Kofi Brokeman

One of the reasons why Ghana won’t fight itself, this.

You can have all the political differences, football rivalry, NSMQ trolling and whether or not Asamoah Gyan should continue to take penalties but you can’t disagree on how this is a national treasure, no wonder its colour takes after gold.

They call it Kofi Brokeman but nothing fixes you better than two fingers or three of this delicacy on a hot Ghanaian afternoon. Ripe plantain roasted over a mild charcoal heat to soften to a golden yellow.

It can be a meal all on its own, or a desert, or what you’d call on to assist you make it to the “chop bar” just ahead. A very convenient travelling partner, not below the status of an air conditioned office and its occupant, the hawker’s energiser, the teacher’s break time engagement, the broke man’s saviour. Reaching all classes, accepted by all manner of persons, brokeman is a unifier, perhaps what the UN has been missing all this while.

Talk of the foods that can be smuggled into the lecture room and nibbled on even while lecture is ongoing, brokeman sits well among the biscuits and pastries, and even lately, a lot of college girls ditch the others for the brokeman, (attention: ladies you can date a broke man too).

But like an old man and his walking stick, you cannot enjoy brokeman without roasted groundnuts, naaa. These two are so compatible marriage counsellors use them as an example for newly wed couples. Once when I’d bought brokeman from one vendor, she wouldn’t let me put the groundnuts and the brokeman in the same polythene bag. She said the heat of the brokeman would “cook” the groundnut and that would make for a very unremarkable taste. “They are only to meet in your mouth”, she said.

What good counsel and revelation she gave, for it is true; when the groundnuts are softened by the heat of the brokeman, they simply lose some of its delight. By all means you must feel the hard nuts cracking against the soft tender insides of the brokeman as you musticate your way to glory. For that reason, I’ve kept the counsel of that competent brokeman vendor whom God is still blessing till today.

How you bring these two to a grand convocation in the mouth is also varied in its execution. There are basically three varieties of approach. You could throw the groundnuts in the mouth first, tilting the head a little backwards then add a bite of the brokeman. Or, you do the reverse of the first approach; a bite of the brokeman followed by the groundnuts. And the last one, which I prefer, you stamp the groundnuts with the soft insides of the brokeman so they get attached like a magnet. Here, both get to go in at the same time.

A good brokeman cannot be too hard nor too soft. The best plantains that make the best brokemans thus are the ones which have only begun to ripe or are ripened but have not gone so far as to enter the rotting stage. Such ripe and too soft plantains have no place near the grills upon which brokeman is roasted. And that is why other meals like gob3, aklaklo and kelewele exists.

One of the problems I have with brokeman however, is that when you’re in a commercial vehicle, you face a dilemma as to how you could conveniently handle the groundnuts in such a way that they do not escape your grasp, because these nuts have that stubborn nature of hiding in the corners of the polythene bag making them hard to reach, or falling from your grasp all together and rolling in the vehicle you’re in. But, this would be no problem at all as soon as we introduce the usage of “take-away” packs to the roadside serving of brokeman.

And as you know, you can never have brokeman without a sachet of water nearby. As my Asante folks would say, “ɛgye nsuo”, to wit, “it collects water”, or in a layman’s term it simply makes you thirsty. Brokeman truly has a way of making the throat dry and as a result craving for water afterwards. But all of this adds to the satisfying uniqueness of KB, especially when what follows after consuming it is one good and loud belch.

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WhaT haS loVE GOt To dO wiTh It?

Hasn’t love got everything, okay, something to do with feelings?

I could understand the beauty bit. That it wanes, that it doesn’t cook food let alone make jollof. That it’s inferior to character. So it obviously could be a wrong reason to be in love with someone. But how about feelings? That “I can’t wait to see you”, “can’t wait to call you”, talk to you, listen to you state of love induced madness.

A lot of the times, when people talk about choosing partners correctly, it means the person gotta have some domestic skills in keeping the home, have a good character, have a job of course, and a good family if you can help it. And all of these times beauty and feelings are kinda treated the same way; not really necessary. Yet, some if not many of these folks, married ones at that, would recount the days where they acted silly and behaved rather ludicrously just from the way they felt about the other person or how the other person made them feel.

Now if that “feeling” part isn’t necessary, why is it called up often like the only proof there is in showing haven fallen in love? And why would we be advised to look out for qualities than depending on these emotions?

This isn’t that feeling of being loved or appreciated. This is about how one or you feel so mad yet sane, lost but found, good and miserable about another person all at the same darn time. That state where you’d confess that something is “doing” you and all you know is this girl or boy but can’t tell what magic or miracle they’re operating by. That cloud nine feeling. That feeling of being swept off the feet. Of your whole world lighting up when you see this person. Where you shake and shiver when they touch you or call your name. Where your heart decides to also miss a beat because you saw their missed call.

Hasn’t love got something to do with these too?

I get it, that heart breaks accounts for why people would rather rationalise love than emotionalise it. And that accounts also for the advice in trotros, salons, barbering shops, whatsapp groups, on Facebook and everywhere the conversation of love comes up, to love with the head and not the heart. To not let all of oneself go. Is that what they mean by walking into love but not falling into it? Oh, but who can deny the enchanting and consuming and inflaming passions?

Still, “what’s love got to do, got to do with it? Who needs a heart when the heart can be broken?” (Ok. Hand over the mic now Tina) Noone, it seems. The head is a better bargain. So we are adviced to not give the heart a chance, at least not all of it. But aren’t there consequences to this choice?

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ― C.S. Lewis.

So, with the threat of heart break, I am advised to rationalise my way into marriage, to consider all the pros in a would-be partner with stuff like possessing good manners, being from a good and rich home etc. and don’t mind much how I feel about her (or him in the case of women). Should love be this strategic, profitable, calculated venture? And would that not hurt the marriage life? If love hasn’t got something to do with how I feel, wouldn’t the marriage life be drab and boring? Because then I’d be forced to rationalise all the time what I should do to keep love aflame, and that to me would become like a chore. Yet, love should drive me blindly, insanely, effortlessly.

If we are to look for qualities at all, I think they should be ones that corroborate with our feelings for that other person. Such qualities as explained by Professor William Rawlins, a professor of interpersonal communications at Ohio University who studies the way people interact over the course of their lives. He says that “satisfying friendships (and relationships) need three things: ‘Somebody to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy.’”

I think we should stop in our relationship tracks and face our emotions square in the face, and even risk depending on it to build relationships into marriages. Bar all those “good” reasons, how true are one’s feelings. Is that not what unconditional love is all about? Loving without conditions (reasons)? Especially since “love doesn’t ask why?”

But then, this is just a bewildered gentleman knowing not what to make of modern love. What do you know?

The Breakfast Called Waakye

People talk about jollof, and jollof this and jollof that. That’s all cool, jollof is a respectable meal. It is your typical food for the occasions : birthdays, weddings, funerals etc., where it is even said that a party without jollof is just a meeting. Throw in your usual jollof wars between Ghana and Naija and you have a more sumptuous reason to root for the Ghana jollof. And although jollof is a pride-sustaining/affirming meal, it can never be a better breakfast than waakye. Or as I like to call it, awaakye.

Noone, and I mean noone ever woke up from bed, in his home or in a friends house, especially, and upon the thought of breakfast asked: chale, is there any jollof joint in this area? It’s unheard of. Kai!

Here in my hood, there’s this woman who sells jollof in close proximity to the waakye seller (I wonder who so ill advised her). Every morning, as I make my glorious march to waakye-land, I see that her product is least patronised. I could be in the waakye queue for as long as one person buys for ten other folks and all the while, just one and a half people come and ask of what is being sold there. You might think the waakye seller uses some powers to draw all the customers but not so. It’s just the times and seasons that are not jollof friendly.

The other morning for instance, I caught my cousin Kwayne Jnr, the most diehard jollof fan I know buying waakye for breakfast. I would have let it count as one of those once-in-a while moments upon which you can’t judge a person’s true interest, except that he proceeded to give me counsel and campaigned for that waakye joint saying: oh aha de3 no nso 3y3 fine paaa ooo( oh this joint is so good oo). Waaa look! His testimony was as from one used to the place, and used to the place I couldn’t doubt. When it comes to waakye for breakfast, even the most ardent jollof supporters humble themselves.

The love for waakye on a good morning goes deep, deeper to the very base of the saucepans they are cooked in. This is truth and there’s no lie in it, no jollof joint ever sells the “under” aka kanzo together with the jollof itslef. It is uncouth and would render the jollof as having less character. Although we wouldn’t mind eating that same jollof kanzo in our homes anyway. But when it comes to waakye and it’s “under”, oh there’s no shame, we tell the seller to “please add more”.

Would you now be surprised if I told you I was inpired to pen this after a good episode of waakye for breakfast? More so, after I witnessed that respectable man buy the waakye this morning for himself and his friend and didn’t forget to ask the seller to add some of the “under? What more could such inspiration do for an old customer like me than to also follow the man’s example?

“Madam, me nso ma me ase3 no bi wae” (me too give me the kanzo some wae), I said.

And I had almost forgotten certain portions of my childhood, untill the “under” brought them back. Those times when all the love a boy knew was waakye and so would pester his mom to give him money to buy Nurse’s waakye. That waakye seller then was named Nurse for obvious reasosns; she put care in her waakye like a nurse, and the waakye took care of the community, like a nurse.

And I had almost forgotten Lab. The times back in Secondary School where we would dare risk the possibility of punishment or even suspension and break bounds just to go eat that waakye, which had been christened “LAB” for having the luck to be situated somewhere behind the school’s science laboratory. Oh the experiments we did with that early morning waakye, adding substances like avocado, spaghetti, gari etc etc.

This is not pitting waakye and jollof against each other and calling on men to choose sides, for there’s no point in that. But even as jollof when introduced at a mere meeting can turn such into a party, waakye is that morning ritual where no food, not even jollof can best substitute.

Looking For The Girl Group: A Throwback To VGMA ’17

As VVIP collected their award for best group of the year for the third time in a row, it occured to me, there were no girl group in that category.

The VGMA ceremony over the years has recognised music groups and it is curious to learn that over the last 11 years, no girl group has made it to the nomination list let alone win it.

The award was presented by vintage gospel duo the Tagoe Sisters which gives more reason to wonder. After these steller groups, there has not in recent times risen any other girl group to strongly contest with the guys.

Talk of female music groups, the gospel arena seems to do better than the secular folks. Daughters of Glorious Jesus have blazed the trail for years and they are still going. Tagoe Sisters have been outstanding in their own right. Jane and Bernice, Suzzy and Matt, would be names we would long remember. Tongues of Fire and Hallelujah Voices and quite recently Adehyemaa, though it’s sad to say that the latter’s appearance on the gospel music scene has been like a movie cameo, are some female gospel groups that caught our attention.

The promising duo of Efya and Irene disbanded and took solo roles. Triple M, who holds the record of being the first female hiplife group disappeared from the face of the earth leaving only a remnant of their wannabe musician individual selves which have also long disappeared into thin air. Dela Hayes and Women of Colour Band is another female music group who had sought to become the feminine version of Osibisa but not much is heard of them.

A case could even be made for the fact that the two strong female groups actually are made up of family members. Daughters of Glorious Jesus is made up of two sisters and their friend. Tagoe Sisters are actually twins. Which leaves me thinking, is it difficult for girls to get together unless they are family??

But while we delibrate on the matter as prevails in the local scenes, this issue seems to be a global phenomenon. I mean, look at all the music groups that have survived and a lot of these are male groups. Evidently, international male music groups outnumber female ones both in success and longevity.

Songs by Westlife, Boys II Men, Take Five, Backstreet Boys, UB40, Black Eyed Peas are easily recognisable, and you can say besides the quality of music, it’s also due to the fact that these groups stuck around for longer. Songs by TLC and Spice Girls would be hard for a young person to identify.

There are and have been more male music groups that I can count than females’, and yet the population of women is greater than that of men.

I know this is just a small observation that pertains to the music industry, but what are such observations worth if they do not allow for a broader consideration of things? And so I ask the questions: is it still a man’s world where his musculinity suppresses the woman thus? Or is it the effect of a long time ago law which did not allow women to do certain things like voting and publishing considered then as only a man’s right and has since left women needing to catch up? Or is it simply that girls can’t get together for longer?

I would love to see a vibrant female music group rise up again and give the gentlemen a ran for the money. But even noticing that our female music artistes hardly do collaborations and feature themselves leaves my hope dangling by a spider’s thread.

Baobab Shade – A Review of Afriku: Haiku & Senryu from Ghana, by Adjei Agyei-Baah.

His haiku “leafless tree” which won the Akita Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Award for the 3rd Japan-Russian Haiku Contest shook me awake to the beauty of haiku and for the first time drew my attention more closer to the art. I would then start to uncover many of such gems he had written and left behind on his Facebook page, countless journals and online haiku contests like trails. Following these with the interest and appetite he had hitherto aroused in me, I picked up his intent to not only write and make the art acceptable to poets and lovers of poetry in Ghana and Africa, his works shone of this consuming desire to make this foreign art more local, more relatable to the people of his homeland, the continent, thus his unrelenting desire to push to the fore haiku that draws on the sights and sounds of Africa.

Afriku: Haiku and Senryu from Ghana is the maiden collection of Haiku and Senryu poems by Mr. Adjei Agyei-Baah, Co-founder of Africa Haiku Network and founder of Ghana Haiku Society. Great things come in small packages and no doubt, in these wonderfully written minute pieces are depth and wealth of literary brilliance. Herein is a true embodiment of this spirit, desire and intent to tell the African story in a new voice of Haiku (a three line Japanese seasonal poem). Taking for instance:

castle cannons-
pointing where their
owners have gone

What is so identifiable with the African story than colonisation, which is aptly inferred in this poem with the poet’s use of ‘castle cannons’. It is a cruel way to point us to the past but one which cannot be helped by the poet anymore than we can delete the harrowing effects of colonisation from our history. The first line is thunderous, evoking the ‘boom’ sound of cannons plus all its destructive nature, heightened further by the use of the alliteration in the ‘c’ sounds. But we are not left in this dark stage of manipulation, exploitation and extortion. The next two lines provide some comfort; these cannons point where their owners have gone. In these lines we are reminded of no other thing than Africa waking up to independence, her colonisers abandoning their weapons, which are but representations of their forceful influence, where they only now serve as monuments. But are they just monuments or they represent something bigger, something to say that the colonial ties were not utterly severed because they left parts of their controling selves behind? This presents a good case for those who challenge the independence of Africa. But the poet in these three lines walks us through our perilous past, our confused present and perhaps like the cannons points us to an uncertain future.

As an observer, one who in his capacity as a haiku poet is only to show not tell, Adjei, without shovelling it down our throats the folly of dispute and the freedom it robs us of, points us to an example in nature to observe and see what truth we can learn for ourselves in these lines:

disputed land-
crows flout
the borderlines

The poet’s careful and good selection of words as “disputed land”, “flout”, “borderlines” shows some crows who are defiant to some borderline laws that they do exactly what people, out of the fear of sanctions, are restricted to do, flouting the rule. These crows, happily getting together, seem to tell us it is better to flout borderline orders than keep people apart over just some land dispute. Somehow, it echoes in same voice Gabriel I. Okara’s poem, “Moon In The Bucket”, who also teaches a great lesson from noticing the moon in a bucket of murky water:

…look at the dancing moon
It is peace unsoiled by the murk
And dirt of this bucket war.

But it is not only issues of politics that the poet is preoccupied with. He’s on a mission to also show the beauty (sights) of his continent and, as a result, employing the fundamental aim of haiku effectively draws the reader into his world of lights in this one below:

village night out
the lamps of fireflies
everywhere

Flashlights have vastly replaced lanterns nowadays but what a beautiful way to remind us of them in fireflies who do not change with time or technology.

shoreline
my footprints
go to sea

This is a fun way to suggest that one has been to sea without actually being a sailor. Perhaps those of us who have envied sailors on their adventures in movies can console ourselves knowing our footprints at beaches have done so for us. More so, it is a reflection of the peace and serenity gained from having to go for a walk at the beach and yet another implication that we can boast of good beaches.

mountain walk . . .
only our shadows
dare the cliffs

These poems do not only elevate the pleasure we feel in reading them, suddenly we see ourselves atop this mountain where our fear of heights is exposed. But a part of us still dares to take a risk with our shadows daring the cliffs. Herein are we exposed as people with strengths and weaknesses, courage and fear. But besides, this is a beautiful picture of the mountainous side of the homeland, the greeness, trees, valleys etc.

We observe also that Afriku serves from within its pages doses of Senryu as well. Described as a cousin of haiku, Senryu is seen as a non-seasonal poem unlike haiku. Plus, Senryu focuses on idiosyncrasies which render them satirical or ironical in tone.

tipping on the escalator
the new migrant
introduces himself

Adjei Agyei-Baah has been successful in this uncompromising grit to make his haiku more African that he translates all the poems into his native language, Twi. It is a way to make even these accessible to those of his homeland who may not be familiar with English, as well as to show that haiku can be enjoyed in whatever language of expression.

In all, this is a very good collection and one suited for this very time as haiku takes a solid stand in Africa. It is a highly recommended book for all lovers of literature; teachers, students, lecturers, professors etc and for any purpose; research, lecture, pleasure etc.

Afriku enjoins all of us, anyone anywhere in the world to take a rest under one of Africa’s giant baobab and in the shade enjoy the friendship that is haiku. Thus brought together we help the poet achieve his dream . . .

black coffee
white sugar
I stir the world into oneness 

 

Kwaku Feni Adow is a writer, poet and student from Ghana. He is a member of Africa Haiku Network, Ghana Haiku Society and UHTS (United Haiku and Tanka Society, America). He writes Haiku from his home country and has received publications in haiku journals the likes of The Mamba, Brass Bell, Under the Basho, Frameless Sky, Cattails, including Honourable Mentions in online haiku contests. He is the winner of Babishaiku 2016, Africa’s first haiku contest organised by Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, Uganda.