New Era’s Latest Documentary Explores Accra’s Underground Youth Culture

part of a docu-series on creative communities around the world

While the alternative music scene in Nigeria was gaining popularity, the same was happening next door in Ghana. From Accra to Tema and beyond, these artists were infusing Western sounds with traditional African elements from genres such as Hiplife, Hip-Hop and creating their distinct soundscapes to channel their feelings on everyday issues. As the scene grew and gained buzz alongside us through acts like La Meme Gang, FOKN Bois and Amaarae, more creatives expanded their reach beyond music and into other categories of pop culture including fashion and skating.

This phenomenon of music and underground youth culture has now fully permeated Ghana’s creative space, with more creatives rising and forming community-first channels that give back to their local community and create opportunities for a new generation of creatives. One example is the Sandy Alibo-led Surf Ghana, an NGO and collective dedicated to youth empowerment through music and sports.

New Era

Despite the limitations posed by traditional African culture to creative expression, Surf Ghana is home to a talented spate of musicians, surfers, skaters, filmmakers, photographers, journalists, graphic designers, and is heavily rooted in collaboration between its creative ecosystem. “People in Ghana always say: oh, it’s afrobeats or nothing,” says Alibo. “I’m like, guys you’re wrong, there is a platform for an alternative scene here, and it’s at the skatepark.”

In 2019, Surf Ghana launched Skate Gal Club, Ghana’s first all-women skateboard collective who aim to “create safer environments and challenging women to confidently take risks.” In 2021, the group opened Accra’s first-ever purpose-built skating facility: Freedom Skatepark which in the past year has specifically catered to the underground music scene that was bubbling up at the skatepark, Surf Ghana opened Vibrate Space. More than the actual space for creative expression, Vibrate Space is a community recording music studio and music business program designed to educate and equip emerging young musicians and aspiring managers and promoters.

As champions of Ghana’s thriving alternative scene, no community is greater primed for a collaboration with New Era than Surf Ghana. “The community in Ghana is ready to create, build, and connect with the world. With New Era,” Alibo says, “I want to give them the resources and tools to make things happen.”

Since opening, Freedom Skatepark has been a pivotal setting for Ghana’s alternative music scene, as it is a place where collaborations happen, collectives are formed, and parties are thrown. Freedom Skatepark has hosted collectives such as All My Cousins who are featured in the documentary alongside Sandy. In the documentary, members of All My Cousins – made up of Ansah Live, Narah, Cozy, Tony, Seyyoh, Shrek and Juicy all speak about the impact of their growing community, and how each member of the collective forged a relationship with Freedom Skatepark. In the years since, this relationship has pushed them into developing and polished their music skills in a plethora of ways, from songwriting and performing skills to DJing and production.

Featured in the documentary is the latest single, “Act A Fool”, a breezy pop-tune which shows off the alternative leanings of the music coming out of Ghana’s underground music community. Co-produced by Yokothemoon and Liquidbeatz, the earworm track takes listeners through smooth-sounding beats bolstered by shimmering keys and twinkling production; resonant melodies and confident verses that bring the warmth of Ghana’s alternative soundscape to the fore. With their short but sweet verses, the artists make their case for refusing to be submerged by life’s hardships and instead choosing to embrace its unpredictability.

Sandy Alibo shares that she feels rewarded that Vibrate Space is fulfilling its intended purpose, catering to the needs of creative communities from all over Africa. She says proudly in the documentary:

“South Africa, Nigeria, Togo, Ivory Coast… They are coming every month. I’m proud of this. I want to make sure that they believe in themselves and discover the resources and talent here,” says Alibo. “What we’re doing here is about education. We’re taking the time to educate people that there is so much potential here; we just never get the tools and resources to realise it. But as soon as we do, it’s like BOOM!”

New Era’s latest partnership with Surf Ghana and Vibrate Space will also provide support for over 400 emerging artists over the next six months through mentorship, access to the Vibrate Space studio, and opportunities to perform at live events. Contributions from New Era will also help provide AV and studio equipment and digital support for artists to raise awareness of their content across the region and globally.

Throughout 2023, New Era will explore the stories from alternative and progressive communities from across the globe to see what life is like for the faces on the creative edge of their respective countries. Amplifying these stories through New Era’s global presence, New Era will continue to work with local communities by supporting growth and contributing to the future of creative cultures.

Watch Accra’s New Wave below and find out more here.

Featured image credits/Courtesy of New Era/Shot by Ray Fiasco and Chantal Azari

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