May 26, Kotoka International Airport, Accra, Ghana.
8: 45 am – A hundred phones and cameras go up as Davido emerges from the airport’s arrival hall. He sports an orange hoodie and a backpack. There’s little time for anything. Smiling and acknowledging teeming fans, he rushes to Ibrah’s Audi sports car, and is whisked away in seconds. Who’s Ibrah? A friend of Davido’s for sure, very popular, and based in East Legon, Accra.
Falz emerges minutes later, and cameras levitate again. He’s in a white vest and black jeans, and as usual, the frames in his sunglasses are absent. He’s directed to the white Range Rover, and he, too, dashes off in a convoy of six or seven cars. Minutes later, Tang Palace Hotel, Roman Ridge!
Tiwa Savage, the third in the Nigerian contingent arrived a day earlier (Thursday night), and has been lodging at Tang Palace since. Davido’s hotel of choice is Kempinski. A power trio, they face off Ghana’s Shatta Wale, M.anifest, and supporting performers as Kwadwo “Lil Win” Nkansah, B4bonah, and Article Wan at the 7th annual Ghana Meets Naija concert on Saturday May 27th.
Organised by Empire, it has now assumed the stature of “West Africa’s Biggest Concert,” and in the years that it has been running, paraded the topmost acts from Ghana and Nigeria: Whizkid, The Mavins, Sarkodie, Naeto C, KCee, R2Bees, Samini, Kwaw Kese, Guru, 4×4, Timaya, etc.
A room is readied for a quick press briefing. Falz is first up. As soon as he settles in his seat, questions start coming, both cliché and new: Who’s going to carry the night? Is a new album in the work? Is he afraid of fans eventually getting used to his style? How much has his starring in popular Nigerian sitcom Jenifa’s Diary helped his career? Does he really have a record with Ghana’s Medikal? Whom are his favourite acts from here? What should fans expect from him at Ghana Meets Naija 2017?
He navigates this interrogation without stress, mostly employing a fantastic corrupted English accent which is now his trademark: not ne-zes-trily (not necessarily), am zo mosh eg-zited (I’m so much excited)… And when a tough question is thrown at him, he exclaims “gen gen”, smiles and strokes his well-kempt beard, before submitting his response.
Microphone after microphone are shoved into his face, for endorsement of this media house or that media house. He gracefully obliges to every single one, repeating his aliases with the same zeal.
He gets up and heads for the door when he’s done. That very second, Tiwa Savage is making a triumphant entry. She’s clad in costume the colour of yoghurt — except for the black stockings on her thighs. A flamboyant fur coat hangs over her shoulders, and her eyes are hidden behind oversized designer sunglasses. They embrace warmly, and whisper pleasantries.
A hundred questions (per minute) are hauled at her, too, and though her voice is soft and delicate, an unmistakable sense of command resounds in her responses. Like Falz, she extols Ghana’s superior hospitality, and promises an iconic set — pure thunder and lightening.
“A minute more,” a rep from Empire notifies from behind. It’s a packed schedule for the rest of the day – mainly media appearances.
Soon, the convoy storms the streets again. We’re heading to Live FM, Adabraka. Men in black are hanging out of the front windows of the black 4X4 leading the fleet. With stern looks, they wave away anything in our path. These men doing the waving do it with the distinct audacity of national security detail. Maybe they are.
Again, the Live FM studio is crowded than usual, and phones/cameras are in full motion. Falz confesses his fondness for “Ghana Jollof,” which instantly is blogging fodder, considering how significant it will prove in the perpetual conflicts between both West African countries regarding the delicacy. Here, too, he shuffles between his peculiar corruption, decent English, and (briefly), an impeccable British accent.
Rapper M.anifest joins him during the interview (which is being compered by Lifestyle Cafe host Sammy Forson). The exchange is warm and hearty, and there’s resounding laughter when Falz is asked about his ideal woman. Assuming Sege’s “azzent,” he details how he doesn’t discriminate when it comes to “kolor,” yet a fair complexion is added advantage (Sege is whom he plays alongside Funke Akindele Bello in Jenifa’s Diary. He also stresses how this ideal woman must have “meat” at the appropriate places, and finally, her intellectual capacities. “I like a woman with sense,” he explains. It is hilarious, and everybody needs a minute to catch their breath from this round of laughter. Both he and M.anifest praise each other’s abilities as wordsmiths, and announce a forthcoming joint single to massive applause.
Tiwa recomposes the setting with her gentle demeanour when she arrives. She laughs with the pitch of a teenage girl, smiles as she divulges her latest craving for gari and sugar (or while detailing her recent managerial deal with Jay Z’s ROC Nation), and leaves everybody dumbfounded when she admits to having never tasted the famous Ghana Jollof. Sammy Forson is shaken, and there is embarrassment in Tiwa’s giggle. “Tiwa, you’re joking,” Sammy hopes, worried. She’s serious, and he is left with no other option than to offer to rectify the situation as a matter of urgency — “right this afternoon.”
At Starr, Kwadwo “Lil Win” Nkansah is the man! Both Anita and Giovani Caleb (hosts of the radio station’s drive belt programme) virtually drown in a pool of their own tears — not from sadness of any kind, but from abundant laughter invoked by the Kumawood actor and rapper. A seasoned performer, Lil Win is among the country’s biggest celebrities currently — for his numerous roles in local movies, popular songs as Mama Boss Papa, and ultimately, his personality as a super humour merchant. He’s among named supporting artists on the night, and this radio appearance is to give prospective patrons a taste of what he brings to the stage come Saturday night.
One can’t help but admire the I Cant Think Far man’s humility despite his elevated place in society. Clothed in a green camouflage Channel hoodie and Adidas cap over green pants and boots, he effortlessly unleashes joke after joke, while simultaneously sermonizing on life hacks, and nuggets for living. Our gifts are for the benefit of others. Everybody has an appointed time for a breakthrough. It is important to never lose hope. These are key takeaways from his presence at Starr on Friday afternoon. It has taken him a lot of effort and grace to get here, and it is all very inspirational how he has remained grounded even in stardom.
Tiwa graces Starr, too, this time with the seasoned broadcaster Kweku Sakyi Addo at the La Palm Beach Hotel, emphasizing once more, the need for all to go see her perform at Ghana Meets Naija 2017. She is later joined by Shatta Wale, who extols Miss Savage’s personality. Both promised to work on a project.
Typically overbooked, Ghana Meets Naija has constantly served as the ultimate platform for the West African countries to execute a longstanding sibling rivalry in the area of music. Ghana and Nigeria have a lot in common musically, and constantly collaborate on projects. The concert has since its institution, provided a unique platform for musicians from both countries to celebrate the diverse sounds which also unify them.
Earlier at Tang Palace, Falz points out that to be named among performers on the Ghana Meets Naija stage suggests that one has achieved great heights in their career. It is why in his opinion, the concert is treated with this much seriousness, as well as what accounts for unforgettable performances every edition.
At the Accra International Conference today May 27, when the trusses go up, and the led lights dimmed or swung far and wide to sync with mood boards and patterns, only one thing should matter; who kills what? The troops (musicians) are expected to come out firing at targets (patrons) in sight. Some may understandably be overly animated, others, will go home not bothered about who did what. It is normal because all they wanted to see was a certain Mr. Mensah, or Shatta Wale as he is known in the streets of Accra.
The 2017 Ghana Meets Naija is powered by Empire Ghana and proudly sponsored by uniBank’s Smile and Mastercard products, Alomo Gold-Natural Herbs and Fruits, Paba Cosmetics, Tang Palace Hotel, Nasco Mobile, Kasi Express, 7Fold, Emerge Ghana and Maaha Beach Resort and ENEWSGH.COM.
Images by Eben Yanks/ Sadiq More.