Unruly. Irreverent. Aggressive. Immoral. Wayward.
The above adjectives, among other negative and brutish expressions have been used to describe the dancehall king of Ghana, Charles Nii Armah Mensah popularly known as Shatta Wale.
However, he has proven to be one of the very talented and business-oriented musicians the country has ever produced.
Shatta Wale made his debut with ‘Moko Hoo’ over a decade ago with Tinny.
He also had other hit songs like ‘Obaa Yaa’ and ‘No Problem.’ These were fairly successful songs but he was not a household name like he is today. He was then known as Bandana.
I recount instances where he intentionally provoked dancehall artiste Samini (who was the biggest dancehall artiste then) with stories just to get his attention – but the ‘rain god’ would not mind him.
For those who started following Shatta Wale few years ago, the journey has not been rosy for the young man. He has trudged through mud, thorns and spiky rocks.
Especially in music environment where getting into the limelight is as difficult as a thread entering the eye of a needle, he needed to devise a strategy to rescue himself out of the shackles of ‘under-groundism.’
The 2013 Kaakie Effect
Shatta relaunched his career and etched his name in the annals of Ghanaian music in 2013 at Vodafone Ghana Music Awards which was held at the Accra International Conference Centre.
After losing the Dancehall Song of the Year award to Kaakie, he went berserk, insulting both Kaakie and the organisers of the awards for what could be best termed ‘stolen verdict’ in his estimation.
His ‘Shatta City’ song was beated by Kaakie’s ‘Toffee Pon Tongue’ as Reggae/Dance Hall Song of the Year.
At that time his songs were not popular. He was known predominantly among his fans.
So, it was after he dissed Kaakie and VGMA that he caught the attention of the traditional media. That was the dawn of his rise.
Seven years on, he has chalked a lot of successes; releasing hit songs, making money and receiving numerous local and international awards.
Reasons for his rise
Of course, Shatta Wale’s rise from oblivion to stardom did not happen by fluke. Controversies, music with catchy melodies, loyal fan base, high sense of humour and the media’s responsiveness to his craft are causes of his present fortunes.
But for the Kaakie Effect at the 2013 VGMAs, Shatta Wale would possibly have remained in the doldrums.
He needed to spread his tentacles; from being loved by only his core fans to being enjoyed by a larger audience. So he needed to throw tantrums and catch the eye of the public, especially the media.
After that incident, he has been caught in a lot of scandals that have gotten almost everybody talking. He has insulted the organisers of the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards amidst several allegations, one of which attracted a lawsuit from the Iyola Ayoade, the Chief Executive Officer of Charterhouse, organisers of the VGMA.
Shatta has also composed sexually explicit songs that attracted a lot of backlash from the general public.
Last year at the S-Concert, he slapped his body guard and later came out to say it was part of their stagecraft.
Recently, he ‘broke’ the internet when he shared a sexually explicit video on his SnapChat.
These are just a few of the litany of scandals he has engineered since his comeback into the music industry in 2013.
This is the track record of someone who has successfully thrived on controversy to stay relevant.
(2). Music with catchy melodies
Obviously, the controversies alone could not have sustained Shatta Wale in the music industry.
His music also contributed to his rise.
He has not had the best of quality in the production of his songs but one thing that has ingratiated him to music fans is his catchy melodies and choruses.
Shatta Wale does songs that can easily be absorbed into the bloodstream of the music lover.
Because of this he always makes his choruses simple and the melodies are catchy enough for almost everybody to be able to sing along.
Dancehall King, Mahama Paper, Kakai, Taking Over, Baby, Freedom, among other smash hit songs of his, appeal easily to the masses, and that is his niche market.
(3). Loyal fan base
It will be dishonest to say fans of Shatta Wale (Shatta Movement) have not played any role in his success.
The support to the Dancehall King by his fans has been amazing!
Even when he is tripping and plunged in a ditch, they go ahead to give him ‘accolades’ and urge him on.
I personally know some of his fans who literally fight others who speak against him.
Some of the degrees of their fanaticism may seem fiendishly ludicrous but that also been a major causality for his relevance.
Conversely, Shatta Wale has also made his fans aware of his love for them. To buy gifts for his fans and have time to interact with them on social media, he is able to keep them and win some more.
His relationship with his fans has been awesome.
(4). Sense of humour
I have heard Shatta Wale say on few occasions that if he chooses to get into comedy, some of the mainstream comedians would be out of job.
That is absolutely true.
Shatta Wale is not just funny. He doesn’t only have a sense of humour. He is a comedy material.
He has proven this through how he responds to issues when tempers are high.
There are a lot of people who do not like his songs but like his personality, as in how he most times turn serious issues into comic pieces.
In fact, he even translates this to the stage – something that enriches his craft.
That attribute of his kinds of salves his abrasive nature, thus neutralising the lethal effect of the ‘Shatta Brand.’
(5). The media
I have heard some of his fans say them solely pushed him to the top. He has also said that on several occasions.
That is a joke!
In as much as they contributed to his success, the impact of the media (especially traditional media) on his career cannot be underestimated.
Back to the 2013 Kaakie Effect!
That was the dawn of the rise of Shatta Wale.
He dissed Kaakie and VGMA organisers and even recorded a diss song for them, saying he did not need any awards.
If he didn’t know the significance of traditional media he would not have pulled all those stunts. He knew his fans alone could not put him out there. So he had to use that opportunity to get the attention of traditional media.
And that has been his magic wand up till now: he creates the stunt for the media to feed on, so he also feeds on the hype generated by the media. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
I respect Shatta Wale for making use of social media. It helps to an extent but there are more people in our society who still depend on traditional media for information.
Until social media completely supplants traditional media, no artiste can run away from the latter.
Shatta Wale has done a lot of himself but I believe he can do more if he manages some of his foibles. He can be controversial without waxing irresponsible and immature.
A lot of people retch at the idea of doing business with him because of some of the negative things he does for hype.
I am looking forward to seeing another phase of the Shatta brand where he would remain controversial, funny but add a sense of responsibility and maturity to what he does.
By: Kwame Dadzie/citinwsroom.com/Ghana