Since hitting the airwaves in the year 2020, the Ghanaian drill subgenre “Asakaa” has rapidly increased in popularity. This style of drill music developed from the indigenous Ghanaian dialect known as Twi, which is spoken upside down in the Ashanti region identified as “Keshey.” Asakaa then translates to “Kasa” in Twi, which means to talk.
Asakaa is one of the most popular contemporary musical genres to come out of Africa. Music critics predict that it has the potential to rival the recent international success of South African Amapiano and Nigerian Afrobeats.
With an impressive catalogue of hit songs such as “Akatafoc,” “Condemn,” “Sore,” and “Ma Drip,” a group of young men known as the “Asakaa Boys” have managed to establish themselves in the Ghanaian music business and the world at large.
According to artist Kwaku DMC—pioneer of the fast-rising genre—late Ghanaian fashion designer Virgil Abloh, who was born in Chicago, was one of its supporters. The artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear line and a friend of Kanye West posted a video of his asakaa song “Suzy” on Instagram and mentioned Kwaku DMC in it.
Asakaa utilizes a refreshingly unique treat of language. The word “Asakaa” itself is a wordplay that permeates the lyrics of the genre. Asakaa is the result of pronouncing the Twi word for “talk,” “kasa,” backwards. Producer and DJ Rabby Jones coined the term.
As explained by musician Kofi Jamar—one of the early believers in the genre—this word-reversal pattern is used throughout Asakaa as a code so that listeners outside of Kumasi can comprehend the lyrics’ true meaning without being offended by the explicit language. He asserts that the genre includes elements other than the songs: “Asakaa is the way we live, it’s a music, it’s a movement, it’s a culture, it’s a lifestyle.”
Despite not being an Asakaa musician himself, he sets apart Ghanaian drill from UK drill by emphasizing that it is purely for fun and therefore does not incite violence, contrary to what many commentators have claimed about the British genre. Asakaa began in Kumasi’s hasher neighborhoods and has subsequently spread over the entire nation.
Local musicians began using it as a platform to share their own stories of adversity, as Yaw Tog did on his popular song Sore. The young rapper claims that this was done as a response to critics who believed the akasaa genre won’t make it to the top.
The new artists and production companies from Kumasi want to challenge the label “Ghana drill,” despite the fact that the genre is renowned in the West by that name. Rapper O’Kenneth refers to Westerners who refer to the music as “Ghana drill” and claims that they “don’t really have a lot of understanding of what we do.” He even referred to that description as uninteresting. They are doing so by highlighting how the sound has changed since 2020, with the lyrics’ unusual blend of Twi and English having made the sound unique.
According to Spotify, the UK, US, and Germany account for 46% of all Asakaa streams, demonstrating the genre’s global appeal.
In the midst of a pandemic, a superstar rapper from the UK, Stormzy, boarded a flight for Ghana to work with a young student on a song that embodies the newest African musical genre, Asakaa.
More than six million people have listened to the remix of the song “Sore” by 18-year-old Yaw Tog and Stormzy. The hard baseline of drill music, US-like rap, and the distinctive edge of the Twi language from Ghana are combined to create the Asakaa sound.
The Asakaa genre has undoubtedly taken off in Ghana after a shaky start, but as rapper O’Kenneth puts it: “Ghana is our home, but the world is our market.” Asakaa artists have bigger goals and envision their music taking the world by storm.