Sunday, October 28, 2007

It's Lumba Brothers All Over

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 27 October 2007

After years apart, the once-upon-a-time "highlife twins", Daddy Lumba and Nana Acheampong, are on the threshold of being born-again, as twins, a reunion that is set to take high-life music to another level.

The two, formerly "The Lumba Brothers" have agreed to host a mega musical concert on December 26, at the Trade Fair Centre in Accra, to raise funds in support of the Ghana Black Stars to enable them lift the African Cup of Nations Cup next year.
Billed to perform at the function are Nana Quame, Obrafuor, Mzbel, Daasebre Dwamena, Owuraku Mickey and Wulomei among others.

The Lumba Brothers after the Accra show would embark on other concerts outside the country to raise funds to support Ghana in the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
Daddy Lumba, born Charles Kwadwo Fosu, based in Cologne, Gemany, is currently in the country preparing for the concert and other programmes.
In the early 1980s, he debuted on the high-life scene with his hit "Yeya Aka Akwantuo Mu" with Nana Acheampong. Today, he is one of the most popular Ghanaian singers of high-life.

In 1999, he won three awards including best album and the most popular song of the year at the prestigious Ghana Music Awards.

Daddy Lumba to date has 22 albums to his credit all of which he wrote and produced. He is set to come out with his twenty-third album, "in December 2007. Nana Acheampong tore through the charts in 2000 with his "Anka beye den na aye wo ya"

Castro Goes Gospel - "Tagoe Sisters Are My Aunties"

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 27 October 2007

He came onto the Ghanaian hip-life music scene on a very high key note with his debut "Damages" in 2003, and managed to endear himself to the hearts of many music fans in a very short time.

Four years on and after three successive hit albums in his musical career, the Takoradi native, Castro De Destroyer, is about to stun hip-life enthusiasts, especially his fans, with his new project (surprise-surprise), a gospel album!- early next year.

The 10-track album, he told The Spectator, is to show appreciation to God for the wonderful things He has done in his life, and for bringing him to where he finds himself today. "I want to prove to people that God has done something big for me," he said, adding, "God almighty Jah has done a lot for me and the best way to let people know what he has done for me is through this music."

Speaking to The Spectator from a recording studio in Accra on Tuesday, he said "God has given me a message for the people. That is, he’s a wonderful God and as such we have to praise him for what he has done and continues doing".
He said that he has started recording the album titled "Dea Onyame Ahyira No, Atanfo Ntumi Nsae No," (translated as "Who Jah Bless, No One Curse"). It has tracks like "Ebe Yeyie" and "Otiasifuor Ye Kwa"

He explained that the album underscores the fact that "with God everything is possible; that no matter what you do, or where you’re from, you can do or become whatever you want to."

Castro, who spoke like a preacher, said it is important that as a people we remain steadfast in God and should "have vigour for prayers. Don’t think if you are a drunkard you’ll be drunkard forever. With God everything is possible".

On where he derives his lyrics from, he said "the songs come by themselves. Music is in me and it is in my family: my mother sings in church and the great gospel duo, the Tagoe Sisters, are my aunties.

Question: Is that the end of his hip-life career? The man described by his fans as Ghana’s 50 Cent, replied, "No!" Indeed, he says, "I’ll come out with a hip-life album two or three months after the release of the gospel".

He dismissed claims that hip-life is not adequately gaining international reputation because of the Ghanaian languages used. He said "It is not about singing in English. It is about promotion" citing the example of the late Fela of Nigeria who did most of his songs in local language and yet gained international attention and recognition.

Is Castro married? He said "I am not married but seriously engaged." When is the big day? He says "I’m putting one or two things together to go and see her family and take her to the altar. Whatever happens, "by next year, I will marry" but he adds quickly, "By the grace of God".

The "Sa kwa ba" man, known in real life as Theophilus Tagoe, was motivated and pushed into music by V.I.P after they discovered him perform at an event. His style of rap in Twi, Ga and Fante, and his ability to sing, rap, dance and to perform with live band has gained him much fame.

His works have won him a number of awards at the Ghana Music Award and from Ghanaians resident in the United Kingdom.

He has been nominated as the "African Best New Act" at the third Annual Black Music Awards in Cotonou, Benin, scheduled for November 30 and December 1. He is expected to perform two of his hit tracks at the event.

Contractor Told To Complete Prison Project

From Stephen Kwabena Effah, Ankaful
Saturday, 27 October 2007

The Ghana Prisons Service Council has asked the contractor working on the Ankaful Maximum Security Prisons near Cape Coast to complete the project by December.

Members of the council who visited the project site on Thursday, asked the contractors, Barrys Company Limited, to complete at least two unit dormitory cells for inmates of James Fort Prison to be brought there by December.

The directive comes barely two weeks after the Ghana Bar Association called for the closure of the James Fort Prison because the building is dilapidated and overcrowded.

But the contractor, Alhaji Issah Barry said that, although the deadline for the two dormitories could be met, working at the site with the presence of the inmates and security surveillance may pose a problem for his workers.

He therefore suggested to the council to give him up to February next year by which time he would have finished work within the site and moved out all the workers, but the council insisted that the December deadline is from a "high authority" and cannot be compromised.

The estimated 70-billion cedi project, which is in phases, started in 1998 but it was not until 2005 when much attention was given to it and is expected to be completed by 2008. When completed, the reformatory prison will house long-sentence and violent prisoners.

So far, about ¢50 billion has been spent on the project which is about 80 per cent completed.

Mr Samuel Kofi Asubonteng, a council member, told the Times that it is important that the contractor redoubles his effort so as to meet the deadline, adding "if he is working for eight hours a day, he should extend it to 16 hours or increase his workforce."

The Director-General of the Ghana Prisons Service, William Asiedu, assured the contractor that the inmates will be restricted from venturing into the construction area.

He said the Maximum Security Prisons would serve as an industrial prison that would offer rehabilitation and reformation to prisoners. He added "it will make them self-employable and earn them money so that they can establish themselves after leaving the place."

M. Asiedu noted that although the prison has been designed to house 2000 inmates, it could take about 5000, noting that it would help relieve overcrowding in the country’s prisons.

He said the service has proposed non-custodial sentence to the Attorney General as a means of saving the various prisons from overcrowding, saying "it will contribute to the modernisation of the criminal justice of Ghana."

On his part, Mr Frank Ocran, a member of the council, said there is a target to achieve and that is to get the place ready for use by December, noting that a lot of investment has gone into the project, hence it is prudent to start using the facility.

He noted that although he is impressed by the quality of work the objective of using the place by December must be met.

The council was expected to meet the contractor yesterday to discuss and come out with a strategy for meeting the December deadline.

Friday, October 26, 2007

National Volunteer Policy Soon

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Thursday, 25 October 2007

Ghana has begun a series of fora to collate views from various stakeholders for the drafting of a national volunteer policy, George A.Gado, Director of the National Volunteer Programme of the National Service Secretariat, has said.

Speaking at the launch of the International Volunteer Day in Accra yesterday, Mr.Gado said the formulation of the policy was necessitated by the contributions of volunteerism to the country’s economy.

He said that such a policy would help government structure, monitor, evaluate and budget for voluntary activities in order to boost citizens’ interest in volunteerism as a complement to government’s development agenda in needed areas.

The day, which falls on December 5, was instituted by the United Nations to create and sustain a greater recognition of volunteer efforts, ensure the promotion of voluntary activities and foster networking among organisations and individuals in volunteerism.

In Ghana, the day which will be celebrated by the Coalition of Volunteering Organisations of Ghana with a fair for volunteers to interact with the public, will be climaxed with an award ceremony to recognise people and organisations involved in volunteerism in the country.

Mr. Gado said that the National Volunteer programme, started in 2003 with 53 volunteers in the Upper East Region, has 8,500 volunteers as at last year and is expected to increase to 15,000 by next year.

The volunteers, are post-national service graduates and retired but active teachers who are given monthly stipend.

Saying that most countries today are able to capture the contribution of voluntary work into their national budgets, he added "More governments have also shown increasing support and development of enabling environments for the growth of volunteerism."

He said the importance of volunteers cannot be over-emphasised as they are often the first to respond to calls in times of natural disasters.

"Volunteers have an innate motivation to seek to ameliorate situations either within their cultural groups or beyond," he noted, adding, "they seek to develop peace and well-being in situations of unrest and inequality as they build bridges of understanding"

Mr. Nii Doodo Dodoo, Head of Communications of the Coalition, said, the group is in partnership discussions with the National Blood Bank as regards members donating blood annually.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Samini Pleads For Votes

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 20 October 2007

UP against stiff competition from four great African artistes, he emerged as the people’s choice at the 11th Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Awards held in the United Kingdom last year when he picked the Best African Act award.

To him, winning the Best African Act award category at this year’s MTV Europe Music Awards in Munich, Germany on November 1, largely depends on the public who are to give him thumbs- up.

The MOBO laureate is therefore appealing to his fans and the public to vote for him via the internet on to be able to win the pending award, which he is competing for with the Nigerian R&B sensation D’Banj, Ugandan hip-hop/ragga crowd-pleaser Chameleone, Kenyan underground hip hop King Jua Cali and South Africa’s hottest hip-hop , HHP.

In an exclusive interview with the Spectator, the man who calls himself the ‘King of African Dancehall’ said he would only be able to bring the award to Ghana when the public gives him the necessary support by voting for him.

He indicated that winning the award would not only be a plus for him but for the growing hip-life industry in the country.

This year, Batman Samini, has again been nominated among four other African artists -- three of whom he beat last year to win the MOBO laurel -- to receive yet another international award to his credit. But this time, the task ahead seems tough.

Batman Samini’s musical career began when he was featured on Mary Agyapong’s album. With his sterling lyrics and unique reggae and ragga style, he became one of the most featured artistes in the hip-life industry, as he was featured in over 50 songs before his solo album ‘Dankwansere’ in 2004.

The hit track on his solo album, ‘Linda’ shot him into fame winning him the Hip-life Artist of the year and New Artist of the Year at the 2004 Ghana Music Awards. Two years later, he hit the airwaves with a second album which won him four awards at the 2006 Ghana Music Awards.

The same year, he was nominated in three categories at the Channel ‘O’ Spirit Africa Music Video Awards, but luck eluded him this time around he didn’t go past the nomination.

He said he was motivated to go into music because he was convinced that being the “food of the soul”, it is important to feed it after feeding the body. He said he derives his lyrics from the grassroots, saying “I lay my ears down and listen to the grassroot. I touch on real love issues” as portrayed in “Odo,” a hit track on his second album.

He indicated that he had to do a careful calculation of ‘Linda,’ which was a hit on his first album, before coming out with ‘Odo’. That, he explained, was in view of the fact that ‘Linda’ was viewed by many as profane.

He underscored the need for musicians to be carful in selecting their lyrics, saying “We have to be careful with the lyrics we bring out. No matter how happy we get, we should be careful about what message we send out”

He told the Spectator that although he studied Business Accounting while in school, intends to divert to fine arts since he is gifted in art. “As early as age 9, I used to draw for my sisters,” he recalled, noting that he is self tutoring.

Explaining why he took the name Batman, he said the ‘Bat’ represents ‘Best of All Time.’ In May last year, he outdoored his new name; Samini when he launched his second album which he self-titled. Batman Samini was born in Wa in the Upper West Region with the name Emmanuel Samini and an SSS leaver.

Soundtrack, Bane Of African Film Industry

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 20 October 2007.

Martin Loh, Director of the National Film Television Institute, has observed that one big problem in the African film industry is the issue of soundtrack , noting that most soundtracks on African films are not of African origin and where it is, not of good quality.

A good soundtrack is an indication of the quality of the film, he pointed out.
In an exclusive interview with the Times after the opening of a two-week regional workshop on writing and composing music for film in Accra on Thursday, Mr Loh said, some soundtracks do not match the mood as it was not purposely composed for that particular film.

Professionally, he said, films must be seen by the composer of the soundtrack so as to write and compose a song that reflects the mood in the film, but noted that normally film makers just pick already made songs from libraries for their films.

The workshop, which is sponsored by the French Embassy in Ghana, is being attended by 10 delegates from Burkina Faso, Ghana and Togo. It is expected to give them the necessary training in writing and composing film soundtrack to help the industry in Africa.

The problem arises because there are not many professional writers and composers in Africa, and therefore training of people to take up the challenge is something which must be given attention.

Mr. Loh expressed the hope that the workshop will widen the scope of the participants to help boost the film industry which he said is still developing in Africa.

Therefore, he urged film makers to make every opportunity available to improve it, adding that the industry has a responsibility to enlighten the people.

On his part, a professor of the University of Ghana School of Performing Arts, William Anku, said "people do not understand that music should be properly composed for films.

He indicated that "good music alone can sell the film. Many films are known because of their soundtrack."

He said that it is important that filmmakers look for professional composers who understand what is needed to go into the music.

Prof. Anku expressed concern about the current state of Ghanaian music in general and underscored the need for proper musical education to improve its status.

"A lot of what is going on today is drawing on other people’s experience. We don’t have creativity to take our music and turn it into a work of art," he observed.

He said that if Ghana wants to really develop its music industry for the international market, it has to start serious training of people from an early stage.

Prof. Anku indicated that through training, "you can explore traditions and cultures, and so will be able to know whether you are copying," adding that it is important that those who are into music delve deep into indigenous cultures.

He said that not only should they bring the indigenous cultures out, but rather "transform them to the works of art, which would be applicable to various users," adding that "a lot of things should go into music to make it appealing"

He also observed that the government has not done enough in the development and promotion of Ghanaian music, a contributing factor to the poor quality of most of our music.

The French Ambassador, Pierre Jacquemot, said soundtrack is very crucial in films but unfortunately, African film makers do not see it as such, adding that there is the need to prioritise soundtrack in making their films.

He said the embassy is happy to partner NAFTI in assisting to improve the soundtrack standard in the industry through training.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Empower Women To Build Nation

By Stephen K.Effah, Amasaman
Tuesday, 16 October 2007

This year’s World Rural Women’s Day was celebrated here yesterday with a call on all major players in the country to provide adequate support and put in measures to enable women to contribute their part to building the economy.

The day, celebrated on October 15, is a prelude to World Food Day, marked today globally.It provides an opportunity for obtaining recognition and support for the multiple roles rural women, especially farmers, play.

It was attended by rural farmers in the Greater Accra Region, and was themed: "The Right to Food- Rural Women Produce and Provide."

The Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs, Hajia Alima Mahama, in a speech read on her behalf, said women should be given technological know-how, the right capacity building and increased financial support so that they could make meaningful contribution in the country.

She said that government has made various attempts over the years to reduce the incidence of poverty among rural women through programmes by giving them credit, training and advocacy, and educating them on their rights.

She noted that even though women execute many tasks associated with agriculture in order to produce and provide food for all, they receive less income, adding that where they are in business, they do not get start-up capital of their own and therefore engage in small scale farming.

She said currently, a lot of advocacy is being done to help get rid of outmoded customary practices that prevent women from owing land and acquiring property.

"There is also an ongoing advocacy and dialogue with the traditional authorities to help influence the mainstreaming of gender into the Land Administrative Project," she added.

Hajia Mahama said that although some success have been chalked, there still remain issues to be tackled such as inadequate access to credit, problems with acquisition of land, inadequate rains, high mortality and morbidity and illiteracy.

Mrs.Victoria Tsekpo of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, urged farmer organisations to have a clear understanding of government policies so as to join efforts to maximise the use of available scarce resources and improve the lot of rural women to produce healthy nutritious food.

She commended rural women farmers for their effort at providing food for the masses in spite of the numerous challenges they are faced in their daily activities.

Edouard Tapsoba, the Country Representative of Food and Agriculture Organisation said it is common knowledge that although there is an abundance of food in many countries in the world, 854 million people still go hungry everyday.

He said that no one could deny the fact that world hunger can be overcome and that universal food security can be achieved for all.

He noted that rural women have received some kind of support but their condition does not appear to be getting better, adding "their progress appears to be almost stagnant or slipping backwards."

Mr. Tapsoba urged Farmers Organisations Network of Ghana to let this year’s celebration to invigorate them to establish clear workable programmes through which they could make contribution to the economy.

Mrs. Lydia Sasu, National Coordinator of Farmers Organisation Network in Ghana, said impoverishing women farmers would not help in providing food to the population, noting "a profitable selling price for women farmers’ products is absolutely essential to ensure their capacity to continue feeding others."

Monday, October 08, 2007

NHIS Must Cover Hepatitis B — Doc

By Stephen K. Effah
Saturday, 06 October 2007

A PHYSICIAN at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Dr Adjoa Agyei Nkansah, has underscored the need to widen the National Health Insurance Scheme to cover Hepatitis B treatment in order to encourage people to know their status and seek treatment.

She said that not enouch attention has been given to Hepatitis B – a disease described as "a slow killer" – although its prevalence rate in the country is between eight to 15 per cent, which could be described as "high".

The disease, which is caused by a virus, is spread through blood and blood-related fluids or products. People with multiple partners and health care workers, among others, are those with high risk of contracting it.

She said that the baseline investigation of the disease alone could cost the individuals as much as ¢2 million, a situation which she said places a heavy burden on the patient.

At a symposium in Accra on Thursday to mark this year’s World Hepatitis Day, which fell on October 1, she said, the disease takes a very long time to manifest while others it does not show any signs at all.

The theme for the event was: "Get Tested, Get Vaccinated, Get Treated." It was organised by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana and was aimed at creating awareness among the public to encourage them to assess their risk factors and seek diagnosis. Participants at the symposium were given free screening for the disease.

Dr Nkansah said a survey conducted in northern Ghana, which is yet to be published, revealed that 25 per cent of the children there have Hepatitis B, noting that this does not present a good picture for the country.

She said that, Hepatitis B has been identified as a casual factor of heart cancer, as it destroys the liver in the body, saying "15 per cent of Hepatitis B may progress to cancer, but not all Hepatitis B patients have cancer."

She said a research at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital sometime back showed that between 6.7 and 10 per cent of people who donated blood had Hepatitis B, while 54.1 per cent were Jaundiced and 42.8 per cent having the scary liver (cirrhosis) disease.

She said that a total of 6.4 per cent pregnant women also tested positive for Hepatitis B. She said that it is difficult for doctors to identify for instance, about 12 per cent of patients with Hepatitis B.

Globally, she said, 400 million people have hepatitis B, with sub-Saharan Africa topping the list.

She pointed out that one cannot contract or be infected with the disease through mere casual contact and advised the public not to stigmatise people with the disease.

The Hepatitis virus, she said can survive outside the human body for up to two weeks, and advised all to be very cautious in dealing with blood and blood products in order to avoid contracting it.

Dr Nkansah also said the only way for one to be sure a person has the disease is to get tested and urged Hepatitis B patients to always try to avoid alcohol and herbal medication since they can worsen their situation.

Stephen Corquaye, a pharmacist, said treatment of the disease is very expensive because of the drugs. To this end, he urged the government to waive taxes on hepatitis B drugs or subsidise it as is the case with HIV/AIDS drugs to make it more affordable.

He underscored the need for the government and all to accord hepatitis B enough attention as is the case with HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

He said the best thing for someone who is negative to avoid the disease is to go for hepatitis B vaccination, which he explained would provide up to 95 per cent immunity for five to 10 years.

He noted that children born at some hospitals get vaccinated free of charge as part of the government’s expanded immunisation programme, noting that the distribution is not even.

Mr Corquaye said that infants have only 10 per cent of recovering from an acute hepatitis B infection while young children have up to 50 per cent chance.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Insects Causing Havoc To Tourism Potential

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Thursday, 04 October 2007

Most of the country’s waterfalls are inhabited by insects which cause onchocerchiasis or river blindness, a study has revealed, thus affecting their potential as tourist attractions.

Of the 26 waterfalls studied, 10 of them recorded the vector that cause river blindness while most of them had the larvae that cause skin lesions.

The study, conducted by the Water Research Institute (WRI), between March and September, this year, also revealed that about half the number of sites studied, have sandflies which are a nuisance to humans.

The preliminary ecological assessment study, funded by the Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan Relations,was aimed at gathering enough information about known and undocumented waterfalls in the country.

Presenting the findings on faunas of the falls, Mr. Godwin Amegbe, a Senior Research Scientist of the institute said the pressure of both the black and sand flies should be a major source of concern in efforts at developing these sites into tourist attractions.

"There is the need to control the flies which constitute a nuisance, in order to enhance the tourism potential of these sites," he advised.

Dr.Osmund Ansah-Asare, a senior research scientist said, the Amedzofe, Tsatsadu, Trudu,Kintampo Stage III and Adom waterfalls were found to be of poor quality while the rest were classified as fairly good.

He said that the poor quality of the falls were the result of domestic and agricultural activities in the catchment areas.

He also said that there is the need to do reforestation of degraded areas of the various falls to ensure that streams do not dry up in the dry seasons.

Dr.Mamaa Entsua-Mensah, a Principal Research Scientist, said that although there are numerous waterfalls in the country some of them are unknown because they have not been developed and catalogued.

"Clearly, there is a great potential for the development of more Ghanaian waterfalls into important tourist destinations," she said.

She, however, explained that eco-tourism may not necessarily pull Ghana out of its economic pain, adding that it would be prudent to view some of the falls as educational sites and preserve them for posterity and research.

The Chief Director of the Ministry, Mrs. Bridget Katsriku, said knowing the quality of the country’s waterfalls is very important as it would enhance and boost visitor confidence and make them more attractive.

She said that eco-tourism is not only a viable tool for environmental conservation and wealth creation but that more importantly, a tool for poverty reduction and therefore deplored the indiscriminate human activities around the waterfalls which are polluting them.

The various assemblies that are endowed with such resources should utilise the findings for the development of eco-tourism programmes in the district, she said.


By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 03 October 2007

Teleku- Bokazo, a village near Nkroful, the hometown of the first President, Dr.Kwame Nkrumah, is now a ghost town.

The residents of the town have deserted the town for fear of a possible police reprisal following an attack on two policemen last Sunday by a group of young men of the town.
Constable Augustine Opoku Agyemang and Lance Corporal Kingsford Appiah, both of the Takoradi Mobile Force, were allegedly attacked and wounded by the group while providing guard to some workers of a gold mining company, Adamus Resources Limited, to convey equipment to their drilling site in the Bokazo area.

The attack was provoked by the local people’s objection to surface mining in the area.

Surface mining is a type of mining by which the soil and rock overlying the mineral deposit are removed. Its large impact on the topography, vegetation, and water resources has made it highly controversial.

It also destroys the fertility of the soil and makes farming unprofitable. The residents prefer underground mining which according to them, does not destroy the soil.

Briefing the Times in a telephone interview yesterday, the Western Regional Deputy Police Commander, ASP Robert Mark Azu, said the two injured policemen were first rushed to the Ekwe Hospital abut later referred to the Axim Hospital.

Lance Corporal Appiah was, however, discharged on Monday.
He said that attacketrs, numbering about 40, allegedly attacked the two policemen and the workers, and in the process the policemen lost their AK 47 riffles.

ASP Azu said Constable Agyemang besides suffering a fracture in one of the arms, also had wounds all over his body while Lance Corporal Appiah lost two teeth.

He said 18 people, including two women, have been arrested by the police and would be put before the court to enable the police to have them remanded while they investigate the matter.
He said there is a reported dispute between the people and the company over the firms operations in the area.

Meanwhile, more than 50 police personnel have been deployed from Takoradi and Axim to the village to maintain law and order.