SENA DAGADU in James Town, Accra | photo by Mantse Aryeequaye
Nowadays, Ghanaian music is a mixed bag. That’s actually a great thing. The diversity and complexity of this music – which is not new and has always been here – is bubbling more and more on the surface. As testament, here are 6 NEW VIDEOS by fresh artists we dig. In these audiovisual experimentations [in no particular order], you’ll experience different realities reflecting what it means to be Ghanaian.
These are some of the voices of our pop culture. Hear and see them now. Continue reading →
It’s hard not to fall head over heels for SENA DAGADU‘s newest album, Lots of Trees. As the sole warrior princess in Hungary’s 11-member live fusion band,Irie Maffia, Sena’s had plenty of training ground to launch her second LP. Lots of Trees follows up 2003’s First One and comprises an anthology of Sena’s sonics over the last decade. The album features the electric production of Élő Márton [Irie Maffia] and collaborations with Nneka, M3NSA and Wanlov the Kubolor.
Sena’s bold, earth-rich vocals heat the heart and chill the bone. Her love for life shines through a kaleidoscope of vibrating webs that draw in the listener. With tracks like “Accra City People”, “Pass It On”, “Extra Large” and “Morning Light”, Sena whips up a thick, soulful brew and serves it up calabash-style. In fact, Mz. Dagadu launched Lots of Trees on March 15th with a sold-out concert bash in Budapest.
ACCRA [dot] ALT hooked up with the Ghanaian-Hungarian singer/songwriter recently while she visited Ghana. Sena raps with us about blending her own batch of rhythm science into a keen balance between music, family and the spiritual self.
ADA:When you think of Ghana what comes to mind? SD: Home comes to mind. Earth and the smell of pepper. Seaside and energy – raw physical and spiritual energy. My husband, he laughs at me. One time I didn’t come to Ghana and we were in Hungary for the full winter. At the end of it, he said: “You know what? I’d rather pay a ticket for you to go to Ghana than spend another winter with you in Hungary!”
If I don’t come to Ghana for at least one month out of the year, I feel a little bit lost and malnourished. Ghana feeds the senses and the skin, the eyes and mind. In Europe it’s easy to become part of the little wheel that the squirrel runs in. It’s so important to go somewhere completely different that shocks you out of that European life, luxury and working to have money to live. Ghana reminds me of why I started writing and why I felt strange when I moved to Hungary and why I feel strange when I am here. It reminds me to feel. Ghana is key to life. Shw3!
ADA:What is Hungary like? SD: Hungary has this kind of strange magic to it. Because of Hungary’s difficult past people are kind of still afraid to speak their mind. People are a little bit closed in themselves. But I love it. The architecture – the whole look of it gives Hungary a pulsating energy. Hungary must have been a place where there was lots of witchcraft and superstition, herbalism and natural water healing – things that you would find in Ghana as well. Hungary has a lot of water around it – it’s a healing energy.
lady jay at soundcheck before the @kaesun show, taverna tropicana / 5 MAY 2012
Like it or not, Lady Jay is all rum and coke. Sweet like pure sugar with a heaping side of suckerpunch. Equal parts love and war. If you don’t believe it, peep the Twitter game by alter-ego PurpleNasty Oblivial aka @ladyjaywah.
Making a silly face, she passes a hand over her mostly shaven head, braided bun on top and shares, “I’m a very aggressive person. My anger is not nice. But at the same time, I know how to make people smile or laugh. The extreme way of me being happy and nice is how extreme I am when I am angry.”
Her sound is like that too. A haunting ebb and flow both bold and unassuming. A scratchy sultry sound textured with the bright patterns of life’s ups and downs. Lady Jay will be the first to admit that she’s a work in progress – an almost 22-year old woman finding her way and getting grown.
The young singer has crossed a few barbwire fences to get here and she’s got the scars to prove it.
Long story short: girl moves from U.S. back home to Ghana for boy – family not too happy about it – girl and boy end badly – family not too happy about it – girl struggles to make it alone, goes broke + homeless.
Girl finds home in music and is rebuilding from the bottom up.
Lady Jay muses, “I did anger management for about two years but it didn’t work. I have to learn myself. Nobody can teach me.”
Lately, Lady’s been stitching herself together through music. Becoming anew by singing and writing. She adds, “For now, what makes me is my battles, fighting and recovery. Recovery is resistance to fail – that’s where I am now – but at the same time, I’m still very vulnerable.”
These moods swing through her melodies, songs she’s been mixing in the kitchen with Sewor Okudzeto of A.R.T. (African Relaxation Techniques). Lady Jay’s part of a special mainstay of artists who perform at our shows. She’s sincere about evolving her craft, always ready to perform and down for whatever. Over the last year, her acoustic sets with Sewor have built a cult following in Accra. She’s also known to flip an acoustic remix of Amy Winehouse or Frank Ocean if you should be so lucky.
Right now, two of Lady’s tracks are doing the ring shout in my head.
“Black is Beautiful” is soft and pliable like running water or limp limbs. It’s full of sun and sadness, a glow-in-the-dark moon poked open by pinholes.
She beckons us closer: See for yourself. See for yourself. My Black is beautiful. I shine so bright I don’t need light. Laady Jay Waaah.
It makes me nostalgic for Roberta Flack‘s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” It’s the kind of song that makes you want to cry. You ache to release something damp, dark and deep down that you weren’t even aware was there in the first place. Not because you are in pain but because you feel good. You listen and long to cry. It feels just like going out to dance in the rain.
“Mi Do Wo” (I love you in Fante) sounds like the clinging clutter of moments after the bomb has gone off. You stand in the rubble of wrecked love and heartbreak, stunned and silent. Lady’s voice is stained with the sticky icky pangs of sacrifice, of a right love gone wrong. But her loyalty is stuck in the gutter, her heart on park for someone called Nana Yaw.
Lady Jay pumps a fist in her palm, “I’ve got to blow up by the end of the year, you know?” Well, that shouldn’t be a problem. She’s working on music and video projects with azonto craze producer, E.L. And The African Woman’s Development Fund selected her to write and record their International Women’s Day anthem – “African Woman (I Will Succeed)” – the remix with Sena Dagadu (prod. by Irie Maffia’s ELO) is a backbender, mind you.
All this without even releasing a mixtape.
I ask her, how would you introduce who and where Lady Jay is now?
She pauses slightly then answers. “Hi, I’m Lady Jay and I’m entangled.” (pause)
“Courageously twisted.” The singer shrugs her shoulders, “I’m just growing with it.”