Who is King of Dancehall in Ghana?

It is quite ironic that the debate on who represents the best dancehall artiste in Ghana has emerged at this time when the first-ever awards scheme for dancehall/reggae music is on.

Interestingly, the banter on who is ‘King’ of the dancehall genre stirred up after some recognized artistes started their self-glorification of that accolade in their songs.

One artiste claims he is the ‘King of African Dancehall’, some other gloats that he is the ‘King of Ghana dancehall’ and another bellows that he is the ‘Best in Ghana dancehall’.

Such self-aggrandizement is very much allowed in music. As an artiste, you can call yourself whatever you want and push that assertion into the minds of the fans.

Here, we shall put all that self-glorification in the bin and attempt to name the ‘Dancehall King’ in Ghana based on industry-tested criteria such as originality, longevity, relevance, awards, impact on culture, consistency, stage presence and influence on the industry.

Heavily-inspired by the likes of Shabba Ranks, Buju Banton, Beenie Man, Shaggy and the many other Jamaican greats, dancehall has cemented its place as a strong and revered genre in Ghanaian music.

Over the years,  an array of fairly good artistes have graced the genre in Ghana: Root I, General Marcus, Abrewanana, Sammy B, Yoggy Doggy, Madfish, Samini, Soni Bali, Screwface, Bandana, Natural Face, Stonebwouy, Jupiter, Kaakie and Atumpan. At the end of the day, however, only one of them deserves the accolade of ‘King of Dancehall’.

The ‘King’ must possess some originality that attribute which makes the artiste and his music distinct and stand out from the pack. It is that trait which easily makes the artiste identifiable and as an artiste, you know you are original when one hears your song and exclaims “Oh, that is Elephant Man” instead of saying, “Oh, he sounds like Elephant Man.”

Kaakie and Samini

Kaakie and Samini

You can’t claim to be the King of Dancehall when you have not even survived a short span of three years churning out hit songs, gracing high-profile stages, making a mark and having a formidable fan base.

In the rigorous and unpredictable music business of ours, you must have survived for years, producing platinum albums or hit singles at any point in time, commanding cheers whenever you mount any platform to perform and attracting lots of appeal whenever you step out.

To lay claim to the accolade, you must have been consistent over the years, moving from sublime to sublime and not from sublime to ridiculous. You can’t be consistent when you only have just one hit song and one street anthem to your credit in a spate of ten years in the industry.

Consistency comes with a constant stay in the positive limelight, a continuous display of artistry and branding and you must have survived the test of time.

You surely must be smacked in the face when you want avid dancehall followers to call you the Dancehall King when you do not have a single award to your name.

You surely must have garnered enough recognition in the genre and in the industry as a whole and such recognition comes with awards, a handful of them.

It’s a huge plus when your brand has been able to transcend the comfort of your boundary into others, winning laurels in other frontiers and making your name a household one in the sub-region or the whole of the continent.

Professing to be the best in a genre surely means you know how to rock a crowd. The introduction and sighting of a “King” on any stage at any given time should elicit deafening cheers and his performance should drive the crowd berserk and his exit should leave them wanting more.

Simply put, the best in dancehall should be able to command any stage at any given time, should be able to excite any audience with live performances. You can’t sit on the throne when you have not commandeered your own show, a successful show at that – a show where you must have outshined every other performer. Why not? You are supposed to be the “King”.

The ‘King of Dancehall’ in Ghana must have impacted his brand positively on the dancehall genre and the entire music industry; he must have paved the way for one or two credible performers in the field. He must have encrypted his name in the books of Ghanaian music. The mention of his/her name should exude inestimable respect, admiration from both pioneers and burgeoning artistes within the industry.

How can we have a “King” who has no business acumen? He surely must have sealed one or two lucrative deals: deals that attest to his business savvy and fortifies his brand.

Thumbs up to all who blazed the trail for dancehall. Congratulations to all who are bearing the torch of dancehall and more grease to all who are coming up – but it is fitting and just that all of you get down on your knees and kiss the ring of the one and true King of Ghanaian dancehall – you know who he is!

By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo

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