It’s a grim picture, what we are beholding this very moment. Laying still on a gurney in a dark theatre is a soldier. He appears to have been shot. An oxygen mask covers his nose, and on a monitor behind is the haunting sound of his ebbing heartbeat. Surrounding him are a team of doctors wrestling time, and family who observe restlessly. Surgical accoutrements sink in and out of his dying body: a stethoscope, clamps, forceps, scalpels. A well-decorated warrior, his toughness is unquestionable. But this bullet seems to be one against his will.
A spastic rhythm now emanates from the monitor. This is not good. “We’re losing him,” cries a desperate voice. “Work faster…work faster!”
Blood-stained hands pound at his chest in an attempt to keep him alive.
His breath sounds slow down steadily, and finally ceases. The frantic spikes on the screen are replaced by a single flat line. He’s gone.
One by one, comrades Joint 77, Captan, and Addi Self beckon him to return, but there’s no response.
And then, all of a sudden, the hero springs up to thunderous cheers, holding on to his one true weapon – a cordless microphone.
“Holy holy holy, man – a still holy,” he roars, backed by close to three thousand animated voices. These words from his moving 2015 anthem “Kill Em Wif Prayers” reverberate across every corner of the Accra International Conference Center. The energy Shatta Wale (who is now leaping everywhere on the stage) invokes on this momentous evening, and how he maintains it for something like an hour, is one for the gods.
Essentially, single-handedly, the “Taking Over” man rescued the night from Nigerian compatriots as Falz, Tiwa Savage, and turntablist DJ Obi, who clearly had taken a comfortable lead with performances on that prestigious Ghana Meets Naija stage. Even African superstar Davido, the closing act, required a bit of Shatta’s oomph; he cleverly negotiated his entrée, singing his verse of Shatta’s “Whine Your Waist”. It is no wonder that he (Shatta Wale) was crowned king on the night.
Born Charles Nii Armah Mensah, Shatta Wale’s heroic performance last Saturday is why he has been on the stage for five years on the trot, and further testament to why he has stayed at the very pinnacle of Ghanaian music for as many years (or more) as he has headlined Ghana Meets Naija, VGMA or not. An unparalleled charisma, no-nonsense lifestyle, tested street credibility, and consistently zealous work culture culminating into frequent hit releases, have ensured that his acclaim has spread far and wide. “We dey drop hit songs each and every year,” he sings in “Don’t Try”. There’s hardly any dispute there. From “Dancehall King” to “Shatta City”, “Chop Kiss” to “Mahama Paper”, “Kakai” to “Take Over”, this man has influenced the playlist at our fetes more than any of his contemporaries. That is beyond amazing. On the night, Shatta Wale also performed well-liked songs from an inexhaustible catalogue as “Low Tempo” (featuring wife Shatta Michy) “Enter the Net”, “Cocoa Season”, “If I Collect”, “Say Fi”, “Obodorbidi”, “Hosanna”, “Ayoo” among others.
This is the 7th year for the regularly overbooked show. It has also proved to be the biggest. Ghana Meets Naija has, since inception, excellently served as a platform to celebrate music from the two West African countries. It is put together by showbiz guru Bola Ray’s Empire, and is widely deemed the most influential concert on the sub-region. And why not? Acts which have graced the stage over the years have remained strictly A-list: Mr Eazi, Eugy, R2Bees, Wizkid, Naeto C, The MAVINS (led by Don Jazzy), Sarkodie, Stonebwoy, KCee, M.I, Samini, Kwaw Kese, Guru, 4×4, Timaya and a host of others.
Though the night belonged to Shatta, a number of other performances deserve mention – like Kwadwo Nkansah Lilwin (celebrated Kumawood comic and musician), whose performance, too, was met with eruptive cheers. His record, “Mama Boss Papa” is, after all, among the most spun tunes on radio right now. When he promised in an interview to give off his best performance yet, it wasn’t just smooth talk. Opting for a chequered Irish skirt in his 3-piece suit, it was clear he was there for more than merely a good impression. “Mama Boss Papa” made lunatics of all present, especially when intermittently, he would lift his skirt to expose red leggings, or fellow comic actor Akrobeto charging unto the stage in a surprise appearance. Lil Win’s set was thoroughly entertaining, and will linger on the smiling cheeks of patrons for years.
MAVIN diva Tiwa Savage also made a mark with her act. Equipped with a classic pizzazz, sultry voice, and a set of steamy dancers in flowery island costume, she poured forth an infectious vim which equaled (perhaps surpassed) most of her male counterparts on the night.
It is important to leave while the applause is loudest, and analysts say that she may have performed a song too many. Still, it hardly takes from the top-notch performance of the RED singer, who recently inked a management deal with Jay Z’s ROC Nation. A unique entrée, vivacious choreography, impressive song choices, and overall energy level did the magic for the mother of one.
“Soft Work” rapper Falz, too, who clearly understood the dynamics of gigs thus: this is the battlefield, this is a war. And so, fire dancers cleared the stage for him, and his name was announced by the dominant baritone of an imposing hype man. It was the perfect way to set the stage for the BET and AMVCA laureate. And what better song to kick things off than spraying from his artillery, the mighty “Clap”. Featuring colleague Reminisce, it is among the brightest points of his sophomore studio album “Stories that Touch”, which ranks among top African works of 2015 for the critical impact of records as “Karishika”, “Celebrity Girlfriend”, “Soldier”, and “Ello Bae”. Falz is set to release his third album later this year. It will be big, judging by recent releases as “Weidone Sah”, and “Baby Boy”, which we anticipate to end up on the album.
Rule 2 of a stage as big as Ghana Meets Naija is to invoke dance. Falz is a party technician, so he dispatched this instruction too expertly, even topping it with his rib-cracking specialised English “azzent”.
This “Bahd” performance ended with his collaboration with Davido and Olamide. The crafty title, which acknowledges the aliases of all three featured acts on the song, also comes in handy in summarising his time on stage: “Bahd, Baddo, Baddest”.
Ghana’s M.anifest, who came right after Falz, managed a perfect balance between a performance to be listened to, and one to be danced to. Described as a classic presentation which confounded critics and delighted purists,” it saw the “god MC” commendably shuffled between live instrumentation and the skillful fingers of DJ Keyzuz.
On stage for about half an hour, the left-of-center performance made him a top trend on social media. As is characteristic of him lately, the night was not all about him, for he was joined by the talented Worlasi for “100%”, and up-and-coming rap act Kwesi Arthur, who made a bold statement with his “Prekese” freestyle over American singer Future’s “Mask Off”.
M.anifest is among a handful of artists who have achieved commercial success not by conforming to popular trends and methods, but strictly on his own terms. It is what he reiterates in his latest single, released soon after Ghana Meets Naija 2017, and featuring singer Big Ben – “make you leave me make I do my own”, the song demands in Pidgin.
Tema-based B4bonah, Article Wan, Kuami Eugene, Ko-jo Cue, King Promise, Tee Phlow, DJ Switch, and the gothic Eno, all rendered impressive accounts of themselves as supporting acts. DJs on the night, led by Starr FM’s Nii Ayi Tagoe also kept energies at a constant high with rich and timely selections across a wide spectrum of genres.
Davido’s set was straightforward, yet very potent. At this point in his career, the mere sight of him causes uproar. He mounted the stage with a glowing playlist he has racked up since first mounting the Ghana Meets Naija stage in 2012. On this particular night though, it was all about one song: “If”. Now, don’t be mistaken, the crowd bellowed along to every song he performed – “Dami Duro”, “Skelewu”, “Aye”, “The Money” etc. But “If”, is what it all came down to. For when DJ Obi cued it in, it was nothing short of chaotic. Word for word, patrons thundered out the lyrics to this brilliant highlife number, which is turning out to be the biggest of his career. A million covers have flooded the internet, including from global R&B icon R. Kelly. Accompanying visuals to the record have been over 17 million times on YouTube alone. Davido called his Ghana Meets Naija 2017 appearance “emotional” in a tweet afterwards. If you were there in the auditorium on May 27, or have seen any of the numerous videos of his performance via social media, there’s no question about it.
The Accra International Conference Centre was graced, not just by regular folk, but by some of the most important stakeholders in Ghanaian entertainment, sports and business: Renowned broadcasters KKD and KOD, Yasmin Behzadi (international fashion icon and co-creator of Sark Collection), MUSIGA president Bice Osei Kuffour (Obour), EIB boss Bola Ray, The Ayew brothers Dede and Jordan, Confidence Haugen, Footballer Daniel Opare, Kwabena Duffuor II (MD, uniBank) etc.
This year (like the ones before), the concert did live up to the hype, and as usual, received widespread praise for how professionally it was put up. This year also represents a major milestone in the Ghana Meets Naija franchise as plans are far advanced to stage a UK version come August 25 at the famous O2 Arena. A Dubai leg is also reportedly in the works.
*Ghana Meets Naija 2017 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.
Photo Credit: Kwabena Awuku, Frozzen Second, Vine Imagery, Twinsdntbeg.