50 AED = 28 cedis [GH₵] (April 2013)

Perhaps you spent the day at school, immersed in the Pan-African theories of Ghana’s founder, Kwame Nkrumah, or at your internship for the nearby hospital. Or maybe you sweated your way through the sprawling open-air Makola Market, purchasing off-brand toothpaste and colorful African print to add to your ever-growing fabric collection. Maybe you tasted the plantain chips, roasted yams, groundnut paste (essentially, peanut butter), and impossibly sweet pineapples sold at the stands on the side of the road.

You might think you’ve seen all Accra has to offer.

As the sun goes down, however, Accra’s vibrant arts, music and literature scene comes alive. Twenty-eight cedis in your pocket is all you need to immerse yourself in that world.

First, before leaving your neighborhood, catch a bite to eat at the famed Auntie Muni’s. Widely touted as the best waakye (a beans and rice dish) joint in all of Accra, this budget-friendly meal will run you no more than seven cedis. If you’ve already grabbed dinner, or are in the mood for something sweet, the recently opened Italian-style gelateria, Arlecchino, on bustling Oxford Street, offers some exotic flavors, including cashew, for around the same price.

While you’re in the trendy Osu neighborhood, consider stopping by +233 Jazz Bar and Grill (so named for Accra’s mobile area code). For five cedis, you’ll hear Ghanaian and other African musicians live. Or bring your five cedis to The Republic, where one night you might hear a Nigerian band cover “Wonderwall” and “Use Somebody”, and the next cheer for an expat college student as she opens for a local jazz band. Either way, five cedis well spent.

Afterwards, swing by Reggae Night at Labadi Beach, where another five cedis will get you a slightly grungier and certainly sandier experience, or head to an event at the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium like the Independence Day concert, which featured dozens of West African artists. Ask anyone to teach you the azonto, the newest Ghanaian dance craze that’s sweeping the West African and international music scene.

By now, you’ve heard everything from American pop covers to traditional Ghanaian high-life to reggae. How about some spoken word?

It can be tricky finding out about art events and exhibits in Accra, where art galleries and theaters are fairly recent and their websites outdated and unhelpful. Here’s a trick: head to Facebook and other social media platforms for the most up-to-date information.

The Goethe-Institut, Alliance-Francaise, Nubuke Foundation, and the Dei Centre all put on exceptional exhibits and events, most of which you can discover through their Facebook pages if not their websites. For example, the arts collective Ehalakasa hosts monthly “Talk Parties” at the Nubuke Foundation – essentially open mic nights. For ten cedis, you’ll get to hear and rub shoulders with some of Ghana’s most well-recognized performers, including Mutombo da Poet and WanLov the Kubolor.

If you didn’t buy a gelato earlier, you’ll have a few cedis left over, which you can use to pick up a CD from one of the artists you heard tonight. The CD purchase will support the Ghanaian arts scene and be a lasting memento of the evening—a unique souvenir of your time in Accra. Just make sure to keep back a few cedis so that you can split the cost of a taxi home with some friends.

With its colorful markets and rich heritage sites, Accra during the day is something to see. But Accra at night, that’s something to experience.

[Photo credit: Lauren Horst. Independence Day concert at Ohene Djan Sports Stadium]