About this project
For 25 years, Afropop Worldwide has taken radio listeners and web fans to some of the world’s most exciting cultural destinations: Egypt, both Congos, Senegal, Mali, Angola, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, Colombia… and now, Afropop is going to Ghana! But we need your help to make it possible.
This campaign is aimed at raising funds to support field expenses in Accra, Ghana, for Senior Producers Banning Eyre and Sean Barlow to create two hourlong radio documentaries on the past and present of Ghanaian music. In addition to the programs themselves, Afropop's time in Ghana will allow our team to create a wealth of supplementary materials, including recordings of live music, videos, interviews, photos, and much more!
The idea of exploring the Ghanaian Afro-funk roots of Fela Kuti’s world-famous Afrobeat sound arose out of conversations with Afropop Worldwide “Hip Deep” scholar Mark LeVine at UC Irvine. A cutting-edge historian and musician, LeVine has a deep personal passion for West African music. On a trip to Ghana in 2010, he met Ebo Taylor and was amazed by the bandleader’s reminiscences and analysis of popular music in 1960s Accra. Ghana, it seems, led the way in incorporating funk and jazz elements into existing highlife formulas. No surprise then that when Fela Kuti unveiled his new Afrobeat sound in the early 70s, Ghana was the first place it caught on with the public. Initially, we had planned to interview Taylor remotely for this program, but LeVine insisted that we must find a way to get there and meet the man in person. We began to pool resources, including a pair of air tickets from a generous benefactor, and a plan took shape.
In the meantime, another Hip Deep scholar, Jesse Weaver Shipley, published a landmark book on the contemporary scene in Accra. Entitled Living the Hiplife, Celebrity and Entrepreneurship in Ghanaian Popular Music, it led to the idea of creating a second Ghana program as a bookend to the first. Just as the Ghanaian funksters of the 60s created potent hybrids of African and American sounds—often mediated through London, where both Taylor and Fela Kuti studied jazz—today’s savvy hiplife artists are doing the same thing in the age of hip hop.
The two programs that will be created by Afropop's producers in Ghana will paint a vivid portrait of a vital African city and tell a richly interwoven tale of four monumental music styles: highlife, funk, afrobeat, and hip hop. We have a fantastic team of scholars, artists, and music producers advising us on this project. With your help, we will follow their leads, and dramatize their insights with the voice, music and spirit of Ebo Taylor and his contemporaries, as well as a lesser-known but deeply talented cast of younger Ghanaian artists. The goal is to bring all this to the living rooms, automobiles, and ear-buds of music fans across the US and around the world. The National Endowment for the Humanities is supporting this project with funding for post production. And we have received donated air tickets. But life in Ghana has become very expensive, and we still need funds to cover modest hotel accommodations, fees for guides, helpers, and artists we record, as well as transportation, including a trip to Saltpond (well outside Accra) to interview Ebo Taylor himself.
Support Afropop Worldwide’s work in Ghana!
The plan is for Afropop’s two most senior producers—Sean Barlow and Banning Eyre—to travel to Accra in late April for a two-week stay to create two groundbreaking Afropop Worldwide radio programs:
Ghana 1: Ebo Taylor and the Pre-History of Afrobeat. A history of the 60s and 70s highlife-funk movement in Ghana, as told by veteran bandleader Ebo Taylor and key players of this seminal period who are still alive and musically active.
Ghana 2: From the Gospel to the Hip Life. Charting the contemporary scene in Accra, this program will explore how Ghana’s urban music has been reinvented in churches and home recording studios. A vivid portrait of musical life in a rising African city.
Each of these radio programs will be accompanied by extensive web materials: blog posts, videos, audio playlists, photo essays, interview transcriptions, music reviews, and more. Social media outreach to a worldwide community engaged in Ghanaian, Afrobeat and hip hop music has already begun, and will continue beyond the broadcast of the two radio programs.
Ghana Production Staff:
Banning Eyre: Lead Producer
Sean Barlow: Executive Producer
Sam Backer: Producer for New Media
Michael Jones: Chief Audio Engineer/ Co-Producer
Advisory Team for Afropop Worldwide in Ghana:
Mark LeVine (UC Irvine historian, author, and musician. Author of Heavy Metal Islam)
John Collins (Full Professor, University of Ghana, Legon. Major author on Ghanaian and Nigerian music)
Jesse Weaver Shipley (Associate Professor of Anthropology at Haverford College. Author of Living the Hiplife)
Aaron Sukura (University of Ghana, Legon. 19 years teaching African music in Ghana and longtime associate of Ebo Taylor)
George Worlasi Kwasi Dor (Associate Professor of Music, University of Mississippi)
Alex Perullo (Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and African Studies at Bryant University)
Benjamin Lebrave (creator of Akwaaba Music, independent, web-based distributor of new African music)
About Afropop Worldwide: Afropop Worldwide is a syndicated public radio program introducing listeners to the music and culture of Africa and the global African diaspora. Hosted by veteran Cameroonian broadcaster Georges Collinet, the program started in 1988 and is now heard throughout the United States on public radio stations. It is also distributed in Europe, and heard globally via the companion website www.afropop.org . Afropop’s website began in 1997 as one of the first dedicated to African music. The site has kept up with changing technologies and remains one of the richest African music destinations on the internet.
Since 2004, Afropop has produced a unique set of Hip Deep radio programs, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Hip Deep programs use music to explore important chapters of history, from slavery and colonialism, to diaspora communities and the rise of today’s hip hop generation. Hip Deep in Ghana extends the reach of this ground-breaking initiative both geographically and thematically. It will also make extensive use of original fieldwork by the Afropop team, a new emphasis in the Hip Deep program series.
Risks and challenges
Of course, doing fieldwork anywhere in the world (including Africa!) can pose significant challenges-- theft of equipment, musicians' availability, natural disasters, and the difficulties inherent in attempting to enter a new musical culture are all easily possible.
In order to deal with this manner of issue, Afropop relies on the sterling reputation that it has generated over the past 25 years, as well as long standing relationships with key players on the ground in Ghana who will be there to welcome us and to help us complete our mission.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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