Monday Music: Ghana old school

Obaapaa’s sister and her husband have been visiting us from the UK. Well, when I say ‘us’, I mean DadaK & family, but AM and I have got to see them a few times. To celebrate, I’m playing music that was popular when they were a whole lot younger than they are now. Like this (which I think is the first Ghanaian music I ever heard, back in 1989).

This visit is very special. Obaapaa’s sister (I’ll call her Aunty) has never visited Australia before, even though Obaapaa migrated here in 1999; and her brother-in-law (Uncle), has only visited once, in 2003.

They are the only Ghanaian relatives who have ever been to Australia, and they are only here for about 3 weeks.

This is the major downside of living halfway around the world from your African relatives. Those, like Aunty and Uncle, who live in rich countries, mainly spend their holidays (and their money) on returning home. Those who still live in Africa have virtually no hope of ever getting here. Why not?

1. They don’t have the money — so we would have to pay their travel costs, which we can’t really afford.

2. We have a big family — how on earth to prioritise who to bring over? And for just a holiday? Seems kind of brutal to expose them to our wealthy (and expensive) western lifestyle, only to send them back to the malaria & pit toilets. We’d do better to send them the money we’d spend on their airfares so they can pay the children’s school (and medical) fees. Which, in fact, we do.

And then there’s this:

3. Rumour has it that Fortress Australia the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIPB) is generally very suspicious of African visitors and reluctant to grant them visas in case they overstay illegally (as do thousands of New Zealanders and British backpackers, but hey … they’re [mostly] white ….). What this means in practice is that for our Ghanaian relatives to get a visa, we would probably have to put up a hefty financial guarantee: “usually between AUD5 000 and AUD15 000 per person (but we [DIBP] can ask for any amount)”.

Actually this requirement — a security bond — can apply to visas for anyone, from any country, who wishes to visit their family in Australia, but DIBP “decides on a case-by-case basis whether to ask for a security bond” [my italics]. Any guesses which cases are most likely to get hit with the maximum charge? There was no security bond for Aunty and Uncle, on their British passports, but I don’t like our chances with family members trying to travel on Ghanaian passports.

Well thinking about that is depressing. I hope someone will contradict me and say they’ve successfully brought family to visit from a poor country without having to raise a massive bond. Please comment if you’ve been so lucky. But in the meantime, let’s cheer ourselves up with more old school.

Actually we weren’t listening to Ghana old school while Aunty and Uncle were here; at least not when AM and I were with them. When I took them on a day trip to the Blue Mountains we sang Christmas carols, and on their last day with us — Saturday lunch at our place — the kids gave an impromptu azonto performance.

Azonto, in case you don’t know, is a 21st century reinvention of Ghanaian rhythms. At first they took it in turns to dance with headphones in, which was silent and cute. Then we made them take the headphones off so everyone could hear the music (on Obaapaa’s phone), which was tinny but got everyone showing off just a little bit, even Uncle. It was a lovely way to end the visit.

So in the spirit of the joy that springs from family reunions, I’ll leave you with an azonto tutorial. Once you’ve mastered the moves, try doing them to CK Mann (first video).


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