Something special, called Jazz

There is something in the air here in Ghana. It is hard to put my finger on it. Difficult for me to understand how I can feel the souls of Black folk yearning, speaking, pulling, calling me to stay — ever since I arrived.

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John Fountain, far right, and children at the Countryside Children’s Home at Bawjiase in the Central Region of Ghana exchange smiles during a recent visit.

John Fountain, far right, and children at the Countryside Children’s Home at Bawjiase in the Central Region of Ghana exchange smiles during a recent visit.

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ACCRA, Ghana — Some call her Ghana. I call her Jazz. Sometimesjagged andscratching the soul with dissonant chords that rise and fall.She isthe sound of cymbalsthat come crashing down.Ofsometimes staccato rhythms. Of music that buildsto a screeching crescendo then suddenly disappears into silence.

Jazz. Ghana is jazz. Sister to the Blues. Descendant of the sacred hymnal. Born of the drum. Beckoning African sun to her children across the Black Diaspora.

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She reaches the soul like the melancholy wail of Miles Davis’ horn. Soothing. Lifting. Kissing blissfully.Healingthesoul weariedby racial hate and shame, and the painof that centuries-old riverthat flows with DNA trauma of the souls of Black folk.

By sufferingsthat gave birthto the Negro Spiritual. To hymns. To Soul Music,Gospel,the Blues andJazz. I call her Jazz.

And I could never rinse my soul of her sassy rhythms and sweet melodies. Of the way she moves me — grooves me — with mental and spiritual surety of being Black like me here in this place that exists on the other side of the world.

Ghana is home away from home, deepening her hold and causing me to explore more intensely the call that led me here on this sojourn to the Motherland.

There is something in the way the aura of this land washes over me daily when the morning comes. Like warm rays of golden sun. That fills my lungs with the taste of African breath, freedom and life that I have never known. That says to me, “Son, you’re home.”

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There is something about the way Ghana embraces me at night when the wind arrives to cool this ancestral land of melanin-skinned folk, where brown and coal and shades of coffee with cream form a chocolate rainbow of humanity.

Something about the way this coastal African city rises with the hum and buzz of traffic and hawking street merchants on the Spintex Road and across Accra amid the darting motorbikes that snake through traffic with reckless abandon.

There is something about this place. Something special.

Something that sinks deep into the fibers of the skin and soul. That causes you to love her — deeply. So that even when the electricity goes out again, and the city water has almost run dry, and the traffic is treacherous and inching along at a snail’s pace, and the need for infrastructure — like many more paved roads, street light bulbs, modern sewers and traffic lights — is always glaring, you still love Ghana.

There is something in the air here. That crackles with the sound of the Trotros, beckoning for patrons. That ebbs and flows between the women head porters who carry the weight of their cargo atop their heads and their babies, swaddled in a cloth, on their backs.

That lingers in the cacophony of honking taxis and Ubers, blended with the blaring sermon of a street preacher and the crowing of roosters that seem always present.

And yet, there is something I have come to see as adoring in the constant appearance of chickens and goats across this capital city with its handsome skyline and blue, white-foam shores.

It is hard to put my finger on it. Difficult for me to understand how I can feel the souls of Black folk yearning, speaking, pulling, calling me to stay — ever since I arrived. Whispering to me that I must promise to return — and bring back other sons and daughters — whenever the time comes for me to depart.

And when I depart, whatever growing pains I have experienced in Ghana, this much I will say: That my days and nights have beenfilled with highs and lows, blended with sweet improvisations that feed and touch my soul. No bad notes, not a single one. Just acquired understandings.

Jazz. I call her Jazz.

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Follow John Fountain’s journey in Ghana at:www.hearafricacalling.com

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