Meet Me There Weekender 2019

  • Held on the banks of the Volta River, this three-day festival celebrates the very best in Ghanaian music.
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  • On the three-hour drive from Ghana's bustling capital, Accra, to the Volta Region, all I could see for miles around were mud houses with thatched roofs, families of goats grazing freely and a coastline of pristine blue sea. Now in its second year, Meet Me There Weekender is a fundraising event for its sister NGO, Dream Big Ghana, which aims to improve access to sanitation, healthcare and education in the nearby Dzita and Dzita-Agbledomi villages. The festival's longterm goal is to improve infrastructure for local musicians—a studio and radio station are in the works. But, for the time being, the festival provides a crash course in Ghanaian music on an awe-inspiring beach. Meet Me There Weekender began with a boat trip along the serene and unspoiled Volta River, setting the tone for several days of chilled daytime activities. Later, while festivalgoers cooled off from the 30-degree heat in a neighbouring lagoon and, in the distance, local fishermen pulled their nets ashore, the South African DJ SNO opened the only stage with a set of pan-African sounds from the '70s and '80s, including upbeat ziglibithy from Ivory Coast, Congolese rumba and Ghanaian highlife.
    The Ghanaian vocalist and producer Zongo Abongo was the weekend's master of ceremonies, providing informative introductions to the many live acts. The guitarist Kyekyeku, whose sound has evolved from the Ghanaian folk genre Palm Wine music, was the highlight on Friday, while Ghana's leading traditional drumming group Kakatsitsi Master Drummers delivered an energizing performance on Saturday. But it was Zongo Abongo's own set with the London-based collective The Busy Twist that stole the show on Friday evening. Their combination of club-ready beats and Abongo's infectious melodies appealed to both local and western ears. As the sun set over the stage and the batik print seamstress shut up shop for the night, local children sat atop the shoulders of revellers, giving the festival the feel of a village fête. This was offset by the night's bass music programme, which continued as the Accra-based artist Gafacci hit the decks. Making his name producing the Ghanaian dance music Azonto, he demonstrated how West African tracks, such as DJ Dollar's "Wolosso" and Stevo Atambire's "Kologo," can be weaved into a set of harder riddims.
    Saturday night saw roadside sellers hawking pineapple, watermelon and fried yam while the London-based DJ Tash LC—who performed in a freshly made two-piece cut from local fabric—mixed tracks by UK and Ghanaian artists. Highlights from her set included Bryte's "Cassava" and "Cumin Bounce" by Swing Ting. Saturday also marked the arrival of the festival's headliner, Ebo Taylor, who, unperturbed by fans and fellow artists coming up to say hello, spent the rest of the evening quietly watching things unfold. The following night, the 83-year-old highlife and Afrobeat legend cut a somewhat diminutive figure onstage, though any loss of vitality was all but forgotten when he opened with the quintessential breakup number "Love And Death." Then SNO took the stage again, this time revving up her audience with cuts such as "Aplanke" by the Akan highlife band Wulomei. 4 To The Floor's Jay Carder joined her for a dance before taking over and delivering an assured house set.
    For many of the 500 or so locals who were offered cheap festival tickets, the Ghanaian DJs Pherry, PABLO and Katapila were the biggest draws. Katapila, who played on Sunday night, attracted the largest audience of the day. As well as delighting the locals, his set played to the westerners' sense of nostalgia, with tracks such as Robin S's "Show Me Love" and Whigfield's "Saturday Night" going off as I lost my flip-flops in the dance. No one even seemed to mind when the bar ran out of alcohol, though it signalled the beginning of the end. Thankfully, fresh batches of crispy fried yam coated in the black pepper hot sauce shito were being prepared just yards away, easing the pain of soon having to go home. Photo credit / Francis Kokoroko