At first glance, you wouldn't expect a burst of Liberian music coming out of Ghana. But a closer look reveals Buduburam, a Liberian refugee camp, still there after 20 years, less than an hour outside of Ghana's capital Accra. Buduburam's wikipedia page has a note or two about the camp's history, but I'd like to focus here on the story of one man, Shadow. Shadow's one man operation has created the foundation of a lively music scene in the camp. It makes sense he'd seek to recreate something: since he's left Liberia about a decade ago, he's had no news from any relatives. It's safe to assume some, if not all, are gone.
So Shadow created his own musical family. Little by little he collected pieces of equipment, enough to create a minuscule studio, where for a few years now he's managed to record dozens and dozens of musicians. Here's a small sample of the sounds pouring out of his studio. "Killing Me" uses a traditional gbema rhythm, which Shangaan fiends might appreciate. The song is about—why not—fine looking girls who make Shadow's body ache. I doubt you've ever heard anything quite like it.
Download: Shadow, "Killing Me"
Shadow struck me with his vision: he is in it for the community, he is in it to give the camp a voice. Sounds cheesy? Think about it: Buduburam still has anywhere between 20 and 30,000 residents. Most have no family, and nothing to go back to in Liberia. Many were born in the camp and have never set foot in Liberia. At the same time, many have never really settled into Ghanaian society. The UN's mandate ended years ago. So these people feel left out, forgotten. Shadow's strength has been in uniting them, creating a sense of community in the camp and a new place for himself. Learn more about Shadow and his studio in this video shot by the University of Alberta, Canada, who are involved with Shadow and musicians on the camp.