Friday, March 14, 2014

Adventures in Ghana No. 1 - Are You A Learner? And Other Music

Begging your pardon in advance with these, as there's pretty much no way for me to go chronologically through my Ghana trip with any sort of narrative intrigue. So I'm splitting up the tales in my own strange fashion. Today, is an amuse-bouche since it relates little to anything else that happens, but will introduce you to some of the key elements of the trip. Plus, it's fun and I need to get on the road to San Francisco in a minute here. 

About three days in, we headed off on our road trip to the Cape Coast region of Ghana. Much more about Cape Coast in future posts, but the basics of this outing are thus:

1. We were in the capable hands of our bomb-ass driver, Toufiq, who would go on to become, essentially my new best friend. I don't know that I know anyone cooler than Toufiq. He is so naturally fly. He truly belongs in Hollywood. He has no idea how popular he'd be. 

2. We started a day late because a.) Gordon got food poisoning. b.) what we thought was a perfectly timed trip was actually supremely poorly timed when Gordon's work deadlines changed and he was actually quite stressed most of the time I was there. 

3. Gordon is the project director for a joint education initiative called MGCubed, or Making Ghanaian Girls Great and Wonder Women, which focuses on girl-child education, along with generally raising education standards in rural Ghanaian areas by solving teacher absentee-ism, encouraging student attendance, etc etc. It's a genuinely inspiring project and I'll for be talking more about it in posts to come. Gordon is admirably devoted to the project 24 hours a day. 

So. We're weaving through the hawkers and impressive ladies who can balance huge loads on their heads whilst chatting on cell phones and handling cash. Toufiq is blasting Accra radio and at some point, a supremely catchy song comes on. 

Through the thick accent, I'm thinking the song is called "Are you Elena?" I ask Toufiq about this. He says it's "Are you a learner."

G and I, in our white naïveté decide we should use this song as a cool theme song for his program. Toufiq tells us it's kinda scandalous because it's kind of talking about teen pregnancy and slut shaming. 

Fair enough, we decide. We'll make up new catchy verse lyrics that are less scandalous, but keep the basic awesome hook! Education theme song, huzzah! We were pretty pumped and G fired off an enthusiastic email to the rest of his project colleagues.

G isn't often enthusiastic, which is why he was especially bummed when his colleagues eventually told him that "Are you a learner?" is actually slang (probably Nigerian slang) for "are you retarded?" So... not salvagable at all. WHOOPS. It became a joke for us though-- to make fun of ourselves, but also as a moment when G, T and I became real road trip buddies. Which was all going to come in handy later, when we got to the Monkey Sanctuary (of oddities) among many other key moments. 

Despite it's crude lyrics (and really, I suppose, what rap song is without crude lyrics and probably some form of a crude premise) this song is the jam. I will always think of cruising down the road towards Cape Coast when I hear it. 


In case you're digging any other Ghanaian rap, here's some more Bebelino. I have no idea what Ofee Dull means. I googled it and got nothing. I'd ask Toufiq, but he lead us super astray the last time. 

And if your hankering gets well past that, I do actually recommend this African music playlist no doubt put together by the infinite number of white people over at Anthropologie. I've got more thoughts on their African-inspired March Catalogue coming for you later this month. Stay tuned. 

More of the pop culture goodness you might find on the George W. Bush Highway out of Accra  (Yeah, we bought that shit. And put that name on it. Le Sigh. Though! It is easily the nicest road in Ghana) after the jump:

Interesting grammar there. 

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