Baansi ni Yila: A critical study of the music industry in Northern Ghana

Abstract: This study examines the intricacies of the expanding music industry in Northern Ghana, focusing on the perspectives of artistes. The contemporary popular musicians of Tamale, one of Ghana’s biggest cities, have for some time now been making efforts to gain national attention. We ground the study and situate it in conversations on the traditional and neo-traditional music of Dagbaŋ. Through interviews, we draw on the perspectives of musicians to discuss the history and present of contemporary music politics in Northern Ghana. Guiding the study with symbolic interactionism, we argue that the contemporary Northern Ghanaian music industry was born and grew out of contextual factors such as using music for social change, the desire for cultural affirmation and the potential music presented to construct and (re)negotiate Northern ethnic identities. This study sets the tone for critical discussions of the music industry in Tamale based on history, facts, and verifiable information. The study sheds light on the challenges faced by many young people in the Tamale area, who have the gift of music-making, which they wish to use as a medium to enhance their socio-economic livelihood. Our study builds the foundation for understanding Northern Ghana’s contemporary music industry today.