Why my ‘new wall’ means so much to me

If you know KNOW me, you’re acutely aware just how much of a rough period December 2017 to December 2019 was for me. The ‘label’ I’d started almost three years earlier (in reality, an artist collective and the makings of a production company/artist management outfit) was practically dead, business-wise. I couldn’t keep the dream afloat. The fallout from its demise, in addition to other interpersonal factors, caused quite the ripple effect, the consequences of which continue to be felt even today. Friendships were soured, different narratives were peddled in certain circles – some true, others partly true, a few others far from the truth; it was an all-round sucker of a period. I’ve had a nihilistic approach to life for a while now, and I flit in and out of existential crises every now and then. But that period – 2018 in particular – was the very first time I considered taking my own life to the point where I actively looked at what practical options I had available and started to make concrete plans. It was a dark, dark time and place, a place I’ve been just one other time since. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. 

In this period, I grew to hate music. A lot of the issues I had encountered, I blamed music for. Before starting out in this business, I was a quiet, unassuming, quite unremarkable person, with a small circle of friends, albeit still struggling to find my tribe. I was wide-eyed and idealistic and incredibly ambitious, yes, but generally I was not in spaces where I was known by more than a few people. Music thrust me into a type of (relative) ‘public’ recognition I had never quite experienced before, and with it, the dreaded necessity of forging relationships. Not the forte of an introvert and loner like me. Now, when I went to places, I was suddenly acknowledged by people in the arts scene, even hailed by some. Compared to what other people experience it was really nothing of course, but for someone like me, it was quite a jump. Don’t get me wrong – for a brief moment it felt good to be doing something people seemed to value. VI Music (the ‘label’ I had attempted to build with my friends) was trying to contribute something to the Accra alternative space, and with each listening session and corresponding project release it felt like we were getting better at the music thing, and that more and more people were appreciating us for what we were trying to do. Never mind that some of the structures we needed to have in place to have a shot at actual, tangible success were non-existent at the time; for a moment, it felt like this was worth something.

Only for a moment though. 

By the end of 2018, I was ruing the day I entered the music space. I wished I could go back in time to do my Masters in 2015. I wished I had never met Adomaa, or that her mashups had never ‘blown.’ I wished I hadn’t listened to the team and tried to make a semblance of a brand out of myself by being a little more visible so our story could carry better. I wished I hadn’t met all these people in the Accra arts space, most of whom never actually KNEW me, but some of whom (albeit unintentionally) ended up helping spread things that severely harmed me, things that were way more nuanced than they knew. I wished I hadn’t teamed up with another music entity, in a last ditch attempt to make an artist I’d promised myself I’d make successful, successful. I even went all the way to wishing I’d never joined the Aggrey Chapel Choir in Achimota School or studied Literature; two things that have a direct bearing on why I went on the path I did.

Music broke me. I wasn’t mentally built for the complexity of music business or the mechanics of business at all, did not have the personality or strength of character to sustain the kind of perseverance required to make things work long term, did not have the proclivity to be a good networker in the spaces that matter and maintain these crucial connections, and I cared a little too much about what people thought of me. I also made a loooooot of mistakes with the running of the then nascent company, being the novice that I was with their head in the clouds. As someone who has always found it difficult to forgive themself for mistakes, I was constantly choking on my own spittle of guilt. These artists were minding their respective businesses when I recruited them for my pseudo-alte-Avengers initiative, and I felt immeasurable pain having failed them so miserably. My confidence crumbled to something I could barely recognize, my optimism and idealism and ambition plummeted to a point it will probably never get back to, my mental health was in shambles. 

Music broke me. 

Or did it? 

The one redeeming quality about life that I’ve experienced so far (though this quality is often a product of privilege and plain old chance) is that sometimes there are opportunities to have a go at things again, as terrifying as it might seem to dip your toe once more in the pool where you almost drowned. Though I had worked on one wonderful project in 2018, I hadn’t been able to give it my all the way I knew I could, precisely because I felt music had broken me. I was terrified of music. I still gave that EP the best I could at the time though, and the result was me being asked to work on a project that became a turning point in my life and my most transformational experience with music so far. I started really slowly with the project in late 2018, but by early 2019 I could feel my mojo slightly creeping back, and the joy that I get from crafting projects started to return. There is a feeling I have when I’m working with an artist, when I can feel that they trust me enough to help them put the building blocks of their most precious ideas together, and then seeing those ideas actually blossom. It’s a feeling like no other. By the time we sent in the last song for ‘For My Brothers,’ I felt a sensation I hadn’t felt in a long, long time. I felt…fulfilled. And THAT is when I KNEW.

For all the messiness that music had come with, for all the hurt I felt it had put me through, music, and working in art and on artistic projects in general? THIS was where I belonged. There was no running away from it. I belonged in that space. And I needed to get over the trauma I’d experienced – whether self-inflicted or other – and face my fears head-on. The issue wasn’t really music of course, the issue was me. I wasn’t ready AT ALL for what being in a field like this actually entailed and bit off way more than I could chew; I was strong-headed at times and did not prioritise what I perhaps should have because I felt only I could see the dream and no one else got it the way I did; I paid too much attention to what people thought of me, and as a people-pleaser could not live with the knowledge that I was viewed differently by some than I viewed myself; I was not built for certain roles I took up (or was forced to take up, because of circumstance), and though I knew this, I really had to understand what that meant with regards to what place I had in this music thing, and what value I bring, and not beat myself up too much for failures I could have done very little about.

Value is a huge reason I felt music had done me dirty. I felt like it had deceived me into thinking anything I’d done meant something, that the people I’d worked with knew my heart, appreciated the sacrifices I’d made and what I brought to the table, and that in my lowest of times they would remember all that, understand and support me. If you know me you know I have always wondered if what I do has any value at all, if who I am is of any use in this life, if anyone actually cares. I still wonder about that. But suddenly, by the end of 2019 that question was answered slightly. Working on that album saved my life, and at least, for a moment, I felt like I had some value, that I had something to contribute in this really fucked up world, in a way that felt somewhat purposeful. I used to feel music broke me, but music and art in general, is what is going to make me. 

2020 was a tough year for everyone (except the 1% of course), but I guess one of the things it did do was give me time to think. And by the end of the year I decided that in 2021, I was going to dive into this thing again, headfirst. Not in the way I thought I would before – I’ve grown in my loathing of capitalism and am therefore quite anti the label establishment now – but I find myself at a unique time in my life where things that were previously hazy seem to be clearing up, and I definitely know now how I would like to approach this whole thing again. I know this space is where I’ve got to be, BUT in my own way, and that I need to work towards figuring out how I can still be me and still make things happen in a business as cut-throat as this. It’s taken years to get here, but boy am I glad I’m here now. I don’t have nearly enough knowledge or the affiliations or partnerships to do what I know needs to be done. However, the most important thing is to be present mentally, and that is a place I can finally say to myself I am now, that I wasn’t the past couple of years. For me, this is a HUGE deal, and is something I do not take lightly at all. I’m grateful.

After living in fear of music, of the business (which I still dislike), of this particular risk, of living really for the past few years, I realised I needed something to remind me of what I do and why I want to keep doing it, to keep me motivated especially when the doubts inevitably come. So, as part of a small redecorating project my cousin Michelle and I did of my tiny room in dusty old Ogbodjo, I decided to carve space on my wall for this: 

All the projects I’ve worked on in chronological order

I know, it could be classier (shout-outs to being a broke creative), but we did what we could with what we had (Michelle, who made the pieces and who I owe a depth of gratitude to, is a great DIY creative). I really needed to set the tone for my year as quickly as possible with these reminders, before I started to lose sight of my goals. Reminders of all the music projects I’ve worked on in some shape or form and to varying degrees, of the hours and hours of unseen sweat and literal tears that went into each one of them; reminders of the value I can bring, that I belong, and that I can do it. These projects exist with me having been a part of them. That’s MAJOR Kaf. You SHOULD be proud! I should hold that as a personal badge of honour. Not for anyone’s sake, but for mine in particular. Nothing really has purpose for me in this world, and I live often wondering what the point of it all is. But art is the only thing I don’t give two fucks not knowing what the point of its existence is. The way making art makes me feel? The fulfillment it gives me? The joy I get from being a part of bringing ideas to life? And the different transcendental experiences I can have when I imbibe art? It really is the only thing in life I don’t care not knowing the purpose of. And that is why I am so proud of these projects. I was part of making ART, the most magical thing in the world to me, and I could not be more proud. 

So yes, I have these front and back covers of projects I’ve worked on on my wall to look at everyday. Would these projects have been possible without me? Hell yeah. Artists don’t NEED Creative Directors to make their art – they are artists after all. But do I feel like what I brought to these projects gave them a certain something that would not have existed otherwise? I did not always feel like that was the case, but now I do, and THAT, is something to be proud of. 

To making more art 🥂

26: Thoughts. Sprinkled, Scattered. Thoughts.

26wall

These are just a bunch of the scattered thoughts I’ve been having today the 10th of May, 2017, a day before my 26th birthday. Was thinking so much for some reason, so I had to write. Sorry in advance for the length, you should know I’m a long person by now, and maybe also for the discomfort some of you might feel about some parts of the content.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not really big on birthdays. I never really celebrate mine. It took me awhile to get what the fuss was about with people and their birthdays. I hardly ever remembered them, which of course came with its own complications (a pretty good friend of mine refrained from speaking to me for about a year because I consistently forgot her birthday. She’d had enough chale). The only birthdays I ALWAYS remember are the obvious ones: my mother’s, my siblings’ (helps that they are twins, two birds with one stone lol), Awusi’s (one of my very best friends, a constant in my life since I was 15) and well, a special someone I had not too long ago. My late father’s too, for some strange reason.

It’s not that I don’t care about people, that’s not it at all. I just could not get why there had to be such a fuss about getting older, or having come another year in this life, especially in such a shitty world as the one we live. What exactly was there to celebrate? With all the crap that is going on, and just how much more complex life becomes the older you get? Silly I know, but that’s how I felt, and I particularly did not get why forgetting it should be such a big deal. People are busy – yes it’s nice if they remember – but if they don’t it’s not the end of the world is it? Was remembering a birthday (gift-getting, the whole nine yards) the litmus test for ascertaining how much of a priority one was in another’s life? I found that preposterous. I love you every day! The proof of it cannot all of a sudden rest on one day, can it? Of course some friends took this to mean I very intentionally did not commit their birthdays to memory or note them somewhere. It didn’t help that I was a social media recluse either, so Facebook very often couldn’t save me. Suffice it to say, I’ve had problems because of this.

A lot of us remember things by ages, maybe all of us. At least it would appear so, and it seems to be the case for me. It’s very often the age, or the school year I think, which a lot of us then associate with how old we were then. I know I had to wait 21 years to see anything remotely close to the threatenings of a moustache or any noteworthy facial hair for that matter. Nana Kyeremanten had a full blown beard by JSS 2, when we were 13. What I had done to deserve looking like a kid when I was into my 20’s I did not get. It was cute to be called cute when you were 14, not when you were 21. I still look like a kid though, even with the hair. Forken.

I had my first experience with my own semen (I know, sounds disgusting hehe) in Class 5 when I was 10, reading one of the many adult novels belonging to my late father that had been left on the bookshelf/divider in the hall. It always surprised me how those books were just left there, knowing how voracious a reader I was. I was done with the Children’s Classics way before I was supposed to be; wasn’t that warning enough? I can still remember the lesbian scene in that novel, and the heightened sense of wonder and achievement I felt as I watched that strange fluid trickle down little Dick Whittington. I felt like a man! Hilarious.

I went for my first altar call right before I was about to enter JSS at 12. I had smuggled myself into Teens Camp because it was the cool thing to do at the time, and went forward after movie night. I forget what movie was shown, but I remember feeling so terrified of going to hell, and feeling like the ‘there’s one more person who knows they should be here’ call was for me, and that the teacher/pastor (Pastor Appyah if I recall correctly) could see my sin so glaringly through all the people ahead of me. I’ve gone for a few more altar calls and re-dedications since, as I’m sure many reading this also have.

I remember the various but specific times at 8, 11, 13, 15, 17 and 20 when I felt that ‘heavy sadness’ droop over me. I refused to call it depression. How could I be depressed? Nkwasiasem nkoaa.

We often connect memories with the ages we were when we experienced what formed them, we form these strong bonds with people and places and things, and age is important to us because of the marker this serves us. A marker of our fondest memories, of our most significant moments. And memories, I’ve discovered, can save your life.

Humans are so busy doing this complex life thing that we need these types of markers, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and the like, so we can pause a little to reflect, to take stock, to cry, to celebrate with loved ones, and perhaps capture some special sprinkles of a different kind of happiness than we may encounter on the regular. Make intentional memories if you like. As humans we have realized how necessary it is to create our own moments of joy as we live, with the people we love, and celebrating birthdays are some of these deliberately crafted opportunities. It may seem a small thing, but we need these things to help us carry on in this life, and to be happy doing so. Took me a bit, but I understand this now.

I have undergone quite a change since 2012, when I was 21. I lost my virginity that year, in quite interesting circumstances, at the peak of my ‘spiritual prowess.’ I was Prayer Secretary for the campus ministry, and it was quite obvious I was being prepped to be the next President once the Level 400s were done. I was already Vice President back at headquarters. I was one of the shining lights of that batch of church leaders, very respected. Some of you reading know what I’m talking about. You probably also understand the constant pressure to live up to the image I felt people had of me. And then I went and had sex. And continued to have sex. Well well well.

Virginity is everything when you’re crif. Like really crif. Your people try to pretend it is not, but in very crif circles it really truly is. Their reactions alone show. It’s crazy how a person’s intrinsic value in very crif circles is so closely tied to whether or not they’ve had sex. Woe betides you if you’re a woman. And for you the individual, who may not have had the right understanding or spiritual upbringing, you think certain things and certain people beneath you. Inferior to you. Impossible for you. Ridiculous. This was the beginning of my not-going-to-church phase. I had not lived up to my own lofty standards, and the guilt was killing me. Some of you go bab. Later that year I did something pretty terrible and this changed me. Maybe another time for that one. Neither of them is the reason I actually finally decided to stop going to church though, even though they are what kept me out initially.

In 2013 I did a semester abroad in Germany that opened me up to so many experiences. I traveled around the country, visited many important places, and even took a trip to neighbouring Austria, where I fulfilled a dream of attending a classical music concert. It was in Germany that I had to come face to face with things I hadn’t really thought of for myself, like colonialism, my Africanness, homosexuality, race, feminism. I had my first drink there, went to my first pub, then my first club, and for the first time found myself in the company of people who had a completely different worldview to what I’d been brought up with and exposed to. Don’t get me wrong, I thank God for how my mother brought me up and all, thankful for my Christian upbringing. It has served me well in many ways in trying to navigate this life. But there were things that were off limits, certain things I had to just accept, and there’s a certain way this training can condition you to think that is also not healthy. In Germany, I started to question a lot of the things I had previously just accepted as true about life. A lot of the questions would invariably shake up my faith.

When I came back home that year, having turned 22, I was deemed ready to be told something I already sort of knew, or at least suspected, but always denied because of the image I chose to have of him: that my father, who has been dead since 1998, did indeed have other children. Turns out they were with two different women. I resented him deeply for that – I have been my mother’s son and been there for her as far as my walled up emotions will allow, and I could not understand how he could have been so wicked to this woman, who really is the sweetest soul. I resented my father even more when I met one of my newly discovered brothers, and saw how differently his life had turned out from the life my siblings and I had lived. Here I was, newly returned from a semester abroad by virtue of being one of the top students in my department in uni, and here was my brother, 3 years or so younger, who had never gone past Class 3. I hated the man so much for this. I began to hear stories about him, and how he behaved while he was married. They broke me. The image I had of him had been shattered. I resolved never to be like him.

In 2014, ironically, I began what many people describe as a hoe phase. It had become increasingly apparent that the person I loved and I could not be together, and that broke my heart and belief in love. A young man thinking these things and feeling these things can seem funny and so over the top can’t it? But these are all valid feelings, valid experiences. I made the decision after that to just be and just do. After a life of rectitude, of inhibitions, of living up to an image, what was left but to do the cliché thing and rebel against who I’d known myself to be so far? Cliché, but not invalid. I had always been a relationship type guy. Idealistic. A stickler for the ‘proper thing,’ and cockily so. Now here I was. Life can be beans.

In 2014 I got someone pregnant. She lost it. Throughout the whole ordeal, I died. I would die again in the future. I think I started to die proper in 2014. I don’t want to go into this today.

In 2014, I started a YouTube channel and produced and hosted a show, both things I had never done before. I never imagined myself a host, and not just any host, but one who would actually fool around on camera, more because of how people view me and the box in which they’ve placed me than anything else. That experience of doing something I didn’t believe I could do because of what people thought of me did something tremendous to me too. A little life. I’m grateful.

In 2015, VI Music was born. I met Reynolds, met Akotowaa, Adomaa was forming nicely, and dreams took off. More life. Blem! (I don’t know why I put that there lol). In 2015 also, I was dying, for other reasons. Good things were happening, very bad things were happening also, and most of them internally. I cannot write about these yet.

2016 saw the end to the most dysfunctional ‘relationship’/situationship I’ve had. I denied to myself how attached I’d become to this person, and how much this affected me, for many months. 2016 also saw the final confirmation that the person I loved and I were well and truly over. We’d been over since ending of 2013/beginning of 2014, but at various times since then there’d been attempts to see if things could work. 5 years together on and off, 10 years in total as best friends, that leaves a mark. In 2016, the final nail was hammered into a coffin that was already in the ground. That hurt.

In 2016, and pretty soon after turning 25 I decided I needed to grow. I decided to get my act together. I failed. I screwed up again. I died. Not writing about that either. Sucks that the screwing up carried on into 2017. I’m sorry to the people I hurt. Don’t try to start shit with people when you’re so far in your mess. What you need is help, not another relationship. You’ll only hurt them. I hurt these people. I’m truly very sorry, whether it was my intention or not. It’s never my intention anyway, but see all the hurt I’ve caused since I was 15? Intention doesn’t matter as much in these cases.

In 2017 I have decided to be open about my experiences, to be open to myself, to put more stuff out there in every meaning of the word possible, to begin my catharsis. Because I have been dying inside. I have not been living. I’ve been trudging along with a boulder of baggage, of guilt, of pain, regret, anger, of repressed emotion, of questions, of frustration, of confusion, of everything. I have discovered that writing about these things and sending them out there, releasing them, truly heals, if not completely, at least in part. Healing, in its various forms, and to its various degrees, is necessary. A great man once said, ‘None of us is completely broken, none of us is completely healed.’ It’s a pretty ‘there’ kind of statement, not really saying anything at first glance, seemingly only describing a state and not offering much else in terms of moving forward. It’s one of those statements that can be very annoying when you first read it. Like, what koraaa have you said? But if looked at another way it can change SO MUCH. I take solace from the first part, and I’m working on getting my healing.

At 18 I was naïve, had only kissed one girl (and broken up with her because of the guilt of it. Yup, you bab the kind of guy I was), was the epitome of spiritual fervency and a proper example of ‘zeal without knowledge,’ and was your resident childlike dreamer, with visions of doing everything, ready to change the world. Very green, very cheerful, very hopeful. At 26, I have certainly kissed more than one girl, gone through a lot of stuff I never in a million years thought I would, and my perspective on the world is not as naïve. My dreams still exist, but my approach to them has changed. I have changed. A LOT.

One thing I’m certainly not now is as Christian as I was at 18, and I use that in reference to the origins of the word, not my standing with God. Contrary to what my mother believes, I think this has been for me – at least in part – a good thing. There’s almost always a negative to everything, and this is no different. I know that, and I understand her, but there were good parts to me stepping away from that life for as long as I have. It was a life that had gradually become more about what I looked and sounded like to people and if they’d approve, if I could please them, be the man of God I thought they wanted. It was a very flat, not genuine life (and I mostly blame myself for how I construed things). I couldn’t live that life any longer. I really and truly needed to understand why I was doing what I was doing, and who I was doing it for. I needed to properly understand what I had come to believe, and to bravely, without fear or shame, question the things I could not reconcile with some of what I still believed, as well as some of the new things I had come to discover that would ordinarily be off limits.

I think all this is necessary, because in the end, one or the other is true, of there being a God (gods, a spiritual realm, whatever you call it) or not, and if I’m going to believe the former (which I do, the alternative doesn’t work for me), then I need much more than what I’ve been fed for years.

26 years on this planet, living with other humans. Creepy.

I’ve learnt, and am still learning to say “fuck you” to what people think (hyperbolic of course). Especially certain types of people belonging to the kind of background I came from, as well as another type of people who do not belong to this group, and who do not believe what the people from this background believe. Both (speaking broadly still) judge one another venomously, and look down on each other in ways both often deny, placing more importance on how right or how much more sensible their positions are than on loving each other regardless of these positions. I’ve done same, I know what it’s like, and it’s toxic. Now I’m just trying to find my answers to this life little by little, and to be happy. I’m learning not to let what anyone thinks affect me on this journey.

I’ve learnt, and am still learning, what it means to be a man (in general as well as one with the type of life I’ve had), in this very trash world, and how I want none of that. I’ve learnt to not lash out at the generalizations (I detest generalizations in general, I have always thought they do more harm than good) because I’ve moved from “can’t you see I’m not part of that school of thinking? I was raised different!” to accepting that I do have privilege, whether I resent it or not, and rather focus on finding alternative ways of making this world a fairer, better, equal place. I have privilege because of the strata of society into which I was born, I have privilege because I’m Christian/was raised Christian, I have privilege because I’m straight, I have privilege because I’m a man. And once you begin to accept these as the reality on the ground, and not take offence at every single action or reaction from those who are oppressed because of the systems that facilitate these types of privilege you practically by default enjoy, no matter how deeply you oppose them, then you can begin to figure out how you can contribute more effectively to making your world a better, fairer place. I’m still learning how to steer my way through this.

I’ve learnt, and am still learning, to respect people’s pain, and not belittle it because I either did not feel the same in similar circumstances, or have learnt to deal with mine. I’ve discovered in the past year that I actually never learnt to deal with it at all, actually. Look at me now. People’s pain is valid, it’s their pain, not yours, and it takes quite a bit of conceitedness to not acknowledge that. I am ashamed of my old self for being like that. I may not have shown it to people, so not many would know, and a number would think me a ‘good friend’ in their time of need, but I know what was in my head then, and I’m terribly sorry I thought that way.

I’ve learnt, and keep learning, about this world, and how fundamentally crap it is, and how hard life in general can be. I’ve learnt to not impose my subjective experience on people, and force them to view the world through my lens, as I assumed I had the moral right and obligation to in the past. That ain’t right. Sharing is not imposing. We need to know the difference, we need to be more sensitive to these things. Anyone and everyone. I’m learning to do that.

I’ve learnt that I’m the shit, and that I’ve been shit. The former is not arrogance, the latter is not self-deprecation. They are both co-habiting truths that I’ve learnt. I’ve been both wonderful and crap in romantic relationships. I’ve been an amazing friend, and the most terrible when I was most needed. I’ve been an amazing visionary and executor of ideas, I’ve made poor decisions and harmed the start-ups I’ve run. In all this though, I’ve learnt. And that’s the most important thing. You may never be able to change the minds of the people you’ve hurt in the past because of your assholery, and for someone like me that’s been hard to accept, but you can always make sure you do not do the same to the people you have in your life in the present, and those you will meet in the future. Sometimes it’s just what it is.

The biggest key to this life that I’ve discovered so far is truly to let love lead. This is one thing Christianity taught me from a very early age, though the practice of it within the church and towards those outside of it confused me at times as I grew older. Germany taught me to love and value ALL people, to genuinely do so, simply because they are people. Our differences are secondary to the fact that we exist for each other – and to show love despite your beliefs and what you’ve held to be true for years? That’s priceless. I’m also learning to criticize in love, admonish in love, even have love for the people I despise per moment, lol (sometimes there’s just that person in your life at a particular time you simply cannot stand). Learning to love is quite possibly the most difficult thing to do on this planet. For me, faith has helped with this.

Finally (not because this is all I’ve learnt, but because this can go on forever if I don’t stop myself) I’ve learnt that we are always learning, and not to recognize this especially in others, knowing that at a point we also were in the throes of ignorance on possibly the same issue, is extremely sad. I apologize to anyone I was impatient with in the past in matters like this. I needed to learn this for myself to understand what I was doing. There’s so much to learn, possibly even more to unlearn, and we all need a safe space to do that. We also have to be prepared to learn (and unlearn), which is really tough, because these things we have learnt have become largely who we are. But I’m learning to address this, because more than this personal difficulty, is seeing how much more messed up this world is because of what we have seen and what we have been taught. Everyone was born completely innocent, without a single thought, belief or attitude already formed (except Piers Morgan; that man was born annoying), and I’ve discovered that remembering this in my dealings with people, and also with me when it comes to things I hold on to or reject, has helped an awful lot.

I don’t hate my father anymore. No one is perfect. Cliché, but true. I have personal evidence of that that I can’t as at yet bring myself to write about. And I have good memories of him, which are also valid. Despite all his faults, I’d like to believe he was a good man. And there are many things he was that I hope I will be too. I hear about the good things too. I do suspect this father issue (from his death, to growing up without one, to finding out about my siblings) has had more of an effect on me than I know, much less care to admit, and so we’ll see if at 26 I will consider getting a professional opinion on it. I know it has affected my sister in many ways, and I can only assume it has my brother too. Maybe I’ll lead the way.

I apologize for the incoherence of all this. Writing (like this) really doesn’t have to be perfect or follow a certain structure though right? For if art is Life, and Life follows no structure, where’s the Life in that type of structured, rigid writing? (LOL. See me trying to give excuses by passing faux-deep lanes.)

I used to scoff at things like this, taking stock, reflecting on birthdays and New Year’s, or writing about this sort of stuff. Funny how I need to do them now for my own sanity. Someone I respect more than he’s aware always talks about being vulnerable through your art. Is this art? Lol, I dunno, but I’m being vulnerable anyway, and it is bringing me to life again.

It’s a few minutes after midnight on the 11th of May, 2017. I’ve just turned 26. Cool. Rade beat Akotowaa to it by seconds in being the first to wish me at 00:00. It really is cute that they waited for midnight. Rade has sent me a long message that has me even more in my feels (as if writing this was not enough), Akotowaa has just thanked me for existing. Kennetha just sent a VN and is excited for no reason. Lol. I am not too oblivious to realize this: the way I’m feeling, it’s nothing big, it’s tiny, but these are the little things that help us survive, and to be happy while we do so, and I get that now. I’m sorry I didn’t realize this earlier, Akwasi, Sonia, Princess, and all my other good friends whose birthdays I played down when I forgot. It’s not about me, these moments are precious to you, and rightly so.

I’m getting more messages. It means a lot to know you help people make meaning of their existence because you exist. The phrase ‘I need you to survive’ has a double meaning that’s so significant. God bless you guys.

I’m learning to live, I’m learning to love, I’m learning to laugh. I’m learning to cherish memories, to capture them, because they truly can save your life.

Happy Birthday, Kaf.

 

IT’S [NOT] THAT SIMPLE: The Women’s Game, Equal Pay and Moral Will – Part IV

Gender Pay Gap

(Read Part III here)

It is structural

We cannot ignore the effects millennia of harmful social norms have had on our collective psyche, and which gender has benefited the most on a structural level, and has enjoyed enforcing these norms and the systems that engender them. From the very second we are thrust into this world, gender is thrown in our faces, and before we even know who we are or what we like, we are told what people who look like us do and what they should like.

sf_mtg-2.jpgKenyan girls playing the game they love. Source: Interagency Youth Working Group 

How much talent have we been deprived of experiencing over the years because by age 5, all a young girl saw was the boys being pointed towards football when it was time to play, and the girls towards something else? What do we say about the 9-year-old girl stuck in the kitchen almost every day, while her brothers kicked a ball around outside? Or the 11-year-old girl reprimanded and teased by the boys at school for wanting to join them play, because ‘girls don’t play football?’ Or even just the girl who might have simply enjoyed watching the sport for entertainment had she been allowed to explore a fuller range of possible interests early on?

The norms that have allowed for these attitudes to exist, affecting both interest in, and participation of women in sport, have benefited men. Men have gone on to have more professional sporting ecosystems, and hold the financial might in the major and most popular ones. It is no accident.

I’ve also read pieces and heard people say that men are more naturally inclined to being interested in sports than women. There is no such thing as a natural disposition of a gender towards interest in sports. Gender is taught and reinforced by society. A cisgender man does not come pre-packaged with a love for watching or playing football, just like a cisgender woman does not come pre-packaged with a love for (and this is such a tired stereotype, but it probably best illustrates my point) cooking. There is no scientific evidence to support one sex or gender being more attuned to playing or simply watching sport over another.

SoccerClinicGirls_GLA soccer coaching clinic in Soweto, South Africa. Source: forbesafrica.com

If it wasn’t for the current gender lens majority of humans use to interpret the world, there would be more people from every gender supporting a multiplicity of sports played by people of every gender because they are just interested and like what they see. I hear the call for more women to get into supporting women’s football teams and flocking to stadiums, to contribute their part to making the sport more lucrative, and I acknowledge it, but you also cannot suddenly engineer/stimulate women’s interest in football en masse just because their gender is playing.

You’ll get women who are already football fans to watch more women’s games, you’ll get a few more fans who watch only men’s national team games or men’s World Cups to watch something like the Women’s World Cup, you’ll get a few women who understand the political and economic importance of their support being more intentional about it, and you’ll win a few more fans in people who, after exposure to the game, will simply just take to it. But if we are talking about genuine interest and generating widespread fandom, that starts early. It cannot be engineered. The level of exposure to sport across genders, in most classes, and as enforced by society has been skewed towards one gender. It would be very disingenuous for anyone to deny that.

Men have a duty

gettyimages-1068263414-2048x2048.jpgDJ Martin Solveig with 2018 Ballon d’Or winner, Ada Hegerberg. Solvieg infamously asked Hegerberg to twerk at the ceremony, after her win. Credit: FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

Men will have to do their bit to advance women’s sport, just like they will have to do their bit to advance women in almost every field in the world. Again, this is not because women are incapable, nor is it because they have not shown enough dynamism when and where it matters most. Once more, women do not need a handout, nor are they asking for one. Men will have to get their butts off their comfortable seats and do their bit because of an understanding of the patriarchal system, who it benefits, why it is violent and unfair, and why it needs to be toppled.

Many men reject this as reality, and some simply do not (or choose not to) understand how they contribute to it or enjoy its privileges, but that understanding will have to come, sooner than later. Women will fight regardless, make no mistake, as they have for centuries, because as history has shown those with privilege and power rarely concede it when it is the right thing to do – it has historically been forced from them and continues to be. However, the men in actual positions of power in sport, as well as the casual men football fans, who say they care about creating a fairer world for women and other less privileged groups, have to show it.

Christelle AlixUNESCO-organized interactive panel on gender equality in football. Credit: UNESCO / Christelle Alix

The Norway men’s football team and national football federation are a good example of this. In 2017, a deal was announced to pay members of the men’s and women’s national teams equally. How was this done? By a commitment to doing the right thing from the people at the top and the biggest beneficiaries of the pay gap, the players of the men’s team. The federation took requests (from the Norwegian Players’ Association which represents both men and women footballers) for increased marketing of the women’s game a step further by putting equal pay on the table, did some budget re-allocation to free up funds, and the men’s team agreed to give up a part of their match fees so their women colleagues could earn the same as them. There are national and regional federations in the world that have the structures and resources to do this too. It’s about the will to do what is right.

Men football fans can also be intentional about following women’s football. At the very least, there are big games and big tournaments to look out for: the Women’s World Cup, UEFA Champions League, the National Women’s Soccer League in the US, the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON), the classico in Spain (the Spanish league has some very technically gifted players), the big games in England, games involving Lyon in France, etc.

fans.jpgFrance midfielder Charlotte Bilbault taking selfies with fans at the just-ended World Cup. Photo by Baptiste Fernandez/Icon Sport via Getty Images

What can be done about women’s club football?

While this piece has focused mainly on national teams and international football – because this is where the grievances of women footballers actually is right now – club football is where players make their professional wages. Honestly, that is a whole other beast to tackle extensively in another piece. There are problems in many countries where men’s football is popular even for the men’s leagues (Ghana being one of them), and many of these leagues struggle despite having existed for far more years than the women’s. Club football is often a private, for-profit business, and in a capitalist world ridden with corruption in every sphere, the conversation there is much different, across genders.

But it is still worth highlighting how bleak a terrain club football is for women globally. A 2017 report by FIFPro, the worldwide players union, found that 90% of professional women players worldwide were considering ending their football careers early; only 9.4% of women players globally were aged 29 and above, compared to 22.4% of players who are men. In England, which has one of the top women’s leagues, 87% of its Super League players surveyed did not have a retirement fund, 88% no health insurance from their clubs, while 26% reported that their clubs did not cover their football expenses. When it came to having kids, just 2% of all active women players worldwide were found to have children, an astonishing number when you consider how many men play the game professionally who have children, and only 3% of clubs had creche facilities. On an attendance level, average crowds for games in England amount to about 800, 600 in France and 6000 in the USA. And these are some of the big footballing nations in women’s football. There is so much work to be done.

pakistanA semi-final match between Pakistan Army and Karachi United in the Pakistani National Women Football Championship, 2018. Photo by Chaudhry Ansar

Club football is mainly controlled by private interests, but a few things can still be done by the world body and regional confederations to get women’s club football steered in the right direction. Channelling more funds into grassroots development, establishing more academies and creating incentive packages for league development are ways these bodies can help women’s football leagues around the world. With the might some of these bodies have, their existing and previous partnerships can also be leveraged into deals that could benefit a few countries at a time if these countries show a willingness, a structure and a strategy for improving club football for their women. FIFA President Gianni Infantino has also pledged to look into what the world governing body can do for women’s club football, with tentative plans for a Women’s Club World Cup, to thrust more players and teams into the spotlight.

Successful football organisations with men’s teams can also do their part by instituting women’s teams, like is happening in the more prosperous footballing countries around the world. Arsenal Ladies, Arsenal FC’s women’s team, is (ironically, *gulp*) the best in England; Olympique Lyon’s women’s team is the 4-time consecutive Champions League winner and 13-time consecutive French champion. A number of the huge clubs currently have men’s and women’s teams, but more of those types of clubs with resources need to follow suit. Manchester United is consistently one of the most profitable football clubs in the world each year but only just set up its women’s team last year. With these organisations doing their part, FIFA and regional confederations injecting more resources into the women’s game, women’s leagues (hopefully) being better-managed and women’s football becoming more popular and developing on a technical and tactical level, investors and owners will eventually emerge to form independent teams as well.

oshoalaNigerian star and 3-time African Player of the Year, Asisat Oshoala, in action for her club side Barcelona. Source: Barca media via Goal.com

Also, FIFA allocating more resources to the marketing of the Women’s World Cup will benefit club football in the long run. Tournaments create stars and give us stories, and after the three or four weeks of rigorous competition and falling in love with certain players, there will be fans who will look to find where their new favourite stars play week in, week out. I know I’m going to be watching more English Super League games so I can see England’s Ellen White and the Netherland’s Vivianne Meidema in action more often.

Do better with the marketing FIFA, it will benefit all key stakeholders in the long run, including you.

More, more, more!

11ryall2-superJumboCredit: Balazs Czagany/MTI, via Associated Press

The key stakeholders in the game simply need to do more. It’s as simple as that. FIFA needs to do more than it is doing now, with a more nuanced understanding of the issues and a more progressive framework for dealing with them. Same for regional bodies like UEFA, the Asian Football Confederation, CAF etc. Richer national federations need to do more. Only the smaller federations are allowed to say they can only pay women’s teams from the revenue they bring in, not the bigger federations that actually have the means to give better/equal bonuses across national teams, and especially not the ones where their women’s teams are actually outperforming the men and also bringing in great amounts of revenue. It is unfair for FIFA, regional confederations and capable national federations to insist on a model that bases compensation for the same level teams across genders, solely on revenue. The advancement of men has been off the back of the oppression of women, and if that has brought immense wealth, it is only right that it is re-distributed in an attempt to rectify the wrongs of the past and achieve equal opportunity and compensation for everyone.

FIFA, regional confederations and national federations need to reassess their priorities and involve women players more in decision-making. FIFA needs to get FIFPro (the players union) even more involved in its planning, especially FIFPro’s Women’s Committee. FIFPro itself needs to strengthen its Women’s Committee and aggressively extend the invitation to more women’s teams and players from all regional federations, especially the weakest ones, to join it.

The media needs to do more to place the spotlight on the women’s game, even outside of World Cups, and fans must do more to show support by going to stadiums, tuning in to games, buying merchandise etc. It is a collective responsibility. It will take some time for women’s football to be as big as it should be, no doubt about that, but by being proactive, taking control of the sport’s development, and not waiting for change to happen in its own sweet time, a path can be cleared for women to also make a significant living from the sport they love and place their bodies on the line for.

girlPhoto by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It is worth the effort.


 

 

(List of online sources)

IT’S [NOT] THAT SIMPLE: The Women’s Game, Equal Pay and Moral Will – Part III

FotoJet (5)

(Read Part II here)

The conversation about ability and quality

‘There’s a reason no one is paying to watch women shoot layups, as opposed to…dunking, and shooting 3-pointers, and all of that.’ Conservative US commentator Ben Shapiro said this about the WNBA on a recent podcast episode explaining why women are paid less in football. He was using this to support his bigger point, which basically was that certain sports played by women, in this case football and basketball, are not watched not because of sexist reasons, but because the women athletes there are just not – and cannot be – as good as the men.

He pointed to the 5-2 loss the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) suffered in a friendly with FC Dallas’ Under-15 boys academy team in 2017, and the Australian women’s national team’s 7-0 loss to the Newcastle Jets’ Under-15 boys academy team in the lead up to the 2016 Rio Olympics, as further evidence of his point. He also expressed an opinion I know a lot of people also hold – that the physical strength and speed of the average male athlete compared to the female athlete means women playing these types of sports is simply just unappealing.

Brazil v Korea Republic: Group E - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015Brazil legend Marta. Source: FIFA.com via Getty Images

Ben Shapiro is one of many voices that use these sorts of arguments to support unequal pay. What people like him are essentially saying is that women’s football is and will always be of inferior quality, is a poor substitute for the real deal, and has no inherent value to be able to stand on its own as a valid source of high-level competition and entertainment. It therefore cannot win fans over, because the women are currently not, and can just never be, good enough to watch.

If it is not obvious already, I am a staunch football fan. For a while, I was the worst fanatic. I used to follow everything from the days of Mia Hamm and Lucas Radebe, was a huge fan of the Alberta Sackeys and Shaibu Yakubus of Ghana football, followed tournaments like the COSAFA Castle Cup…I just loved the sport and followed everything I could find on it. I still follow a lot of football (though I have drastically reduced my fanaticism), am an EPL and La Liga faithful, and watch as many major international tournaments as I can, including the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations and the men’s and women’s World Cups.

gettyimages-2618344-2048x2048.jpgFormer Black Queens captain and Ghanaian legend, Alberta Sackey. Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

I have seen enough games and followed enough competitions, and this is truth: the quality of the women’s game in general is lacking – I would be a hypocrite to say otherwise. There aren’t as many technically gifted players on display on average, except with the very top teams, and this means viewing is not always as gratifying as it could be. It also means well-coached U-15 boys academy teams can beat women’s national teams in the manner the USWNT and Australia’s Matildas experienced.

But this is also truth: players of any sport get better technically, tactically and physically as the sport develops, i.e., as it grows, creates its own ecosystem and becomes more professional. Players start playing the game earlier, join academies (an often-overlooked but crucial step in learning the game in all aspects, as raw talent is never enough) and gain more exposure. They improve their confidence and mental fortitude, understand the science and tactics of the sport better, improve their physical conditioning, compete alongside players at a higher level more regularly and take part in higher level competition. A sport developing means more and more people take to that sport, more natural talent is discovered, skills honed, and the talent pool of naturally gifted, technically skilled, higher IQ, physically fit and tactically aware players is increased.

You cannot judge women football players broadly on ability when this has not happened on a large scale around the world. The game is so so young on a professional level, and if you have ever watched the incredible Marta skip past defenders like they didn’t exist, seen Hope Solo or Sari van Veenendaal make saves, watched Ellen White bare down on goal, seen Abby Wambach strike the ball, Birgit Prinz tower over defenders, Vivianne Miedema when she’s on her game or if you ever witnessed Homare Sawa in her prime, you need no further evidence of how technically gifted and skilled women players are/can be.

ellen white.jpgEngland star Ellen White, with her signature goal celebration. Source: FIFA via Getty Images

I think it is also important to remember that the point is not about a gender being better than, worse than, as good as, or playing exactly like another. There will always be physical or genetic factors that give one athlete the edge over another, or make one athlete perform differently from another, regardless of gender. It is the case within the same types of sports, and across different sports. Within and across genders, there will be athletes with longer limbs, more muscle mass than average, larger lungs, lower centres of gravity, etc., and all these will contribute to performance output.

We do not try to physically compare a man who is a long-distance runner and a man who is a sprinter, because their different builds and whatever genetic advantages they inherited make them capable of doing certain things really well, and others not as well. But we appreciate the skillset and athleticism each brings to the table. Marta is exciting to watch because she is a great skilled athlete. She may be more skilled and naturally gifted than David Beckham, may be less so than Ronaldinho, the arguments can go on, but the point is we watch her because she is good at what she does. People will watch technically gifted athletes regardless of gender or size, because they are good at what they do.

LeBron-Steph.jpgNBA superstars Lebron James and Stephen Curry in action. Source: laindependent.com

In men’s basketball, people tune in to watch a 6-foot 8-inch, 250-pound Lebron James bulldoze his way through everybody on his way to scoring a possible 61 points. They also tune in to watch a smaller 6-foot 3-inch, 190-pound Steph Curry, who is no match for a Lebron James physically, possibly hit thirteen 3-pointers in one game. Serena Williams versus Kim Clijsters or her sister Venus (at her peak) were always such exciting matches to watch, as is a Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal tennis match today. Veronica Campbell-Brown and Shelley-Ann Fraser gave us amazing moments in the sprints to relish, just like the legend Usain Bolt did.

The legendary Yelena Isinbayeva was a star at practically every Olympic Games or World Championships she competed in. Kirsty Coventry and Tirunesh Dibaba are greats who lit up those same sporting events, just like Michael Phelps and Mo Farah did. Simone Biles has taken the world by storm, and will likely go down as one of the most elite athletes we have ever witnessed. If you’re good people will watch you, and the conditions in certain sports for more talented women to come through and to be good, and the good ones to be seen, are only just starting to be created.

serena_williams_-_2019_roland_garros_-dsc_6203_original23-time Grand Slam champion and tennis legend, Serena Williams. Source: WTA

Marketing + investment is an answer

This is why there needs to be more marketing of the current women’s game, and investment in its future. People will gravitate towards talent and hail it if they can see it. We don’t have stars because of talent, we do because of branding and marketing of those talents. Very few things that are widespread today became so without intentional investment and marketing, with resources pumped in to back them when they were not as popular. Not Christianity, not Hollywood films, not Afrobeats and most certainly not football.

You need money to make money, in the world as we have structured it. You will also lose money as you work your way towards making that money. Profit will take some time. The argument about women’s football not being immediately profitable as a good reason to not invest significantly in it (from grassroots development to increased prize money for tournaments), to me, is a weak one. I would get it to an extent if the argument was solely concerning club football, particularly in countries with poor structures and struggling leagues, but at international level, this idea should simply not be allowed to stand. The means to invest exists.

It would be a very different argument if there was absolutely zero interest in the women’s game at all, but since the 1999 Women’s World Cup, interest has grown exponentially all around the world. Some players have actually become household names in certain territories; bona fide stars have emerged. There is a market that is very young, but growing, one that can be expanded over time, if there is intentional, strategic investment planning by FIFA, regional confederations and national federations all working together, in collaboration with their partners and sponsors. It is doable.

1999.jpgA sell-out crowd at New Jersey’s colossal Giants Stadium – Women’s World Cup ’99. Source: FIFA.com

Improved marketing of the Women’s World Cup event itself is a sure way FIFA can raise the profile and popularity of the game. The men’s FIFA World Cup is marketed as a destination even for non-football fans. It is branded as an experience, and while the majority of those who make the trips are there to support their teams, hundreds of thousands of people also attend it just to be part of the spectacle and the fun, and in the process some are won over to the beautiful game. FIFA needs to look at how to achieve this for its next Women’s World Cups, and figure out how it can work with Local Organizing Committees (LOCs) to make it an experience even casual fans and non-football fans would wish to be a part of.

FIFA did not do as great a job with its market research as would be expected for this past women’s tournament, having certain games played in destinations that were not strong ‘football cities,’ compared to others. This drove down attendances and of course ticket revenue for some games, and affected the optics and general spectacle. FIFA and LOCs need to be more deliberate about things like that. The approach to popularizing the event needs to be more aggressive and better thought through.

gettyimages-476927360-2048x2048Japanese fans at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Canada. Photo Credit: Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

If we only wait for interest in the women’s game to organically grow, it may come too late, or will always be playing catchup. The call for existing fans to be intentional about vocally and financially supporting their favourite women players and teams (by taking the time to watch games, talking about games on social media the way they do men’s football, buying jerseys etc.) as a way to drive up interest is definitely a thing we must do and it must be encouraged, 100%. But it is not where the main focus should lie. That solves very little, big picture-wise. It’s like placing the major responsibility of reducing plastic pollution on people, telling them to ‘reduce, re-use, recycle,’ when the issue is more structural, and requires policy to make a significant enough dent. The issues surrounding the women’s game, as stated in Part II of this piece, are structural. Societal. Political. They go beyond football, and therefore require a deeper, more conscious and more holistic approach to solution-finding.


 

 

Last Part here…

IT’S [NOT] THAT SIMPLE: The Women’s Game, Equal Pay and Moral Will – Part II

FotoJet (1)

(Read Part I here)

The ‘can’ of it all

This brings me to my larger point and away from the American team – which is a very specific situation, as it is in a comparatively privileged position not many of the teams around the world can relate to – to the more pressing global issue, and to what I call the ‘can’ of it all. The women’s game on a professional level worldwide is only a few decades old. The first Women’s World Cup sanctioned by FIFA was only held in 1991, 61 years after the first men’s World Cup. It was actually dubbed the 1st FIFA World Championship for Women’s Football for the M&M’s Cup,’ because FIFA was unwilling to give it its World Cup brand name yet, just in case the event flopped. There were 12 teams, and the players were made to play 80 minutes instead of 90. The USA captain at the time, April Heinrichs, once told Sports Illustrated: “They were afraid our ovaries were going to fall out if we played 90.”

Denmark Women's 1971 World Cup Team    Final of a non-FIFA sanctioned women’s World Cup, held 1971, in Mexico. Photo: PA

Women were banned from participating in football and/or sport in many countries all over the world, including countries where the men’s game is now extremely popular, where its senior men’s teams have had global success, and where the sport is seen as highly developed. In some of those cases, the women’s game was actually either already popular or gaining serious popularity until these bans were instituted, halting progress and setting women’s football back. England instituted its ban in 1921, calling the game ‘quite unsuitable for females,’ and only lifted it 50 years later, by which time the men’s team had won the men’s World Cup; Brazil instituted its ban in 1941, because apparently ‘violent’ sports were ‘not suitable for the female body,’ and lifted it in 1981 – Pele & Co. had already won the first three of Brazil’s five men’s World Cups by that time; Germany said football was ‘fundamentally foreign to the nature of women,’ that it would damage their bodies and souls, and banned the sport in 1955 for the next 15 years. Spain banned women from playing in 1935 and pushed against it till the late 80s.

Thankfully today, women’s football has developed to be what it is, and is still developing, but it is still young professionally, compared to the men’s version of the sport. It needs to be propped up. FIFA can do something about the part it plays in how disparately resources are distributed between the men’s and women’s versions of the sport, which is why apart from (capable) national federations, the world body is also getting some heat. The issue is not the money. For governments, major corporations and huge organizations like FIFA which makes more than it spends, it usually isn’t. It is about moral will.

mkabgz60d8xasv5qkxy1Source: FIFA.com

FIFA is a non-profit with some of the biggest profit margins of any worldwide organization. With very little financial input, the association has the rights to and organizes the world’s biggest sporting event, the men’s FIFA World Cup. Between television rights, marketing rights, licensing, hospitality rights and ticket sales for this event and others, FIFA makes a tonne of cash. The organization records its revenue in a four-year cycle between men’s World Cups, and from 2015 to 2018 reported revenue of more than $6.4bn.

FIFA does put a lot back into the game, with about $1.67bn of this figure (reportedly) going into developmental and educational projects in that same period of time (which include funding for women’s football development as well). Even with that considered, and also taking into account FIFA’s general marketing costs, payments to Local Organizing Committees to organize its major tournaments, current allocations for prize money, travel and accommodation costs for players, support staff and match officials, legal fees, administrative costs and all its other expenses, the governing body was still left with over $1bn in profit for the 2015 – 2018 period. The organization also has a healthy reserve of about $2.7bn and counting, and is projected to make a profit of $11bn in the 2026 men’s World Cup alone. FIFA, a non-profit, is filthy rich.

It will not hurt FIFA to rearrange things and redistribute its resources so it can pay men and women equally for senior World Cups. It really won’t. The prize money allocated for the men’s World Cup in 2018 was $400m split among 32 teams. For this year’s Women’s World Cup in France it was $30m, split among 24 teams (the prize money has since been doubled for the next Women’s World Cup, to $60m, but at the same time the men’s prize money has gone up to $440m for their next World Cup in 2022). For some of the Thai, Jamaican or Cameroonian women players, the money they could earn from participating may be more than they will ever receive in their entire club careers, just like there are men whose prize money at the men’s World Cup is more than they have ever seen. The difference? The numbers across genders are embarrassingly imbalanced. FIFA has the means to do something about this.

ajara nchout.jpgCameroon star Ajara Nchout, a nominee for FIFA’s Puskas Award (best goal, across genders) 2019. Source: FIFA.com

This is all that is being called for. The American federation can make up the difference and pay its national team players equally, regardless of gender. FIFA can make up the difference in its prize money and also bridge the gap in its allocations to national federations the world over, for men’s and women’s football. It can bridge the gap significantly in a way that won’t hurt the organization ot its future, yet would do so much more to develop the women’s game.

No one is calling for FIFA to go insanely deep into its reserves, which I must add, are healthier now than ever before. Savings are necessary. Assets are valuable. Anything can happen, so by all means, have a healthy reserve. This though, is cash FIFA has on hand. Even FIFA President Gianni Infantino, after the USWNT’s World Cup win, referred to the unprecedented levels of reserves FIFA has, and said it does not ‘need all that money in Swiss banks – they have enough.’ It is something FIFA can do. The annual salaries of FIFA’s top two executives, President Infantino and General Secretary Fatma Samoura, when combined, make up more than the $4m the entire USWNT just received for winning the World Cup. FIFA can do this.

Should a governing body that says it seeks progress and equality in the general development of the game regardless of race, class or gender not be questioned about why it is not doing a lot more to reflect this? Especially in cases where it obviously can? Methinks not.

Why should FIFA do it just because it can?

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From the 68th FIFA Congress in Moscow last year. Source: FIFA.com

Why should FIFA step in to significantly bridge the gap in prize money, when the 2018 men’s World Cup brought in over $4bn and the 2019 Women’s World Cup, a meagre (projected) $130m in comparison? Why? This is an obvious answer, but one many think does not apply to this particular issue because ‘football is about business,’ and players should only be paid based on how much revenue they bring in. That is a simplistic way of viewing an issue more complex and nuanced than that. You cannot just say football is about business while ignoring the reason the women’s game is not as popular, and therefore not as profitable, as it could be.

Women are at a disadvantage in the sport, because they have been at a disadvantage in LIFE. Not for decades. Not for centuries. For millennia. This is fact. The extra boost is not only required, it is the right thing to do. It is not a pity gesture or a cheap handout. It is not because women are not capable. It is because they need to fight twice, thrice, ten times as hard, to show what they can do, compared to men as a group. It is because the way the world has been structured has meant men have had a head start, and women are faced with the task of now starting from scratch again in many fields. This issue is more than football. This is societal. This is structural. This is life. Every member of a marginalized group starts at a disadvantage literally from birth, and in 2019 those with power, who clearly have the means, have to recognize that they bear a moral responsibility to prop up those who have been kept down, because we should believe in a playing field of equal opportunity for every human to be the best they can be. Not just one particular group.

juggles_pix

Malaysian freestyle footballer Qhouirunnisa’ Endang Wahyudi. Credit: MOHD RASFAN | AFP

FIFA must acknowledge this, and embrace it. It is the world governing body, not the men’s governing body. While the organization deserves some credit for what it has done for women’s football in the last 20 or so years, it is what it should have been doing anyway, after decades of neglect, a strong reluctance to associate itself with the women’s game, and little to no initiative to upset the status quo. FIFA cannot do as much in the football club scene, where players actually earn their wages. But it can continue to contribute to development and education projects targeted at women’s football, and provide incentives and a substantial increase in financial support for national federations to improve the women’s game.

Recognizing that it will take a while for national leagues and private clubs to develop to the desired level of fan support, competition and lucrativeness that would allow for women players to earn healthily, FIFA must show visionary leadership. FIFA must take the bold step and show that it is deeply conscious of these issues, believes in the inherent value of all genders, and that since it has the means, it will lead from the top. FIFA can, and must, bridge the gap. This will do a tonne for women’s football, and the effects of this will be invaluable.

Onward and upward.

Jamaica Portraits - FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019
Jamaican midfielder Cheyna Matthews. Source: FIFA.com


 

Part III here…

IT’S [NOT] THAT SIMPLE: The Women’s Game, Equal Pay and Moral Will – Part I

FotoJet

Part I

When Rose Lavelle darted to the left of her retreating defender and unleashed a shot to beat the excellent Sari van Veenendaal in the Dutch goal, it was all over. Everyone knew then that the USA was about to lift its 4th FIFA Women’s World Cup trophy, from the 60,000 people cheering in the stadium to the tens of millions viewing around the world. The final ended 2-0, the US team holding on to a title they had also won 4 years ago, and confirming their status as the dominant power in the sport. Overall, it was a great World Cup. France was an excellent host, there were some cracking games, incredible records were set, and an unprecedented amount of attention was generated for the women’s game. Bar some poor attendances, questionable refereeing in some games, and the adjustments to VAR (Video Assistant Referee) technology that is ongoing all across the sport, this was a very successful tournament.

It’s nearing two months now, since the final. Over the period of the tournament, and after, probably the biggest talking point to emerge has been that of equal pay. There have been a slew of articles and conversations on social and traditional media on the gender pay gap in professional football. There are many who think it is ludicrous to even suggest equal pay as a possibility, and they raise many points that are fact, hard truths no one can deny. FIFA, the world governing body of the sport, does not pay players their professional wages, clubs do. That is fact. Any framing otherwise is misleading. Sport is heavily revenue-driven, that is also fact, and as with many things in a largely capitalist world, what readily makes money is where investment goes. This is the game in club football, and clubs are private enterprises for the most part. The ability to fill stadiums and garner an audience that can be monetized is the determining factor in sponsorships being procured, and how much money is pumped in.

This also is fact: on a global scale, women’s football is currently nowhere near as lucrative as that of the men.

Let’s clear this up

Jamaica v Australia: Group C - 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France
Jamaica after their recent World Cup match against Australia. Source: FIFA.com

The calls for equal pay and fair treatment from women players in the wake of this World Cup have overwhelmingly been within the contexts of national teams and national team competition. The lawsuit filed by the US Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) in March is against their national football federation for unequal pay. USWNT co-captain and star of this World Cup, Megan Rapinoe, as well as superstar Alex Morgan’s much-publicized comments have been levelled specifically at their federation and FIFA, the world governing body of football. The Australian players union launched its campaign on the eve of the World Cup directly at FIFA, and its prize money allocations. Norway star Ada Hegerberg, who is currently the holder of the award for best player in the world, sat out the World Cup because of issues (no longer pay-related) with her national federation’s treatment of the women’s team and women’s football in general. The gripe from women players at the moment is mainly with national team football and international competition, not club football. That is a different beast, and we need to be clear on that from the start.

Generally, while players are playing for their countries, their national teams sort of become their temporary employers. They are taken care of, and get paid bonuses and appearance/performance fees while on duty. This money comes from FIFA, regional bodies (if it is a regional competition) and the national federation. The national federation gets this money mainly through broadcast and other rights for the national teams, sponsorship packages, donations and revenue it makes from its own activities. Even though FIFA and regional bodies such as UEFA (the European football governing body) and CAF (the African football governing body) do not pay players’ professional wages, they do realise that players need to be compensated for international games and the international events that make these bodies crazy amounts of money. FIFA and these regional bodies, therefore, also provide national federations with money that can cover international competitive games such as tournament qualifiers, as well as prize money for first reaching, and then placing in major international competitions. All these go into what makes a football player’s earnings while playing for their national team.

The US Women’s team’s beef

WWC_2019_1040x585The US Women’s National Team. Photo Credit: Jon W. Johnson

The loudest calls for equal pay being mainly from the USWNT players is for a reason. The women’s game is the most developed and the most popular in the US — it has different value and standing there than anywhere else in the world. Women footballers who play for the USA receive lower performance fees and bonuses than the men, while typically playing more international games. To illustrate their point, the USWNT, in their lawsuit, draw up a hypothetical situation. If both senior national teams played and won 20 friendly matches each in one year against similarly-ranked opposition, USWNT players would earn a maximum of $99,000 or $4,950 per game, while players from the US men’s team would earn an average of $263,320 or $13,166 per game. This hypothetical situation is criticised by some because it is unrealistic; 20 friendly matches for one team in a calendar year has never happened, and various competitions take place that affect what players earn each year from their national teams. But that’s not the point. The point of it – which is why it is hypothetical – is to demonstrate what the structure for bonuses and performance fees actually looks like, all things being equal, for both sets of teams.

The US Soccer Federation says the aggregate revenue from the women’s national team games compared to the men’s does not allow for equal pay. What the numbers say is that between 2016 and 2018, women’s national team games raked in $50.8m compared to $49.9m from men’s games. US Soccer says this means little, is only a recent happening after years of losses, and that differences in pay go beyond these numbers. The federation alludes to things like FIFA’s own disparate allocations to federations for the men’s and women’s senior national teams, as well as what it describes as ‘different pay structures for performing different work under their [both teams’] separate collective bargaining agreements that require different obligations and responsibilities.” President of the US Soccer Federation, Carlos Cordeiro, took things a step further when, in an open letter released last month, he disclosed that because of their different pay structures, the federation has actually paid the USWNT more than it has paid the men’s team in the past decade.

cordeiro.jpgCarlos Cordeiro, President of the US Soccer Federation. Source: Wall Street Journal

Let’s look into some of these arguments. The collective bargaining agreement, as relates to the women, refers to the arrangement the federation came to with the USWNT players, where aside from bonuses from national team games, it does the perhaps admirable thing of also paying the club salaries of those who play club football in the US. In addition, the arrangement guarantees each player a base salary of $100,000 every year, for being part of the national team. The men do not have this in their agreement. The club salaries US Soccer takes care of for its women players come up to between $67,500 and $72,500 per annum, per player. So aside bonuses, USWNT players could actually earn around $170,000 per year. The men’s earnings are solely based on their bonuses, training camp allowances and performance fees. They have no guaranteed salary, and US Soccer does not pay their club salaries. This then, seems like a really generous deal the women have going for them, does it not?

On the surface, of course it does, but it does not tell the full story. The reason the women had to negotiate such an agreement in the first place, and the reason the men do not need any of these financial guarantees at national team level, is because the men have a comparative luxury. They can earn incredibly more in Major League Soccer (MLS), the men’s club football league in the US, than the women can in their fledgling National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), a competition that is only in its 7th season. Minimum base salary for a first team player in MLS is $70,250 per year. For reserve young players, the least they can earn is a little above $55,000. Compare that to the NWSL, where the maximum base salary for first team players is around $46,000 per year. The most a woman footballer could earn annually playing for a US club (sans US Soccer Federation intervention) is not up to $50,000. Meanwhile, captain of the US Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT), Michael Bradley, can earn the $6m he currently earns annually, playing for Toronto FC in the MLS. Without the US Soccer Federation stepping in at club level, many of the USWNT players would struggle. The men don’t need that kind of help. Their league is currently self-sufficient.

ISI PhotosUS Star Megan Rapinoe in action for her club, the Seattle Reign. Credit: ISI Photos

So, while providing a needed financial cushioning, it is not exactly fair of US Soccer to use this as a reason to not pay the players what they should be paid at national team level now, especially seeing what they currently contribute on that level. Their investment  into women’s football is one that is obviously paying off, as the USWNT continues to dominate, and revenue generated from the team for the federation has increased. The US Soccer Federation providing a base salary, as well as taking care of the club wages of its women players (because the women’s clubs are literally financial babies at this point, compared to the MLS teams) for work they do at their clubs, does not mean they do not deserve to get full value for what they bring while playing for the national team. US Soccer says the players agreed to this arrangement a couple of years ago, the players are simply saying they deserve a new one.

The argument that is often brought up is that the women’s game is not on par with the men’s, competition-wise and financially. Of course, globally this is true. It would be foolish to argue otherwise. It is also the argument brought up in the USA. The fact there though, is that the USWNT brings in a ton of revenue – more revenue than the men’s team currently – has more media attention (while also being used by brands to capitalize on the current gender climate), is a 4-time World Champion and 4-time Olympic Champion, is a perennial title contender, has contributed to making the sport more popular in a country that has its own sports staples, pulling in millions of viewers at times (the USA-Japan final in 2015 set the record as the most watched football game in US history with over 25 million people tuned in, more than the NBA Finals that year), and has had and continues to have some of the most recognizable faces in US sport.

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Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, co-captains of the USWNT. Photo Credit: Getty Images

This team checks a lot of the boxes that are used to justify not getting equal pay. On top of all this, the US Soccer Federation reportedly sits on a $100m + financial surplus and could bridge the gap FIFA contributes to for international games – by its wildly disparate financial allocations to men’s and women’s national teams – if it was a priority. The federation has been reluctant to, even accusing the players’ representatives of adopting an ‘aggressive and ultimately unproductive approach’ to negotiations, which broke down about two weeks ago, after just one day. The American women players feel they have a legitimate case, all things considered, a position supported by the men’s team as well. US Soccer has the means to pay both sets of players equally…if it wants to.


 

Part II here…

A Conversation: Wealth & Political Privilege

Got Privilege_

Have people from wealth and political privilege gone into specific positions where they directly represent people whose reality they have no experience of?

– Yes

Historically, have they been able to adequately represent the needs of those people?

– No

Historically, have they been corrupt?

– More often than not, yes

Is it more ideal that someone who has experienced what majority of a community experiences, represent that community?

– Yes

Why is it so necessary? Does one have to be poor to know how poverty harms people? Isn’t that what empathy is for?

– You can never claim to know what poverty is if you have not experienced it. You may have observed it, you may have studied it, you may have visited places, you may have listened to people’s experiences, and therefore can empathize, but if you have had the privilege of wealth you cannot understand poverty in the way someone who has lived it will. Do we not think an adequately qualified person with this life experience would be better placed to serve their community’s needs?

Ok. Fine. But realistically, is it easy for people without privilege and resources to contest for such positions?

– No

Are people with privilege necessarily bad people?

– No

Do they have a responsibility to help?

– Yes

Do they have the resources to help?

– Wealth and connections can do a lot. Yes.

Why then, can they not run for MP???!!!

– It is not ideal, because of the reason mentioned earlier. An MP position is in direct representation of a community. The current system is set up for people with resources to accumulate more resources, while doing the bare minimum for their constituents. There’s a greater chance for change – and a better commitment to accountability – from people who have the lived experience of the community, quite simply because they are likely to care more. It does not mean they can’t be corrupt, but there’s a greater likelihood of things actually getting done. But this does not mean people of privilege cannot help in other ways. In fact, this is why they should.

How can they help then?

– In this specific MP situation, community organising, and using their resources and privilege to push adequately qualified but less privileged people who have experienced what the community experiences, and who wish to serve, into MP positions.

But what if they also have dreams of pursuing such paths in public service, because they want to effect change?

– There are other aspects of public service where their passion, talents and skills would be of immense benefit, that don’t involve direct representation in the way an MP position does. Working in public agencies, ministerial positions, etc.

But no one wants to step up! What if there’s no one stepping up from the community?

– Is this true? Have you looked? If there were resources, are you sure no one would step up? Do you think you understand the plight of people in a community better than they do? And that no one from among them would step up to help tackle their problems if given the chance?

Ok fine. But should a politician’s son be condemned for trying to run? What if he has the best of intentions?

– History shows us exactly what political families do in such positions. If he is different, he has to show it. The skepticism is valid, and he will understand that it is valid, if he is that different.

But I know him. He won’t be like those others. He’s a great guy and wants to make a difference, really.

Great. But people don’t, and you can vouch for his character while acknowledging what the reality is in this country, and how valid people’s concerns are. Pretending the skepticism is invalid because you know him is dishonest. Insulting and gaslighting those expressing a valid skepticism brings your character into question.

But at least he’s doing something! Everyone just comes to talk on twitter and actually does nothing! A young person is taking initiative and showing a willingness to serve, and see the backlash!

– It’s great that he’s young, but where he’s from cannot be overlooked. The track record of people following in the political footsteps of family is fraught with corruption and gross abuse of power, in order to consolidate that power within the family and among those the family favours or considers valuable. The skepticism is valid. There is precedent. People are speaking from what we’ve seen, and that is valid inductive reasoning.

For those who only talk on social media, that too is valid. The populace must talk, and people must be held accountable. Out of the talk will arise community organisers, activists, the right people running for office, people to back these people running for office, and more people who will continue to talk, and to hold leadership accountable. We may not see it yet, but a functional ecosystem is being built.

So what’s the way forward from all this? What can we do then, so it’s not just more talk?

– Privileged young people should look to get into positions to change things, this is true. This is necessary. But recognising privilege means recognising not all voices are yours. Some are for others, and for you only to assist with. Like an MP position. If you have the resources therefore, amplify the voices of those ready and better placed to serve.

If for some reason you’re running for such a position anyway, understand your privilege, acknowledge it, and do not pretend to relate to a reality you cannot possibly know. And best not become a cliche; submit yourself to higher standards than your parents’ political generation, and submit yourself to being held accountable.

For other positions, yes, young people need to be proactive, and need to contribute to improving systems, and eradicating poverty and all systems of oppression. In all this, figure out how best you can contribute, learn more about it, especially about what the most marginalised of the marginalised go through, make sure you’re not taking up space that is not yours to take or speaking over those who should be allowed and are able to speak for themselves, and continue to listen and fight to the best of your abilities.

If yours is to go into government to affect policy, do that. If it’s to be in media to hold our leaders accountable, do that. If it’s to make art that sparks conversation, and contributes to changing paradigms, do that. Just make sure you’re either doing something, or equipping yourself now to do something in the future. It’s a hard world for everybody, but some have it so much much harder than others. That needs to end.

. a mood! :) .

untitled

I’ve woken up with the worst headache. It’s way past 10am. I don’t understand why I’ve overslept so badly. I vaguely remember my alarm going off, but I don’t know when or how I got it to shut up. I had planned to go to the cinema to catch one of the early movies. Obviously can’t do that anymore, I’ve overslept. FUCK. I’m mad at myself. Cinema cheers me up, and god knows I need some sunshine in my life right about now. I just took some painkillers, so hopefully this headache goes away. What a wonderful morning.

It’s a weekday. Most people my age are at work. Some are at work and tweeting. I know because I’m on Twitter right now myself. They tweet the whole. fucking. day. Way to stick it to your oppressive bosses, using company time and Wi-Fi to harp about mostly useless shit online, even though it does practically nothing to affect them. The bastards.

I used to work a 9-5. It was pretty chill but it was not for me. Companies don’t give a fuck about people, they only care about results. We know this. Your mental health can fuck off for all they care. Break down, suffer, die — so far as you met the deadline it’s a couple of consolatory messages and then it’s on to the next hire. iT’s tHe wAy oF tHe fUcKiNg wOrLd.

Life outside of that isn’t much better, to be honest. I’m a freelancer and I’m broke. I probably don’t have the temperament for it either, which is partly why I’m in this state. A freelancer should be getting out there, looking for opportunities, being aggressive. I’m a sad case. Pretty goddamn useless. Besides not starving and helping my family out, I need to see why I should human, to see what the point of this is. Because I don’t, and that’s the real problem.

Why did I stop that 9-5 again?

I’m mad at myself. There’s no food in the fridge. I was supposed to buy bread yesterday, but my lazy ass kept postponing because I was on a writing high. I had finished my weekly piece for this website I write for, and then chanced on an article online about the gender pay gap in women’s football. I’d heard and read so many takes like the one in the article on this issue, and suddenly I was inspired. It set me on a writing spree. Now I don’t have bread. Rich. I deserve to starve. Idiot.

It’s noon. Time to get ready for my meeting. I’m meeting with this guy who’s seen some of my work and says he has some type of deal I’d be interested in. I kinda know him already, and I dunno, I’m pretty desperate at the moment, so let’s go see what he says.

I just went to try to take a shower and there’s no water. Dammit. We don’t have a connection to the main water supply, so we buy water from these truck people with the tanks. Most of the time you can’t tell when the water is going to be done. Drats. I could call the people now, but they’ll take over an hour to arrive. My meeting is in less than an hour. Fuck. I have to go like this. I’m mad at myself. I should have gotten out of bed earlier instead of messing around aimlessly on motherfucking Twitter.

I’m on my way. The Uber driver is pissing me off. I know it’s not his fault we have such terrible roads in my neighbourhood and the navigation isn’t as straightforward as in other places, but I don’t care. It’s also not his fault that I’m late, but I absolutely want to strangle him for how carefully he’s driving. I want to make a good impression on this guy I’m going to meet but I’m in a terrible mood. And I’m late. Great.

I just bought a meat pie and a Coke. I’m so hungry. The pie tastes like shit. The Coke wasn’t as cold as I’d hoped. What the hell?

I’m mad at myself. I know I could be doing more. I can’t work a typical 9-5. I tried it, it almost killed me, and even that was quite a relaxed environment. The culture really just fucks with me. Now I’m in an Uber on the streets of Accra, windows down, hot air blowing in my face because the sun isn’t playing around (joke’s on me for wanting some sunshine earlier) and it’s so fucking warm, car horns sounding off in an almost sinister cacophony all around me and further annoying me — a trotro driver just cut in front of the driver ahead of us and shouted ‘such a woman’ in Twi to the person because they followed traffic regulations…I want to punch the driver — I’m in the middle of all this chaos and I feel terribly lost, because I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, and everything is messy.

Make it make sense. All of it. All of this. Please.

Also, I feel like I stink. I hate myself.

The meeting is done. It was a complete waste of time. This guy wants to start an Ameyaw Debrah-like website, a tabloid basically, and wants me to be the editor and writer. I can’t write tabloid shit, I’m sorry. Plus, he’s offering next to nothing. Kindly pitch your start up to someone else chale. Been there, done that. Lost everything, including some of my best friends and my general drive for life. Muahaha. Disillusioned as fuck.

I hate how much I feel like I stink. Also, I need help.

I’ve been home for about 5 hours now. It’s like what, 8? 9pm? I don’t even care anymore. I slept as soon as I got back. Woke up and just lay there, mind blank. I try to see today as a win, that by actually getting up and going for a meeting about potential work it shows I’m trying again, maybe starting to find a reason to do all this again. It’s exhausting, trying to deceive yourself, because you know what it really is. But also, what other choice do you have? Have to keep trying right? I never got to shower. The water truck people didn’t answer any of my calls.

It’s 11pm. I’m trying to fall asleep again.

It’s so quiet.

My Favourite Songs Of 2017 (Part 2)

(Part 1 here in case you missed it)

25. You – Maayaa

What can I say about this song? I’m just happy it was made. So so happy. Yaa and I co-produced it, and I usually don’t like the things I’m so directly involved in as much as things I’m not, but this is a great song. I played it A LOT as well. And Yaa writes SO WELL SO EASILY! I don’t know how she does it!

24. Uncle Suru – John Ogah ft Adekunle Gold & Simi

I LOOOOVE this song. First released in 2014, it was re-made with these two amazing artists and re-released this year. Nothing I don’t love about this song.

23. Tomorrow – Darkovibes

This is one of the best songs I’ve heard from Gh in awhile. Simple. Kuvie is a beast for this beat. Darkovibes is a devil for how he rode this instrumental, the Ga, yo, this song…And I love the video.

22. Iskaba – Wande Coal x DJ Tunez

Issa traaaaaaaackkkkkkk. Jam for daysssss. weeeekksssss. monthsssssss. Talk about making a successful comeback. Wande Coal seemed to be on that path many pop artists can easily find themselves when a hit isn’t arriving, and then this kwaito-influenced gem drops. Dope instrumentation. DJ Tunez on a madness.

21. Gbé Mi – Efe Oraka

This song isn’t perfect, and it’s not music from a fully mature artist, or an artist at the peak of her prowess. But it didn’t need to be. How old is Efe? 19? How old was she when this came out? 17? 18? Efe is a star, and I could tell the first time I heard this, for some reason. I overplayed this song. I love it too much and I don’t even understand why. The message is definitely a big part, considering my issues with faith these past few years. I’ve healthily stalked her since, and I have not been disappointed. Big ups to Harmattan Rain for putting me on this.

20. Bra Menkyɛn – Reynolds TheGentleMan

Reynolds is one of the most complete artists I’ve ever come across/observed/worked with/listened to. He can do practically anything. If you need any evidence as to his versatility this is the jam for you. Highlife papa paaa, composed, produced, performed by the one man weapon that is Reynolds TheGentleMan. Brilliant artist. If you haven’t checked out his mixtape yet I don’t know what you’re doing chale.

19. Justfayu – Kamau ft. No Wyld

This song eh, it is too infectious, too brilliant, it is too much coolness in one record. And so ‘musical’ yeezus. Like there’s really a lot going on that’s really really dope. It’s like 2 years old, but I got into it and Kamau himself this year, and man was I missing out. Kamau reminds me of Anderson Paak, in a good way, and the singing to rap to singing is auditory delight. Have you seen the video? Dope tins.

18. Liability – Lorde

Even though I eventually liked Greenlight, I wasn’t so enthused about it when it came out as the first single off her sophomore album. I’d been looking forward to it so much and it gave me mixed feelings. Lorde is prob my second favourite artist. So I was nervous about the work. Then this came out as second single, and I loved it instantly. Melodrama was really slept on this year.

17. Aki Ola – Paapa

I’m a Paapa Stan. Like proper stan. This guy did so much for me when I was in uni – his music was such a breath of fresh air. Paapa is a major reason I believed I could start something in music that also catered for ‘alternative’ artists. And his comeback project this year was AMAZING. BEAU-TI-FUL MUSIC. He’s grown so much as an artist on that record, and this song was my favourite.

16. Grind Day – Kwesi Arthur

MONDAY YEAH YEAH TUESDAY YEAH YEAH FRIDAY YEAH YEAH SUNDAY YEAH YEAH EVERYDAY YEAH YEAH EVERYDAY YEAH YEAH GRIND DAY YEAH YEAH GRIND DAY YEAH YEAH!!!

What an anthem. This song feels like what it talks about. It sounds like its message. It’s spiritual. When he says the ‘I for gedditgedditgedditgeddit…’ den I start dey mad ankasa. With the release of the remix featuring Sarkodie and Medikal I’m hoping this blows enough to get a VGMA nomination in the hip hop categories.

15. Blinded By Your Grace – Stormzy

Another beautiful spiritual distin oh gosh. One of the best songs of 2017 for me. The song makes me feel, it feels so authentic, and it was just a very liberating experience listening to this for the first time.

14. The Good In Me [Jon Bellion Cover] – Mon Lee

Guys, if you don’t know him, let me introduce you to a TRUE musical genius. Mon Lee is perhaps the most impressive artist I came across this year. Did you hear the beat switch up at the end of this where he brings it home to Naija? YOOOOOO. And the even more impressive thing? He uses his voice for practically all the instruments on his songs. HE IS GENIUS. I wish Jon Bellion could hear this. And the ‘one two teeree’ Dey be me pass!

13. Joromi – Simi

First time I heard this, I was jumping about because fam! Ei! What at all does this Simi eat that she can be making such great afrobeats/afropop with a good sprinkling of soul and such exquisite writing? Her melodies, her CONCEPTS, lyrics, and that voice…Wasn’t surprised when I found out she mixes most of her stuff. The sound is very specific. Joromi is a dope concept, and I love it for its changing of the narrative. Her album is Fuego.

12. Ranger – Joey B ft Darkovibes

The Darryl EP was one of the better projects from Ghana this year from a mainstream artist imo, and this song was the standout for me. First time I heard Darkovibes’ ‘Christ is working can’t you see.’ The real MVP on this song though is Nxwrth. He is VERY good at what he does. Very good.

11. Man’s Not Hot – Big Shaq

Need I say more? I’m a Dapaarian (what does he call his fans) chale, and ebash me say I couldn’t see the LEGEND on the 26th. Chale dat money na I no fi pay. Detty Rave wey ebe 60 Ghana sef I no fit massa. This track just blow up chale. 150 million + views on YouTube man.

10. Homemade Dynamite (original and remix ft. Khalid, SZA & Post Malone) – Lorde

I love both versions in almost equal measure, and feel like this song was good enough to make the numbers ‘Tennis Court’ and ‘Team’ made and even more. If not the original then the remix. Life is not fair lol.

9. Attention – Charlie Puth

I think this guy is really gifted at making pop music. This song is my kind of pop. There’s some fine guitar in there, there’s a retro club feel to the kicks and the entire vibe, reminiscent of Daft Punk, but not really cos it’s also very modern…I love it. I like the subjects he picks too. From lovers not talking anymore to this manipulation theme in Attention.

8. Castle + Arose – Eminem

These are the last two songs on Slim Shady’s much-maligned latest album. And they are the best songs. They are essentially one song, with Em writing to his daughter Hailie at various points from before her birth to her growing up, then switches in the next song to his overdose on drugs and how he fought for his life with his family watching. Em has still got it as a storyteller, don’t let the bad reviews fool you.

https://itunes.apple.com/gh/album/castle/1321895370?i=1321895631

7. Gone For Good – Simi

Have I already said how good I think Simi’s album is? I have? Oh ok ok. I thought I hadn’t. IT’S GOOOOOOOOOOOD!!! This is my favourite song from the album. Awesome writing once again, the keys and strings in the beginning caught me immediately, and when the beat comes in I dey my zone inside. The chorus of voices at the end too. That male voice she gets to do backing vocals sometimes, he really adds so much to the music. Chale I knew Simi was great, but she exceeded all my expectations of her this year with Simisola.

6. Wait For Me – Johnny Drille

Can I even do this song justice? Released as a single before 2017, the video came this year and really took off. First time I heard it I was pretty shocked. The whole country music/Afrowhatever going on in there was just so well done. Romeo and Juliet is also good, but Wait For Me makes me want to shed a tear or two. Watching the video knowing the lyrics and with that production gave me goosebumps the first few times.

5. Flame On – Ria Boss

At the Black Girls GlowMother Of Heirs Concert, something magical happened. Ria Boss stepped up to perform this song and the atmosphere just changed. It was almost trance-like. There was a star, right before our eyes, and the audience, caught up in the beauty of the music and her aura of almost tangible awesomeness, just started singing along in a way I’ve not experienced often at all, swaying together, some with their eyes closed, just feeling the music. It was wonderful. This song, is flawless.

4. Shape Of You – Ed Sheeran

Another of my favourite artists, I was super excited to hear Ed was making a comeback after an intentional hiatus. Shape Of You is a monster of a hit, and heralded the year Ed finally established himself as a proper pop powerhouse. His album is still in the Top 10 in most of the world’s biggest charts almost a year after release. The video to Shape Of You is on its way to 3bn views. The song was the most played on both Spotify and Apple Music the world over. The remix to Perfect from the album, which features Beyoncé, ensured that Ed ended the year at No.1 in America, and in many countries as well, having started the year at No.1 with Shape Of You. Ed has arrived BIG.

This single was brilliant pop, staying very Ed, but also very very commercial sounding, with the Caribbean groove that seems to be the current world sound playing a major part in this. I loved it the minute I heard it. Ed Sheeran and Charlie Puth make my kind of pop, and they crush it. TOP SONG.

3. Walk On Water – Eminem ft. Beyoncé

I don’t understand why so many people hate this song. I think it’s one of Eminem’s best songs in a while. I feel EVERYTHING he’s saying, and its rawness does so much for me. I’ve followed Em for a long time, and so this song is super personal to me as well. I personally relate on a much much smaller scale. But as objective as I can be, I think it’s a really great song, the arrangement, the lyrics, the production, the hook which Beyoncé nails (though she sounds maybe too technically perfect – a tad too ‘safe’ as compared to the emotion I would have expected her to infuse) and I think if people gave it more of a chance they’d see how good a song it is. I’ve had it on repeat for weeks. Only wish Beyoncé was in the official video. Dunno who’s doing the marketing for Em these days, but they missed an iconic moment/opportunity there.

2. By The Anguwar – Mon Lee

This was my favourite song of 2017 for a very long time. Tronomie has introduced me to a lot of great artists, but I’m so grateful he led me to this genius right here. I love Mon Lee’s mind chale, and I don’t know what it is about this song exactly, but I just never got tired of listening to it. The voice as various instruments is here again, there’s rap, and there’s just great music. Thank you for sharing your gift sir.

1. Wonderland – Efe Oraka

My heart. There was so much anticipation for this song, but somehow unlike my other favourites I was not nervous. I just had a feeling. Then it was released, I heard it, and I was blown away. It is BEAUTIFUL. I have played Wonderland so many times since its release, shared it, and there’s practically no music discussion I have that doesn’t see me talk about this song. To say I love it is an understatement. The concept, imagery, writing, the melodies, Efe’s VOICE, those splendid backing vocals from Tay Iwar, his production, the journey it takes me on – I literally feel like I’m going down a rabbit hole chasing my Love, then in some field with my lover, alone, in our own bubble, swept up in the magic of what we share, dancing (yes it actually makes me feel I can dance, ME) and not giving a care in the world. It’s absolutely MAGICAL. Bring that EP this year Efe. I’m here for it. And please come to Ghana soon lol.

So that’s it, my top 50 favourites of 2017. 2018 promises to bring more great music, and I’m excited to see what the gods we have among us that we call artists create.

Happy New Year!!!

My Favourite Songs Of 2017 (Part I) 


2017 has been an amaaazing year for me when it comes to music, especially music from Ghana. This was the year a collective of brave guys with dyed hair announced themselves to Accra and kidnapped a certain demographic, a former cover singer and music competition winner defied the norm and proper blew nationwide, and a controversial (by Ghanaian public standards) former VGMA Unsung nominee staked her claim for Ghana’s first woman Artist of the Year.  

(Photo Credit: Team Black Image)

2017 was also quite the year for Ghanaian projects. Ayat, Ria Boss, MzVee, Black Girls Glow, Bryan The Mensah, Magnom, WanlovSarkodie, Becca, Joe Mettle, Ko-Jo Cue and Shaker, Paapa, Akan, Robin-Huws, Worlasi, Reynolds TheGentleMan, EL, Amaarae, Ebony, Stonebwoy and so many others ensured there was no shortage of EPs, albums and mixtapes to listen to. For the first time I actually felt I couldn’t keep up with the releases, and this, for me, was a very good thing. 

Outside of Ghana, there was a lot of stuff to also get excited about. Some of my favourite artists released projects, and I was in heaven for long periods bumping Ed’s album, swooning over Lorde’s, applauding Simi and love-hating Eminem’s Revival. 


This here is a list of songs I found myself listening to more often than others, so it’s safe to say they were my favourite from this year. I don’t listen to as wide a range of music as Benewah of Harmattan Rain, Swayekidd of Culartblog or the Decaf guys, so it’s nothing crazy 😂.

This also does not mean I think these were the best songs I heard in 2017. Some of them might make that list if I ever made one, others definitely not, but this post is not to critique. These are just songs I enjoyed, that’s it! 

So! Let’s get into it. My Top 50 favorite songs of 2017. First 25 in descending order in this post, Part II to follow with the other 25. 

50. My Baby – Magnom

This was such a JAM. Took me a while to get into it, but yo before long I was hooked to the banging beat, the raw voice singing that infectious hook, and just the pretty awkward artist that is Magnom. 

49. Feel It Still – Portugal. The Man 

First heard this when it got into the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. The melodies, the bass, the horns, the guitar, the little digital sound infusions, the entire arrangement. Deez eez a sooooong.

48. Fine Girl – Kuvie ft RJZ, $pacely & Kiddblack

Yaaah this one! Signature Kuvie sound, with all the atmospherics. RJZ was perfect on this, with that laidback style artists like Odunsi have that I like so much. Herh I liked this song a lot lmao.

47. I’m Getting Ready – Tasha Cobbs Leonard ft Nicki Minaj

I didn’t listen to as much gospel music this year, but the uproar in the Christian community over why amazing vocalist Tasha Cobbs would collaborate with Nicki Minaj who is obviously of the world drew my attention, and I fell in love with all 8mins. Gospel music is some of the most beautiful, uplifting and technically stellar stuff you’ll ever hear, and Nicki crushed her verse.

46. Who Dat Boy – Tyler, The Creator ft A$AP Rocky 

Hear that haunting beginning? Tyler is a brilliant artist. You may not always get his music and what he’s trying to do, but yo, this was a jam, in a very weird eerie way, with a typically creative, weird video to match. I loved A$AP’s verse on this. 

45. Circle – Arabic Man 

Rapping over Kendrick’s Humble beat, Arabic Man lit up my life for a couple of days with his Circle phone story. The accent, the storytelling; it was very good, creative entertainment. 

44. Iron Boy (Intro) – Ayat 

The keys in the beginning, the way the beat enters (big ups Kayso), his singing which I really like, the Rex Omar interpolation. LOVE. First track off Ayat’s heavy Zamani EPFavourite lines: ‘Call me for a show I no go show unless you pay, cos studio time dey cost and free exposure no be pay.’

43. Now Or Never – Halsey

I’ve been a Halsey fan ever since I heard Castle, from the soundtrack to ‘Snow White and The Huntsman.’ She released an album this year, this being the first single. The beat bangs. And I’m a sucker for these Ellie Goulding type voices chale…

42. Despacito – Luis Fonsi ft Daddy Yankee 

Not the Justin Bieber version though, please. No matter how generic this song is with a lot of Latin Music, it was a very infectious worldwide hit with an enjoyable video you couldn’t run away from. I mean the video has 4.5bn views now. I was hooked after hearing it everywhere. And the melodies are great really. How Fonsi sings the very first ‘Despacito’ in the first chorus before the beat drops must go down as an iconic moment in pop culture history. Honestly. 

41. Eraser – Ed Sheeran 

My most overplayed song from his album Divide. I love artists who get personal, and this was very personal. And honest. And I like the rap thingee Ed does. Aaaand I like the chorus of voices at the hook especially where he sings ‘Higher.’ Ed’s had a fantastic year by the way. 

40. Leg Over – Mr. Eazi 

Wizkid had the best year in afrobeats in 2017, Davido had the biggest hits, Mr. Eazi the biggest come up. And this song was too lit. Too too lit. Released in 2016, it hit proper with the video release this year. I think it’s Mr. Eazi’s best song so far. E-Kelly killed the production. 

39. Odo – KiDi

First thing that hit me when I heard Odo was the production. Brilliant. It’s your typical afrobeats/contemporary highlife beat, but it’s GOOD. That bass line is everything. And whether it’s a pad KiDi has mixed nicely in the background or what oo, it works. This was really good production. Which is impressive cos we were all on twitter when KiDi said he’d started learning how to produce lol. This song is everywhere. 

38. Forgotten Love – Robin-Huws 

This is my favourite Robin-Huws composition. I played it so many times before we released it I wondered what was wrong with me. It’s such a lovely song, with some weird unstructured structured structure bi and no real hook. And the harmonies are everything. That humming at the last part especially. Beautiful. 

37. Sundays – Amaarae ft Fingers 

My favourite thing about this song is the Ewe this Fingers guy is singing. You will not hear sexier Ewe ANYWHERE. Ebei! Amaarae’s voice deɛ we don’t talk about it plenty. She should do a show and charge just to sing-whisper in ears. First song off her Passion Fruit Summers EP

36. Wild Thoughts – DJ Khaled ft Rihanna & Bryson Tiller

Successful sampling. It’s simple, but tight. Clean. Well done. And Rihanna carries the song. The video is Rihanna. That dress, that room scene. Rihanna eh…me I won’t talk plenty. Played this song A LOT. 

35. Bodak Yellow – Cardi B

SAID LIL BITCH YOU CAN’T FUCK WITH ME IF YOU WANTED TO THESE EXPENSIVE THESE IS RED BOTTOMS THESE IS BLOODY SHOES!!!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAA WHAT A LITNESSSSSSSSSS!!!

34. Sing My Name (Remix) – MzVee ft Patoranking

This is another jaaaaaaam. MzVee hasn’t had a good year by her standards. None of her singles from Daavi took off properly. But this afrobeats bop is a jaaaaaaam. Very catchy hook. Generic afrobeats elements in the production, but it is lit, so we will ignore the fact that the chord progression is very similar to KiDi’s Odo (try singing Odo over it and see lol). Favourite lines: You hit the jackpot bingo, hope you’re bigger than your ego, a b c let the d go, u go V go. Hehe. 

33. Humble – Kendrick Lamar

Most infectious mainstream hip-hop song this year yes? You don’t think so? Sit down, bitch. Be humble. Lol. Kendrick had a mad year. Maaaad. 

32. Mawena – Worlasi ft Alee 

Such a sweet sweet song. What more can I say? Worlasi is a boss. That hook mehnnn. And Alee. Love love love it. Solid production from UglyOnIt, reminds me of Reynolds The Gentleman’s R&B productions. 

31. No Way (Ole Cover) – Adomaa 

In case you know me and your mind is drifting there, no I’m not just throwing in some of the songs from the artists I work with lol. These are songs I genuinely like. If I didn’t like the songs we put out, they wouldn’t be out! But there’s always one or two that really pull me. This is my favourite Adomaa so far, a reply to Reynolds The GentleMan’s Ole. I LOVE the writing, really love the lead vocal performance, and the harmonies for the backing vocals and how they are mixed. Top top stuff. 

30. Too Good At Goodbyes – Sam Smith 

Can you hear the bass guitar in this song?! I love Sam Smith, and I’m glad he’s back. His voice is extraordinary. And the chorus of voices on his hooks are always such a highlight. 

29. Young, Dumb and Broke – Khalid 

I absolutely love Khalid’s style. Distinct vocals. He’s very good, and I’m happy for all the success he’s got so far. 

28. New Rules – Dua Lipa

This song dey be me plentay! The video is what grabbed me though, such lovely visuals. The song is a lot what one would probably say is the modern ‘world’ sound, but it’s also very different especially because of what she’s done with the hook. I think it’s one of the best hooks of 2017. And she’s right of course, with everything she’s saying. 

27. Sober II – Lorde 

Lorde is a great songwriter. I wish I could serve her tea forever and just bask in her brilliance. This song is pretty simple lyric-wise, and I like that she can write like this too. The beat knocks really hard. A fitting melodramatic song. Honestly don’t know why this album didn’t hit big time. It is very very good.

https://itunes.apple.com/gh/album/sober-ii-melodrama/1210856718?i=1210858180


26. Believe – Eminem 

Anyone who knows me knows Eminem is my favourite artist. It’s very personal lol. I haven’t had it easy processing the new album. It didn’t meet my expectations first listen. My heart broke. The beats were weird and off, my biggest issue. The lines weren’t as clever, and some of them downright sucked. Then I gave it a few more chances, and now I like it for what it is. It’s nowhere close to his best work, but you’ll enjoy it if you’re a fan. There’s an honesty to it, in that it reflects where the 45 year-old is right now, and I recognize that. I also recognize that Em, even at his weakest, is still a superb storyteller and artist. This experience with the album must be what made me love Believe so much. The hook: 

Do you still believe in me?

Didn’t I give everything I had to give you to make you see?

I’ll never forget if you turn your back on me now

And walk out, I will never let you live it down

I’ll never quit, do you still believe in me?

Yes Em, I do.

https://itunes.apple.com/gh/album/believe/1321895370?i=1321895374


To be continued…

[Part II in next post]