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Asakaa, The Modern Sound of Ghana’s Streets

Yaw Tog’s hard-hitting single “Sore” puts Ghanaian drill rap on the map, focusing attention on Kumasi’s street life. In the song “Sore”, which means “rise up” in local dialect Twi, Yaw Tog and his fellow Asakaa artists talk about the tough realities of everyday life in the streets of Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana.

Until recently, the two main types of music Ghana has been known for are highlife and hiplife. In the country’s capital city of Accra, these are most likely the music you would expect to hear in clubs, bars and live music venues. In 2020, Accra’s attention was unexpectedly drawn towards the small city of Kumasi because of an emerging community of Kumasi rappers coming up with their own unique subgenre of drill rap music.

With the release of “Sore”, 18-year-old Yaw Tog (aka “Young Bull”) quickly became a household name in Ghana’s drill community. Collaborating with Stormzy and Kwesi Arthur for the song’s remix, Young Bull’s hard-hitting single rocketed to viral status, reaching one million views within 24 hours. This helped Ghanaian drill music gain international recognition.

With roots from rap and trap scenes in the US and London’s grime scene, the Chicago-born drill music started its rapid evolution into a bass-heavy, grime-fused sub-genre when the late Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke collaborated with UK producers, giving birth to a new generation of drill artists around the world.

In Ghana, it started as an underground scene and has rapidly grown into what’s now known as “Asakaa”. Coined by the young local drill artists who call themselves the “Asakaa Boys”, Asakaa has become the official name of the Ghanaian drill subgenre. The term Asakaa comes from the local colloquial expression “Saka”, meaning “to speak”, and refers to how Asakaa rappers switch back and forth freely between English and local slang for their song lyrics.

Kumasi’s Asakaa producers and MCs have adapted drill not only through music but also through their lifestyle. Ghanaian rappers have started Americanizing Kumasi, changing it into “Kumerica” and even designing their own “Kumerican Flag”.

After being influenced by Pop Smoke, Ghanaian hip-hop rapper Sean Lifer found himself quickly shifting focus to drill music and then settling into the role of the ‘godfather’ of Akasaa. Through his label Life Living Records, he has become a pillar of Asakaa, providing a musical home to local artists and promoting a sense of camaraderie among the rising artists of Ghanaian drill.

With its characteristic understated heavy basslines and jumpy beats, combined with hard-pounding lyrics delivered with a feeling of compressed aggression, drill music has found its way into the streets of Ghana and has provided a medium for local artists to express their thoughts in a way that sonically mirrors modern society as they see it. By adding the local Ghanaian flavor, Asakaa artists like Yaw Tog, Jay Bahd, O’Kenneth, Reggie, Sean Lifer and many others have indeed produced a unique, clever and fresh drill sound.

In many countries around the world, lots of children are forced into labour and homelessness. In Australia, there are a lot of organisations that provide assistance and facilities to help rehabilitate and educate these kids. Along with school teachers, volunteers and workers in these facilities have to go through mandatory pre-employment screenings such as a Working With Children Check, which helps determine whether or not applicants are suitable to work in child-related employment.

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