Days after his sold out show at indigO2, we had the chance to sit down with Ghana’s finest dancehall artist Shatta Wale, known for his popular hits like ‘Dancehall King’, ‘Everybody Likes My Tin’ and the recent ‘Chop Kiss’. We had to dive in and learn more about the self-proclaimed Dancehall commando..
Sitting here with us, we have the one and only African dancehall king, the people’s champion. Shatta Wale. How’s it going?
Thank you for having me, it’s a privilege.
For those who may not be aware of who you are, give us a brief intro on yourself. You started off as Bandana, why did you change your name?
Well, it was rebranding… I wanted to explore more into the world. I wanted to make my songs known by the bigger markets, and as a dancehall artist I thought that the name Bandana was a bit local for the international market. Because we all know what Bandana is, but I had a different meaning for it. Later on I decided to get a name that will at least cause news, the only name that could do that was Shatta.
Where does the Wale in your name come from, is it Nigerian influenced or?
Wale, is an abbreviated word I created myself. World, Alerted, Lyrical, Entertainment or World, Acclaimed, Lyrical, Entertainment.
Oh wow, I didn’t know that…
But most Nigerians think that I’m Nigerian because of it. It’s good as a marketing strategy as well because anytime I go to Nigeria, people always ask me if I’m from there and I’m like ‘No’. They have a different meaning for Wale, so I just felt let me add the Wale to the Shatta and see how it goes and I think it has really worked. It’s an African ting.
So, let’s talk about your sold out headline show at indigO2, how did you feel about it?
I was surprised, I’ve been working hard but I didn’t want to come to the UK – no disrespect to the promoters here but they weren’t making me feel like I could really get to that level. I like to perform to huge crowds, like in Ghana, right now if I was to perform, it would be at stadium or an open place. If it is a corporate show, it would be big. I felt like the promoters over here weren’t working towards that level for me, but Akwaaba UK (promoters) came to me and my team like 2 years ago and was like they could do that for us. I’ve been here before and I didn’t want to perform in clubs or small places. Akwaaba came to us and was yeah they could make it happen, and when I saw it I was like WOW. It has always been my dream to perform in the O2. It was really good. After the show, I think I cried a bit, because I was overwhelmed. This is what I’ve always wanted and I believe this is a step ahead for me to really work hard and move onto bigger platforms.
I was in the crowd, and I was shocked. You made me feel like I was in Ghana, the crowd was amazing. The energy you had on stage was like the same energy you give to your fans back home. How do you prepare for a show of that calibre?
Well you know me; I’m very religious I believe in God. If I tell you where I came from to where I’ve gotten to now. I only believe its God. I used to drink before I went on stage, but I realised I had this natural energy within me. So now I just go on stage with water, I eat something small to give me energy to go on stage and I pray.
As an artist do you ever get intimidated by different/new crowds?
No. I have this mind-set of me moving into the international market. Every time I have my private time to rehearse, I can be at the beach alone performing like ‘wagwarn London’. Anywhere you put me, I can perform well and I can relate to the people. I’ve pictured this for a long time I’ve prepared myself for any type of platform.
Let’s talk music, when did you start to fuse the Ghana sound and Dancehall sound together. When did that become the Shatta brand?
I try my best to make my country know that even though I love Dancehall, we’re not trying to be Jamaican. I can’t really make the Patois type of music for them. I decided to put up a strategy by mixing Ga, Twi, Hausa and English in my music. Just to make it unique and at least my community will get the message I’m trying to send out. My aim in music is to motivate and inspire people; I always want to get to the kids and older ones to sing my song. I can’t do Jamaican songs better than the Jamaicans that are from there, so they can do it better than me. But I’m trying my best to have my side of the world understand what they are saying. This is something that will sell me out to the world.
What is your formula, when it comes to making music? Because every song you have put out has been a hit. Are you a freestyler or a writer?
I used to write when I was in school, I have a whole lot of books. But sometimes when I’m sleeping, songs come into my mind; it comes to me straight away. I don’t have time to write now, my music teacher told me when the music comes to me just to do it like that and the hand sometimes slows you down. Right now I’ve come to realise, what type of songs people want to hear in the clubs, the BPM’s DJ’s like to play.
Your fan base Shatta Movement 4 Lyfe… How does it feel knowing that you have this massive support system behind you?
I believe my fan base grew up with me from the days of Bandana to Shatta Wale. I think the reason why they keep growing is because I have had so much competition in Ghana- I’m the only artist that the industry back home keeps fighting. I like one thing that you mentioned earlier that I’m outspoken, because we are in an industry where they don’t want you to talk. That’s why the fan base have grown to a level that people don’t understand, because they want to be and inspired and encouraged and that is what I’m doing. I believe in motivating people with my music. I have a Shatta movement clothing line, but my fans are even creating merchandise themselves and I don’t have a problem with it because I believe my fans have helped me get to this level, I want to them to benefit from what I’m doing.
Who in the UK are you feeling right now? Who would you like to collaborate with?
Apart from Fuse who I’ve already collaborated with, I love Stormzy. I like creative people, and I think he is very creative. I listened to a couple of his songs and I was like ‘Wow’. Lethal B, I like him too. I really like the work they are doing here. I look forward to hopefully doing some collaboration with those two.
Your business savvy, do you feel like there is money to be made through music in Ghana?
That is what I’ve been trying to fight for, because if I tell you that I’ve gotten any royalties since I started music in Ghana that would be a lie. Artists aren’t getting what they really deserve in Ghana, in terms of royalties and shows that they are supposed to get paid for. I believe that if you are an artist, you should get paid. So I started putting those things out there that we as artists need to work and make money and not working for people to make money out of us. That’s why I started having problems with certain awards organisations, I felt like they were disrespecting the art, it’s us that are going to make the awards show a great one. Why don’t you pay us? And because I spoke about it I feel that I’ve brought a change and I’m hoping that my brothers and sisters will learn from it.
What’s next for Shatta Wale? Maybe acting or directing?
Well, I’m already into movies, I love art. I was telling someone that if I wasn’t into music I would be a comedian (laughs). I love to make my whole team laugh, like the whole day. But I’ve done a couple of movies in Ghana, I was featured in them. I’m trying to make my own movie now. It has been four years now since the brand Shatta Wale has rising, we just want to arrange things well, so we can make the future bright for ourselves. We are also organising a peace concert for the elections in Ghana this year and a back to school project for the kids.
Thank you so much again for sitting down with us Shatta, it was fun.
Thank you for coming it’s been my dream to be on MTV, so thank you.
Read more at http://www.mtv.co.uk/the-wrap-up/blog/afro-district-shatta-wale#E5rkTIrHpfkmZiwe.99