It took me quite a while to figure out about the apparent to-do between renowned Hiplife artist Sarkodie (aka Michael Owusu-Addo) and some disgruntled members of the Krobo community who are threatening to drag the popular rapper to court, for featuring lyrics on one of his composition tracks deemed to be uncomplimentary to the dignity and reputation of women of the Krobo ethnic group of the Eastern Region of Ghana (See “Krobos Chase Sarkodie for GH₵ 2 Million” Daily Guide/Modernghana.com 6/17/17). It took me quite a while because the national media landscape has been fraught with other equally important news items and events that demanded prompt discursive attention.
We learn that Rapper Sarkodie recently released a rap-song titled “Jennifer Lomotey,” in which he makes reference to a famous curse that the legendary unifier of the Asante Empire and immortalized traditional priest, Okomfo Anokye, is alleged to have imposed on Ghanaian women of Krobo ethnic identity. This must have been sometime in the mid-17th or early 18th century. It is a myth, in the classical sense of the term, because it is shrouded in the sort of mystery that invaginates many an oral traditional account. Whatever the case may be, this myth is among the most commonly known and invoked ethnic stereotypes in the country. I even recently had occasion to discuss it in one of my columns, after the issue of the purported promiscuity of the Krobo woman was raised by a quite well-known Krobo columnist, who also happens to be a professionally trained physician.
I suppose his name is Dr. Nyarkotey or some such Ga-Dangme name. what is equally important to point out here is that Rapper Sarkodie is not the first Ghanaian musical artist to compose a song based on ethnic stereotypes; there have been a legion musicians, both long deceased and still alive, who have composed music based on the sort of ethnic stereotypes for which Mr. Sarkodie is being presently called to account. Now, I am far less interested in whether the charges made against Mr. Owusu-Addo who, by the way, also claims to have fathered a couple of children by a Krobo woman, have merit either legally or morally. I am rather more concerned with the practical fact of whether Sarkodie, allegedly of Akan-Okwawu (or Kwahu) descent, has an inalienable constitutional right as a bona fide Ghanaian citizen to freely and democratically express himself.
We must also critically observe that in any constitutionally democratic culture, such as Ghana’s Fourth-Republican dispensation, the right to free speech and artistic expression of any citizen is inalienable and cannot be cavalierly compromised in the manner that some of the Krobo youths, including the group calling itself Kloma Hengme Association, understandably upset with Rapper Sarkodie, are trying to do. We must also promptly point out that in every robust and viable constitutional democracy, free speech includes unpopular, unflattering and downright offensive speech such as Rapper Sarkodie has been accused of indulging. Now, whether Chief-Priest Anokye, an Akuapem native of Guan or Kyerepong descent, ever cursed the Krobo woman with an eternal life of promiscuity or not is decidedly beside the point.
The fact of the matter is that the Anokye Myth is part of our national folklore. Many Akan and Krobo natives are well aware of this stereotypical myth. Its acceptance by indigenes of either group, however, is moot. In a democratic free market culture such as ours, people have a right to determine what kind of music they want to patronize or not patronize. In short, the managers and proprietors of Krobo-located media stations have absolutely every right not to play the “Jennifer Lomotey” song on their airwaves. But they have absolutely no right to legislate the same for the rest of the country. Had Rapper Sarkodie called for genocide against or the massacre of all Krobo women or indulged in such morally and politically inflammatory rhetoric, you can bet your bottom-dollar that yours truly would have been the first critic to call for Rapper Owusu-Addo to be driven out of town, pronto!
The anti-Sarkodie protesters can even launch a massive boycott against the entire gamut of Sarkodie music. What these protesters have absolutely no right to do, is mischievously and deviously attempt to extort money from the musician. Not even a dime! They, however, have every right to take the rap-artist to court. But I pretty much doubt that the reliefs that the plaintiffs are seeking will be granted. Attempting to use intimidation tactics to censor Rapper Sarkodie defeats the very purpose of democratic freedom. Of course, I am also mindful of the need for responsible artistry and artistic production.
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York
June 17, 2017
E-mail: [email protected]