By the time Sarkodie mounted the stage Sunday morning, our media passes were good for nothing: the area reserved for the press right below the stage, was now packed with excited youth who simply had to be as close as possible to the stage, so that, photographers merely had enough room to move their elbows.
We had expected it, Flipper and I: metal barricades intended to prevent unauthorized entry into the media corridor did put up a long desperate fight, but the crowd behind them was growing steadily and getting charged with every performance, and once the one directly facing the stage started to bend, I surrendered my hopes of protection from imminent stampede.
The third edition of Starr FM’s annual S Concert, happened over twelve hours, and was patronized by a crowd 50,000 strong, perhaps more. There’s a good chance we’ll not witness anything like this…at least till next year’s edition (the Starr FM people constantly exceed our expectations with some of these things. I can’t wait).
The line-up of performers was pure fire, and everyone gave a stellar performance: Yaa Pono, Nii Funny, Choirmasta, Article Wan, MzVee, Epixode, E.L, Ebony Reigns, Ras Kuuku, Rudebwoy Ranking, Iwan, Wisa, Singlet, Teephlow, Medikal, Sarkodie, Shatta Wale, etc. Under any circumstance, this squad will spark (and sustain) an explosion. Therefore, we can’t sit here and say we couldn’t tell organizers’ intentions.
As promised, the night was nothing short of an enormous party. Steered by a combination of easily the most influential batch of on-air personalities and DJs across the country form the EIB Group, the show was buoyed from start to finish.
Yes, one barricade did give in, and was swiftly replaced. Then another. That too was replaced. Soon after, another broke, then another. A gentle contingent trickled in with each barricade that succumbed. Fierce law enforcement personnel appeared to salvage the situation. They did what was possible.
The faces in the crowd excited me, frightened me, surprised me. We are a people who are passionate about our music. Frequently I would look away from the stage, at the battle between crowd and metal (both in awe and fear for my safety), and then I’d spot a teenager with his shirt off, almost in tears, singing word for word, a song from Ras Kuuku I’ve never even heard. He’s almost in tears –that young man –he’s overwhelmed that he’s physically this close to a singer he’s idolized this deeply from a distance. I was amazed. Music is a powerful thing.
Flipper suggested we set off before Shatta Wale came, else we would be trapped in the multitude. We meandered through a thousand bodies gyrating to songs more popular and influential than Bible verses: arms reached into the sky, shapely butt cheeks in little dresses swayed frantically, eager lips screamed every known syllable associated to the song playing onstage. There was the smell of clothes damp with sweat and hard beverage provided by Kasapreko. Crowds had collected everywhere. We climbed up the stands to the left, discussing how extensive Sarkodie’s discography is, winking at girls intermittently, and wondering if the man following the light-skinned policewoman around was executing his favorite pick-up lines or negotiating a bribe.
We climbed all the way up to the dark heights, still entertaining hope of finding rest and quiet as I was exhausted, and Flipper, sleepy.
But there’s no rest for the wicked. As we got to the end of the rails leading up, we we’re met with cigarette smoke for sure, and other vapors we were unsure of. We would have gone elsewhere, but our feet required rest, and the pack there was surprisingly civil. We took a step back from them. We could still see the stage…just.
Sarkodie wrapped up a magnificent set, and we could see his entourage being led away in the direction of the goalpost away from the stage.
With more music, the DJ prepared the crowd for the final performance, the most important of them all. It was Shatta Wale’s turn to hit the stage. The crowd was loud. We could see people gathered at the far end, where Sarkodie’s team had just made their way out. We assumed that it was Shatta Wale. We were not wrong. They were set to go, but they would have to make it through a crowd of SM fans who had somehow found their way there. They stretched from the back of the stage to the gate.
The cheers got louder, and fireworks filled the sky. Wielding rods, military personnel started to part the crowd, and they had to resort to force. They swung their weapons at whoever came too close. The crowd was not deterred. They had met their messiah, and were determined to touch the helm of his garment.
Even louder cheers. Even more fireworks.
Then, as if by command, 50,000 people started chanting words to his deeply personal “Kill Em With Prayers”. I was awe-struck
Jah guide me from my enemy dem
Becu me never rate them
Kill all a dem with prayers
It was all so beautiful, so royal. Shatta Wale is more than a singer today, he’s a bloody phenomenon. On the night, I was unsure if many of the acts were “big enough” to take on the stadium. For Shatta, I was unsure if the stadium was big enough to contain him.
Love him or hate him, he’s at a point in his career where no other Ghanaian has ever been before…not in remembered history anyway.
His charisma, his reach, is supernatural — it cannot accurately be gauged…it can only be imagined. It has been the case for five years straight. His influence on the average young man is immense, and is shocking on every occasion.
Flipper, who’s also a film student, pointed out what a great view drone shots of Shatta’s procession to the stage would be, but I tell you, the drone would have been shot down by fireworks even before it made its way up. Shatta Wale did make those forty meters unto the stage, and wearing a customized black vest with a red bandana tied around his head, performed till about 7am Sunday.
We left in OB’s car early into his performance; we couldn’t afford wrestling for the gate with everybody else when the show was over. Flipper swiftly drifted into sleep that he had been fighting till now, but OB and Joyce were very much awake, contributing points to what a cultural sensation the Kakai star has undoubtedly become…and, listening to the rest of the performance on 103.5 FM, we drove off into the quiet morning, immersed in never-ending conversation which would also be on the lips of 50,ooo other people.