December 22 –Accra International Conference Centre
Like the crowd tonight, pyrotechnics are ecstatic at the very presence of melody masters Samini and Stonebwoy sharing a stage. In the middle of performing Climax (their well-liked 2012 collaboration), a portion of the stage literally catches fire. The flame is swiftly subdued by security, but something else has already been ignited within both acts. What follows the accident effectively précises BHIM Concert 2017.
“Hol on! Hol on!”, Stonebwoy halts the band, and then sets out: “You no see say Samini come, wey the fire start burn/ Stonebwoy dey here, the fire start burn/ Samini come, wey the fire start burn …”. Samini laughs a majestic laugh, and then turns to Stonebwoy: “So if I come, why the fire no for burn/you don’t know say Dada come, fire burn/ if I come why fire no for burn/ anytime I come, you know say fire ago burn…
Mentor and protégé lunge into an iconic near-20-minute freestyle chronicling modest beginnings and big dreams: the long lonely trek to Dansoman just to record, persuading Stonebwoy’s family about music as a real career, Samini’s prediction 9 years ago of major feats for the Ashaiman native, as well as current accomplishments.
Music is prophetic. Take another listen to that JMJ-programmed anthem, off Stonebwoy’s debut album Grade 1, and tonight falls into perspective with shocking profundity –the awe-inspiring support from fans and fellow musicians culminating in several awards, the powerful sense of achievement and pride obvious in the eyes of the Enku Lenu man, as it is in the heart of his guru who simply rejoices while beholding the product of his tutelage. A classic at this point, Climax sees both Samini and Stonebwoy impose themselves as indispensable pieces to the modern Ghanaian music puzzle, unwavering in the awareness of their creative endowments, confident in the charisma of their craft.
This is phenomenal, and impossible to properly appreciate sitting down. Expectedly, everyone is on their feet –jumping, waving, cheering, applauding. The session segués into a unique rendition of Samini’s recent reggae hit My Own, on-the-spot hooks crafted to complement the anecdotes being related (which the crowd swiftly memorizes and sings along to), and even a birthday song for the High Grade Family boss.
While Stonebwoy (Livingstone Satekla) and Samini (Emmanuel Andrew Samini) have performed together several times in the past, the 2017 BHIM Concert will go down as one of the most epic. Often, students are a reflection of their instructors, and so, one notices straightaway, both a telepathy and semblance in their methods: their artistic permanence, stage competence, vast vocal range, and the exclusive grating cadence of their high notes. The image of the pair jumping and kicking their feet together uniformly will be remembered by all for a long time.
But tonight is about Stonebwoy specifically, let us not digress too much. Author of three other critical bodies of work, Stonebwoy models the second annual BHIM Concert on his new album Epistles of Mama. Like the 24- tracker, the singer dispatches two unforgettable rounds: a reggae session and an Afrobeats one. The reggae part, with which he commences his performance, sees him trundle between dense emotions. On Praises, he looks earnestly to the roof of the auditorium (but really at the heavens above), chanting passionately, a psalm he penned in awe of the supreme being’s many favours towards him. On Mama, one of his many tributes to late mother Catherine Satekla, whom the entire album is dedicated to, he fights back unsuccessfully, tears as he recounts her words to him while still alive: “Mama did-a tell me times like this will come”. The singer’s bond to his mum has always been tight, and even now, he claims to hear her daily. He will never fully come to terms with her passing, and singing about her will always result in a catch in his throat.
The Afrobeats session sees the singer rain down an extensive playlist of dance-ready jams both from the new album and his previous offerings –songs thus have constituted a key aspect of his catalogue over the years. For as long as he has been active in music, Stonebwoy has had hits at the ready. Dripping with contagious choruses and an overall happy vibe, his sound has now become a staple in Afro-dancehall/ Afrobeats. He has distinguished himself as immensely nifty, giftedly merging multiple genres with the ease of a seasoned practitioner.
29, Stonebwoy has come full circle. In Verse 2 of Hero, a fiercely triumphant joint released months ago, he declares: “I -man a di biggest artist from Ashaiman that ever burst to di world”. The song was published immediately after 50, 000 fans thronged to the Sakaka Park in Accra for his Ashaiman to The World concert, September 30. Dreams do come true. Consider: barely a decade prior, this humble youth was roaming the very streets he’s now messiah of, pursuing with a hunger, patience and faith, the ambition of becoming a megastar.
Today, he is among the most revered of his generation, earning plaudits from far and near, and becoming a role model to masses who find inspiration in both the man and his music. He can boldly proclaim: “If I die today, I’m a hero”.
His evolution as a consummate artist and stage master is also witnessed in his way with the band backing him tonight. Like an army commander over his contingent, he steers them in various directions, utilizing the microphone as wand, and falling on a peculiar set of vocabulary as his spells. So he barks “off- timing”, and a different variation of the rhythm being played is heard, “one track”, and a new craze is invoked. If, as many hold, the live band performance is the truest test of a performer’s competence, Stonebwoy stakes a bold claim –perhaps the boldest among his contemporaries.
Winner of several awards including VGMA Artist of the Year, BET Best International Act: Africa (both in 2015), and an African Entertainment Legends Award on the night, Stonebwoy’s sights are obviously set on global frontiers. It is clear in his moves over the past couple of years. This is further illustrated with Epistles of Mama, a flavorsome, melody-filled project featuring universal names as Sean Paul, Chronixx, Sarkodie, Pressure, I Octane, Efya, Vanessa Bling, Kabaka Pyramid and a host of others. The Grammy Award has never been closer. And why not? His Livingstone EP was considered for nomination at the 2017 edition. He also features on Morgan Heritage’s “Avrakadabra” (which has been nominated for ‘Best Reggae Album’ in the 2018 Grammy Awards, alongside ‘Chronology’ by Chronixx, ‘Lost In Paradise’ by Common Kings, ‘Wash House Ting’ by J Boog, and ‘Stony Hill’ by Damian Marley).
Put together by creative arts giant ZYLOFON Media in partnership with Stonebwoy’s BMG imprint, the 2017 BHIM Concert, compered by funny man DKB and Elikem “The Tailor”, also witnessed supporting performances from 2016 Grammy nominee Rocky Dawuni, vivacious Gospel singer Joyce Blessing, Kumi Guitar, Ara B, Obibini, Becca, Edem, Kelvinboy, Medikal, Kojo Funds, Damaris, King Promise, and Luther.
More images courtesy ENEWSGH, Zylofon, & ROB Photograph: