344 Penn Museum
Research Project - “Dancehall Diaspora: Roots, Routes & Reggae Music in Ghana.”
The recent explosion of Ghanaian Reggae-Dancehall reflects the still growing influence of Jamaican-inspired popular culture in Ghana today. This emerging genre has been nurtured by local Rastafarian communities and championed by youth from the zongos—sprawling internal migrant and largely Islamic unplanned neighborhoods. Suffering similar forms of economic and political alienation, emerging Reggae-Dancehall artists from these groups have adopted similar cultural and politically rebellious postures as their counterparts in Jamaica; mirroring Rasta, ‘rudebwoy’ and ‘rudegyal’ identities as counter-hegemonic epistemologies in Ghana today.
Subject populations in these locations have, through internet technology come to see similar plights in each other’s experiences. Popular youth culture in these locations now mirror each other; resounding extant socio-linguistic and cultural retentions that tie African Jamaicans to Ghana through the Slave Trade. Novel iterations of diaspora inhere in these processes. Jamaican musicians hail ‘Africa’ as source point, site of return and escape from ‘Babylon.’ Ghanaian populations look to Rastafari, and Reggae-Dancehall for strategies in mobilizing their urban African identities. Drawing on Jamaican pop tropes which owe a debt to the continent, Ghanaian artists reclaim Reggae-Dancehall as African and hence legitimately their own; dismissing charges of mimicry as they uniquely indigenize the form.
Research Areas: Africa, Caribbean, Latin America, Popular Culture, Ethnomusicology, Diaspora Studies, Postcolonial Studies, Critical Race Studies, Performance Studies