Music can be such a powerful tool for social transformation. A great artiste is the one who is able to convey public feelings in their arts. In that sense, the artiste becomes a mirror of public sentiments, and they are able to garner popular support with their art. Since his rise to fame, Black Sherif has not failed to release a song that the streets do not relate to. Life on the streets can be ruminative, wild, cold and capricious, and on Soja, a single off his debut album ‘The Villain I Never Was (TVINW)’, Black Sherif describes these features of street life. Specifically, he calls on the streets to be on guard, to be conscious of a system that aims to crush their dreams.
The streets, loosely used to refer to marginalized youth living at the periphery of major cities like Accra or Kumasi has been popularized in recent years, especially since the rise of the Asakaa movement. The Asakaa movement ushered in the marketing of a type of drill music that pronounced the life of the marginalized. In the early stages of his burgeoning, Black Sherif remarked how much he had been motivated by the wave of songs made by Asakaa artistes such as Jay Bahd to put pen to paper, during a Twitter Spaces conversation organized by Jigga Ryda, the founder of Cheesewave.
Bred in Konongo Zongo, Black Sherif moved to Accra to hustle, a path that is commonplace among many young people in Ghana. The psyche is molded by experiences, and Black Sherif’s thoughts have been framed through his sojourns from Konongo to Accra and to other parts of the world (he’s Kweku The Traveller, after all). Incidentally, the politico-socio-economic factors that have shaped him are not any different from many a youth across the country. The youth in Ghana are afflicted with unemployment, exploitation and unfair conditions that are not witnessed elsewhere around the world. These conditions have produced an unprecedented economic hardship.
The conditions that create these hardships have largely been a result of decisions made by politicians who have been trusted with the responsibilities of managing the countries resources for the benefit of all. For instance, the mounting of a national cathedral is divisive at best, because, such a monument, regardless of its argued significance in building a nation, fails to accommodate the beliefs of all. It is a needless investment, especially for a wobbling economy like Ghana’s. No doubt that this investment received enormous opposition and discontent, although the politicians heeded less. The ripple effects of such whimsical decisions by politicians are felt deeply by the youth on the margins, and lightly, if at all, by politicians themselves.
The actions of politicians leave the youth to live in precarity, which leads to a perpetual questioning of their dreams. Black Sherif’s Soja begins with this catechism of dreams. By all street standards, Black Sherif is a success story already, even though I strongly believe his best is yet to come (and I’m highly anticipating TVINW). In the promotional video of the song he posted on Twitter, he peeped through a telescope facing the infinite sky at the point when he asks ‘How far can I go?’ in the song. It was as if he was peering through his subconscious to grasp a mirage. Prior to this questioning, he notes that he has been chasing this dreams for a very long time. Yet, he didn’t believe that he could possibly realize it, a reflection of him chasing a mirage. This is radical skepticism, to a point of nihilism. One end of nihilism is indifference, and one cannot look far to observe the apathy the youth have developed towards the Ghanaian ruling class. In a conversation Bernard, a young graduate from University of Cape Coast, he interposed “A lot of the youth have given up on any sacrifice or dream to [help] in building Ghana. We believe that the current limbo the country is in cannot be escaped…unless you leave the country.”
Black Sherif’s Soja mirror the plight of young energetic, ambitious and enthusiastic people in Ghana who keep living at the edge, fearing that no matter how close they are to achieving their dreams, there is a system set up to crush them. To escape this system, they pursue their dreams elsewhere, where support systems are put in place to not only nurture their dreams, but foster these dreams. Therefore, Blacko warns us against letting them ‘touch our skins”. As I was writing this piece, I saw a tweet about the exodus of nurses and midwives to other countries for greener pastures. Indeed, many of the skilled labor who are able to afford to leave are leaving due to a system that has been set up to frustrate dream-chasers. The time to build a more supportive society is now!
The writer tweets @alexrepgh