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Life Be Beans – An Existentialist Account in Ghanaian Jargon

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While going through my WhatsApp status feed, I found an art, half a face of a guy in pinky corned-rows, some cowries twitched in here and there, and an orange background with words; Life be Beans. Knowing this was pidgin English, I was certain it meant Life is Beans as formal English will put it in translation. This was much more verified, when the half-face I saw was of that bright talented guy I shared my first desk with, while at the Pope John Senior High School and Minor Seminary. Obiri-Tete had changed, he’d now grown some hair. 

Was his appearance a result of a trip into the wilderness – some quasi-John-the-Baptist in his own way? I’ve known when you get on the bus, there’s always an element of change. You simply cannot eat with the abyss and remain the same. He’d changed, and although he was bound to be lonely at that like your average introspective poet, this change of course had proven to be a positive one. Don’t worry, his work will soon speak for itself in the review to come. Designed by Rolteq Graphics, this art was the cover to Obiri-Tete’s forthcoming single at the time, the aforementioned – Life Be Beans. I buckled my shoes in anticipation of September 15th – the said date of release. Upon listening to it all, I found the wait worth it.

Download Life Be Beans [ https://ditto.fm/life-be-beans – listen here]

Obiri-Tete kicks start with the basic goal beyond survival – to find something valuable amidst the chaos. By hinting at the often-emphasized anxiety suffered by his generation (with the invention of social media), he makes his point in verse clear enough; having many friends does not guarantee a thing, time only does. For your typical millennial, making friends is only a click away. It’s no longer that tedious task of having to go out into the world with the net of luck. However, this does not translate into a deus ex machinaic tool to keep one’s personal struggles at bay. Obiri puts it this way: 

|3000 friends who you call or text (charley) when you need some help (yh),

Telling you time will tell, time will tell…|

We get introduced to a problem, like your average dissertation, by the end of the first verse. At which point the need for the solutional chorus is created:

|Life be beans make you add your own k)k))

Make you add your own k)k)) x8|

1 Gari and Beans [Gob3] with Fried Plantain [k)k))]

What can we make of the chorus? Obiri-Tete’s definitive metaphor is brief and pithy; enclosing wild ideas within the wall of words as Mardy Grothe classifies metaphors of this kind. Instead of saying; life is meaningless – create your own meaning or life is chaos – make your own order, he goes by jargon, one which resonates so well to his target audience. The Young Ghanaian of his generation. Beans is used to symbolize the normal benefits we are all privy to, the common problems we all have to live by – by virtue of having life. He then employs k)k)) (fried ripe plantain) as the sweetening order one has to personally prepare in response to the basic provisions of life. Obiri-Tete gives the same solution proposed by those men of existentialist fashion (Nietzsche, Sartre, Kierkegaard and Camus), men who all philosophized about the problem of living life individually by personally defining one’s own value and working towards that – instead of adopting by default the dictates of societal values which may not consider the individual’s uniqueness. Obiri only does his in a different way, through Ghanaian music and jargon.

As though these insights aren’t enough, Obiri makes a shift before presenting us with his chorus again. In the second verse, the artist highlights on how easy it is for the fortunate to assume those who aren’t are lazy folks. He writes; 

|Rich folks calling broke folks lazy just because they don’t own shit they do,

Tryna play it fair never easy when you norr say life serves no rule (yh),|

Albeit, the need to keep on moving, like Sisyphus, is not ignored in subsequent lines. And then when the chorus comes to remind us of the needful existentialist maxim, Obiri-Tete concludes with yet another maxim from the sages, only through the use of a different metaphor again. Consider how he speaks on the need for one to be self-content with what life presents in the moment, only looking on the future for a better day; 

|No dey matter, whether Gob3 or waakye,

Dwen hw3 kann, keep your eyes on daakye|

Life be Beans is a true work of art, spanning only 2:20 minutes; and yet exemplifies how simple-mundane efforts by a determined artist might possibly carry enough complexity akin to that of the academic scholar. It’s a project not only to entertain but address the necessary antidote to the everyday problems faced by humanity, most especially Obiri’s generation. We’ll be needing more of this, Obiri-Tete. Keep the fire burning!

By Achaab Daniel Abalansa

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