In any field, there is need for sacrifice so latter folks can find life more bearable. In the case of the sweet romance that dancehall is enjoying today, it is worthy to not that the journey has not been easy but the perseverance of the elders is now paying off.
To refuse to acknowledge tedious work put in by the pacesetters can prove disastrous rendering a pregnant and promising romance to be still born and in the process shattering hopes and faith for the dancehall project which has enabled hungry lions to feed themselves, their families and have the opportunity to discover other lands.
Samini brought shine to the genre when he released his debut album ‘Dankwansere’ in 2004 with hit tracks like linda and gyae shi gaining ground quickly.
The second album dubbed ‘Samini’ won him three major awards at the 2007 Ghana Music Awards and also won the Best African Artist award at the Hip Hop Awards in Nigeria in February 2008. ‘Dagaati’ the third album followed as did ‘CEO’ in 2010.
Then in 2014, a branded Bandana turned Shatta Wale had his wish to gain recognition for his gift and hard work came true when he won the Vodafone Ghana Music Artiste of the Year award. A huge feat by any standard indicating the gradual emergence of the dancehall genre as a lethal and potent force in Ghana.
Then dancehall artiste, Stonebwoy retained the Artiste of the Year award for the dancehall family in the subsequent event and further grabbed the BET Best International Act award in 2015 on the first attempt.
The goodwill that dancehall is enjoying was not always there compelling some of the early soldiers to retire or abscond for years only returning recently to gauge the market. It is in this context that Emmanuel Andrew Samini deserves special mention for his stamina and his ability to dig deep into his creative reserve and remain relevant with the times.
Folks might not have taken note but Samini then going by the Batman name made a declaration on his smash hit ‘linda’ which must have been prophetic. Right at the opening of that track he announces: “Ashanti International, Batman the dancehall stopper me a sey…….” In an era where hiplife was the fish taken with kenkey, for those who doubt the man’s dancehall credibility, this clearly shows Samini was at home in either the hiplife or dancehall bed and has since birthed numerous hits too many to enumerate here.
For a time in Ghana’s music history, Samini was the currency of the music industry and it was given that when you featured the Wa native on your music, you were certain to have a hit. In the process Samini helped guarantee hits for about 40 songs spanning K.K Fosu, Kokoveli, Shiloh, King David, Obour etc.
Never one to shy away from making clear his thoughts, Samini offered ‘egwee’ in 2005 dissing all the rag-life artistes of the time making the case that he was the king and they were inferior. Ronny Coaches, one half of Buk Bak was so incensed by that tune that he slapped Samini when he physically encountered him on the set of 4×4 at Adabraka leading to a scuffle.
The rag-lifer, rapper, song writer and actor has since gone on to be nominated for the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards – Best African Act and 2008 MTV Africa Music Awards – Best Live Performer. He won the 2006 MOBO Awards for Best African Act and 2009 MTV Africa Music Awards for Best Live Performer.
His wins at the Ghana Music Awards can fill a cabinet and for organizers to fall on him to co-host the event with Obour underlines his pedigree.
The man who responds to the title ‘African Dancehall King’ has over the years offered solid music including gyae shi, time bomb, my baby, movement, dadiekye, money biz, sweet mistake, scatter bad mind, party time, iskoki and numerous other hits.
What is beyond doubt is that when awards were eluding Ghanaian artiste at the global stage, it was the Dansoman lord who put in some solid piece of creative work to emerge Ghana’s music ambassador securing some awards for self and country very much as Sarkodie, Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy are doing now.
Other elders who did music with the reggae/ragga/ dancehall flavour include General Marcus whose ‘sane ni agba’ a rendition of Buju Banton’s song in the 90’s was so touching that it opened many doors for him even leading to his sojourn in the United Kingdom. The song addressing life’s struggles, graduate unemployment and oppression of the poor by the rich remains a timeless piece. The UK-based Ghanaian reggae musician attempted a comeback in 2006 but plans fell through.
Although not active on the music market now, 2Ga served the family one time especially with his ‘my gal’ track featuring Black Prophet.
Black Prophet is a veteran in the field and his ‘mama’ tune remains a classic.
There is Natty Joe Amanfo with his unique style who remains popular for his ‘tribal war-4 bal war’ tune.
Buk Bak’s Ronny Coaches was a formidable force in the ragga/dancehall army and helped forge solid albums including ‘kum ke kena’ in 1999, ahwehwe in 2001, nkomshe in 2001, sika kokoo in 2002, gold coast in 2004 and other rich tunes like ‘kolom’ in recent years.
From the Western region, TH4Kwagees comprising Scooby Selah now Fifi Selah, Atsu Koliko and Olasty Bingo served tunes such as ‘nana esi, ‘I’m aware’, ‘mennum meho’ and others. Selah would move on and offer the world tunes from his solo project.
Then there is Mad Fish, although easily fingered as a hiplife artiste he also showed his other love for dancehall with tunes like ‘so sweet in the eyes’, ‘wone me baby’ and ‘sexy’.
Of course Terry Bonchaka’s lethal combination of stage craft and easy on the ears tunes with his deep vocal tone enabled tunes like ‘Ghana mma’, ‘pulele’, ‘zozey’, ‘Mr. Ode’ and ‘Ghana lady’ to fly. Little surprise then that the man with the afro hair and comb called himself the ‘Ragga Dada’. His collaborations with Nana Agyemang were queer as they were fruitful.
Another apostle of ragga, the forerunner of today’s dancehall was Borax. The man just like many others of the time, horned his skills during the Fun World youth talent shows at the National Theater and after featuring on Deeba’s hit track got linked to Daddy Lumba who helped produce his debut album, ‘aseeho’ which produced hits like ‘nanayaa’, ‘eye onua’, ‘me coat yi’. Another album ‘odo bewu diie’ boasted ‘onko na menko’, ‘meba’ and ‘enyi no sika’. The man who loves farming in recent years offered ‘tini wusa’.
There is Back Tyre who came through with ‘yen ntem ma yen pue’ and Root Eye whose comeback tune ‘heaviest rain’ underscored the fact that he still had the touch.
Sonni Balli remains another soldier of the family deploying tunes like ‘cocky rasta, ‘bend my rules’ and ‘afrakumaa’ to appease the hungry fans.
Akesifuor’s ‘african gurl’ was well received as was Wutah’s ‘burning desire’ just as Shasha Marley’s ‘maata family’, ‘so nyame mu’ and ‘twin city mafia’ landed well.
Atumpan’s ‘the thing’, ‘we run the show’ and ‘regina’ earned him a spot as does Bredren B’s ‘adwoa fowaa’ and ‘life’ tunes.
Other soldiers including Shoetan one time member of Buk Bak, Skrew Face, Felix Bell, Kojo Antwi, Blakk Rasta, Mr. Logic, Daddy Bosco, Black Santino, Knii Lantei and Johnny Blaze have all served the reggae/ragga/dancehall family. Not to forget all the musicians who did various Jesus tunes in the reggae/dancehall spirit but won’t just acknowledge it.
For many moons, female representation was nonexistent till heavy lipped Dorcas Opoku Darkwa easily identified as Abrewa Nana stepped in and took charge delighting fans with tunes such as ‘odo filla’ and ‘asisi me so’. Nana’s wordplay and energetic stage work coupled with her over 3 albums certainly stands out.
The case of Bandana is a curious one. Here was a fella who gained national attention with his ‘moko ho’ tune then entered the musical wilderness only to reemerge years later as Shatta Wale. Having discovered himself during those lonely years, Shatta has managed to carve an impressive career on his return.
Going by the tag ‘African King of Dancehall’ Shatta’s ‘dancehall king’, ‘anastasia’, ‘a Ghana me sey’, ‘everybody like my thing’, ‘real hustler’, ‘maserati’, ‘huggu flat’, ‘ice cream’ and ‘enter the net’ have all earned the Korle Gonno godfather hard core followers around the globe in addition to fame, fortune and awards.
It is incisive for current reggae/dancehall practitioners to know the work put in by the elders, respect their efforts and then build on ways of keeping the shine on dancehall. Just a few years back it was unthinkable that a dancehall artiste would win the biggest award at a Ghana Music Awards event but such is the story.
Kaakie deserves special mention for contributing to the revival of female participation in dancehall music in the country with her ‘too much’, ‘DC turn up’, ‘ewoo’, ‘toffee pun tongue’ tunes.
There comes a time in a man’s life when everything falls in place. For Stonebwoy that year was 2014. With his in-demand tunes like ‘not again’, ‘climax’, ‘can’t cool’, ‘pull up’, ‘ghetto love’, ‘onumade’, ‘baafira’, ‘shikena’ and ‘susupon’, the Ashiaman don and leader of the Bhim nation is certainly enjoying the perks involving cash, global exposure, the damsels, awards and prominence.
Dancehall’s future looks bright with the youth swaying towards the genre and carving out something for themselves.
Already soldiers such as Jupitar de General, Episode, Rashid Metal, Rudebwoy Ranking, Bastero, Ara B, Vbrant Faya and Stargyal Denora are staking a claim. Only time will tell how long the dancehall romance will last with the populace.