Ghana-based Benjamin Lebrave speaks fluent French and English, and can schmooze in Spanish and Portuguese. He’ll report on new African music every other week. This week, he wrote about Ghana's Jay Bieggs.
"Capacity building." Probably a term coined with the best of intentions, but I can't help it: anytime I hear or read it, I don't know if I should laugh or cry. Non-profit PR lingo both amuses me and freaks me out. But when Jay Bieggs mentions capacity building in his latest song "Gargantuan," there's no question about it: it's hilarious.
Download: Jay Bieggs, "Gargantuan"
Jay writes songs about some of the political problems he sees at home in Ghana, and more generally throughout Africa. He has the ideal background to musically do so: he is a UK-born Ghanaian, with a degree in political science and over a decade of music industry experience.
Recently in Ghana, the word "gargantuan" has been associated with the Woyome political scandal, and to some extent, with the song "Gargantuan Body" by 5Five, which looks at a very different set of enormous proportions.
What's refreshing in Jay's approach, compared to most of what I see and hear in Ghana, is that he is completely nonpartisan. Usually when somebody tells me about corruption here, they are accusing the other party of corruption. My very superficial understanding of Ghanaian politics is: if you are NDC, you bash NPP for being corrupt. If you are NPP, you bash NDC for being corrupt. And which party you belong to is determined by which family you were born in. But no matter who is in power, gold is still dug from the ground, oil is still drilled, port duties are still collected; the money keeps flowing, and corruption remains very healthy.
Jay doesn't only go beyond Ghanaian politics, he aims his music at the whole of Africa, since many countries face the same problems. As Jay puts it: "[My music] is mainly directed at my fellow Africans, to understand how after colonial rule our leaders destroyed our continent, mainly through corruption and humans rights abuse. The way forward is to strip the old regime through democratic uprising."
But rather than give lectures, Jay puts his thoughts into music. He says the song "Gargantuan" came about "when I saw the level of corruption and crimes committed by politicians, and how politicians and contractors team up to lie to the state to justify their actions. Also, how funds for the country are being misused by politicians while so many people are suffering." The song fits right into Jay's vision of music as a political tool, and will also fit into his upcoming album, due for release later this summer. Check his Facebook or Twitter for updates.