They hover with their words swinging like torpedoes and the laughter of their terrible children … On the big stage of the Musiques Métisses, in Angoulême, Saturday night, September 11, Wanlove, one of the three members of the Ghanaian group FOKN Wood, canvas, feet naked, locked and lured by a pharaoh 2.0, swirls around like a shaman.
With his inexhaustible flow, he harangues the audience: 1,000 stories to tell and so many others to exorcise. More posed, his accomplice M3NSA regulates his poetry, masters the rhythm, sings his fight in depth, while Andras, on the keyboard, retrospectively sends a well-dosed cocktail of high life, hip-hop rehearsals, afro-pop sounds and all the musicals that pass them by. . In short, a futuristic cosmos over which the Star of Fela seems to rule.
At the bottom of the stage, other artists invited to the festival, singing their lyrics in chorus: South African Pilani Bubu, Nigerian Villy (& The Xtreme Volumes), the Ghanaian girl band Lipstick Queens or their countryman, the folk singer Agorvey. Undoubtedly, of this 45th edition of the Musiques Métisses, the three comrades of FOKN Bois were the heroes … and the artistic leaders of part of the program. A carte blanche got them to invite musicians from the English-speaking African scene, unknown in Europe.
The humor in the “villains”
Because FOKN Bois, through its history, activism and activities as producers, occupies a privileged observation position around the creation of Ghana and the surrounding territories.
Flashback. 1997. At a Catholic high school in Accra, Emmanuel Owusu-Bonsu (Wanlove) and Mensa Ansah (M3NSA) skip the class to practice rap. Years later, they meet again, by chance, at a Ghanaian music festival in the United States. What if these two solo rappers combined their talents? In 2009, they created “FOKN Bois”, a name meaning “villains” in the mouths of the elderly and “fearless rebel, defying authority”, among the younger.
“From the beginning, this title made it possible to ward off all criticism …” Good for nothing “, yes, but super fun!”, Laughs M3ENSA. With such a name, the specifications were uncomplicated: from the first verses, the two friends chose to make fun of everything, including themselves. “We listened so much to conscious rap, that we were afraid to be part of the rehearsal, to throw sermons full of egos, they specify. On the other hand, humor and self-loathing offer us an enormous freedom to approach all subjects without taboo.”
Thus, one of their first titles, Rasta-Fried Rice, mocks Rastas, their homophobia, their sometimes locked brains and hearts. “With humor as therapy, we evacuate all our frustrations, they say. We talk about politics, education, freedom of speech, sex, food, etc.”
Defense of LGBT rights
On their latest album, Afrobeats LOL (with the title in the form of a joke, against “afrobeatS” which they consider to be a musical soup), they defend LGBT rights in an increasingly conservative country. A commitment that gave them the loss of the $ 100,000 that an investor promised: the businessman finally rated their name as “gay” …
For Wanlove, homophobia is due to colonization and the legacy of Protestantism: “In our indigenous peoples he says that an intersex person will not be excluded, but on the contrary is seen as a spiritual being. In our traditions, God has no sex.”
In Ghana, as in Hungary, home of keyboardist Andras Weil, the government is trying to pass homophobic laws. Recently, FOKN Bois had to hide a transgender musician. The last straw for Wanlove, who took refuge in his second country of origin, Romania. “With my radical positions, I am afraid of an arrest in Ghana,” he said.
In their country, the three members therefore have a sour look, but also enthusiastic, as M3NSA explains: “There is a creative whirlwind. Despite poverty and corruption, an underground art scene is emerging: musical, visual … And not just in megalopolis!” And the FOKN boys mention two styles of music born in recent years, in this country without schools or musical structures: “asaka”, a kind of Ghanaian drilling sauce and “changed”.
The cemetery singer
And among their gleams in the new sounds of the urban jungle, the two friends at the Teshie Cemetery, a town near Accra, saw a rasta, which established its music studio in the middle of the tombs. Here, Agorvey, whose real name is Godfred Adjey, dedicates small businesses and plays his ghost songs on his guitar.
© RFI / Anne-Laure Lemancel
The Ghanaian Agorvey at the Métis Music Festival, September 2021.
But the local celebrity mechanic-car mechanic is more pragmatic than his legend: “I started by helping the fishermen on the beach below. And to clean the fish undisturbed, I took refuge here. All over Teshie., Dominates the concrete and the blinds. Light. Here I am in peace, under the trees, to compose “.
On his folk, traditional music, with high life accents, he puts his deep, sloppy voice and his philosophical words that satisfy his way of life. In “ga”, an idiom for Accra, threatened, which he sets up as a defender, he talks about peace, love, harmony … In Angoulême it was his first scene outside his city. Apparently it all sounded fragile, but filled with the charm of street poets, troubadours, Jamaican mentor players …
A group of girls settled on the same “garden” scene: Lipstick Queens, created ten years ago and discovered by FOKN Bois on Twitter. Here, Winifred (bass), Abigiel (drums), Ruby (vocals), Vida (percussionists), Sita (keyboards) and Abena (guitar), aged 26 to 52, deliver their drink consisting of afrobeat, high life, afropop, funk, reggae, salsa …
In the king’s rhythms, in the footsteps of the base, they sing the power of women. Before the concert, they said: “We tell our sisters to wake up, make money on their own, to free themselves … It’s time to shake up a society dominated by patriarchy. What men do., Do it … better! “
On stage, they undoubtedly shake prejudices … And suddenly she appears, a soulful, hoarse voice, all claws out, a sun charisma, alternating velvet and anger: their guest singer St Beryl makes the group take off and the public to other spheres.
The irresistible food lovers of Lipstick Queens girls compare their music to Ghana’s national dish, “fufu”, scoops of fried cassava flour, eaten with fish. St. Beryl prefers “kenkey”, made from fermented corn. Their joint music is therefore full of flavors, spices and chili. And above all, as St Beryl exclaims, with a smile: “it is high time to take women seriously”. In the front row, among their fans, the three boys from FOKN Bois, are won over by the show of these new Amazons from Ghana.
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© RFI / Anne-Laure Lemancel
The women’s group Lipstick Queens and Ste Beryl, at the music festival Métisses, September 2021 …