so . . . what's this photo of Gil Scott Heron doing here in the most recent installment of my reports from Ghana?
I was taking a break from the PALF sessions . . . sitting in the open air dining area of the Afia Beach Hotel enjoying the sea breeze, reading some poetry and listening to a collection of Ghana's "Hiplife" music. (Think African Highlife crossed with Hip Hop and you'll have a good idea of the sound.) A track by Nkasei, featuring Reggie Rockstone, came on, a song titled "Edua Neb U." Just seconds into the track, I heard, in English, "The Revolution WILL be televised." Now, I wasn't terribly surprised to hear the man known as the "Godfather of Hiplife" invoke someone who is often credited as a godfather of rap. I knew that Gil Scott Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" had gone around the world. But that's not why I'm posting this particular remembrance . . .
As my colleagues were deep into the writing workshops in Accra, I couldn't help thinking back to my only experiences as a student in creative writing classes. All English majors at Federal City College were required to take creative writing. As I was already writing and publishing, I thought about trying to get exempted from the requirement, till I found out who was available as a teacher: Gil Scott Heron. People often forget that Gil had already written a novel at nineteen, a novel that was published. By the time I was in his classes, he had published a second novel and a book of poetry, and he had released five albums of his music -- and he was just about my age! I found that impressive then, and enjoyed the short time I worked with him. He was at the height of his abilities then, something I think of often when I read of his more recent troubles. He was a great example of someone who was able to break the rules of commercial broadcasting and still be heard. It's no surprise that he still continues to inspire artists as far away as Ghana.