It’s past 10, past the advertised starting time. But the party is very much alive now, because M.anifest – by his mere presence on the stage –has galvanized effectively, the thunderous euphoria of beholding a messiah.

Far off in the calming darkness to the right, and in the genial company of his opposite number Lenre, Fui monitors proceedings. He has, for the past two hours at least, been running around fending off persistent technical snags. Finally though, the show is airborne, so he can breathe (even in circumstances thus, his “breathing” also involves constantly lifting his phone to his ear to discuss important business, and engaging in other subtle acts of coordination.

What goes through the mind of a manager on days like this, specifically what preoccupies his thoughts in hours thus?

It is a small crowd of genuine “god MC” loyalists at the SandBox Beach, South Labadi — just the experience he loves to curate –for he has constantly maintained that curating intimate memory with every performance is what it all comes down to. His album launch at the Jaguar Showroom back in September epitomised that feel too.

M.anifestivities 2016 opened with a performance from singer Worlasi, unquestionably Ghana’s new sound. He’s playful and unpretentious, when he apologizes for the late start, and as he solicits the crowd’s assistance for an a cappella rendition of his recent single Nukata. The performance is cozy, and ultimately proves effective.  He returns twice, during M.anifest’s set for for a Time No Dey/ Hand Dey Go, Hand Dey Come medley, and then for their Afro pop joint 100% –this time, with a more fearsome demeanor.

Worlasi
Worlasi

M.anifestivites has been running since 2012. Like the Madina Block Party, it is, according to organizers, a “labor of love” for M.anifest fans…or more appropriately “M.anifans”, for their undying support through the years.

This year is possibly the most anticipated of the rapper’s end-of-year concert. And why not? It has been an exceptionally eventful 12 months for him: with his clever and controversial god MC, he revamped the discourse around the value of substance-driven rap. It also finally truly earned him his place in Ghana’s hip-hop question, visibility he has deserved since Manifestations (2007), and to his fans, “an amplified voice”. He has performed to audiences from Cape Town to Geneva, been featured on global news outfits, and been named among the top emcees in the country; notably by international music channel MTV Base Africa. He also released his fifth project Nowhere Cool to instant commercial and critical acclaim, including from esteemed music authorities Damon Alban, Rocky Dawuni, and Spoek Mathambo.

Featuring Dex Kwasi, Worlasi, Cina Soul, Nomisupasta, Brymo among others, the album has widely been touted as the best record released this year. Through a 14-song project crafted with gifted hands, a precocious Kwame Ametepee Tsikata (as he’s known privately), navigates everything from love, politics, sex, ambition and setback, invisibility and legacy.

And so, with the vast and tranquil Atlantic Ocean for backdrop, and supported by Kwame Yeboah’s OBY Band/ master turntablist Keyzus, he (dressed in a trademark fedora, flowery yellow summer shirt over a white round-neck t-shirt and crisp turquoise shorts folded at the helms), leads patrons in a memorable jam session, just like he promised at the press conference the day before. In the company of supporting acts Brymo, Worlasi, and Cina Soul –all of whom contributed on at least two songs off Nowhere Cool, he captains a sentimental journey through records from the latest album, his immediate and distant pasts: Immigrant Chronicles, his days as member of rap group ARM et al.

The live performance is a special state, a rare realm, and as Nigerian soul singer Brymo opines, “pretty pretty pretty important”. He has worked at a live set since his album Merchants, Dealers & Slaves (2013), and now, only performs with a band. You see it with his performance: he wants to share an experience that is true and unembellished by excessive studio sleights, “…because when we record in the studio, we get to mix, we get to master, we get to balance, and put compressors, or impressors, and oppressors…but onstage, it’s live, it’s right there, so it’s an opportunity to share with the audience ho we record, it’s an opportunity to relate with the fans, and share with them our recording process”.

He was phenomenal. He is phenomenal –Brymo –we can tell, by his smile, and how much boogie he throws about during those five songs, that he is a listener of “Brymo” too –a fan…because these emotions he devises through his melodies, are from his own stories, and have on him, just as much the effect they have on the listener. These words “nothing’s ever promised tomorrow”, “prick no get shoulder”, “Alajọ Ṣomolu”, they come from a source that is bigger than him. And while he’s willing vessel of these superior wisdoms, he’s dedicated disciple of them too.

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Brymo at M.anifestivities 2016

Brymo threatened to “summon demons” during M.anifestivities 2016, and he did –for how else can you explain the enthusiasm with which which a charged pack sings along to words in a language they’re complete strangers to , and resides in the exact moods at the point of the song’s creation?

What goes through the mind of a performer while he’s onstage? His words, borne from private thought and feeling, are no longer his. They belong to, and are chanted by a crowd deeply affected by them. They are the real owners of those words, those stories, and he, all of a sudden, finds himself a spectator to the words he’s supposed to be proprietor of.

The party is the reflection of of the DJ. She embodies the very spine of the bash, and the atmosphere Keyzus achieves all through the show, and especially during the last twenty minutes of M.anifest’s performance, has never been done. Simple and short!

She’s not just playing music – Keyzuz –she’s actually creating it in the moment. She is a dangerous genius, an actual turntable terrorist. So magical is her craft that it is insufficient to restrict her job description to just “DJ”. So, she responds to just “Keyzus”. We should have known, when she got onstage after Worlasi’s opening set, that she was up to something, for her face was hidden under a tilted hat and a face mask…and you can never trust a person who’s face you can’t see, remember? She’s playing several hits across generations and genres, but not in the way that you’re accustomed to. I hear rock band Europe’s “The Final Countdown”, I hear Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money”, but they’ve undergone ingenious rejiggering that, they’re new songs altogether. Their core is intact, but they’ve experienced new birth.

What goes through the body of a DJ? When her every nod punctuates elaborate split-second manoeuvres by nimble fingers. When she looks up from the laptop and sizzling deck she’s armed with, and she sees arms and feet off the ground, basking in the inferno she has ignited, what goes through her body?

M.anifest crowns a reverberating night with, of course, god MC – the song for which he has captured headlines since he released it on June 30 –those three verses, dripping with dizzying wordplay and dazzling razzmatazz, like I’ve said before, will probably rank first in a list of his most memorable words. It’s also his most articulate claim to the position of GH rap regency yet.

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M.anifest

The song, which requires effort to memorize, and even more to decipher, was chorused across the SandBox Beach, and all its Afrocentric majesty.

And so it happened: the “god MC” dispatches yet another spectacular end-of-year concert. M.anifestivities 2016, ladies and gents!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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