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Forget bling: Ghana’s rappers are putting the environment center stage

In the music video for his song Gold Coast, released last year, Ghanaian rapper ELi stands on Accra’s Labadi beach, as waves and plastic bottles crash against his legs. He walks barefoot across a carpet of plastic bottles and bags, with only hints of sand peaking through. In another scene, ELi stands at attention, his chest poked out, his chin raised, his feet and ankles sunken into a mound of plastic and waste.

ELi, whose full name is Edward Elikplim Ayikoe, belongs to a burgeoning community of Ghanaian musicians who are using their work to interrogate Ghana’s stature as a “model democracy,” in thewords of former US president Barack Obama. These artists want to focus attention not on traditional Ghanaian hip-hop themes of financial success, love, and lifestyle, but on other problems that can plague a democracy, like the river of plastic bottles and bags strewn throughout Accra’s neighborhoods and tepid environmental policies that means pollution is rampant. The rappers see their music and platforms as essential to bringing awareness to the crisis.

photo credit: Kevin Krejci

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