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Kofi Akpabli’s award-winning ‘What Is Right with Akpeteshie?’

No one ever swallowed Akpeteshie and smiled. At best the reaction is a grimace or a frown. Some drinkers acknowledge receipt by blowing out air or pounding the chest. Such is the potency of the local gin that all senses are put under instant attack. But it does not end there.  Akpeteshie is so positively […]

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No one ever swallowed Akpeteshie and smiled. At best the reaction is a grimace or a frown. Some drinkers acknowledge receipt by blowing out air or pounding the chest. Such is the potency of the local gin that all senses are put under instant attack. But it does not end there.  Akpeteshie is so positively notorious that given the chance, its patrons would rather consume it in secret. To begin with, the local gin has a tall list of accusations which is almost incriminating. The criticisms are solid enough to confine the drink to the bottom of the hard liquor range. Still, this position in no way affects its popularity. With an active grass root loyalty, Akpeteshie is easily the most recognisable alcoholic brand in Ghana.  But without any advertisement how has the drink survived over the years? More importantly, can anything good come out of Akpeteshie?

Kill Me Quick, Ogoglo, Apio, VC10, Efie Nipa, Kele, Kumepreko, Anferewoase, Apiatiti, Home Boy, Nana Drobo, One Touch, Sodabi, Holy Water, Liquid Fire, Y2k, Agbaa, Yahoo.Com,  Man Pass Man, African Ice. Quick Action, Yes We Can.

The above is just one paragraph of accolades Akpeteshie answers to. For the information of the general public, this list is by no means exhaustive. When one turns to the various Ghanaian languages there are more. If the drink has so many aliases it only shows that it means so many things to so many. Rather humbly, Akpeteshie then becomes a kind of ‘‘that I shall be all things to all people.’’

According to patrons, using these titles is a way of showing reverence to a very important product. For the souls that Akpeteshie has won, the drink is too valuable to be referred to on first name basis. In respect of this sentiment we shall, for the purpose of this discourse also refer to Akpeteshie as Apio.

 

In the days of yore when Britannia ruled the shore of the Gold Coast they found Apio abominable. The open secret was that Akpeteshie was too competitive for their imported beverages. They knew that leaving the drink all alone would be a marketing disaster for their Jack Daniels and Old Toms. They therefore banned it. Oh yes, they did. So, when in March 1957 Ghana, our beloved country gained independence, Akpeteshie also became free forever.

Indeed, the drink’s very name is derived from its contraband history.  In Ga, the phrase, ‘‘akpe teshie’’ means to go into hiding. Because it was an outlawed drink, distillers, distributors and consumers all had to be secretive in dealing with the product. They had to operate in a ‘‘mau mau,’’ guerrilla fashion. This experience went a long way to account for the defiance character Akpeteshie and its drinkers are associated with.

The ‘bad boy’ image was thus handed down from one generation to another. Little wonder Akpeteshie has a freedom fighting spirit. Sons-in-law and oppressed tenants who have borrowed ‘Apio courage’ to face the powers-that-be will attest to this. Therefore, if the brand essence of champagne, for example, is ‘celebrating achievement,’ that of Akpeteshie would be ‘obiaa nnye obiaa.

But to be honest, and for the records, Akpeteshie also has a very serious value proposition- that of faithfully serving Ghanaian traditional culture. From birth through marriage to death, the drink is required for a number of customary rites. It is used to pour libation and at the traditional level, it is part of the fine imposed at arbitrations. If one thinks of what Schnapps (in all it’s glory) is used for today, one should know that Akpeteshie ‘has been there and done that.’  Except for Islamic communities, this is true across the length and breadth of Ghana.

 

Like all forms of alcohol, akpeteshie denotes power relations. For example, in traditional communities, the true elder worth his salt is the one who always has a bottle of the stuff stashed under his bed. This gesture speaks volumes of the man’s readiness to serve custom at any given time. Also, when men gather for an occasion power or manliness tilts towards those who can swallow Akpeteshie with the solemn face of a priest at communion.

From time immemorial the process of distilling has remained the same. Apio is made mainly from palm wine and sugar cane.  Typically, the juice is allowed to ferment over a couple of days. Distilling involves applying intense heat to the fermented juice until it turns into vapour before finally trickling through copper pipe into sieved jars. The set up includes two barrels; one with the boiling fermented juice and the other is a barrel filled with cooling water. The copper pipe connects the two through the cooling system.

Akpeteshie is also distilled with juice from the cocoa fruit and also with sugar. Some distillers use nails to quicken fermentation. Scientists call this process oxidisation. Who says our ancestors knew no science?

Without a doubt, the defining feature of the drink is the rather high alcohol content. Because it is not well-documented, Apio’s alcoholic volume has become a myth of a sort. To some observers, it is as well because the alcohol content is so high that it is almost scandalous. To understand the kind of resource Akpeteshie is, let us note that Guinness Stout contains 7.5% alcohol while Star Beer has 5%. For proper comparison, Castle Bridge (another gin) is 40%. However, anybody who knows the game will tell you that Castle Bridge has no business rubbing shoulders with Akpeteshie. End of analysis.

Of course, our medical doctors are not at all amused by this concentration of alcohol. They warn that Akpeteshie could be harmful especially, to the liver. Medical doctors would tell you that any amount of alcohol taken causes some changes in the brain. When this persists it damages the brain leading to forgetfulness, lack of focus and depression.

Akpeteshie rocks the body. For the first timer, there is a kind of body-conquering  je ne sais quoi which is hard to describe. If one hasn’t tried boxing before the effect helps you see what a knockout punch probably feels like.

Each time you take in Apio, there is a feeling of attack. The nervous system instantly gets alerted and within seconds messages are sent to all the senses.

Then there is an upliftment, a buoyancy to a certain level of consciousness, this is quickly followed by a sinking feeling. If one is standing this is the time to tell the ground to stop moving.

 

Connoisseurs tend to liken Akpeteshie to Russian Vodka. Whether this is a compliment or not is a matter of debate. In Tokyo, I remember ever giving a sample of the drink to a friend from Kryghstan, former Soviet Union. Soon after recovering from the initial effects. ‘Boris’ sucked in air and with eyes all reddened asked:

‘Thhis, your national trink?’ Conscious to defend my nation’s pride, I did not know whether to agree or deny.

Another powerful element of Apio is the scent. When unconsumed, the drink cannot be said to smell that badly. But as soon as Akpeteshie enters the mouth, an abominable chemical reaction occurs which smells almost devilish.  The ‘‘fuse’’ is more provocative when one is boxed in an air-conditioned room. According to experts, the following can be chewed to offset the smell: groundnuts, ginger and corn on-the-cob. Trying to subdue the smell with chewing gum and peppermint is a waste of effort. As for brushing up the teeth after Akpeteshie, there is no worse remedy.  It provokes the smell.

Perhaps, if there is one factor that restricts big men from the product it is the scent. Actually, the relationship between Akpeteshie and ‘‘big men’’ is a curious one. Though the drink is seen as mass-oriented, in practice, a good number of consumers happen to be prominent folks. They usually use it as ‘‘foundation’’ while enjoying their prestigious drinks.

 

There is this standing rumour of a past Ghanaian Head of State. Apparently, this First Gentleman had a little fondness for Akpeteshie. The only problem was that the exigencies of high office were depriving him of the local gin.

As the story goes, this Commander -in- Chief once bumped into an old friend who used to be a drinking pal.  Contrary to such encounters, it was not the ordinary citizen but rather the ruler of the land who had an urgent request. He bemoaned how the high office has deprived him of the good old stuff. Would his trusted old friend be kind enough to undertake a small national assignment? Could he secure and discreetly deliver a gallon of Akpeteshie, for old time’s sake? And whilst at it, could he bear in mind that the affair remained a state secret?

 

Based on the intrigues of this antecdote an obvious question is: who drinks Akpeteshie? In demographic terms (gender, religion, age, occupation, etc), there is only one answer. Everybody. Yes every group in the above examples has a subset of Akpeteshie, drinkers;  namely:

Doctors, housewives, lawyers, traditionalists, school boys, pastors, bankers, machomen, kayayes, fishermen, Christians, politicians, by-day labourers, civil servants, writers, the elderly, cocoa growers, designers, professors, hiplife rappers, journalists, election officers, khebab sellers, commercial drivers.

For many of those who consume it, Akpetshie functions as the appetiser before meals. They claim that it enables them to eat well. Many female drinkers assign this as their reason. After cooking, the smell of the food sometimes overwhelms them and make them lose appetite. But Apio becomes a good remedy.  Interestingly, when you spell Akpeteshie on the computer without the last ‘e’ Bill Gates’ Microsoft Word will play it back as the synonym of appetite. This is no lie.

Akpeteshie is actually an international drink. Elsewhere, particularly in the Carribeans, its equivalent is rum. In Brazil the first cousin of Apio is a well known drink marketed as Cairpirinha.

 

In terms of the marketing mix, Akpeteshie has not done badly. As a product it is the strongest in its category. Its price is right (about ten times less than its acclaimed competitor, Vodka). It is available in nearly every place. Anytime you hear of ‘‘blue kiosk’’ know that the reference is to a base where the drink is sold. These days the market penetration has been improved by hawkers who carry it around town.

There is only a problem when one considers how the drink is packaged. Packaging is part of promotion and here, Akpeteshie scores zero. The drink is not bottled, not sealed and not labelled. Akpeteshie is always poured in used and borrowed bottles. In considering the possible images that I could use for this feature story, it occurred to me that though Akpeteshi has been with us all these years, there is not a single symbol that identifies it.

Irrespective of the brand, one can always recognise a beer bottle, same for soft drinks. With our traditional drinks a calabash, depending on the setting, could denote pito, or palm wine.  What  is the symbol for Akpeteshie? Can the absence of this be a national achievement or indictment?

Though it is doing well in sales the fact also remains that Akpeteshie has a huge image problem. Apio  is not available in supermarkets or even in retail grocery outlets. This is in part due to its own failings.

 

As the  l’enfant terrible of the hard liquor range, Akpeteshie does not have a good character. The drink has wrecked several homes. Many a young man has turned out to be worse off because they abused it. It has made accomplished men useless. Maybe, if Akpeteshie has not developed to a refined, well labelled brand it is due to its own ill reputation. Therefore, no tears for Akpeteshie.

These challenges notwithstanding, Apio  is good business. Demand for it is round the clock and round the calendar. For retailers, starting up the trade is pretty easy. All one needs is a gallon, a beer bottle, a minerals bottle, a couple of glasses and a funnel.  A bench for customers to sit on is good but not necessary. Many customers prefer to do the ‘standing ovation’, ie, stand, drink and move on.

 

If there is one alcoholic drink that has not needed advertising it is Apio. The drink has defied the theories of marketing. Everybody knows Akpeteshie. Even those who have never tasted know what it stands for. For any product, this is more than good. The drink has attained the stage in marketing communication known as ‘brand recognition’.

 

While the love of Akpteshie is enough to make some grown-ups weep, some people also hate it with self-righteous anger. There is this anecdote of a British parliamentarian on a campaign, who was asked ‘if elected, would you ban alcohol in your constituency?’

‘What is alcohol?’ begins the politician’s response. ‘If by alcohol you mean that drink that causes distress and tears families apart then I would condemn it in no uncertain term. But if by alcohol you mean that satisfying liquid that soothes in times of sorrow and delights in times of joy; that which lubricates societal relations then why, it must be preserved and promoted as a spirit of human civilisation.’

 

In our own parliament not long ago, there was a nice little debate on the use of alcohol vis-a-vis health needs. I believe we can leave that incident for the national gazette. As for Apio, it offers more than a policy dilemma to state actors. But whether we wish it ‘‘long live’’ or ‘’go to hell’’ Akpeteshie is still out there, with a smile.

 

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Sarkodie, Amaarae leading the pack for Ghanaian music on Spotify with rap and afropop

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As Spotify’s Wrapped data for Ghana came out in the first week of December, two artists are drawing special interest –  one for the pole position he claimed on Wrapped, the other for Wrapped’s overnight positive effect on her fan base.

 

Rapper Sarkodie (also known as King Sark) claimed top artist of the year (with just two other Ghanaians in the shape of Kwesi Arthur and King Promise in the top 10), and took the top album spot for No Pressure, a 16-track album that represents a return to a more pure style of hip-hop for the acclaimed artist.

 

Sarkodie is not only one of the most awarded artists in Ghana, but also on the African continent, having received 107 awards from 191 nominations – including 25 Ghana Music Awards – over the past decade.

 

Less established, but trending ever upwards, is Ghanaian-American sensation Amaarae, in whom Ghanian music may have found the gem it’s been looking for to propel the country onto the global stage.

 

Ama Serwah Genfi, professionally known as Amaarae, has almost 230,000 combined followers across Instagram and Twitter, and these numbers are set to explode as the 27-year-old star shoots for the moon. With her track “Sad Girlz Luv Money Remix” featuring Kali Uchis and Moliy amassing over 70 million Spotify streams as of today — 20 million more since breaking the 50 million milestone mark in late November — “The Angel You Don’t Know” album-maker is fast becoming the Ghanaian musician the world knows.

 

On the local scene, the New York-born performer was nowhere to be found in Spotify’s Ghana Top 10 Most  Female Artists. It was Gyakie who stood as the sole Ghana flagbearer in second position, behind Tems and ahead of Nicky Minaj, Doja Cat, Adele, Rihanna, Teni, Beyoncé, Tiwa Savage, Ariana Grande.

 

However, Amaarae has only started building steam locally and her almost-whispering vocal style may soon resound loudly on speakers across Ghana’s most vibrant areas and in the ears of the country’s Spotify users.

 

Her incredible rise on mega audio streaming platform Spotify is expanding into the realms of social media thanks to her army of fans. Celebrating Wrapped 2021 on December 1st, Amaarae tweeted:

 

“All the fountain babies worldwide. My sad girlz & sad boyz. Thank you all so much for streaming TAYDK so crazy. The love & support I receive from you all is second to none & I love u so much. Let’s make another classic next year & shake the world. Iove 4ever.”

 

On the launch of Spotify Wrapped 2021, Amaarae had 11.9 million monthly listeners. She has racked up over a million more and counting, since then.

 

Returning to Sarkodie, No Pressure’s popularity doesn’t appear to have come off the back of a host of bankable singles. Only “Coachella” (feat. Kwesi Arthur) is among the top 10 tracks for Ghana this year. Its position, at seventh, is four below the most-streamed single by a Ghanaian artist in 2021, in the shape of King Promise’ “Slowdown”. This suggests that the album’s success lies in what it presents as a coherent whole, rather than as a series of tracks.

 

Ultimately then, it’s yet further proof that albums still have a significant role to play on streaming platforms. The fact that Sarkodie is one of Ghana’s most decorated artists only underlines how important a great album can be and that if you have something worth saying (or rapping as the case may be), people will listen.

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Black Sherif is coming on tour with me, learn the Twi part of the song- Burna Boy to fans

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It’s Blacko Season and we are here for it!

The “2nd Sermon” hitmaker, Black Sherif just dropped the remix to the hit single featuring Grammy-winning artist, Burna Boy and fans cannot keep calm.

The teaser to the song was released a few months ago after Burna Boy was seen jamming to the song on multiple occasions.

The song was finally released at midnight and Burna Boy has shared with his fans that he will be bringing Black Sherif on tour with him.

See Burna Boy’s post below;

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Sandra Ankobiah Fumigates Mallam Attah Market Ahead Of Christmas Sales

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Sandra Ankobiah and her Women’s Institute organised a fumigation exercise inside the Mallam Attah market on Sunday, December, 5 to make the market a safe zone for traders ahead of Christmas sales. (more…)

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D Jay shares remix of his addictive single ‘Yawa’ featuring KiDi and Playaz

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After releasing ‘Yawa’ about a year ago, the rising singer kicks back with a more elegant version of his original hit, courtesy of a feature list that doesn’t disappoint. Stream/download ‘Yawa’ remix on all major platforms here: https://djay.lnk.to/yawaremix

The new striking release has Ghana’s very own Golden Boy, KiDi and Nigerian Afro-Pop duo, Playaz in tow – all accentuating the already delectable song with a zest of Hiplife melodies and buoyant vocals that are absolutely fresh. Like mainstream Afrobeat songs of its time, ‘Yawa’ remix is big on sweet-talking and boasts clever interpolations from past Ghanaian and Nigerian classic songs like VVIP’s ‘Ahomka Womu’ and ‘Fefe Ne Efe’ by Tony Tetuila (feat. Tic Tac).

If you’re yet to be acquainted with the versatile singer, ‘Yawa’ remix is a perfect introduction to D Jay’s burgeoning catalog. One of Ghana’s new rising artists to watch, D Jay’s breakout EP, ‘’Mixed Feelings’’ (2020) was center to distinguishing him from his peers as a versatile and charismatic voice.

Under the management of Q17 Dynasty, D Jay is ready to inspire his generation with a sense of responsibility and focus.

OR

Instagram: onlydjayy
Twitter: @onlydjay

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Stegue’s Ginger Features On Apple Music Playlists With Ed-Sheran,Elton John

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STEGUE just released his first hit Single “Ginger” and clearly the song is raising eyebrows among music playlist curators on Boomplay and Apple Music
“Ginger” has featured on Apple’s music New Music Daily,Future Hits which features American top musicians like Ed sheran,Elton John .Lil Baby .Lil wayne and others

Management team of Stegue{Xpensive Records Worldwide} confirmed that this single is off his sophomore project “Songs For The Deaf” which is scheduled to be released next year
‘Ginger’ is an Afro Fusion song with production that induces a head bop from its listener. STEGUE exalts his lover as he speaks on how proficient her bedroom escapades are. He confesses how hard he has fallen for her and how he would do anything for her and never stop loving her.Ginger is a timeless danceable masterpiece fit for all occasions.

Watch “Ginger”

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Audiomack Launches “Supporters” Feature, Enabling Artists to Generate New Revenue Stream & Connect with Fans

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Artist-first music streaming and discovery platform, Audiomack, has announced the launch of Supporters, a first-of-its-kind feature in music streaming, providing artists with access to a brand-new revenue stream and allows fans to directly support songs and albums from the artists they love.

 

Supporters enables artists and musicians to directly engage with their fans when they release new music, express their appreciation for direct support through a variety of messaging options, and share exclusive content and limited offerings.

 

“With Supporters, Audiomack is treating artists as they see themselves — as entrepreneurs building profitable careers,” said Dave Macli, Audiomack co-founder and CEO. “Supporters creates brand new monetization opportunities for our creator community while bringing dedicated fans closer to the music and artists they love.”

 

Fans participate in Supporters by purchasing support badges for individual song and album releases. Once a fan completes their badge purchase, their contribution is forever memorialized on their Audiomack profile and the artist’s individual song or album page. To help fans showcase their support, across social media, Audiomack provides custom shareable graphics.

 

Supporters are ranked on three levels:

 

First: The first supporters for a release

Top: Supporters who contributed the most

Latest: The most recent supporters

 

To participate in Supporters, artists must apply for and gain access to Audiomack Monetization Program (AMP), or distribute their music to Audiomack through participating partners, including but not limited to Warner Music Group, Amuse, AudioSalad Direct, DistroKid, EMPIRE, FUGA, Stem, and Vydia.

 

About Audiomack 

Audiomack, which launched in 2012, currently reaches more than 20 million monthly users globally. The streaming and discovery service has played an integral role in breaking new acts, such as Roddy Ricch and Kaash Paige; served as a trusted partner to Eminem and Nicki Minaj, among other notable artists, to debut exclusive releases; and helped rising African stars, such as Omah Lay, reach an international audience. As of December 2021, Audiomack is the top-ranked music streaming app on Apple’s iOS in Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Senegal, and Kenya.

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