Some of the most popular musicians, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, and Brenda Fassie, to name a few, all used their music to bring awareness as well as hope to those dealing with the socio-political issues of their times.
Now Ghanaian musicians are doing the same for environmental ones.
Ghana has a thriving hip-hop scene, and the relative stability of the country has allowed rappers to tackle other issues besides racism, corruption, and other issues that artists in other countries typically deal with.
But instead of focusing Ghanaian hip-hop tropes of success, love, and lifestyle, these artists are focusing on other issues, such as the environment, sexism, and unemployment. They see their platforms as a crucial way to bring attention to the crisis that Ghana has been ignoring for many years now and question the view of Ghana as Africa’s “model democracy.”
One of the front-runners of this movement has been the hip-hop artist, ELi. The music video for his song “Gold Coast” features him standing on Accra’s Labadi beach as it is drowning in plastic, so much so that the sand underneath can barely be seen. The video also attacks the previous president who let his happen under his watch.
In 2014, it was estimated that 15 to 51 trillion micro-plastic particles were said to be floating in the world’s oceans.
Under both the previous president John Mahama and the current one, Nana Akufo-Addo, Ghana, especially Accra, has become plagued with plastic waste. Currently Ghana only recycles about 10% of its plastic waste. The government has considered similar policies to the ones that are in place in Kenya and Rwanda, such as banning plastic bags, but concern that it would reduce employment lead to those being brushed aside.
The plastic waste often clogs the open roadside gutters, which becomes a problem in the rainy season. It keeps the water from flowing out of the city causing flooding and forcing dozens to flee their homes.
Not to mention at the rate that water pollution is going, a report by the Water Institute says that Ghana may not have any treatable water sources by 2030. The use of polluted water for agriculture is not only poisoning humans but also killing planets turning the country into a desert.
All of this is not to say that nothing is being done. As awareness grows, large companies are coming together to make changes and young entrepreneurs are using recycled practice to make the blocks that will build cheaper roads.
Emmanuel Owusu-Bonsu, also known by his stage-name “Wanlov,” directed ELi’s music video. He is half-Ghanaian and half-Nigerian. He does not wear shoes and usually wears a construction hat to show respect to the engineers of Accra who deal with the city’s routine blackouts. In 2014, Wanlov hosted a music competition called “Eco Rave” to draw attention to Ghana’s environmental issues.
“When you come to Ghana and ask who is the most troublesome person—when it comes to social issues, governmental issues and corruption issues—they will say my name,” Wanlov tells Quartz Africa.
The winning song was “Keep Ghana Clean” by Efo Chameleon. In it he raps about the clogged gutters, the horrible smell, and the overall negligence that allowed for these things to happen. He also includes step-by-step instructions on how to dispose of plastic in an environmentally-friendly way.
Young and upcoming artists, “are the ones addressing the issues; we are the ones coming out of the box,” says rapper Akan, who participated in the festival. “We are the ones taking the risk, saying if no one’s gonna say it, I’m gonna say it, no matter how much I’ll be spoken against.”
Featured Image via Pixabay.