What did I learn: TOGO

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Lomé – Source

This month has been a great introduction not just to Togo, but to West Africa in general! There’s a lot of really good filmmakers, writers, activists and artists from Togo – I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface. Learning more about real vodou in its original African context has been interesting and valuable for smashing the stereotypes that are in the media I grew up with.

I was really excited to try West African food – the spices are fantastic. I’ve incorporated gbotemi into other dishes, and I’m using the suya spice mix liberally as a dry rub. I’m also definitely going to use the grilled chicken marinade next barbecue, and ayimolou is proving great for meal prep. I’m genuinely excited to pull another West African country in the future – I didn’t even get a chance to try making fufu!

The music this month absolutely blew me away – I’ve been listening to the radio stations I found on heavy rotation because there’s always something neat playing. It’s interesting to see the full circle of musical heritage – much of the Togolese music I was listening to this month has been influenced by American styles like hip hop, funk, jazz, and rap, or Caribbean reggae and dancehall … all of which have deep African roots, particularly from West Africa. These styles then get repatriated by African artists, with new touches and interpretations.

I definitely want to dig more into Togolese music from the 70s – Akofa Akoussah, Bella Bellow, and Itadi K. Bonney all have such great sounds, and there was such musical effervescence across West Africa in that period. Modern Togolese music is just as good – I’m particularly sold on Vaudou Game, Almok, Win Blak, and Sethlo.

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