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Jazz, art co-habit at House of Safori

BY: Kouame Koulibaly
Guests interact in the Gallery Jazz
Guests interact in the Gallery Jazz

Jazz and art are the two most identifiable items in the House of Safori, a white one-storey building next to the Electricity Company of Ghana’s Customer Service Centre at Oyarifa in the Ga East Municipal District.

The House of Safori, which has a studio upstairs and a gallery on the ground floor, is run by artist and Jazz enthusiast, Yaw Safori. A lot of his canvases are inhabited by Jazz-themed paintings and he also stocks a huge amount of Jazz on compact discs in a corner of the studio.

Once a week on Saturdays from 4p.m, the gallery is transformed into a meeting place for Jazz and art lovers to socialise over assorted drinks and finger foods. The space becomes the Gallery Jazz Lounge and the big idea is to create a forum for folks passionate about the arts in general, to gather and share ideas in a comfortable atmosphere. More specifically, to discuss Jazz around art.

Safori has been an artist for 25 years. He started painting when he lived in the United States. He was aware of Jazz here before migrating to the US but his appreciation of the music swelled as he met more and more prominent Jazz players and consistently heard different shades of the music everywhere he turned.

When he moved back to Ghana and set up the House of Safori, he realised he could do more with the space in the gallery which houses his paintings and sculptural pieces.

Safori said when people came into the gallery, they usually just looked at the works and left. The objective of the Gallery Jazz Lounge, he pointed out, was, therefore, to get such folks to sit down, have something to drink and relax before they go round to scrutinise the art.

Yaw Safori, CEO of House of Safori

“There’s no better music for them to relax to than Jazz. It is music prisoners of war from this part of the world took to the Americas. Most people refer to them as slaves but I prefer to call them prisoners of war because they were forcibly taken away,” Safori says.

“The music has progressed from the simple structures and harmonies of its beginnings and has taken on different forms of complexities through the years but the basic truth is Jazz is still our music and we must claim it”.

According to Jake K.Y. Anderson, a Co-Manager at the Gallery Jazz Lounge, they had so far been happy with the patronage and been getting feedback from people to add Fridays as well.

Another Co-Manager, Ama Dede Kissiedu, said there was enough space in the gallery for people to move around and see the works and then sit back to sip on their cocktails and nibble at some finger foods.

“We are promoting art and Jazz appreciation and believe we are on the right path so far,” she added.

House of Safori has, in several different ways, sought to promote art here. Some of Yaw Safori’s Jazz-themed paintings were exhibited in the foyer of the International Conference Centre as part of the 2016 Stanbic Ghana Jazz Festival which had keyboard maestro, Bob James, as the headline act.

The Django Bar at Rockstone’s Office in Accra has also hosted an exhibition of Safori’s works which aimed at stirring art appreciation among young people who would normally not attend exhibitions in the conventional galleries.

House of Safori was behind the Jazz On The Hill event at Akropong in the Eastern Region in December 2021. The programme entailed big screen presentations of the history of Jazz in different eras, as well as the history of Akropong and Akuapim. There were also performances of fontomfrom and Jazz music in a cheerful atmosphere.

Safori said his outfit would stage the Akuapim Jazz Festival before the end of the year and then plan towards another bash, the Pan-African Jazz Festival.

“For now, we are pushing on with the Gallery Jazz Lounge which has already become a hub for people to network and immerse themselves in art and Jazz,” Yaw Safori pointed out.