The Message of #IWITP

Note: IWITP (I Wasn’t In The Pictures) is my spoken word song. If you haven’t heard it, the link is at the bottom of this post.

The technological age is really something else. Nearly everything has a digital form now. Online dating, cyberbullying, blogging, vlogging, photo-journalling, and whatnot. And so do the ways our problems manifest themselves.

All this stuff is part of the human condition. (Shout-out to Jon Bellion, the love of my life.) There really isn’t anything new to the human experience. It’s the world that’s changing, not us. Feeling underappreciated was a thing, before getting few or zero likes on a post was there to catalyse it. Envy already existed before someone else’s fantastic Instagram posts were there to make you wish you had what they have. And loneliness, exclusion, solitude – in whatever synonym, this thing that has been the theme of my life for so long – always existed, before the group photographs (that someone is missing from) were there to enhance it.

Everyone’s a photographer now. Social media thrives on its visuals. Often, we take photos of ourselves wherever we are. We use our frozen faces, our permanent expressions to create long-lasting memories. Sometimes I feel like if you went somewhere and didn’t take a selfie while you were at it, you might as well not have been there. Where’s the proof?

This metaphor of exclusion in the digital age is what runs through the entire song – because that’s the best way I could have thought to describe what I was feeling during high school, in the loneliest period of my life.

But pause: possibly the most relevant part of all the lyrics is this repeated one:

“I don’t even want to be in the photos/

I just wish I could have been bolder”

I think this hits right at the heart of the matter. Yes – people were taking selfies and I wasn’t part. But that petty detail is not the root of anything; it’s just the representation of something else. In other words, it’s not the “image” of inclusion that mattered so much; it was the sense of belonging in itself that I wanted. I wanted to be able to be bold enough to insert myself into spaces I wanted to be in, not just hover around the sidelines.

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The bottom lines: if you’ve ever felt excluded, perhaps you can relate. And if you know of someone “who just wants to be noticed”, perhaps you should refocus your “social lens” and try to do something about it. (There were people who tried to do this for me, and I love them!) Because I assure you, it’s not a pleasant experience. In the meantime though…jam!

-Akotowaa

Listen below:

 

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What’s VI Music? (You need to know!)

I realize a lot of people who follow me on any platform don’t even know what VI Music is. That’s so many levels of not-right!

Vision Inspired Music (AKA: VI Music) is the record label I am signed to! Yes, with, like, an actual contract and stuff! LOL.

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VI’s official logo

VI Music is actually a collective team of visionaries (pun intended), creatives, and friends, which has grown to be a sort of extended family. We make the kind of stuff we want to see. If that stuff isn’t what everyone else is used to seeing and hearing, that’s okay! It’s a testament to our slogan: “We Do It For The Art!”

There’s a lot to find out about VI Music, and you can do all that at officialvimusic.com. 🙂

What I really, really love about VI is how authentic everyone is! If our styles are not defined, we define them, and give them names. There’s not a lot of pressure to conform to the media and content that’s circulating around the Ghana webs. What feels fine to our hearts is what comes out of us.

Twitter: @OfficialVIMusic

Facebook: Vision Inspired Music

Who’ve we got (that’s currently active)?

Adomaa; Reynolds ‘TheGentleMan’; Robin-Huws; Akotowaa; The band FRA!

Adomaa

She’s currently the most popular VI act. She’s a musical butterfly! She made her debut to the general public with a Baafira-Adonai mashup, and subsequently an Evolution of Gh Music video, which I insist, is one of the absolute coolest videos I have ever seen! (And I witnessed it being edited, ayyyy!)

Since I’m a sucker for hybrids, I’m loving that she calls her genre of music Afro-Jazz! And yo, haters gon’ hate, but who cares? LOL

She released her debut EP, the Afraba EP in January! And the music on that EP was executively produced by TheGentleMan. (You can hear audio signature in many of them.)

Twitter: @adomaa_music

Facebook: Adomaa

So that brings me to…

 

Reynolds TheGentleMan

This guy is legit one of the most underrated men I have ever met in my life! He plays, like, all the instruments in the world (exaggeration. But he plays a lot!) and he’s produced nearly everything VI Music has put out. And he sings too! He has some split-personality something, LOL because Reynolds (the RnB singer, sometimes stylized as Reynolds n Beatz) is different from TheGentleMan (the producer). I try not to ask too many questions. LOL.

So this is Reynolds (the singer) covering his own song, “Come Closer” which he wrote and released in 2014. But this version is better. LOL.

 

Twitter: @ReynoldsTGM

Facebook: Reynolds ‘TheGentleMan’

Robin-Huws

Robin is a soul-crooner who usually won’t fail to put you in your feelings. I know someone who didn’t finish his first solo VI release, “See Her Again” because it was too emotional! Haha. It’s weird because he’s one of the funnest, jokey-est, most foolish (in a good way) people I know, and such fun to hang around!

So this is See Her Again. Try not to cry. 🙂

Twitter: @Robin_Huws

 

Akotowaa

If you want to know who I am, read every single post on this blog. That is all.

LOL. I’m VI Music’s only spoken word artist. But all audio art be audio art, or? If Kendrick and Kanye can do spoken-word-disguised-as-music, I can do same.

Stay tuned, while I eventually popularize the hashtag that I claim as my own: #SpokenWordOnBeat.

This is my first official VI Music release, Anti-Indoctrination. (This isn’t SpokenWordOnBeat, by the way. 🙂 )

It was a debut, but know that better is coming!

Twitter: @_Akotowaa

Facebook: Akotowaa

 

FRA!

FRA! (the exclamation mark is important, okay?) is a band that was formed for and from Adomaa’s act. Remember, her EP was called Afraba? Well, FRA! literally put the ‘fra’ in Afraba! 🙂

They’ve got vibes. I’ve heard lots of comments about similarities to Osibisa, after people listened to “Dumsor”, the generator-powered love story:

Twitter: @TheBandFRA

Facebook: FRA

 

So for now, we are VI Music. Stay tuned, because we are coming with VIM!

-Akotowaa

A Sonnet for the Queen Bee’s Castle

Shattered walls will rise again.
I know this, for you are the builder:
made of a fabric that paint cannot stain,
nor concrete can break, nor wither.
 
You’ve opened your gates: invitations to stay
and enjoy you, for those that would bother.
Yet guests have delayed, or come in too late,
and most have abused this honour.
 
You’ve locked yourself in; now your flowers complain
that you don’t need walls for your guarding.
And iron bars will not hold you in.
I know this, for you are the warden.
 
For the life that you bring,
They forget that you sting.
-Akotowaa

Note: Dedicated to Benewaa. You are a force to be reckoned with. Anyone who forgets that does so at their own peril.

Both Cheeks On Board

Note: I wrote this in like February 2015, when I had only just invented the term “lexivism“, and way before Dead By 27. Interesting fact: this is at the back of the same notebook as the first draft of Anti-Indoctrination is in the front of! I’m now posting it because I had a recent conversation with a friend that reminded me of it.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not referring to the cheeks on my face.

My aim is to eventually become a full-time writer. (Yes, I write about writing a lot. You were in for that the minute you stepped into a lexivist’s space.) Like, that is my primary goal, and what I’m working towards. Not a Something Else and then Writer on the side; but a person whose primary profession is writing – and the other income-generating dilly-dallying on the side. LOL, isn’t that ridiculous? Nope.

Here’s the thing: because a lot of Ghanaians see writing as some side-thing, some hobby that you can get published for, a lot of the stuff we produce isn’t up to professional standards. It’s only up to amateur, hobbyist standard, you see. I’ve at least seen a number of locally published books – and honestly, sometimes I just bore. Spelling mistakes abundant, as well as other errors and sometimes, it looks like the work went through zero editors; if they didn’t, then these editors are doing nothing and should be replaced. The binding sometimes is poor or uncomfortable, and the books themselves are not marketed well. How then, should we be able to view writing as an income-generating profession, when it is so unprofessionally handled that it generates so little income? There we go!

“Ghana, where my parents live, has no credible local publisher.” – Taiye Selasi.

Even aside from the industry’s slacking, the writers themselves, since they are so satisfied with the whole writing thing being a side job, are really unconcerned with really mastering their technique in the whole writing game. After all, it’s only “on the side”.

This, in my opinion, is the reason for the multitude of half-assed (do you get the title of the post now?), poorly edited books and novels and whatnot, which I cannot ever believe a serious writer would have been satisfied with before they distributed. The reason Ghanaian authors don’t make a living out of their authorship is because they are not serious enough to WANT to. Yes, of course, there are factors on their own, such as the illiteracy percentage of the population (which may soon be its own blog post/piece), but I feel like illiteracy of other people should not make you compromise on your own quality. We are so satisfied where we are, and so many times, our authors don’t go international.

Here is my issue: if I submit to all the pressure coming at me from many sides that it’s basically a circle; if I listen to the people who insist I take up another career and do my “writing things” as a side job…then I could end up where the other authors are: confined to a local audience whose taste for quality is low enough to be satisfied with mediocrity; just another one of those books for tourists; another writer with half-baked novels. I’d have half-assed my work.

A couple of my favourite Urban Dictionary definitions for half-ass:

1.

“The act of doing something without motivation or care as to the quality of the object at hand. To not give a sh*t.”

2.

“Something done poorly, a bad job, a rushed task the person could have done better at.”

 

I want to dedicate myself full-time to the profession I’m into, to produce maximum quality work, and put literature from at least one Ghanaian (not Ghanaian literature, mind you; I said literature from a Ghanaian) on the map! Quality and dedication: the two things too many of us are missing. And yet people see in me a desire for both, and that scares them. Lord knows why.

In summary: I am working towards making my writing my full-time profession (with any other interesting income-generating activity on the side) as soon as I can possibly manage it, because I am vying for actual quality and dedication, and be one step close to breaking the ideology that a Ghanaian cannot and should not be a full time writer. I don’t want to half-ass it. I want both my cheeks on board!

-Akotowaa

The Last Time I Had A Breakdown

The last time I had a breakdown,
I was reckless
and it caused someone anger
nearly as intense as my anxiety.
The time before that, I confided.
and the one before that, I confided
But the one before that,
I was reckless
and it caused someone anger
that calmed my anxiety
and destroyed my reputation simultaneously.
None except I
have learnt new lessons.
At the same time, I cannot tell
how far I shall pass the next test.

 

The last time I had a breakdown,
I was reckless.
This time, I have locked myself
in the bathroom,
with the music through my headphones so loud
I could not possibly hear my name being called.
Here, I decide to take a leak;
I strip my eyes naked
of their spectacles and allow sorrow to flow.
I like being here because
this is where the shit comes out so
it works in more ways than one.
The water works
on my skeletons, now as I hide
in my water-closet
Because my faith got lost again
and so I can only ever have
tough skin in public.

 

The next time I have a breakdown,
you will see me smile;
This would take us back to square one.
This will take me back to recklessness.
Smiling will just be another mistake,
Just like writing this poem on the toilet
is another self-contained mistake;
But it is better for you because
these are the kinds of mistakes you can handle.
-Akotowaa

Akotowaa’s Guide to Dropping Out

Unfortunately, I’ve never dropped out before – so my advice on this topic is obviously very credible and 100% legitimate. Listening to “experts on these issues” is overrated anyway.

Yes, there are some who believe although I have never dropped out of school yet, there’s still a chance of it happening. I like these people. Then there are those who will read this and immediately comment or text me to strongly advise me against this option. I could do without these people right now. Just read the freaking blog post, would you? :/

Lots of people think I’m just an impractical anti-educationist. I don’t think that description quite hits the mark, though. Perhaps I am simply not a fan of formal, institutionalized education – or anti-academic. To imply that I hate knowledge, however, is to make an unfair and untrue judgment on what exactly it is that I stand for.

I stand for making the absolute best of oneself in the way that is most fruitful to them. For all, education is the way. For some, formal education is not the way. For others, institutionalized education is where they thrive. Who am I to tell you to abruptly leave a system that works so well for you?
 
So, from a person completely inexperienced with anything but the thought of dropping out, here is Akotowaa’s guide to dropping out.
 
1) When not to drop out.
Do not drop out of you’re lazy. I promise you if you aren’t capable of grinding in school, you’re probably not capable of grinding outside of it. I don’t know, but grinding out of it is probably way harder. Imagine how many times you would have to prove yourself without credentials. Leaving school is not the easy way out, and I will describe why soon.
 
2) Situations where people think you shouldn’t drop out – but they don’t actually matter.
If you’re doing well in school, it still is not a good enough indicator that you should be in school. Sometimes it’s a matter of doing what you have to do – when what you have to do can’t be done in classrooms or whatever. Academic aptitude – especially when you are an autodidact – might actually give you an advantage outside of school. Sometimes it is also a matter of implementing a groundbreaking idea before someone else does. That is in fact the reason why some of the greatest minds have dropped out – because they didn’t have time to waste in school before they patented their designs; before they brought their technology to the world first. It’s not always because they were flopping in school. Brilliance is often a factor for success.
 
When you have no idea what you’re going to do without school, when you have no definite plans and cannot adequately answer people when they ask, with scandalized expressions, “What are you going to do then?!” – that is also not enough reason to stay in school when you know you do not belong there. Here’s why: school can kill your brain and spirit when you can’t handle it. Any suppressive and prolonged situation can do that to you, be it your school, your marriage, your work, your country, whatever. Many times, what people really need is time and space to think. I highly doubt a person who is feeling frustrated and suffocated in a system would be entirely capable of making rational and detailed plans about the next stages of their lives. Sometimes, one may need to drop out in order to be clearheaded enough to know what they want to do after they drop out – even if that decision is to go back to school. It is normal to not know what you need, even as you know exactly what you do not need. It’s not an astronomically absurd idea. Sometimes you may just be doing school wrong; you have to drop out and start again, to figure out how to do school right.

“Other people don’t have the opportunities that you have…” This is one of those nonsense phrases that come in many different forms. Here’s the irony about life, okay? A lot of people need money so that they can afford to go to school. A lot of people need money so that they can be financially stable enough to drop out of school. A lot of people need money so that they can get out of the debt they got in for going to school in the first place. How can you win? Somebody not having something is not automatically equivalent to you needing it. Imagine someone somewhere does not have a Mercedes Benz because they can’t afford it. Does that mean by all means you should buy a Porsche? If in another part of the country, people are starving, it doesn’t mean you must by all means turn yourself into a glutton and continue to eat long after your body has stopped needing the food. They are completely disconnected things. Yes, formal education would drastically improve the life of someone who doesn’t have it. But if you have it and can tell that it isn’t working for you, it is irrational to hold yourself back for the guilt of someone else.
 
3) So when should you drop out?
When you can clearly see that school, or the school you are in, or the program you’re enrolled in, which you can’t easily change – is taking you absolutely nowhere, or not at all where you want to go, or not where you want to go fast enough, you may want to consider dropping out.

When you have a groundbreaking idea you need to implement immediately, before someone else does, patent it, own it, change the world with it first, you might want to consider dropping out.

If you are living in misery, and can barely find any motivation to wake up in the morning and go through the routine of your timetable – if these thoughts occasionally make you wonder what the point of life is, and consider ending it – I think you might need to drop the hell out of school.

If you know how your brain acquires knowledge, and the system you are in isn’t giving it to you in your ideal way – perhaps you would want to consider finding a more fruitful method. Here, let me give an example of my life. I can learn relatively fast if I am being taught one-on-one; when full attention is on me, I give my full attention, easily. Something changes when suddenly it’s not just me being taught – but a whole bunch of people at once – at the same pace, or in the same style, or in the same kind of language. I know that I’m more of an individual learner than one who learns with others, and this has cost me a lot, to keep going to classes for two hours and understanding nothing, only to have someone privately explain the same thing to me, which I understand in twenty minutes. I don’t like wasting my own time simply because it is “required” of me.
 
4) Now that you’ve dropped out, or have decided to drop out, how do you use your time?
This is the part where I explain why dropping out isn’t the easy way out.
When you’ve dropped out, you are going to have to work towards whatever it is you want to achieve – and that involves time. If, to complete your goals, you will need to acquire skills you otherwise could not have learnt in school, you’re either going to have to pay for tuition, or be an autodidact. Just like the way it is in school, you’re not going to just sit there and be achieving stellar things.

People think of dropping out in a way that implies more freedom than I think it actually entails. I think if you’re not spending money on school fees, there is definitely a lot of other stuff you would have to be spending money on instead. And this is something that you and your parents or whoever is in charge of your finances in tuition are going to have to make yourselves understand. And you are going to have to be prepared to spend at least as much time and money as you would have in the classroom, or on assignments, trying to achieve whatever you dropped out to achieve.

For example, if you dropped out of school to focus on becoming a musician, you’re about to invest in voice training lessons, teaching yourself scales and musical instrument, forming connections, paying for studio time, exercising, flexing your songwriting skills, learning improvisation, playing by ear – and you will be buying a lot of things; equipment, instruments, online tutorials. You are not free. Not if you’re serious about whatever you’re trying to do.
 
There should be a whole book on this stuff. There probably already is. But yeah. Though this is not exhaustive, feel free to re-examine your life now. ☺

-Akotowaa

This Is The Thing You Romanticize.

The poet, he was afraid
to call himself a poet,
wondering if his words qualified
and if practicing the craft was enough.

 

The internet, it spoke
of inner demons countless,
tortured artists abundant,
and pain like it was art’s only fuel.

 

The poetess, she told me
there was nothing to be glorified
for those characteristics
that should otherwise land one hospitalised.

 

I myself once asked,
“Are we in pain because we are artists,
or we are artists because we are in pain?”
And now I answer: Neither.

 

This is the thing you romanticise:
A lie. We did not invite pain
like it was a necessary ingredient
to make us who we are.

 

Before I was accursed,
I was writing.
As I am being set free,
I shall write, and after.

 

If to call oneself melancholic,
constantly wear black, and declare
oneself as troubled is one’s ideal state,
This One is doing Art awfully wrong.

 

I am creation. My God
did not create in perpetual sadness.
He did not create creatives
to strive for chronic depression.

 

My art is not
The Crying Man’s Sole Solace.
It is just that I myself cry;
But you need not.

 

The next time you romanticize
the demons and their poets,
may you be afflicted by a joy so deep
it moves you to bear your best creations.
-Akotowaa