Isaiah 45:2 [KJV]: “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron.”
On his way to the Fantasy Dome Saturday night, this scripture has come to him. As a little boy in Sunday school, he recited it loudest among his peers, oblivious of the supernatural potency embedded in these words.
Tonight, as the white Range Rover he occupies zooms through Accra’s unforgiving highways and tunnels, he recounts the days before his anointing as leader; a childhood which saw him running carefree in the neighbourhood, banging on school desks to create rhythm, and learning the rudiments of music theory with an old piano.
He flashes a grateful smile. He has come a long way.
The scripture returns to his lips. He mouths it silently. His smile breaks into a gentle laugh, and then a louder guffaw.
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.”-Psalm 34: 19 [KJV]
Backstage, minutes before he descends from a contraption in the roof to open the show, Shatta Wale slouches unto the steps. He holds his head in both arms.
Silent phrases trickle from his mouth.
There’s something about tonight. Something big. It will unfold over the next few hours. He does not know it fully, but feels something strongly in his chest.
A born fighter, he is no stranger to challenges. Habitually, he has trekked through water and fire, and like a precious mineral, emerged stronger on the other side. These past few months have served severe doses of tribulation, causing him to re-calibrate his approach to this journey. The words “trust,” “friendship,” and “loyalty” have assumed deeper meaning to him.
For all his charisma and flamboyant persona, he’s just a man. It’s all he’s tried to be all along. Like it says in 2 Corinthians 4:9, Wale has been “persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”
How does his smile remain unfazed? How has he kept strong?
Prayer, of course!
“Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.” -Genesis 17: 5 [KJV]
Hooded and bandana’ed up, Shatta Wale stands bold, a metaphysical aura encircling him.
“Ghana, are you ready for me?” he thunders, before taking a sip of Storm.
The crusade has started, and he’s about to commence his energy-filled sermon. Set to catchy highlife and dancehall melody, the spiel is highly convincing. Nobody will be left out; none will be spared.
As if on cue, patrons jump up to their feet. They throw their hands into the air, and their bodies begin to tremble, surrendering to the spiritual power that is Shatta Wale’s music. The performer’s choice of verses are taken from “Ayoo,” “Amount,” “Only One Man,” “Island” and “My Level.”
The songs are hugely popular, and they are echoed in the screams of the congregation, word for word, ad lib for ad lib.
Paah paah paaaah paaaah!
Anybody who saw him growing up would attest to his strong charisma even at a young age; his vision, drive, and the untamed flame, which also serves as backdrop for his performance tonight.
The big lights were made for him. He was made for them.
Having executed his mandate naturally, he zooms off in a red batmobile, begging a single rhetorical question:
Are you not entertained?
The dome erupts in pandemonium yet again. Shatta Wale makes his way up the dais to accept one of eight laurels he would amass on the night.
Convoyed by a modest entourage, the singer-producer—covered in white—acknowledges cheers while still maintaining poise.
He is handed the 3Music plaque. For a moment, he beholds the glistening award in his palm, smiling. He is finally convinced that this is all reality—not a dream.
The prophecy is manifesting with stark precision. After the storm comes the reign. He hoists the plaque above his head.
For the greater part of a decade, the streets have affirmed him as king, showing their support by brandishing paraphernalia bearing his insignia, or tattooing it across the veins of loyal arms.
The movement is now a religion; 3Music Awards 2019, yet another Shatta Wale coronation.
Images courtesy Kwabena Awuku