Wanlov the Kubolor at the Routes of Rebellion exhibition in Tamale. Picture: Dede Amanor-Wilks
Wanlov the Kubolor at the Routes of Rebellion exhibition in Tamale. Picture: Dede Amanor-Wilks

The Anti-LGBTQ+ Bill and Freedom: Who is Wanlov the Kubolor and why is he good for Ghana?

If you didn’t already know that Wanlov the Kubolor has made his imprint on Ghana’s musical and cultural scene, it would be hard to invent him as a character in a storybook or skit.


Barefooted and dressed in a doubled over wrap cloth as he walks minstrel-like with two sets of his koshka percussion instruments around his neck, the Kubolor occupies a level of artistry all his own.

But since the passing of the anti-LGBTQ+ bill on February 28, his trademark wrapper is suddenly a threat.

Depending on whether it is seen as a male or female form of dress on a continent known for its cultural diversity, and where trousers are a relatively recent import, once the bill is signed into law, anyone seen dressing like this could be hauled off to prison.

Kubolor’s identity

As the bill has passed through its final stages, Wanlov has varied his short wrapper with fuller bodied kente skirts or long dresses, more clearly identifying him as a cross-dresser.

For the Kubolor is not just a musician.

He is an activist (or ‘artivist’) who uses his art to transmit conscious messages about the environment, human rights, gender rights and on the LGBTQ+ rights now so ominously threatened under Ghana’s draconian Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill.

Born Emmanuel Owusu-Bonsu to a Ghanaian father and Romanian mother, the Kubolor’s music and artistry have bridged various influences.

His experimental style has seen him embrace musical genres, including reggae, afro-pop, folk music, highlife and hiplife.

 Apart from the koshka, he plays the guitar and flute.

As ‘Wanlov’, his name shouts humanism and the influence of Bob Marley.

By contrast, ‘Kubolor’ in Ga means one who runs away from school and is a bit of a rascal. He redefines it as “decolonialist”.

In ‘Sole Rebel’, an engaging remake of the Marley classic ‘Soul Rebel’, the singer reflects on life as he navigates his local community and distant snowclad terrains barefoot.

His collaborations with artists such as King Ayisoba showcase his rap appeal.

Other songs such as ‘Human Being (Just Like You)’ and ‘African Gypsy’ explore the dehumanising effect of unjust wars and the pain of being ‘othered’.

He is often playful in his choice of words and describes himself in one television interview as a ‘class clown’.

Yet, there is a brooding and forbidding side to this gentle and creative clown that the fight over LGBTQ rights has brought out.

So when did he become interested in these issues? “Immediately I stopped being homophobic, in the late 2000s, I became pro-LGBT because I realised the damage society had done to the queer community,” Wanlov told Your Ghana, My Ghana.

A polyglot who uses his fluency in English, Romanian, Pidgen, Ga, Fante and Twi to communicate his message widely, the Kubolor uses all manner of devices to shock his audience and draw attention to LGBTQ rights.

By pulling us out of our comfort zone musically and conceptually, he forces us to broach issues we would probably rather leave buried.


Kubolor responds to the homophobic hysteria generated by the passage of the anti-LGBTQ+ bill by rubbing our noses in the shadowy realities of our genteel Ghanaian society, by calling out the ugly whiff of bigotry blowing from the hallowed Chamber of Parliament and by tackling head-on two blind spots in the debate, culture and religion.


In one remake of a popular Kubolor lyric, he begins with a “Give your life to Jesus” call to Christians in which he describes heaven as a place of fluffy white things and fun-filled frolicking with the angels.

His upload excited an avalanche of emotional comments on his Facebook page, ranging from “Kubolor never disappoints” to “I’m unfriending you now!”.

Through songs like “Ashawo” with Angel Maxine and “I Love, I Love You” with St Beryl, the musician explores the hypocrisy in Ghanaian society surrounding the notion of monogamous romantic love and marriage.

His latest music video cannot be aired on television and radio because the word trumu appears repeatedly.


But the Kubolor airs it on his own social media platforms and engages in a robust back and forth, generating 500 messages on a single post.

In a sense, the song is an anthem to Wanlov’s search for his own unique sound, true music, as he calls it, or tru-mu for short. But at a daringly low level of vulgarity, trumu also means ‘anus’ in Akan and is his response to the mocking taunt of “trumu trumu” to denote ‘pro-gay’ by anti-gay politicians debating the anti LGBTQ+ bill in Parliament.

Before releasing the video in January, in December Wanlov announced the formation of a political party, TTP, with the “t” word doubled.

But even people who don’t get his tru-mu vibe are charmed by the Kubolor’s irrepressible personality and vigorous defence of his principles against people who criticise his blasphemy and assault on supposed Ghanaian values.


Versatile, unique, trenchant and prolific, he communicates his observations in a pithy and relatable way.

Always unpredictable, politicians are uncomfortable debating with him, but his fans adore him and even his detractors can’t resist visiting his pages to see what unsayable thing he might say next.

He has a niche following that could potentially develop into a cult following, such is his ability to connect with people.


At the end of the day, his message is a simple one.

With the dangerous cocktail of economic, environmental and employment problems that Ghana faces today, why will politicians devote time and scarce resources to peeping through the keyholes of consenting adults to ‘catch them in the act’?

“The fight for LGBTQ rights is saying we are all human beings, despite our sexualities and genders,” Wanlov told Your Ghana, My Ghana.

This is a fight that journalists have been warned to sit up and pay attention to as the bill also criminalises any discussion of LGBTQ+ rights in the media, promising a return to an unhealthy ‘culture of silence’ in Ghanaian politics.

Wanlov the Kubolor is a breath of fresh air for Ghana because he forces us to confront issues we’d be more comfortable looking away from and because he has a level of honesty and integrity not always seen in our economically challenging times.

He is good for Ghana because he uses his musical talent to connect to the youth on matters that will determine what kind of a Ghana our children will inherit in future.

A Ghana that silences the bold talent and rare voices of the Wanlov Kubolors among us would be a sadly intolerant and less beautiful place in which to live.

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