Prince Okla and Sheriff Ghale are from Tamale, in northern Ghana. My friend Joshua and I were there and wanted to find local musicians. Our first day in town we met a kid named Rashid who said he’d help us find some people. Rashid took us to meet some guys who, according to him, were some of the key players in the Tamale music scene. We ended up at a barber shop that belonged to a Dagbani-language reggae singer named Shoeshine Boy. Rashid sent for other musicians. Prince Okla appeared with a couple friends. Soon we were a largish group, awkwardly talking about music in this tiny shack of a barber shop. Prince Okla mentioned Michael Jackson and Tupac. We later went to Sheriff Ghale’s house and sat with him for a while. They were all extremely kind.
The first track here kind of reminds me of freestyle, only with a deep-voiced Dagomba dude singing instead of your favorite Miami princess. The second track is a good example of the local reggae Tamale folks seem to enjoy. The dissonance here is particularly enjoyable. This might be considered old school by the youngsters. Okla is part of the first wave of modern Tamale pop acts who began to emerge in the mid-90s and this recording is from maybe 2000. He is by no means the leader. I just like these two somewhat bizarre tracks.
A wall mural in Tamale
While I was most interested in the town’s local rap movement, it is reggae that has put Tamale on the Ghanaian musical map. Sheriff Ghale—schoolteacher by day, Northern Ghana reggae luminary by night when I met him in 2002—won the Ghana Music Award for “Best Reggae Artiste” a couple years ago. Ever since then, folks way down south in the country’s capital Accra have had reason to give Tamale’s formerly invisible music scene a second look.
Sheriff Ghale Dang-Malgu
A Yi Ka So