Which artist did it for me this year? That’s an easy one: It’s Bisa, sorry, Stonebwoy…no, Gasmilla…EL rather. But Sarkodie’s too…almighty Shatta Wale even…
Hold on…what makes an artist deserving of that title anyway, in your opinion? Is it the one who claimed every award? Is it that one who had the biggest hit? Maybe for you, it was the one the one who, through charisma and energy, has manipulated audiences all year. Or perhaps it’s a combination of some, or all the above. Anyway…
In conclusion, it is about hard work…I think; who’s work ethic has been most enviable this year, or at least the impression of it. But that too is a tough question, because like any other venture, measuring effort is honestly not that easy.
Measuring effort in music is particularly tricky and can be political, because we all have favourites, and have salient facts to back them. But we should also agree that an artist hard work should be visible and difficult to doubt; we should all bear witness to his determination culture and diligence.
What a year for Gasmilla! It’s certainly the most effective year for the international fisherman. He’s come a long way from Aboodatoi, and finally established himself as something more than a flash in the pan. Sure, since entering the industry in 2011, he has released quite an impressive catalogue: 3 Points, Letter to the Government, Falefale, and Telemo… but this year, I’m sure, has surprised even him. With one song, he’s achieved more impact in this year than any other person you’re thinking of, right now…and that’s just fact, never mind that his song may have been released quite early in 2014.
And that’s odd about a song. Why would a song take a day to hit and another, a whole year? Anyway, like I was saying, Telemo became a national obsession, and opened more doors for him than we probably are aware of. Sometimes, effort is seen in impact . But is one song enough? Can one song be enough?
Bisa KDei deserves to be Artist of the Year, and it’s not so much the fact that he’s resuscitating an endangered genre, as it is how he’s gone about it. He not only released this year, two songs which are both exciting and essential for the highlife question, but he’s released a whole body of work (his 10–track sophomore album, Breakthrough, was released on December 21). This tells me that his intentions are not short -term –he plans on being here for longer than the span of short-lived commercial songs.
When anybody is being considered for an accolade like that of Artist of the Year, that person must have proven that they take their work seriously…we must be convinced that that person is aiming at longevity –a legacy –or at least, is thinking about it. Bisa KDei has been commercially popular for say, three or four years, and he already has two decent albums. That is nearly unheard of here. But then again, he has chosen highlife, and it is one of the demands of highlife. Bisa is living up to it, one song at a time. He is lending vocals on other artists’ songs, he’s producing music for himself, and others, he’s performing on every major stage, and is navigating around scandal gracefully. He’s coming out pretty strong, and it’s commendable.
EL is a hard worker. He too, has done so much for music this year that it can’t (shouldn’t) be overlooked. He juggles between the array of genres in this town, and leaves an impact everywhere. When we observe how easy it all comes to him, we are inclined to overlook, like it’s nothing…but if it were, everyone else would be doing it too. There’s a highlife song with Afro Harmony here, impressive stuff with the rock band Dark Suburb there, and several azonto–tempo songs and collaborations lying all around us. No matter what kind of music you lean to, there’s a good chance there’s an EL on your playlist. This month, his latest album comes out –I for one am confident about the quality on ELOM, and it’s not just because of the witty song titles on the album.
The genius he’s delivering to the above genres, he’s giving to hip hop too, which he might be trying to pacify with his B.A.R mixtapes, in parallel proportion too. With his mixtape, The B.A.R II, for instance, he has managed to fuel the conversation that he might be the Best African Rapper, which is what B.A.R stands for, to him. With The B.A.R mixtapes, he might actually have raised the bar in hip hop in Ghana several notches up (pun intended…or not). And while many other rappers here are having to “dumb down” their lyrics, he is one of the few who are representing lyricism and consciousness with their version of hip hop. With this new mixtape too, he’s had to defend his affection fo hip hop, as well as rationalise why he had to “sell out” the genre before he started “selling”.
Like I said, I have high hopes for EL, who’s known in real life as Elom Adablah, and his ELOM album, because, well, Everybody Loves Original Music…but there’s also so much he’s already done with The B.A.R II…and his mixtapes cannot be taken for granted. Indeed, for his performance on American Passport, a song off his previous installment, he won Rapper of The Year at the VGMAs, so yes, EL’s mixtapes are not to be played with.
Finally on B.AR II, I would very much like for you to listen to the mixtape. There are 19 songs on there,and it’s for your own good. But if you can’t get all 19 songs, kindly listen to at least the following : We No Dey Hear, State of the Nation, and 10 Rap Commandments. These are specifically songs for everyone with ambition and challenges, which refers to all of us anyway. After that, let’s discuss depth, vision, observation, honesty in music, and the art of social commentary.
Did I mention he produces songs too? And don’t even get me started with stuff that his Koko is doing already.
Don’t worry, I won’t bring up New Guy, mainly because it was a flop which still surprises me. But I have to mention Dumsor, just because it’s one of the most googled songs this year. Sarkodie may not top your list of musicians this year, because perhaps he may not have released a crossover hit this year, but think about this; at various points of this year, he had a song which pricked us –Dumsor, Free Press, The Masses, Mewu, and now, Hand to Mouth. He has filled up both the Apollo Theatre and the Accra International Conference Centre. He’s done a lot of touring too. And he has been on every major stage in Ghana, and many others elsewhere. The feats he has achieved this year, I doubt if many of the other artists on your mental list have achieved. It is a legitimate question, if you ask me.
Most of all, if you are interested in something deeper than radio danceables, he made something for you. It took him two years and is an actual work of art. His Mary album, which was made at the request of, and dedicated to Mary Lokko, his late grandmother, may be the most succinct, poignant and artistic thing he’s done so far. It may also be the project of his that received the least commercial acclaim. It’s unfair that we will demand that artists release wholesome art, and then when they finally do, we don’t get behind it like we did for their other stuff.
In the end, Sarkodie may be his own demon; he has chalked unbelievable success with his previous projects that we are blinded by them in our reception of his new work, instead of appreciating them independent of each other. That, I think, is why Sarkodie might be at the bottom of your list, or might be absent altogether.
Stonebwoy Burniton! Where do I even start? You would think that after being crowned Artist of the Year at the last VGMAs, he would slow down even for a bit. But no, he has worked so hard, you would think he’s now pursuing that privilege. At least, that is the opinion of my friend, Nana Poku Amankwah, who is a music intellectual and whose opinion in that area I really trust, except when he embarks on needless emotionality when discussing Shatta Wale.
Stonebwoy has released more bonafide hits than any other artist this year…everyone else has just one or two. How do you feel when you hear Go Higher? Gosh, I feel the same way too. It’s so apt for praise and worship at church. It’s uplifting and melodic. You could dance to it in mirth and at the same time, it could make you cry.
What about Shell Dem, Come Over, Gbedegbede, Talk to Me, Zongo Girl, and the Christmas carol, Mightylele. And boy, Mightylele is such a mighty song. We’ll definitely discuss it in further detail elsewhere. But wait…what about Shekeena too, President Mahama’s personal favourite?
He has won nearly every big award he has been nominated for…and he has been nominated for tonnes. I don’t want to bring up the BET because you already know that. But there are also the Bass Awards and the African Muzik Magazine Awards (AFRIMA).
This year too, he’s been associated with such major players as I -Octane, Kranium, Olamide, AKA, Cassper Nyovest, Burnaboy, and so on. He has toured extensively (most recently with the legendary Morgan Heritage) and been on nearly every major stage, and not just in Ghana. He’s done so much this year, he’s such an example.
I do think Shatta Wale has done impressive this year too… more than impressive. Love him or hate him, you have to respect his craftsmanship. It is unbelievable, I’m telling you!
This year alone, he’s released more songs than other artists release in a 20 year career; over ninety, yes, nine-zero! He produced most of them too. If he was releasing a 10- track album every other month, he would have nine by now –nine albums in a single year. Nobody really knows how many songs he has released since his rebirth…they’re just too many to count. At 31, he has released enough material for a lifetime. it’s the truth. Now let that sink in.
He’s also featured on the song’s of many other artists. When he says “I’m overdosed with music “, in that song, it’s more than just a line.
He’s been everywhere this year and is still the crowd favourite. He’s been nominated, and has won several awards both here and elsewhere. His songs this year alone, especially Kakai, and lately, Chop Kiss, have dominated the past few months too. He’s been visible all year, and he’s definitely one of the chosen few who keep dancehall music relevant and accessible to us. You can’t talk about him in a few paragraphs.
Sure, VVIP too, MzVee, Adomaa, all who go by the name Easy, no matter how they spell it, Okyeame Kwame, M.anifest, Atom, Rocky Dawuni, Samini, Kofi Kinaata, Efya, Kwaw Kesse,Reggie and Bollie, Praye, Promzy, Countryman Songo, D- Black and everyone else with “D” in their name, Mugeez, Omar Sterling / Paedae or R2Bees altogether. and everyone else you’re about to mention. Are we cool now? Alright then…
I’m sorry, what did you say? Oh, but why would you mention Wisa? Eh…? For a single song and exposing manhood uncharacteristically smaller than the Ga man? Oh, you shouldn’t say stuff like that. How would you feel if someone made fun of your goods? Stop that! Unlike you, I wish him well, and I am “kiiked” by him. I pray he learns necessary lessons and comes out a better man.
Which artist did it for me this year? That’s an easy one…
By Gabriel Myers Hansen
The writer can be reached @myershansen on twitter and at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also on www.myershansen.wordpress.com.