Busua, a little village tucked away from Takoradi, the capital of Western Region, resonated to the sounds of the ‘Asabaako! Music Festival’ throughout Ghana’s 54th Independence celebrations from March 5 to 7. The buzz of ‘Asaabako!’ travelled fast and wide across the predominantly fishing and farming community, as posters and flyers littered the village. The locals were indeed ready to have all the fun that ‘Asabaako!’ promised and that was just what they had!
The festival kicked off on Saturday with DJ mixes on the Busua Beach from morning till evening. The children of the village seemed the most excited to have the music train in their village, as they came out to dance, swim, play and make merry – sometimes stripped bare down to their toes! Although Busua Beach is a popular leisure destination for many foreigners, some of the villagers seemed a bit overwhelmed by the number of new faces around but their hospitality towards the visitors never waned. As the music blasted out of the speakers, the locals interacted amongst themselves and with the visitors, playing football and other games.
Gradually the locals realised that something new and different had arrived in their village when the music continued into the evening without any signs of stopping. At this point the swimming had wound down and more people were converging around the Okorye Tree Restaurant, where all the music was coming from. Soon, it was time for a ‘Bless the Mic’ session, where new and budding rap talents from particularly Takoradi grabbed the opportunity to showcase their skills. It was a moment of pride for the people of the region, now affectionately called Oil City (OC), to see their own people performing. Every now and then, the rappers would mention ‘Oil City’ in their lyrics and receive some sort of affirmation from the crowd.
One of the biggest highlights from the Bless the Mic session was when some children were given the chance to also to showcase what they had. With their funny monikers, they managed to excite the crowd with some creative and unexpected punch lines. Even more amazing, was the fact that most of their friends and family didn’t know that had it in them! They were hailed as stars after their performances by their peers, who chased them around the beach only to carry them shoulder-high. With the bonfire blazing and a loud selection of ‘new school’ and ‘old school’ music from the genres of hiplife, dance, techno/house, hiphop, dancehall etc, patrons partied late till the early morning of Sunday.
With the success and excitement of day 1, the Sunday festivities kicked off on a high. With the hot early morning sun shining in its full glory, Independence Day in Busua this year, promised to be more than just watching students and the Ghana Armed Forces parading on TV, or listening to the President’s speech on radio. The scenes at the Busua Beach weren’t too different from the previous day. As the villagers prepared for their day, the music started booming on the beach as the organizers of ‘Asabaako!’ started to put up an ‘African Village Bamboo Stage’. With wooden floor slabs and bamboo stilts to support lighting and other paraphernalia, a simple stage was constructed for the performances slated for later in the day.
As the day progressed, the people of Busua got introduced to the mixing genius of DJs such as the international afropolitan enthusiast, Rita Ray, the unassuming Kobby Graham and Julz. As usual, there was dancing, acrobatics, swimming, games and some buying and selling on the beach. It was a bit unusual to see plantain sellers on the beach but they were there, right along with the coconut sellers. For a small village, the Busua Beach area can boast of a rather varied entree of food. From the delightful Eurocentric menu of Okorye Tree Restaurant to the spicy hot chicken of Alaska Beach Club and the scrumptious homemade food of the Dadson Lodge, there was never a dull moment for the taste buds of revellers. The hot fried yam with fish/chicken joint, a few metres from the beach, was certainly a favourite for many. It was particularly interesting, observing the white folks ask for “more sauce” (shito) whenever they run out pepper for their yams. ‘Asabaako!’ sponsors, Africa Cola didn’t only provide the much-needed drinks to quench parched throats on the beach but also provided temporary employment for some young boys who were commissioned to sell the Africa Cola range in the village.
The performances on Day 2 got underway with some of the artists from the previous night’s Bless the Mic session passing through, as well as a brass band performance by a local band. As the music and performances got into the evening, the crowd drew closer to the stage to partake more in the festivities. There was a dancing competition for the children, and winners were chosen based on cheers from the crowd. The winners received crates of drinks from Africa Cola, much to the delight of their family and friends who knew they had a stake in at least some few bottles.
Soon the ‘Asabaako!’ listed artists got on the stage much to the delight of the people. Fast growing lyricist, Yaa Pono wowed the audience with his hard hitting and witty punch lines. Although most of the people were seeing the rapper for the first time, they got into the performance and it was only a matter of time for the crowd to sing along. Wanlov and the African Gypsy Band, comprising an accordion player and a violinist, brought in some unusual folk/reggae vibes. Wanlov performed some new songs that were not known to the crowd but the blending of the accordion and violin was just too musical for the crowd to stand and ask, ‘what is this?’ After indulging the crowd in the new material, Wanlov got off the stage and into the crowd to perform his more familiar songs – getting some free backing vocals from the crowd in the process.
After the performances, it was back to DJ mixes as the party continued yet again into the early hours of the morning. Day 3 was more of jamming on the beach with music from the DJs, and fun and games. In spite of not being able to feature artists such as Gyedu Blay Ambolley, Efya or even Talib Kweli as advertised in the weeks leading to the festival, ‘Asabaako! Music Festival’ still managed to entertain holiday makers from all over the world, as well as the people of Busua who clearly can’t wait to see their village go alive again when ‘Asabaako!’ returns next year.