The most gripping music video produced for 2013 in Ghana is Bisa Kdei’s Metanfo. The video, which was released around the last quarter for the Highlife song, is outstanding because firstly, it reflects good quality production, and secondly, for two contradictory themes that it strongly expresses. It is for those attributes and the subjects it presents that this music video lends itself to critical review.
Metanfo is a Twi (a Ghanaian language) expression which translates into my enemy, in English. In Metanfo, Bisa Kdei sings about an unceasing conflict between himself, striving for success, to achieve his big dream, and an enemy who is just as determined to keep him as far as possible from that goal. This theme touches our human sides; and for this song, it tends to evokes feelings of sympathy from the listener. This, probably, is the feature that gives the tune its popular appeal.
It’s a familiar story, but the directing is brilliant. The video exploits an age old belief held by many in our society that bad things just don’t happen by themselves: people attribute the causes of their personal failures and misfortunes to others’ psychic powers (usually members of their extended families). The opening dialogue sets out the conflict between Kdei and his supposed enemy, his aunt (his father’s sister) and also his frustration.
The representations of both the protagonist and the villain are both vivid and extraordinary. For the villain and enemy, the director draws on an enduring stereotype, in rural and poor communities, of elderly women as people who possess psychic powers and as witches who use their spiritual abilities for evil only. The setting, a poor community of old mud houses with roofs made of thatch and rusty metal sheets, and stacked cement-and-sand blocks for a bathroom, show the deprived life he wants to escape from. Many of us know that kind of setting very well because it reminds us of our own villages or others we know; and that gives us the connection to the music.
However, a more critical observation of Metanfo reveals inferences it makes to another theme which is produced by the characterisation of the enemy; and it is a rather upsetting one, that a hardworking but unsuccessful young man’s enemy is an old woman. Its strength makes it appears more dominant the former theme. Bisa Kdei’s Metanfo is not the first video to employ such stereotypes though, and it is not the last, certainly. It just uses it in a style that is entertaining while strongly intensifying the meaning of the music.
Expressions of stereotype through art forms like music and a powerful medium like television tend to have very strong influences in society. Social Psychology provides us with proof that the media do reinforce stereotypes. For that reason, we can see the predilection for Metanfo’s depiction of ‘old woman’ as the enemy to reinforce some of the negative stereotypes and prejudices that persist in our developing nation’s society against poor old women.
We have used those stereotypes and prejudices to sustain gender discrimination and abhorrent local traditions that violate basic human rights of women—widowhood rites and the Gambaga witches camp are just two of the discriminatory practices—contrary the principles of the rule of law to which we publicly profess.
So, while on one hand the story gives us a meaning of someone confronting challenges that hold his progress to his goals, the same story on another hand, by its use of a stereotype, becomes part of the obstacles that challenge the progress of women in our society.
Prince Dovlo directed the music video. You can access the video on YouTube