Music student starts cultural project in Ghana

Junior music performance major Jeremy Feight poses with a group of Ghanaian musicians and dancers during the filming of a television commercial in Ghana.
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Feight. Junior music performance major Jeremy Feight poses with a group of Ghanaian musicians and dancers during the filming of a television commercial in Ghana.

By Julian Routh | News Editor

When he is not working towards his degree in the Mary Pappert School of Music, junior music performance major Jeremy Feight is in Ghana innovating the country’s musical culture and educating Ghanaian youth about traditional music.

IGNITE! Ghana, a cultural education project started by Feight last month, aims to take traditional Ghanaian music and “mix it with new ideas to create something new,” Feight said.

“What I want is for [Ghanaians] to remember their roots and utilize them to make something new that could be recognized on a global scene,” Feight said.

One large aspect of the project is live performance. Beginning next week when elementary schools open, local Ghanaian musicians and dancers will perform at schools around the country, teaching the children traditional songs and dances.

“Our hope is by linking these celebrities and these role models with the traditions and the culture, kids will start getting interested in the music again,” Feight said.

There will also be a series of free concerts for the public, where Feight will distribute donated clothing, food and medicine to the locals.

With the help of a film crew, the progress of IGNITE! Ghana will be filmed and documented, and eventually turned into a television program. Feight said he expects the show to be finished in January or February. There will be a release benefit concert in December.

Feight and crew, with the help of a local dance group, filmed a television commercial in August at the site of a Ghanaian waterfall. Feight said he remembers the surrounding crowd of locals and tourists stopping to watch them film.

“That was uplifting being in control of something that big,” Feight said. “It was the first time in my life I felt that.”

The commercial featured a song by Ghanaian singer Noella Wiyaala, someone Feight calls “the face of the project.” Wiyaala, from the northern part of the country, won the Ghanaian equivalent of American Idol, and is currently making her own music.

“Noella is not getting the recognition that she deserves,” Feight said. “My biggest issue is that when any music comes out of Africa, or really anywhere except for Europe or America, western culture labels it as world music. They don’t even recognize these artists as individuals.”

The entirety of IGNITE! Ghana is being paid for out of Feight’s pocket. He is currently in the process of fundraising, looking for churches and aid service organizations to donate money to the project.

“I’m a fair believer that what you put in is what you get out,” Feight said. “I’m not making any profit from this.”

Feight got the idea for the project after interning with a Ghanaian record label, Scratch Studios, in the country’s capital, Accra.

During the internship, he conducted a series of interviews with local artists and found that the country’s musical culture was “turning stale.”

After the project is finished, Feight plans to maintain involvement in Ghana’s music scene. His goal is to start his own record label there and connect it with American culture, swapping talent between the two countries.

For now, though, he remains focused on “IGNITE! Ghana.”

“It seems big, but we believe if it’s done correctly, it will blow up pretty fast,” Feight said. “Life isn’t fulfilling unless you do something fulfilling and make a change.”

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