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Sometimes, things turn out to be more fun when unplanned…my 2017 BET Experience & more

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Ameyaw Debrah at Bet Awards 2017

So by now, you all know that I achieved my dream of attending the BET Awards for the first time this year…and yes watch out, the Grammys and Oscars could be next! But the real story is how I finally made the decision to attend the BET Awards, the uncertainties and the many adventures in between. If you think you saw it all on social media, then think again and buckle your seat belts!!!

When I returned from Cannes in May, I went for a US visa and thought it would be great to do the BET Awards since it was happening in June. I immediately started looking into the process of getting media accreditation in order to make it possible. I visited the official website for BET but unlike the Cannes Film Festival, which clearly had information on media applications, there was nothing like that for the BET Awards.

Although I had a Ghanaian contact at BET, I knew she had left the network so I didn’t even go to her to find things out (I later found out that she could have been of help if I had asked). I then emailed my contact at Viacom International Media Networks (who worked on my accreditation for the MTV Europe Music Awards I attended in Rotterdam last year), only to get an automated response saying she had left the company. The automated message also included the email address for two people who were now handling communications/PR for Viacom.

I emailed them but never got an answer. My anxiety started to mount as I continued to find out means to get accreditation for the awards. I contacted another friend who does publicity in Hollywood and she sent me a link with which I could apply for accreditation. It was right before the deadline so I managed to squeeze in my application on time. In fact, another friend sent me a different link and I applied as well.

After these applications, I now started waiting to hear from BET whether my request was accepted. Of course as one of Africa’s leading bloggers in the entertainment sector I was almost convinced that my request would be accepted. But after waiting and waiting, that appeared to be a mirage and maybe just maybe I had rated myself a little more than I’m worth…hahaha!!! With each passing day to the event, I got frustrated when I wasn’t hearing anything. The only other option that could guarantee me attending the BET Awards was to buy a VIP ticket package.

But with VIP packages going for around $1,100 to $2500 and $4500, that was really not an option for me. In fact I started an online campaign for my readers and social media community to contribute towards my dreams of attending the awards. Days passed without a single donation. In fact at some stage I even joked (not lied) on social media that I had received donations from two people, just to encourage other people to donate. Well, that didn’t get any positive results. The event date inched closer and the frustration grew further, as I had to plan my travels adequately.

I decided to get cheap tickets for 3-days of BET Experience- Staples Center concerts, so that incase I got my passes last minute while in Los Angeles, then I wouldn’t have wasted too much money on tickets anyway (in fact I was planning to resell those tickets if I finally got my accreditation from BET). The BET Experience concerts were starting from Thursday to Saturday ahead of the awards on Sunday.

On the Sunday night ahead of it all, I decided to leave Ghana on Tuesday to arrive in L.A on Wednesday so I could rest a day before the concerts. The last minute planning meant my flight was rather expensive. I went ahead to book my flight from Accra to Amsterdam to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to New York so that I could tour the US a bit after the awards.

Hello, City of Angels!!!

As fate would have it, I arrived in L.A after a 10 hour flight from Amsterdam and checked into the Los Angeles Vacation Rooms, a ‘hotel’ I booked based on proximity to the Staples Center, Venue for the BET Experience concerts (stay tuned for my terrible experience with that hotel in my upcoming ‘that type of hotel’ series on my stay in America.)

 

 

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Soon, it was already Thursday and time for the first night of the concerts. During the day however, I visited the Hollywood Walk of Fame for my experience of Hollywood. I enjoyed it although I felt stupid after tipping some action figures and cartoon characters too much to have photos with them. I soon learnt how to ‘walk the streets of Hollywood’… literally!

In the evening, I made my way to the Staples Center and found my way to my seat inside the auditorium. I booked the same seat for 3 nights. Although it was far from the stage it was right on top of the stage so I could see the performance pretty well…at least whenever the artists decided to stay on stage instead of running through the crowd.

I got some good videos to share on social media, and in fact when a friend saw that I was indeed at the awards, he made $100 donation for my troubles…hurray!!! Performing on the night were Kid Cudi, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Pusha T, Desiigner, Playboi Carti and more!!!

 

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On Friday, some friends of mine came from Iowa as well to attend the Friday show, so I moved from my hotel to join them a new one, close to airport. Although the new hotel was farther from the Staples Center, it was very close to the airport and ideal for my 6am flight to New York, on Monday.

Although I had still not heard from BET regarding my accreditation to officially attend the main BET Awards on Sunday, I had some little hope on Friday evening, when I was invited by a friend to be her guest to the welcome party for BET International award nominees at the Grammys Museum. I was hoping to get a last minute BET Awards ticket from BET International arm of the network. So I passed through party before heading to the Staples Center for Friday’s concert. It was an opportunity to see the Ghanaians who had also come for the event. I met Becca but Stonebwoy couldn’t make it because he had a rehearsal that took some steam away from him earlier. After sticking around for a bit I headed off to the Staples Center.

My friends were already the Staples Center, so when I got there I called to inform them I had arrived. We had tickets for different zones so it wasn’t going to be possible for us to be seated together. In fact they were in a cool exclusive zone a bit closer to the stage but from across. They managed to sneak me in there to join them (ha-ha did I mention one of them was a Ghanaian?) Performers on the night included DJ Khaled & Friends, Bryson Tiller, Jhene Aiko, Jidenna, Khalid, THEY, H.E.R and more.

 

 

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On Saturday, my day got off to a busy start when I received a WhatsApp message from Becca that I should join her as a guest to the BET International presentation for award winners (yes the infamous ceremony that is pre-recorded to announce winners for Africa and Europe.) Becca told me she put me on the guest list so I could attend the early afternoon event. I got into an Uber and headed to the Microsoft Theatre for the event. When I got there, I asked for the guest list but the security was not aware of such a list. I told them I had come for the award presentation and I was handed a wristband to join a bunch of seat fillers for the ceremony

Stonebwoy after the BET Award for Best International Act: Africa was announced[/caption] After the recording was done, I headed out of the venue where I received another tag for BETX Live! (106 & Park Live) event but since I had to go interview Koshie Mills on the set of ‘Diaspora Dialogues’, I headed out for that. The interview started late and I realized I could have done a bit of the BETX Live! (106 & Park Live) before heading that way.

 

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After the interview, I was tired so I went to the hotel to rest and wait for my friends to get in touch with me so I join them to Venice Beach, as planned the previous night. I was so tired that I dozed off while waiting for their call. In fact the only thing that woke me up was the chiming of the hotel fire alarm. When the alarm went off, I immediately joined the other hotel guests to make a quick exit as per instructions. But we soon found out it was only a false alarm.

I called my friends after I saw their missed call to find out where they were. Looking at the distance of Venice beach, I dressed up and took my ticket so I would head to the Staples Center for the Saturday concert, right from the beach. Again I hopped onto Uber and made my way to the beach (but not after two previous cars cancelled my trip after because I had pinned in the wrong location).

Thinking, I was going to Labadi beach back home in Ghana, I went through the central entrance for the Venice Beach. To my surprise it was a huge stretch and finding my friends took longer than expected so I had to jump into another Uber to head towards Staples Center, without seeing them. I made my way to the concert and it turned out to be really fun!!! Yes I had fun, even after finding out that the two Uber drivers that cancelled my ride earlier in the day had reported me as a ‘no show’ and I had been billed $5 each. Performers on the night included A$AP Rocky, Schoolboy Q, Rae Sremmurd, Gucci Mane, Migos, Young Thug, Lil Yachty and more!

 

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After the Saturday concert, my BET Experience was officially over as Sunday came and I still didn’t have a ticket to the BET Awards. I tried some last minute lobbying on social media trying to catch the attention of all the BET Networks from Africa to International to USA, but there was no luck.

BET Experience ..its a wrap

In fact when I got an email from a lady who had sent me photos from the previous night, I felt that my work and presence in L.A had been felt to the extent that ‘they’ found me to send photos for me to post. I was so disparate that I replied that email asking that if she could help me with a ticket… no I didn’t get a reply either! In fact, when by 5pm I had heard nothing regarding BET Award ticket, I gave up and went downstairs to find something to eat at the restaurant in the hotel. After treating myself to some good food, I returned to the room to rest. Just before I could sleep, I decided to check my WhatsApp messages, and there was one from Becca saying that she had a ticket for me and had been trying to reach me.

I immediately replied her to find out if it wasn’t too late to meet her, and how I could meet her for the ticket since red carpet was almost over. Becca told me to meet her or her assistant at the gates to the Microsoft Theatre. I quickly ironed something to wear, dressed up and ordered an Uber immediately. The first driver after getting so close cancelled the trip on me, yes what a time to experience more Uber drama. I instantly requested for another one and waited for it to arrive, as the clock ticked away. After anxiously waiting longer than the estimated time of arrival, the driver finally showed up.

Oh by the way I was using Uber Pool because the distance to the Microsoft Theatre was far from my hotel. So I shared the cost of my trip with two people who were already in the car when it arrived. As we made our way into town, I started conversing with the driver, whom I found out was Nigerian. I explained that I was late for the BET Awards and he said he would try to use the best route to beat traffic, and wow what intense traffic we were surprised with on a Sunday!!! Although the driver wasn’t sure whether my destination would be first as he was being directed by his Uber GPS, he tried to make the journey fast for everyone.

Fortunately the driver had access to the Express Lane, which cut down the traffic and distance tremendously. Luckily too, I was the first passenger to be dropped off in the pool. When I got to my destination, I dashed off to the gate I was supposed to meet Becca’s assistant for the ticket, well at least I thought so! I called her on WhatsApp to tell her I had arrived and she tried to make her way out to bring me the ticket but was told if she got out, she wouldn’t be allowed back in. And in her desperation to find a way out, we also found out that I was at the wrong gate after I took a shot of where I was standing and a photo of myself to send to her.

Her battery was low and my Internet kept tripping so we struggled to stay in touch…yes more drama! Well after wasting another 10 minutes or so, I found my way to the right entrance and saw her from afar. She then gave the ticker to one of the security to bring to me. When we entered, we were not allowed to enter the auditorium immediately because the show was ongoing.

We had to stand outside and wait till it was time for a commercial break. Finally we made our way inside and I was more than excited. Of course I missed the first one-hour or so of the show, so I missed out on some of the performances including Bruno Mars, Future, Migos, Trey Songz, Chris Brown, Big Sean, Mary J. Blige, French Montana, Kendrick Lamar and others. But I enjoyed the show especially the exciting performance from iconic groups such as Xcape and New Edition. I also got to see DJ Khaled, Tamar Braxton, Lil Wayne and Maxwell.

I also received a Platinum VIP tag that allowed me almost anywhere, including all the exclusive celebrity parties after the show. This tag came as part of the $4,500 VIP package and I intended to use it fully, at least catch some celebs for a few selfies. Sadly, after hanging around and charging my phone for about an hour, I couldn’t catch word on where the big parties were being held…yes they were that exclusive.

I was disappointed that the tag was going to be wasted and in fact I gave it out to someone to use. But there was some good news for me after all; the CEO of Zylofon Media has given Becca some money to give to me to take care of some of the expenses I made for my trip. God bless his heart!!! Anyway I ended up going to the BET Awards/ BET Experience after party but after some minutes, I could feel the tiredness so I grabbed an Uber and headed to my hotel to sleep a bit for my 6am flight to New York

Hello Brooklyn!!!

I woke up early in the morning and got ready for my 6am flight. Since I was in an airport hotel, I just got my stuff in the shuttle and headed to Delta terminal for my flight. After a rather hectic queue through immigration, I made my way to the gate only to realize that the flight had been delayed for some few minutes, which later turned into an hour. We finally boarded the plane for the 5-hour flight to New York.

Well, after a little napping here and there, we finally arrived in New York. I probably should have taken a train from the airport to Brooklyn but I was too tired to start looking around for the train station. So, I picked an Uber as usual. It was a long drive to my hotel. Once I arrived, I quickly checked in to my room and headed out for some food. I found a Thai restaurant and immediately ordered for some spicy pork fried rice.

It was so nice that I ordered the shrimp version to take to my room. When I got back to the room, I was faced with what had been my dilemma throughout my stay in the USA; the time difference and how to work effectively so that my blog didn’t stay inactive for too long, and timely enough for reader back home to enjoy. I did some work before sleeping and somewhere in between, I finished my shrimp fried rice also before going to bed!

Thai Pork fried rice at Mee Thai restaurant[/caption] Originally I was supposed to stay in Brooklyn for some 3 days but changed plans to add Virginia to my US trip. I therefore basically had only after my arrival in Brooklyn to explore New York. I got in touch with some friends who were available to meet and show me around the fun places in town. We visited Times Square in Manhattan to catch up, look around and have lunch before I went back to my hotel to rest a bit since one of my friends had offered to take out clubbing later in the day.

I joined my friend to go to a rather cool club called Up & Down, where we saw Ivorian footballer Salomon Kalou also clubbing with his friends. He was pleasantly surprised when we recognized him and said hello, since most of the Americans didn’t know who he was. We partied till very late in the morning. I then went to my hotel to have some rest before my flight to Virginia.

 

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I managed to sleep a little before heading to Penn Station New York to catch a train to the Newark Airport. Oh I forgot to tell you I had on me some bottles of shito and a load of dry fish to give to family in the USA…typical yeah? I remember when I arrived in Los Angeles and the customs guy asked me what type of fish I had with me. ‘Is it Ethiopian fish?’, he asked. I told him it was dried fish from Ghana and then he jokingly said, “Oh ok Ghanaian fish, it might smell but it is allowed.” Anyway I made my way to the airport with my luggage, checked in, boarded and made my way to Washington Dulles Airport.

Hello DMV area!!

I arrived in Virginia and made my way to the hotel, which was again not too far from the airport. The Aloft Hotel is an easy-styled one that didn’t come with a full restaurant so I called the reception to find out a cool place I could have dinner, after checking in.

I then requested for an Uber and made my way to yet another Thai restaurant, this time in the One Loudoun Plaza. After a good meal I returned to the hotel to rest my tired bones. The following day, I went to Manassas to visit my aunt and give her some items I brought from Ghana. And well, she gave me my much-needed fix of fufu and chicken soup before I left her place.

A friend came to pick me up from my auntie’s place to take me to Alexandria, where we hanged out with his older brother – also a friend. I have been in contact with the brothers, Kwame and Oral for many years and this was the first time meeting them in person so we had quite a good conversation before I went back to my hotel to rest. The next day, Friday, was all about Washington DC.

ameyaw debrah National Museum of African American History

At the National Museum of African American History

Those of you who are good with geography would know that DC, Maryland and Virginia (the DMV area) and quite close together, separated by a river. So it took me under an hour to get into Washington DC. While in DC, I visited the Museum of African American history and culture, which was designed by British Ghanaian architect, David Adjaye and associates.

I also visited the White House, which was disappointingly smaller than I imagined it.

ameyaw debrah at the white house

After the walkabouts, I got a late lunch at Georgia Brown’s where I tried jambalaya for the first time. I always thought it was a Jamaican dish perhaps because I first saw it being prepared by a Jamaican, on one of the cooking channels, many years ago. In fact in my mind it was Jamaican jollof (…yeah why not if Jamaicans were largely shipped from West Africa?) So I was surprised to find out it was a dish of Louisiana origin with Spanish and French influence. Anyway, I enjoyed it.

I later linked  up again with Kwame in Arlington where I joined his friends to the National Harbor for some more sightseeing. We concluded the day by passing through Apiioo, a Ghanaian Restaurant in Washington DC before I returned to my hotel.

The tough finish!!!

On Saturday, my last day in Virginia I planned to meet up my auntie in Manassas again to go shopping, and also to see my cousin since she was at work when I visited the first time. My aunt needed to go get some stuff in Fairfax, so we drove that direction before coming back to Manassas to start with our shopping. My cousin, who had rushed out of her work during lunchtime, came to meet me briefly at the Manassas Mall and returned to work.

Soon, the time for heading to the airport was nearing so we took all the stuff we bought to my aunt’s home to pack them. After packing the bags, we made our way into the car narrowly before it started raining heavily. The time was winding down quick as we made our way to the airport but we made it just in time to check in and go through security. After all the rush to the airport, I found out my flight had been delayed by an hour due to bad weather.

My whole day was wasted at the airport as the delay moved from a one-hour delay to two hours, and then three hours, until eventually some four hours later we started boarding. Anyway while we waited I had some scrumptious fried boneless tilapia that made me question everything I knew about one of Ghana’s favorite fishes.

When we boarded the United flight, for the first time in my travel history, my carry-on luggage was not allowed into the flight because according to them, it was bigger than the allowed size. I was told to put my bag in the slot of a stand by the boarding gate to determine whether it met the standard size allowed. Trust me, looking at that slot, only a foolscap notebook can fit in it (ok I’m exaggerating a little bit).

To cut a long story short, my bag was tagged and I was asked to leave it outside of the plane. I was fuming with so much anger, especially when I got on the plane and found bags that were bigger than mine in the overhead lockers. In fact my backpack couldn’t fit in any of the lockers near my seats. As I tried to adjust the bags so mine would fit in a locker, a cabin crewmember casually said to me that I should put my bag in the leg space in front of me. That got me so pissed; I wasn’t going to relax my long legs properly through the flight because people had too many big bags on the plane, and yet mine was left outside.

Also I thought I had heard one of the crew members explain to me at the door that I should pick up my bag from ‘lost and found’ when we arrive. So I just couldn’t hide my anger. After paying for every single bag I carried on the flight, (yes there is nothing free on United), I couldn’t believe I had to go through so much stress with the only free allowance the airline gives. I started attacking United airline on twitter before the plane took off. And while in the air, I couldn’t stop thinking of how to attack them further when I landed.

When the plane landed, I got my phone ready trying to capture some bags that were bigger than mine but yet allowed on the flight. I took some photos as we landed and headed the carousel, to pick my luggage. When I saw my carry-on on the carousel and not in ‘lost and found’ like I had imagined, I cooled off a bit, and started to regret for ranting on Twitter. I got into an Uber and made my way to the hotel I booked in Newark, New Jersey. It was a bit close to the airport also.

During check-in, I was asked to present my ID and that was when it hit me that in my anger and attempts to snap photos of hand luggage on the flight, I had left my passport in the seat pocket in front of me. I don’t even want to talk about the things that started to run through my mind at this stage. I immediately requested for an Uber and rushed to the airport to find my passport.

 

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We called United from the hotel before leaving but they weren’t very helpful, we had to go through a rather impersonalized call center before reaching a not so useful agent who told me to fill out a lost and found application online…. really?

When I got to the airport I got lost a few times trying to find the right terminal. After asking around, I was directed to the correct terminal and I hopped into an airport taxi there. I started sending Direct Messages to United on Twitter, yes the same account that I was blasting some few hours earlier. I explained the situation, told them the seat I was in, and gave them some more flight details.

After about an hour of waiting and moving from on desk to the other, my passport was finally returned. Phew… what a relief. I could now go back to my hotel to sleep and rest a bit before my flight to Ghana on Sunday evening.

After sleeping for some few hours, I woke up and headed to New York for some last minute shopping before my flight to Ghana. I checked out of the hotel and left my bags with the concierge so that when I returned, I could go straight to the airport, and of course not pay extra for over-staying. I took a hotel cab to Penn Station, and boarded a train to New York. One of the reasons for going back to shopping was so that I could go to TopMan, which seems to be the only shop that has my trouser length and waist size.

Sadly, there was only one pant that I could get in my size, so I left New York with disappointment, and feeling I had wasted the time I could have used for something else. From New York I had to meet ‘family’ in Madison station, New Jersey because I had promised to stop over to at least eat some ‘ampesi’ or rice with Kontomire sauce before leaving to Ghana.

I got on a train in that direction but little did I know that the trip was rather long, and would eat into my time to prepare for the airport. I started to fret, more minutes passed, and the time for my flight worryingly ticked closer. I finally got to meet her but there was only time for small pleasantries. I ordered an Uber to pick me from the Madison Station to my hotel and I left for the hotel with a basket of ‘ampesi’ and rice with Kontomire stew.

Yes I ate in the Uber while heading to the hotel, and I could only imagine what the driver was thing…. “These Africans…shaking my head,” I guess! We made it to the hotel in some good time and I immediately requested for another Uber to come for me to the airport, while I went to collect my luggage from the concierge and also leave the basket with the rest of the food I couldn’t eat.

The attendant was a Nigerian, so seemed to easily understand when I told him someone would come later for the basket…ha-ha!!! I got my bags into the second Uber, which was driven by a fantastic Moroccan woman, and dashed off to the airport. We seemed to be making some good time on the road until we run into serious traffic. Soon, what should have been a 14-minute drive away from the JFK Airport ended up being over one hour!!!

I didn’t give up hope even with a little over an hour to take off. I had checked in online in order to make it less stressful when I finally get to the airport. Soon we got to the end of the crazy traffic, only to realize the hold up was due to an accident when saw a car catching flames. I speedily made my way to terminal 4 for Delta, and used the porter service outside for quicker results.

After checking in, I was told I had 30 minutes more left till boarding. I swiftly run towards the gate and into a long queue through security. I explained to the people in front of me that my flight was soon boarding and they nicely let me move ahead of them each time I asked. I did that bit by bit until I finally made it through security and immigration. I then dashed straight to my boarding gate where other passengers had already started queuing.

I realized that my pass didn’t have a seat allocated on it yet, so I went to the desk to check. I was told to wait a little bit for the system to allocate a seat to me. I was asked to monitor the screens in the waiting area for my details to show once ready. I went to the waiting area and after some minutes, nothing popped up on the screens, and even if it did I didn’t understand to messages well enough to know it. So I went back to the desk and this time around, I got the boarding pass with me seat number on it. I then breathed easily and made my way to the plane.

I arrived safely in Amsterdam, where I took a KLM flight to Ghana after waiting and working at the airport for some six or so hours. When I got home to Ghana I went straight to the kitchen to eat some jollof rice for all my troubles

 

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No show from Sista Afia and more catfights, as cast of ‘GH Queens’ gather for ‘Reunion show’

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Just as it was reported during the premiere event for ‘GH Queens’ sometime in April, some stars from the pseudo-reality TV show were again missing from the Reunion show, which started airing on Friday. Yes, the fiesty Sista Afia and Fantana will not be making an appearance on the three-part special reunion show on Akwaaba Magic (DStv channel 150). (more…)

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Ameyaw Says

Coachella through the eyes of an African

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Ameyaw Debrah at Coachella 2022

My second showing at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival confirmed to me the sheer diversity of talent and music that gets showcased each year. But Coachella is more than music and arts, it is a celebration of cultures, the spirit of people, fashion, and more. If you’re a conservative African,  then expect some cultural shocks as the festival doesn’t hold back in celebrating life and accepting it in all of its forms.

The festival embraces queer and intersecting groups, so seeing raunchy and over-the-top costumes from festival-goers is to be expected. Some of the washrooms on the festival grounds are even gender-neutral, so expect to see both women and men queuing up to use the same washroom.  Marijuana has been legal in California for many years, so you should also expect people to smoke at free range; without much care for those who don’t.  If you’re able to look beyond all these as “an African”, then you too can have a swell time at Coachella!

 

After seeing Burna Boy and Mr Eazi perform in 2019, when I had my first experience of Coachella,  I felt proud as an African.  I also noticed how the African festival-goers (from mainly across the United States and the United Kingdom) watched with some pride the performances from Mr Eazi and Burna Boy on the Coachella stage. So when the lineup was announced for 2000 to include Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 and Aya Nakamura, I was happy that Africans were becoming a regular on the festival’s lineup.  Sadly, Covid-19 didn’t let that happen in 2020 and 2021. In fact, I almost entered a $2,000 bet with my colleague blogger, David Mawuli that when the festival returned, there would be a Ghanaian artist on the lineup. Thank goodness I rather spent that money on a bonus hunt online casino. Well, at least I won $120 back!

 

When the lineup was announced for 2022, the only African on the main stages was Black Coffee, while fellow South Africans,  Major League DJZ scheduled for The DoLab tent. So when I attended weekend two of the festival, I made sure to watch Black Coffee’s set. He played on Day 1. Unlike the Burna Boy and Mr Eazi sets, that I witnessed in 2019, the audience at Black Coffee’s set was not predominantly Africans. It was a global audience. The crowd was as thick as it was energetic.  It was also exciting to hear the 2022 Grammy Award Best Dance/ Electronic Album-winner, incorporate remixes of some authentic African rhythms in his set.

 

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Arooj Aftab Coachella 2022 Friday 04 22 Gobi Performances Weekend 2

Arooj Aftab, Coachella 2022, Friday 04-22, Gobi, Performances, Weekend 2 Credit/Provider
Beth Saravo

On Day 1, I also showed some interest in Pakistani vocalist Arooj Aftab, who won the Grammy this year for Best Global Performance.  A lot of Africans had tipped ‘Essence’ by Wizkid and Tems for that award. So, I had to find out for myself what makes Arooj Aftab tick.

 

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With these two performances of interest out of the way, I stuck to my plan of focusing on big acts that I haven’t seen performing before because, with the grand nature of the festival and the sheer size of the venue, it is simply impossible to experience everything!

 

The Empire Polo Club is a 78-acre polo club, which leases out its polo grounds for the festival. The venue is so huge that festivalgoers walk for several miles before getting into the main entrance to the festival grounds. When accounting for land used for parking and camping, the event covers a footprint of over 600 acres!

 

Across the grounds, several stages continuously host live music. The main stages are the Coachella Stage, Outdoor Theatre, Gobi Tent, Mojave Tent, and Sahara Tent; in addition to the smaller Yuma stage and Sonora stage. Each stage was unique in appearance and suited for the lineup of artists on it. The big stages had elaborate settings to create various visual aesthetic attributes needed to project the individuality of the artists and make festival-goers enjoy their performances even better.

Ari Lennox Coachella 2022 Coachella Stage Friday 04 22 Performances Weekend 2

Ari Lennox, Coachella 2022, Coachella Stage, Friday 04-22, Performances, Weekend 2

 

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I missed Ari Lenox’s performance at Afrochella in Ghana this past December so, I had to experience her set especially after all the buzz she generated on social media with her visit to Ghana.  The sultry singer hit the stage, giving fans a look and performance to remember. The D.C. native hit the stage in a jaw-dropping gold ensemble to perform several ‘woke female’  themed songs for her fans.

Anitta proved why she is a sensation in the Latin world and beyond, with her high octane performances. The Brazilian singer changed into three different sexy outfits that accentuated her figure as she rocked them in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

 

Baby Keem, who recently won a Grammy for best rap performance, was one of the up-and-coming hip-hop performers at the festival. One of the highlights from his set was bringing on label boss, Kendrick Lamar, a little over 30 minutes into his set. The rappers, both in all-black ensembles, performed together for the final two songs including “family ties.”

 

I ended Day 1 with Harry Styles who literally brought disco to the desert! One of the biggest highlights from the set of the “As It Was” singer, was bringing Lizzo on stage to perform a song from the One Direction archives.  It was fun to see him perform with so much energy, and he was very interactive with the crowd too.

 

Day 2

Giveon Performances Saturday 04 23 Weekend 2

Giveon, Performances, Saturday 04-23, Weekend 2

 

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On Day 2 I kicked things off with a performance from R&B singer, Giveon. I was late in getting to the venue but was happy to at least see him perform his hit song ‘Heartbreak Anniversary’ before he left the stage. I then visited The Do Lab stage for some electrifying DJ mixes and performances.

 

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Grammy-winning rapper, Megan Thee Stallion showed all the hot girls and boys of Coachella how a superstar commands a stage during her hour-long set. She opened her show with “Megan’s Piano” wearing a black and silver spacey one-piece with futuristic glasses on. She and her backup dancers shook everything they had, and the crowd went wild as expected.

 

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Rapper, Isaiah Rashad opened his set with a powerful pre-recorded film acknowledging recent speculation about his sexuality. In a collage of media footage and audio, commentators react to a video of Rashad leaked this year,  showing the rapper being intimate with two men.  He gave fans back-to-back performances of his hit songs amidst cheers and a lot of support.

Billie Eilish Coachella Stage Saturday

Billie Eilish, Coachella Stage, Saturday

When I saw Billie Eelish on the Coachella lineup in 2019 I didn’t know her back then, so I didn’t attend her set, but days after I found out she was the new it-girl and she later went on to sweep the Grammy Awards the following year. So, this time I simply had to experience her, and I did! Her 90-minute set featured songs like “NDA,” “Therefore I Am,” “idontwannabeyouanymore” and “You Should See Me In A Crown.” She had a small accident when she fell onstage while singing “Getting Older.” Later on during her set, Eilish brought along her brother Finneas O’Connell for an acoustic cover of her single “Your Power.”

21 Savage Coachella 2022 Performances Sahara Saturday 04 23

21 Savage, Coachella 2022, Performances, Sahara, Saturday 04-23

I closed the night with a little bit of 21 Savage!

 

Day 3

 

On Day 3 I was physically worn out from all the standing and walking, so I didn’t want to do too much. I circled my day around a few acts.  I kicked off with Brixton rapper Dave, whose set was attended by a huge UK crowd that cheered him along throughout his performance!

 

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He recreated his “Alex From Glasto” viral moment from 2019 by picking a fan from the crowd to join him on stage to rap a verse from ‘Thiago Silva,’ his 2016 hit with AJ Tracey.  He also performed his hit song ‘Location’ which features Burna Boy. Dave’s set was one of my favorites!

 

Since I had seen Doja Cat recently at Day N Vegas, I only saw the tail end of her set, as I wanted to go to the Coachella Stage on time to get closer to the headliners Swedish House Mafia and The Weeknd. I wasn’t so sure when they were announced as the replacement of Kanye West but seeing them back-to-back made so much sense, and the energy was just what was needed to bring Coachella to an end!

 

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Swedish House Mafia started things off, dropping hit electronic dance music tracks back-to-back, punctuated by fireworks and pyrotechnics.  Their set lasted about 55 minutes. When they played their most popular song, “Don’t You Worry Child,” they dropped the music entirely at the key moment to allow the crowd to sing the chorus in unison.

Swedish House Mafia x The Weeknd Coachella Stage Performances Sunday 04 24

Swedish House Mafia x The Weeknd, Coachella Stage, Performances, Sunday 04-24
Credit: Jacob Mulka

The Weeknd then rolled through with a crowd-pleasing list of hits, including “The Hills,” “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming.” He was amazing on the night although his set lacked a lot of the theatrics and stagecraft and special guests.  He closed his set with a slowed-down version of his mega-hit “Save Your Tears.” Then Swedish House Mafia rejoined him and they closed the set, and the 2022 Coachella experience, together with the song “Moth to a Flame.”

 

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Ameyaw Debrah wants to sue Kanye West for pulling out of Coachella, after he spent over $3000 planning his trip

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Ghanaian blogger, Ameyaw Debrah is looking to sue someone over Monday’s news that rapper, Kanye West had pulled out of the upcoming Coachella Music and Arts festival…and Kanye for now is the obvious choice!

According to the blogger, he has spent almost $4,000 in booking flights and a hotel for the two-weekend festival in Indio, California, which runs April 15-17 and April 22-24.  He pointed out the unusually high prices of accommodation in the area due to the festival.

In a video posted on Ameyaw TV, Debrah cited possible mental stress from spending so much money, and not getting what he paid for in the end.  He however hopes the Kanye’s replacement can make up for his troubles.

According to reports from Variety, reps for West and the festival did not immediately respond to requests for comment as to why the rapper pulled out of the festival.

The reason for his cancelation was not immediately clear, although a source tells Variety that he had not rehearsed or prepared for the appearance. While West played a full set, accompanied by Drake, at the Los Angeles Coliseum in December, Coachella is North America’s largest music festival and by necessity runs a very tight operation. West also pulled out of a planned headlining appearance at the 2020 festival — which ultimately was postponed until this year due to the pandemic — mere days before it was announced, sources confirmed to Variety at the time.

Yet there are many other reasons why news does not come as a shock, as West’s unpredictable and combative behavior in recent months put a question mark over his appearance even as it was announced in January; he had been barred from a planned appearance at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards due to what was described as his “concerning online behavior.” West canceled the closing dates of his 2016 “Saint Pablo” tour and was hospitalized for mental-health reasons shortly afterward, following incidents that were similar in ways to his behavior in recent months. West has said many times that he suffers from bipolar disorder.

Coachella’s first two nights will be headlined by Harry Styles and Billie Eilish. The festival essentially hedged its bets on West by billing EDM titans Swedish House Mafia in an unspecified spot on the lineup, listed at the bottom of the official announcement poster, leaving open the option of the group replacing him as Sunday’s headliner in the event he pulled out. With the festival just 11 days away, that seems a likely scenario.

Rumors had been circulating that Travis Scott would be joining West for the performance, but TMZ says that he will not be appearing either. Scott has been keeping a low profile since 10 people died in a rush toward the stage during his headlining performance at his Astroworld festival in Houston in October.

Such an appearance would be on-message for West, who in recent months has been publicly embracing such ostracized celebrities as Marilyn Manson, who is accused of sexual assault, and DaBaby, who has made unapologetically homophobic comments in recent months.

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‘I hail you’- Kelvynboy reacts as Sarkodie requests for his “Down flat” song to be played in a club in London

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Ghanaian rapper, Sarkodie is all about helping bring the young ones in the music industry up. (more…)

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Africans don’t trust each other – my experience with an Ethiopian taxi driver in Las Vegas

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Ameyaw Debrah at palazzo gondola

My recent trip to Las Vegas, Nevada came with many experiences, as I put myself out there to explore the city a lot more than I did in my previous two visits. My first time in Vegas was for one night only, to attend the Miss Universe finale in 2017.  My second time was for the Day N Vegas festival in 2019, which also brought me back for a third time this year.

On day-two of Day N Vegas, I had an experience that corroborated the belief of many Africans, that we do not trust one another.  Due to Day N Vegas, most of the area around the Las Vegas Festival Grounds was closed to taxis and rideshare apps such as Uber and Lift, which made it very stressful to get a car whenever I closed from the festival and headed to my hotel room. It meant that after walking and standing at the grounds for hours, we had to walk quite a distance to look for cars.

My experience was even made worse when the data on my AT&T phone number kept failing, meaning that after all the stress covering the concerts, I couldn’t use Uber to request for a ride.  On the night of day 2, I discovered that there was a pick-up point for taxis within the Circus Circus Hotel, Casino & Theme Park. Sadly the taxis were not coming in as rapidly as I would have wished for. I was the third in line, but it took over one hour of standing in the queue till I finally got a taxi.

When the taxi came, I got in but when the driver asked for the address I was going to, I couldn’t remember the location of my hotel. I mentioned the name of the hotel, but the driver wasn’t familiar with it and insisted that he couldn’t take me if I didn’t get the address for him. I wasn’t willing to waste the hours of standing and waiting to be turned down by any driver. My internet wasn’t working, and I tried to ask him to use his internet Ito locate the hotel, but he was indifferent. I told him “lets go to downtown and I will know where my hotel is,  because it’s not far from the Fremont Street”.

Finally, he agreed and moved on. Then he started a conversation with me, once he suspected I was from Africa. I told him I was from Ghana when he told me he was Ethiopian. He asked about my visit and thought I was a ‘new rich African’ when I told him I was in town for Day N Vegas.

When, I finally arrived at my hotel I tried to pay with a card. Since it was a metered cab, I could see my fare right in front of me, with a POS device for payment. But I noted it was slightly expensive paying with  a card compared to paying cash, so I told the driver that I would rather pay with cash, after all I am African!

Then surprisingly he asked me how much I would pay him, the meter said $18 so I said I will give him $20 but he screamed “no $25!” I then gave him a $100 note to which he retorted, “are you sure it’s not fake?”.  I said no, laughed it off and collected my change.

Watch my vlog on the experience below:

Interestingly, the following night, I had internet, so I ordered for an Uber ride after the Day N Vegas finale, and again the driver was Ethiopian. This time it was a younger driver and we had an interesting conversation about Africa and the civil war in Ethiopia.

I had noticed that there were a lot of Ethiopians in Vegas. Most of the African restaurants listed on Uber Eats are Ethiopian and most of the drivers were too. When I pointed it out in our conversation, he told me that Vegas has the next biggest concentration of Ethiopians in the USA after the DMV tristate.  I also found out that affluent Ethiopians like to buy Mississauga Real Estate styled homes in the USA.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 68,001 people reported Ethiopian ancestry in 2000. Between 2007 and 2011, there were approximately 151,515 Ethiopia-born residents in the United States. According to Aaron Matteo Terrazas, “if the descendants of Ethiopian-born migrants (the second generation and up) are included, the estimates range upwards of 460,000 in the United States.

Some Ethiopians living in the US enjoy using exquisitely designed Ten Point Crossbow in archery games. Football is the most popular sport in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian national football team called the “Walyia Antelopes” won the 1962 African Cup of nations and in 2013 Ethiopia qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in 31 years.

Other sports played include basketball, volleyball, and tennis. Ethiopia has a tradition of medal-winning runners: Abebe Bikila, Belayneh Dinsamo, and Derartu Tulu. Haile Gebreselassie has set several world records.

Ethiopia has made remarkable progress in education, with primary school net enrolment tripling between 2000 and 2016 to the current 100 per cent.  Although most children enroll in school, many do not complete their education: 85 per cent make it past Grade 5 and 54 per cent past Grade 8. Progress has been enabled through a sustained government-led effort to reduce poverty and expand the public education system equitably. This has been backed by substantial increases in national education expenditure and aid to the sector, as well as improved planning and implementation capacity at all levels. According to Boardingschools.ca, there is a good number of Ethiopians having higher education in Canada.

Ethiopian national identity is grounded in the long history of Christianity and Islam in the region, and independence from foreign rule since antiquity.

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How to make money online as a blogger or content creator

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With over 15 years of covering entertainment in Ghana and beyond under my belt, I still cannot get over comments on social media that suggest that many Ghanaians don’t understand the concept of blogging. (more…)

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