The Trotro: A Ghanian Hip-hop artist’s take on the most important mode of transport in Ghana
Wanlov the Kubolor is a Ghanian-Romanian hip-hop /Afro-pop artist and film director. In Ghana and the larger diaspora, Wanlov the Kubolor is known for his independent style and revolutionary artistry. He is also no stranger to making social issues the center of his music.
As noted in Msia Kibona Clark’s book Hip-Hop in Africa, his song “Greencard” Wanlov questions the need for migrating to the United States, “given the myth of the West being a place of abundant economic opportunity” (Clark 90). As a biracial and multiethnic man, Clark also identifies his discussion of race in his 2008 song “Human Being” where he encourages people to focus on their commonalities rather than their differences (101).
In a more recent release, Wanlov the Kubolor addresses Ghana’s transportation methods and inefficiencies in his song “Trotro Blues” (2016) which features the artist Otuntu.
The focus of the song and music video is on the “trotro”. In Ghana, the word “trotro” refers to privately owned and operated minibus taxis that serve as the main source of transportation in Ghana. According to Askia Hanson in her article, “Trotro: A force to be reckoned with when you visit Ghana” Hanson writes about how integral the trotro is for Ghanians’ everyday lives.
According to Hanson, the trotro is a beautiful part of Ghanian life. She notes that not only do they provide transportation, they provide jobs and a way to move goods. Similarly, to Hanson, Wanlov the Kubolor views the Trotro as an important part of Ghanian life. He begins the music video with a statement about the trotro saying: “The trotro is the most powerful mode of transport in the country. It carries the average Ghanian to and fro. The average Ghanian makes the country work.” (0:00 – 0:29).
In addition to showing appreciation for trotros enriching the lives of Ghanians, Wanlov also addresses their inefficiencies and issues they cause for those who use them. In particular, Wanlov refers to the very slow-moving traffic in Ghana’s urban areas, the cramped trotros causing very uncomfortable trips, as well as the thick fumes leading to air pollution from the vehicles.
Trotros have a rich history in Ghana, and it is obvious that Ghana would not be the same without them. However, it is noteworthy to address that trotros play a role in the lack of updated infrastructure in Ghana that could lead to more efficient public transportation. I commend Wanlov for being able to pay homage to something important to his culture, while simultaneously discussing its negatives. I believe being able to appreciate and critique culturally-significant items speaks to his maturity as an artist, and I hope to see more social commentary in his music to come.
You can find more of Wanlov the Kubolor’s ground-breaking work here.