Accra’s Sounds and Sacred Spaces


This article explores the sonic sacralization of urban space in the multicultural city of Accra. In Ghanaian cities today religious groups increasingly vie for public presence. It is especially the religious manifestation in the urban soundscape, most forcefully by charismatic‐Pentecostal churches and preachers, that has of late generated controversy. While charismatic‐Pentecostal ‘noisemaking’ leads to conflicts all year round, it is especially during the annual traditional ‘ban on drumming and noisemaking’ that the religious confrontation over sound and silence in the city comes to full and violent expression. Approaching the articulation between religiosity and urban space through the aural, this article examines how religious sound practices create, occupy and compete for urban space. Comparing the nexus of religion, urban space and aurality in charismatic Pentecostalism and Ga traditional religion, it seeks to establish two points. First, that behind the apparent opposition between Pentecostalism and traditional religion is a difference in religious spatiality, but a remarkable similarity in the place of sound in relation to the spiritual. Second, it argues that the religious clash over sonic sacralization of urban space should not only be understood as a competition for symbolic control of spaces, but also as a spiritual struggle over the invisible, but all the more affective powers felt to be present in the city.