Accra’s New Wave
New Era meets the next generation creating the sights and sounds of Ghana's seaside capital.
On the west coast of Africa, in Ghana’s seaside capital of Accra, there’s a scene bubbling up, one unlike anything the country has seen in some time. Supercharged by the determination, energy and curiosity of Ghanaian youth, an entire creative community has formed around alternative music, as well as skate and surf culture. And it’s one that is becoming quickly populated with new collectives, new ideas and new spaces to hang out, create and play.
The city is the scene of New Era’s latest documentary about the innovative sounds coming out of Ghana. It’s part of a docu-series that will continue throughout 2023, during which New Era will be collaborating with creative communities around the world, providing the contribution and support to help fuel them even further. “People in Ghana always say: oh, it’s afrobeats or nothing,” says Sandy Alibo, the founder of Surf Ghana, Vibrate Space and Freedom Skatepark – three institutions that have become central to Accra's new music scene – and one of the many faces that start in the doc. “I’m like: guys you’re wrong, there is a platform for an alternative scene here, and it’s at the skatepark.”
According to Sandy, “the community in Ghana is ready to create, build, and connect with the world. With New Era,” she says, “I want to give them the resources and tools to make things happen.” Sandy set up Surf Ghana in 2016: a collective of surfers, skaters, musicians, artists, photographers, DJs and more. “The idea was to explain to people: if we work together, we can achieve so many things. We can achieve the unexpected.” Over the years, it’s received support from the likes of Kendrick Lamar and the late Virgil Abloh. In December 2021, Sandy used the collective’s growing momentum to open Accra’s first ever purpose built skating facility: Freedom Skatepark.
Since opening, it’s become much more than a skatepark; it’s the epicentre of Ghana’s thriving alternative music scene, where collaborations happen, collectives are formed, and parties are thrown. And one of the most hyped collectives in Accra right now is All My Cousins. “All My Cousins is me, Narah, Cozy, Tony, Seyyoh, Shrek and Juls Juicy,” says Ansah, co-founder of the crew, and an artist, producer and DJ in his own right. “It’s about cousins coming together to discuss, connect and create.”
Each member has their own thing going on. For instance, Cozy (real name: David Nana Opoku Ansah) is an award winning photographer and filmmaker. Tony, who releases music as 95ANTNY, is a genre-defying artist responsible for lush and rhythmic heaters like “less is more” and “5STAR”. And Narah dropped an entire 40 minute live performance on YouTube in 2021 that cemented her place as one of the rising stars of Ghanaian neo-soul. But they also work as a group, and collaborate with other artists across Accra. The band might be the product of a local scene, but their sound has global appeal.
Last year, Sandy and Surf Ghana decided they needed to do more to accommodate the DIY music scene that was bubbling up at the skatepark. They opened Vibrate Space: a community recording music studio and music business program designed to educate and equip emerging young musicians and aspiring managers and promoters. It’s not just the members of All My Cousins recording there; they’ve had artists visit from all over Ghana and Africa as a whole. “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 Sandy.
With so much of Accra’s youth converging at Surf Ghana each week, it’s no surprise that the scene has also birthed its own rave culture. In January 2023, New Era teamed up with Sandy and All My Cousins to throw a rave at Freedom Skatepark. It was intended for 200 ravers, but more than 600 turned up on the night, packing out the venue with high energy and good vibes. It was just another example of the thirst for community and expression within the city.
“What we’re doing here is about education,” says Sandy. “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!”