For the last two years, Accra, Ghana, has hosted Afrochella, a music festival that celebrates all things pan-African and draws descendents of the African diaspora from around the world. But there’s plenty of live music to savor year-round here, too. For issue 08 of Here Magazine, up-and-coming Ghanaian singer Cina Soul shares her guide to Accra’s best venues, from jazz clubs to Erykah Badu–themed haunts.
Cina Soul performed at Afrochella for the first time in 2018. The Jamestown, Accra-born musician—née Christie Quincyna Quarcoopome—was originally a psychology student and trained dancer with a quietly kept set of pipes. “I was shy,” the 22-year-old says. “I mean, I knew I could sing a little bit, but I didn’t like singing to people because I felt like I was showing off.” A persistent friend-turned-manager convinced her to give singing publicly a try, so she auditioned for Vodafone Icons (a talent competition akin to America’s Got Talent) and wound up making it to the final rounds.
With college now behind her, she’s ready to focus on turning her passion into a profession. Part of that process is polishing her performance skills at live venues around Accra. From her curled-up position on the couch of her favorite place to perform, Badu Lounge, Cina shares a rundown of Ghana’s expanding music scene and her favorite places in town.
This is my favorite place to perform because it’s very, very intimate. I enjoy intimate crowds because I’m a vocalist, and here the audience can hear you, they can interact with you. You can even talk to them in the middle of your performance. Badu Lounge hosts about 60 to 70 people. It can get really, really packed. The venue, as the name suggests, represents Erykah Badu, so you have a bunch of her pictures around the place.
Piano Bar [in Teshie] is sort of the epitome of live music. That’s where they really started doing a lot of live performances, especially for upcoming artists. This is the go-to place if you want to find fresh sounds and fresh new faces. It’s also more relaxed, and extremely intimate. Piano Bar crowds are very engaging. They won’t just watch you perform—they’ll sing with you, they’ll come up on stage with you. And they have really good food and drinks as well.
This outdoor venue is in North Ridge, and it’s a more mature audience. The people who go there are mostly politicians, ministers—very big people in the country. Their sound guy is one of the best in the industry and they have very good acoustics, even though it’s an outdoor space. The musicians are very interactive—it’s not as intimate as Badu Lounge, but the band, phew.
This is a great place to find untapped local talent. I have never performed at Kona Cafe, but I’ve watched performances there before. It’s kind of like Badu Lounge, but it’s more casual, whereas Badu Lounge is a little bit more classy and formal. You can’t really go into Badu Lounge wearing slippers and stuff like that, but Kona is more relaxed. You can meet a lot of upcoming artists, and I think they have really good acoustics as well.
Republic, oh my god. I love, love, love Republic in Osu. It’s one of my favorite places to perform. Republic is the chillest of them all, it’s so calm. It’s a lovely, lovely place with an outdoor area. They play so many different types of music, like reggae, soul, jazz, and hip hop. This place definitely loves its cocktails—and they probably have the best cocktails amongst all the other places. I really love Kokroko, their signature drink. And they have really, really good yam and pork chops.
This is actually a mini-stadium inside a school—it can host about 1,500 people. I released an EP three years ago and had a sold-out concert here. The venue attracts a mixed audience: There are Ghanaians there, French people, Nigerians. A lot of expats come here, and performers know that you can get hooked with gigs that are big deals because of that. You get discovered by big people in the industry or big people in politics. You get a variety of audiences and platforms. I once played a show at the Israel Embassy for the ambassador’s wife, and I asked her how she found me. She told me she watched me perform at Alliance.