All hell broke loose when dancehall and afropop singer Shatta Wale recently bashed Nigerian artists for failing to reciprocate the support and collaboration they got from Ghana.
During his holiday season concert held in Ghana recently, he said he didn’t need the support of Nigerians to hit big in the music industry.
His rants triggered a wave of condemnatory remarks from Nigerians who dismissed his claims as a hate campaign.
But are his claims valid? Is there really a failure on Nigeria’s part when it comes to supporting its West African brothers?
Nigeria and Ghana are no strangers to each other.
Apart from being geographically close to each other, there is a long musical history that stretches back to the 60s. Some argue that the highlife sound that became a craze in the 70s Nigerian music scene originated from Ghana. In more recent times, groups like R2Bees and rapper Sarkodie have successfully collaborated with Nigerian acts like Wizkid and Wande Coal.
With the explosion of Nigerian music in the last few years, there is a sentiment that Ghana has been left behind by Nigeria in the journey of taking Africa globally.
Unlike Shatta Wale’s aggressive approach, dancehall singer Stonebwoy took a more diplomatic approach to address the issue. According to him:
“My brother, Shatta Wale’s approach might be wrong, but the topic of our brother nation, Nigeria not reciprocating the love and support it receives from Ghana is valid and deserves critical attention.
“We were all Africans before we got separated into individual nations. African history and migration studies confirm that there is more that unites us than divides us.”
Stonebwoy’s approach was clearly more articulate and informative. He continued:
“Accordingly, our Nigerian brothers must consider that with their great power comes the responsibility of helping to forge a united African front by deliberately allowing music from the other African countries which pollinate Nigerian music to flourish on Nigerian platforms on local and international levels.”
Amidst all the criticism of Nigeria’s purported lack of support for Ghana, one thing that was missing was a detailed path to how Nigeria can actually help.
There were criticisms and observations without a clear solution. In the past, South African and Congolese artists have ruled the airwaves in Nigeria.
Examples are Mafikizolo and the legendary Awilo Logomba. Also, the success of these artists spread beyond Nigeria. So the argument stands that Ghana’s slowed down growth is due to an insufficient outflow of catchy music.
As we know, the popularity of music these days depends on hits. As the world evolves, so should Ghanaian music. There is a need for music that can cross borders. Until then, there should be room for honest and open minded conversations about the state music in West Africa.
AfricaMusicOnline publisher Tony Amadi dismissed the SHATTA WALL·E rant outrightly, stating that there is no basis for the complaint against his Nigerian brothers.
He said that when highlife was the major sound of west Africa Nigeria musicians learnt from the old Ghanaian masters like Stan Plange and E.T Mensah while Ghanaian musicians of today failed to key into Fela’s Afrobeat which is the top Africa genre of the day.
Today’s Ghanaian musicians also failed to tap into the Osibisa phenomenon of Afrorock which was a great genre invented by Teddy Osei, late Mac Tonto and others.
It should also be noted that Nigerian superstars Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido and Tiwa Savage spend a lot of their time and money in Accra, some even have houses there.
SHATTA WALL·E must be the odd one out because Sarkodie who is even bigger has no such complaint and is pretty close with his Nigerian counterparts.
Long live African music.