'Ghana needs redemption': Ghana's number-one reggae star and radio DJ, Blakk Rasta (born Abubakar Ahmed), thinks his country has sold its soul to "Westernism" and needs redemption. His famous song, Barack Obama, released last year to support Obama's presidential campaign, shot him to African and global stardom. Femi Akomolafe interviewed him in Accra.

Author:Akomolafe, Femi
Position::Interview
 
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Whatever happens in 2009, two events have firmly inscribed themselves in the history books. First, defying all predictions and political calculations, Barack Obama has become the first black president of the USA! However we throw it around, it is a momentous feat for Obama to have swept away old prejudices in order to emerge triumphant.

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Second, though not on the same seismological scale as Obama's triumph but nevertheless earth-shattering, was the emergence of Ghana's leading reggae star, Blakk Rasta, as the first Ghanaian artist to top the East African musical chart with his song, Barack Obama, from the Naked Wire CD. According to Kenya's Metro FM, the song occupied the number one spot in Kenya for 16 (yes, 16) weeks! It was also top of the Ugandan chart for four weeks and in Lesotho and Botswana for two weeks each. In Ghana, it climbed into the Top Ten music chart.

Blakk Rasta is not only an iconic reggae star but also Ghana's foremost radio DJ. He was born on 2 September 1974 in the ancient town of Tamale, capital of Ghana's Northern Region. Born Abubakar Ahmed, Blakk Rasta's parents are devout Ahmadi Muslims. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth, in fact, without any spoon at all, and it was a long time before he became acquainted with any spoon at all.

He grew up in the ghettos of Moshie-Zongo and Aboabo in Tamale. It was a difficult experience as the youngster had to start hustling very early in life. Northern Ghana's weather and environment is harsh and unforgiving, and thus not meant for the indolent. It is an environment that calls for a youth to employ and deploy all his native cunning in order to survive. And Blakk Rasta survived! His parents, even though materially deprived, inculcated into him the habit of learning. A precocious student and avid reader, he grew up loving the written word and the finest African traditions and cultures many of which, glad to say, still survive in Northern Ghana.

Among these are self-discipline, self-respect, a deep sense of the community, reverence for old age and for life in general, respect for one and for all, humility and the willingness to give help wherever it is needed, according to one's abilities.

Even though conditions in the slums of Tamale were harsh, Blakk Rasta didn't believe that he was destined to remain there forever. He took an interest in music, writing and acting. His songs reflect the conditions and environment of his birth, which have...

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