“Ghana, I have a big surprise for you tonight”, announced headliner WizKid, midway through his explosive Ghana Meets Naija set over the weekend. The crowd, 15, 000 strong, was expectant. The euphoria with which his “second coming” had been greeted (his first appearance was in 2013), remained at a sternum-rattling decibel.
“Yo E, bring down the lights”, he continued, panting. “Ghana, I have my brother with me tonight. Make some noise for the dancehall king!” If one thought the noise at the Fantasy Dome in Accra couldn’t get any louder, one was terribly wrong. Shatta Wale, of whom WizKid spoke, is mayor of the city, and like Jesus Christ, his entry is always triumphant. Donning a red tracksuit, his hair bleached, the controversial singer charged unto the stage, and headed straight into the waiting arms of WizKid for a brotherly embrace. Wale went on to perform two of his most notable hits recently; “Freedom”, and “Gringo”. He also called WizKid his “fucking blood”, which, in regular English, means “brother”. It was pure chaos.
The gesture was a key highlight of the concert, and marked the deflation of any fracas that existed between them –a situation which had been sparked by Wale’s November 2017 comment, that he did not perceive the “Ojuelegba” singer to be a superstar. The remark, when it was made, had generated friction between the two West African nations; while some perceived Wale’s statement a legitimate posture by an artist confident in his craft, others called it blasphemy, emphasising that on the African continent, WizKid remains unrivalled.
It is instructive that their “reunion” happened on at Ghana Meets Naija particularly. For eight years running, the show has served as grounds to play out sibling competitiveness that has existed between both nations for as long as can be remembered. Put together by Bola Ray’s Empire, the concert is among the most significant on Africa’s music calendar. A major proving ground for anybody who is “anybody”, the show has been mounted by top musicians including Davido, Tiwa Savage, Sarkodie, R2Bees, Naeto C, Don Jazzy’s MAVIN crew, Falz and a host of others.
Because of his clout today, WizKid is not only aeronaut of the African sound, but also an influential unifying force. Like his forbear, 2Baba, his running message for a long time has been this: “one Africa, one love”. And though he’s been a darling of Ghanaian music lovers since the start of his career in 2011, bringing out Shatta Wale during his performance, endears the Surulere native deeper in the hearts of Ghanaians.
There’s a disparity between “best” and “favourite”. WizKid’s claim to the first adjective may be contested, but there’s hardly any question about his legitimacy to the second. Often, while performing, he would boast; “the problem is, WizKid got too many hits”. It’s founded, because very few colleagues have as many durable anthems in their catalogue. And when an artist has solidified his foundation in this manner, everything else falls in place. WizKid’s stagecraft was effortless, and the charming smile that vivified his face proved how much honest fun he was having. The man is loved! Every few seconds, a zealous fan would slip past the many muscled men who constituted WizKid’s onstage security, if only to touch the hem of his garment (a neat white sweater on whose chest the letter “A” was carried by a red heart symbol, over blue denims).
Save for Ghana’s Patapaa, who earned widespread praise for his “man of the match” performance, no other act was ceiling -shattering as anticipated –perhaps due to the sound challenges; perhaps, due to how long the event dragged (it ended at 4 am, June 10). Best known for his 2017 breakout single, “One Corner”, Patapaa’s big night was heralded by appellations from an eloquent young girl clad in colorful kente and traditional regalia. Via songs as “Kumchacha”, “One Perma”, “That Thing”, “Akwaaba” among others, spirited dance moves, and the determination of a warrior, the man also known as Patapeezy, left a lot of head scratching among his skeptics. Many brushed Patapaa off as a flash in the pan, certain that after “One Corner”, his talents were incapable of securing him permanence in the music industry. When he lost out on “Most Popular Song of the Year at the Ghana Music Awards months ago, it was expected to dispatch him into oblivion – but no – it turned out to be momentum for him; a momentum that has seen him appear on works by established colleagues as Medikal, Guilty Beatz, Article Wan, Shatta Wale, and FlowKing Stone. His thrilling set brings the following proverb to mind: “the stone the builders rejected became the head cornerstone”.
In the final analysis, the Fantasy Dome did witness a party for sure – a solid lineup as the one that was paraded on the night, would guarantee that; Mayorkun, Dice Ailes, Mr Eazi, Fancy Gadam, Stonebwoy, Yaa Pono, Kuami Eugene, TIC, KiDi, Kurl Songx, Sista Afia, NanaYaa, Wisa, KME, Asamoah Gyan, Tiwa Savage, King Promise, Mugeez, etc. The ultimate African playlist was on rotation, and it was a sumptuous buffet. DJ Nii Ayi Tagoe, DJ K Crakk, DJ Vyrusky, and Vision DJ were also efficient in holding the crowd; with timely interludes or as sidekicks for performing acts.
Without question, West Africa commands African melody. Led by Ghana and Nigeria, the sub-region enjoys a shared musical spice and ancestry, thus, bears a sonic sameness that has resulted in numerous collaborations between these countries.
At this point, the franchise is bigger, and has become an African affair. At this edition, themed the “Rescue Mission”, the show welcomed Gambian acts signed to Sierra Leonean record label Kabaka Multimedia and Entertainment (KME). A UK leg was also recently held, and organizers have announced European editions in coming months. WizKid maintained that the continent is home to musical gold, however, the quest to become a strong global force must be done on the back of an African agenda. “Together we push”, he reiterated at the show which is indispensable in the attainment of the goal of world dominance.
To musicians the continent over, Accra is a second home – testament of Ghana’s identity as a hospitality hub. The nation, while it holds firm its musical identity, is also welcoming of “sounds from the other side”. It has constantly served as a solid peripheral support base for many acts on the continent, and a bonding agent for music lovers across Africa. This solidarity is best witnessed at Ghana Meets Naija, on which, lifting a finger above his head, WizKid proclaimed: “one love to Ghana, one love to Nigeria. Africans, we are one”.
Sponsors of Ghana Meets Naija 2018 include Kasapreko Alomo Gold and Storm Energy Drink, Allied Oil, Somoco Ghana Ltd, Nasco Mobile, Kirusa, Point and Play, Rova Surveillance, Dame lashes, Pernod Ricard, Tang Palace, Fix Consult, EIB Network (Starr FM, Live FM, Gh One TV, Kasapa FM, Empire FM, Ultimate FM, Abusua FM), Graphic Showbiz, Y FM, Aftown Music, Muse Africa, Ghana Music.com, West Hills Mall, Achimota Retail Centre, Accra Mall, and Timepiece Gh.
All images courtesy ROB Photography: