28 Mar 2023
Tue 28 March 2023 @ 23H
One Year On: The Impact of Oroko Radio
By Rachel Ayeh-Datey
A look at Oroko Radio after one year, through the eyes of our community.
The end of January 2023 marked the one year anniversary of Oroko Radio’s first broadcast. With the station currently hosting over 200 residents from approximately 40 countries spanning 6 continents, it’s difficult to believe that Oroko Radio has only been running for such a short span of time. Oroko Radio provides a platform for local and international DJ’s, musicians and creators from a multitude of disciplines. "There is one consistent factor that ties our journey together, and continues to be the fuel to our fire - community. Nowadays it feels like the word can be a bit of a buzzword, but the strength of human connection and what can be done when people come together behind a uniting factor of vision is evident throughout history. Our work amplifies talent, but also allows that talent to be represented in an authentic way. Even in 2023, there are some really outdated and downright racist misconceptions about what it means to be African. We aim to provide an avenue to dispel those misconceptions." shared by Kikelomo, one of the active co-founders of Oroko Radio alongside Nico Adomako.
Anthropologist Laure Carbonnel, who is studying for a PHD looking at music and dance gatherings through the lens of people's movements, has attended multiple Oroko Radio events. Reflecting on the impact of Oroko Radio, she explained that "Oroko Radio is a good illustration of the way it shapes the creative ecosystem. It connects Accra to a line-up of numerous global cities. Oroko Radio is also strongly anchored in Accra beyond the residences. Its team offers masterclasses for DJs regardless of their gender and ability. Sharing events with other venues confirm this connected ecosystem: we jump from a masterclass at Palm Moments, to the famous on site/on line Boiler Room set, hosted by Oroko at the Freedom Skatepark. The one year anniversary party which happened last month also shows the importance given to the event itself, made by DJs, technicians, audiences, and places”.
One year on, we wanted to reflect on the impact of Oroko Radio on both its local and global community, as well as the station's contribution to the growth of the alternative music scene in Accra. Given the community based foundation of Oroko Radio, there is perhaps no better way to delve into this impact than through the perspectives of several Oroko residents.
Sonic Evolution in Accra
Besides providing DJs and musicians with an accessible platform, Oroko Radio aimed to amplify the visibility of alternative sounds to a broader audience in Accra, building a community in the process.
Professional DJ and Oroko Radio resident Muud Swingz is a veteran in the Accra scene. He has witnessed the development of the alternative music scene in Accra long before Oroko’s existence, but has also observed Oroko Radio’s impact on this growth.
“Oroko has helped with the expansion of alternative sound. It has created a community and various different communities have grown from this. It’s been a catalyst, fuel to speed up this whole process of alternative music being a thing in Accra. The founders behind it are key people doing this in different parts of the world. Oroko has been a bridge between the alternative music scene here and outside of Ghana - through collaborations. The key players in the alternative music scene are musicians, DJ’s and collectives like Le Meme Gang, Gafacci, Superjazzclub, B.Frankie, All My Cousins and OFG Collective. Brands like Surf Ghana and Lokko House have been pivotal in spaces to host alternative music events.”
Each One, Teach One
Oroko Radio also aimed to improve the accessibility of both knowledge and spaces for performance to artists, particularly those catering to sounds beyond Afrobeats. Diversity of sound and of people was a key ethos behind many of Oroko Radio’s activities for the past year.
DJ Baaba is another DJ based in Accra, and was one of the very first people co-founder Kikelomo taught to DJ through dedicated DJ workshops for women. Just over one year later, DJ Baaba is a regular DJ in some of Accra’s most popular nightlife locations such as Freedom Skatepark and Area Bar’s Alte Thursdays.
Q: How did you get started DJing?
DJ Baaba: I used to DJ a lot by myself alone. Actually it wasn’t until I got my residency at Oroko Radio that I got a platform to play and also at Freedom Skatepark.
Q: What are the main benefits you have gotten from your Oroko Radio residency?
DJ Baaba: A lot actually but one thing I could say is the freedom you have to put anything you want on air. I think this creates a positive learning experience especially for me cause there was no pressure or bar to put something I didn’t want on my show.
Q: What are your least favourite things about Accra’s nightlife?
DJ Baaba: Definitely the lack of female DJ’s and even though it’s getting better I wish nightlife will give DJ’s their due credit.
Connecting The Dots
Beyond Accra, Oroko’s influence spans continents and champions topics that aren't centred solely around music.
Sayankah, a DJ and curator based in Nairobi, revealed how his Oroko Radio residency has aided the evolution of not only his artistry, but also the evolution of his career.
Q: Tell us more about your show on Oroko Radio?
Sayankah: The concept behind my show on Oroko Radio, dubbed ‘Eden Express’ is a conceptual musical journey exploring facets of music that ring dear to me and the collective I’m part of called Eden Express. Some of the facets we gravitate to is how music can serve as a meditative tool, release tool and general self-exploration.
Q: How has being part of Oroko Radio helped your career?
Sayankah: The network that I’m still developing has opened up a few opportunities outside of the initial sphere so that’s an important and dope thing for me so far. The format of the shows has also opened me up into being vocal in my shows, which transcends the presentation from just a mix, but an interactive show, where listeners can ‘feel’ more than the music, but my personality too.
Outside of the continent, Oroko Radio has a multitude of residents, championing the perspective of the Diaspora, reclaiming their narratives and building closer links to Africa.
Q: Tell me more about your show on Oroko Radio?
Heba: My show is curated and creatively directed by our design Studio: Space Black. Homeplace: Sound of Resistance, is a show that invites Black female identifying DJs to create a mix based on a city, or space. Inspired by the late bell Hooks’ essay, the mix is an ode to parts of the urban fabric that give Black women the feeling of humanisation, power, creativity and joy. Once they submit a mix, I hold a 1-1 interview with the artist, asking them about their chosen city or space. This is weaved throughout their submission for the radio show.
Q: What are your favourite things about being part of Oroko?
Heba: Being a part of a community that allows you to create and explore creativity beyond the White imagination. Space Black is about Architecture, Engineering Design and its intersection with culture. At Oroko, I can bring that within the African context and it's diaspora without the pressure to lean into a particular narrative. Oroko's community is so huge and international it celebrates the multiple dimensions around Blackness. The cities that have been submitted range from Newcastle to Southend-on-sea. It allows for and celebrates nuances and complexities in the Black identity.
Same Time, Next Year
From Accra to Nairobi to London, in just one short year the impact of Oroko’s global community has been seismic. This is just the beginning of strengthening the connection between Accra and the rest of the world. Through this radio station, the best of alternative African and Diasporic narratives and sounds is yet to come.