Next Level, the United States Department of State’s dance and music exchange programme, has strengthened the belief of young artistes among other youth in the North to do more to shine in their chosen fields.
While those already in the music and dance sector said Next Level had exposed them to new things, others wishing to break into the sector said it had heightened their interest, which they would work hard to realise to contribute significantly to changing society.
Next Level uses hip-hop to teach leadership, foster careers in the arts, and empower youth to develop community-based solutions.
As part of the exchange programme, four American artiste-educators arrived in Ghana on May 23, at the start of a two-week residency to engage and mentor young artistes and youth in the north and in Accra.
They are Suzi Analogue (Beatmaking), a prolific producer, songwriter, composer, member of the Recording Academy /Grammys and creator of Never Normal Records based in Miami, Florida, Arianna
“Kala” Brame (MC), who is multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, arranger, poet, MC, bandleader, and educator based in Brooklyn, New York, Damien Mitchell (Graffiti Art), who specialises in large realistic graffiti and mural work, Harry “Fullout” Weston (Hip Hop Dance), who directs the UCLA Hip Hop/Street Dance Summer Intensive, and Hakim Zziwa “Hakim.Z” (Videographer), who is passionate storyteller inspired by his background as a dance artist.
About 50 young artistes and young people in the north have been selected for the exchange programme, where the four American educators have been conducting workshops, lecture-demonstrations, and master classes from May 23, to May 28, to teach them dancing, hip hop, graffiti, music beats making, videography and MC (master of ceremonies) for professional development, cultural exchange, and career mentoring.
The exchange programme will end in Tamale with live performances on May 28, at the Jubilee Park after which the American artiste-educators will head to Accra for the second leg.
Fuseini Zakaria, a Professional Dancer and member of Northern Best Dancers, who is one of the young artistes participating in the exchange programme in Tamale, lauded the initiative saying he had learnt a lot to further improve his art.
He said: “We have a good coach, who is working with passion. He always tries to make us happy before we start learning. So, we really enjoy the lessons. He teaches us a lot of moves and dance names that we never heard before. This is a big opportunity that has never come to the north before, and we believe and pray that this is going to create big opportunities for northerners.”
He added that “We do believe that this opportunity is an avenue for us to make it even bigger in our dancing career.”
Sakina Oases, a student, who is learning music beats making as part of the exchange, said she was enjoying her experience adding “In our society today, it is very hard to get jobs. So, equipping young ones like us with these skills is very good. With what we have learnt, with a little push, you will be able to do something.”
She said: “We have learnt how to make loops, the beats, theme melodies, drums, and other instruments together to get a perfect beat. Though I am not perfect yet, I am still in the process and I am sure by the end of the programme, I will be able to make a perfect beat.”
She said the experience so far has influenced her to develop her talent in music beats making, adding “I never knew I could make beats or I had interest in that but it has helped me to unearth my talent and interest in making beats. It has a significant impact on me and I will take it far.”
Hairia Issah, who is learning rap or hip hop, said “I have learnt new things that I did not even know I could do; how to write my own lyrics and rap it out. I would like to be a master in it.”
Epiphany “Big Piph” Morrow, Leader of the Next Level team said the youth participating in the programme had exhibited great talents, which showed that they had great future in the music and arts sector advising them to keep practising, find their own styles and collaborate to succeed in the sector.
Kevin Brosnahan, Press Attache, United States Embassy in Accra said the young people participating in the programme had lots of potentials and opportunities and urged them to identify their potentials as well as accelerate and create a future for themselves.