Stonebwoy has just been announced Reggae/ Dancehall Artist of the Year. The make-shift dome roars as he rises to go receive the plaque (one of the most keenly contested on the night, and Stonebwoy’s fifth time picking it). That very second, Shatta Wale is seen rushing down the stage too, flanked by roused hangers-on. His intentions? We are not sure yet.
The maelstrom of drama that ensues Sunday morning, during the twentieth Ghana Music Awards, is evocative of something from a Hollywood thriller, for it involves fisticuffs, the discharge of pepper spray, brandishing of an assault weapon, and a general atmosphere rancid with ultra-suspense and panic, leading to a number of patrons rushing out for dear life.
The scandal plays out on live TV too, to 44 countries across Africa, and millions the world over via the internet. The scene is immediately rationalised by loyalists as a feature of dancehall—the genre the Ghanaian music arch-rivals say they practice—and which many say is becoming an excuse for the normalisation of nihilistic behaviour within showbiz circles here.
Within minutes, on social media, there’s a flurry of clips showing the incident from various angles. Eyewitness accounts contrast, depending on the faction doing the framing: Shatta Wale zealots claim the Kakai man’s motive taking to the stage—albeit with an entourage over a dozen deep, kicking and pushing, and wearing the look of one primed for combat—was to applaud Stonebwoy, even before the latter could get on with his acceptance speech. Stonebwoy devotees, on the other hand, question Wale’s motive for besieging the podium in the first place—considering the longstanding threat-laced cold war between Stonebwoy and him. Again, how Stonebwoy ended up with a gun onstage is hardly questioned, nor is the troubling porousness of security protocol at an event like this. Previously concealed in a leather pouch by an associate, and then handed to Stonebwoy in the heat of the punch-up, the deadly armament, defendants are adamant, was purely precautionary.
Whatever follows the Shatta Wale/ Stonebwoy on-stage scuffle is of little consequence: who would emerge winner in the also hotly-anticipated Artist of the Year and Artist of the Decade award categories, Efya’s record fifth time being named Female Vocalist of the Year, MEDiKAL finally earning VGMA trophies, and multiple great showcases topped by a momentous baton-passing highlife session between Amakye Dede and Kuami Eugene are all marred by the minute-long fray.
At a ceremony marking an iconic feat— two decades of Ghana’s most elite music award scheme—the altercation has taken centre stage.
For GH dancehallogists, the prospect of talking about Shatta Wale/ Stonebwoy involved in gun-induced chaos is exhausting, because this is not the first time. Unfortunately, it has proven itself as one of those situations that pulls you in whether you like it or not. Both acts have in recent years, resorted to gunplay to issue a firm warning to the other side—Stonebwoy more than once. And though thankfully, no casualties have been recorded, legitimate fears linger, that it’s only a matter of time before someone loses his breath.
“Live by the gun, die by the gun.” No?
When he finally comes around to deliver his acceptance, Stonebwoy speech does little to calm waters. Visibly irate, he speaks of war and death, touting his assets in a hypothetical duel with Shatta Wale. “I’ll chomp him like gari,” he concluded a chest-thumping tirade.
Saying something that wilfully provocative is clearly neither a functional nor responsible use of language; especially at such a sensitive time.
For a redeeming message, we fall on the competence of fellow dancehall practitioner, Samini (whose performance comes after).
Regularly on one side of dancehall feuds in this town, Samini has had to evolve into the role of elder brother and negotiator. Draped in imperial apparel, the singer’s charisma and proven stage ability prove vital yet again, as he whips up a no-nonsense wake-up call in the form of his signature freestyles. It works, for he succeeds in luring a number of attendees back into the auditorium (albeit cautiously) for the event to resume.
Expectedly, the acceptance speeches of awardees who follow also hammer the need for peace and oneness, including Bose Ogulu, mother and business manager of Nigerian pop star, Burna Boy—on whose behalf she has come to receive the award for Best African Act.
Stonebwoy would issue a more sanitised message when he returns to pick up another award. Now composed, he apologises for his earlier actions which will now cloud his “humble boy” image.
“I only had to react out of natural instincts because we all know how premeditative some people can be.
“We’ve seen on social media the threats and everything so we couldn’t come in unprepared. I come in peace and I go in peace and I apologise to the whole masses of Ghana that the awards is going to continue.”
The apology, which also sees him justify the behaviour; citing threats from Shatta Wale and his cohort, is received with cheer. Still, it is unclear if he will ever regain that image in the mind of the average Ghanaian music fan.
As for Shatta Wale, he takes to his dependable medium of Twitter, cautioning against testing “a lion,” threatening to take matters into his own hands if the police don’t do something about his rival’s “trigger-happy life” as well as slander targeted at an “arrogant cripple.”
For neutrals, those pushing the Shatta Wale “laudatory” narrative profer a hardly convincing argument. Why? If it was the case, the move by Wale would have been ill-informed. For one thing, it was not scripted, and seeing as this is a live show, it would set the running order back a few minutes at least. For another, his handlers should have known that the gesture would trigger tensions, and reinforce stereotypes about him being an aggressor.
Regarding Stonebwoy’s weapon stunt, it corroborates suspicion that Stonebwoy is only modest in words—not with his action. What was the thought process, objectively? That Wale came to assault him with the whole world watching, and expected to get away with it? That he, Stonebwoy could fire a weapon under the very eyes of the gazing world and expect to get away with it too?
For now, social media banter (fraught with straw man and whataboutism) will continue till it gradually dies down in coming weeks— only to rear its head again when the next edition comes around, and for many years to come.
“You dey kai the year wey Shatta storm de stage wey Stonebwoy too pull gun? Action movie tins paa ooh.”
The 2019 Vodafone Ghana Music Awards was put together by Charterhouse Ghana. It was compered by Kwame Sefa Kayi and Berla Mundi, with Giovani Caleb and Sika Osei handling red carpet duties. Oragnisers declined to announce winners in two categories as a result of the commotion: Artiste of the Year, and Most Popular Song of the Year.
Below is the full list of winners:
Below is the full list of nominees:
Traditional Artiste of the Year – Kwan Pa
Instrumentalist of the Year – Mizter Okyere
Lifetime Achievement Award – Dr Rev Mrs Mary Ghansah
Lifetime Achievement Award – Obuoba J.A. Adofo
Lifetime Achievement Award – Prof Kofi Abraham
Unsung Artiste of the Year – Kula
Gospel Song of the Year – Diana Hamilton for ‘Mo Ne Yo’
Highlife Song of the Year – Shatta Wale for ‘My Level’.
Reggae/Dancehall Song of the Year – Shatta Wale for ‘Gringo’
Hiphop Song of the Year – Kwesi Arthur for ‘Anthem’
Hiplife Song of the Year – ‘Obiaa Wone Master’ by Yaa Pono ft. Stonebwoy
Afropop Song of the Year – ‘Akwaaba’ by Guilty Beatz feat Mr Eazi, Pappy Kojo and Patapaa
Gospel Artiste of the Year – Diana Hamilton
Highlife Artiste of the Year – Kuami Eugene
Hiplife/Hiphop Artiste of the Year – Medikal
Reggae/Dancehall Artiste of the Year – Stonebwoy
Music Video of the Year – ‘Come and See My Moda’ by MzVee feat Yemi Alade
Best Collaboration of the Year – ‘Kpoo Keke’ by Stonebwoy feat Medikal, Kwesi Arthur, Darko Vibes & Kelvyn Boy
Record of the Year – ‘Hye Me Bo’ by Akwaboah
Songwriter of the Year – King Promise for ‘CCTV’
Producer of the Year – Kuami Eugene
Sound Engineer of the Year – Francis Osei for Akwaboah’s ‘Sh3 Me Bo’
African Artiste of the Year – Burna Boy
Rapper of the Year – MEDiKAL
Best African collaboration – ‘Akwaaba’ by Guilty Beats feat Mr. Eazi, Patapaa & Pappy Kojo
Best Group of the Year – Bethel Revival Choir
New Artiste of the Year – Wendy Shay
Album of the Year – ‘Rockstar’ by Kuami Eugene
Artiste of the Decade – Sarkodie