Shatta Wale is no exceptional musician

Mon, 6 Jun 2016 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

The point here is that public decency has surely gone to the dogs, a simple observation that has escaped even the moralizing cynosure of patriotic citizens.

Ghanaian pseudo-dancehall artiste Shatta Wale releases a profane song “Womaami Twe” and his wife, Shatta Michy, shamelessly endorses and defends it saying:

“I love the song. I’m not listening to the profanity but I’m listening to the rhythm, beat and chorus because they are all on point. He was trying to do a blend of African beat and the dancehall thing together. So far with all the experiments he has done, this is the best. I’m not looking at the profanity. You don’t have to look at the negative side of it but let’s look at the positive…”

Of course Shatta Wale is not experimenting with any music genre, as though there is such a “thing” as a rigidly monolithic “African beat.” In effect Wale is no experimental musician.

And Michy certainly comes across as someone who is musically “illiterate.”

In most cases our new generation of “musicians” relies overwhelmingly on sampling—which they never bother to attribute anyway or whose source(s) they acknowledge—sound synthesizer, etc., and yet when they are put in the center of live performances and public address systems they simply cannot sing—karaoke is even difficult for them!

We have already mentioned elsewhere Kojo Antwi’s “plagiarized” cover version of late R&B Gerald Levert’s “I’ll Give Anything” and Mensah’s and Wanlov da Kubolor’s “Broken Language,” a “plagiarized” cover version of rappers Smoothe Da Hustler’s and Trigga’s “Broken Language,” to mention but two notable instances. And this is very common in the Ghanaian music industry.

What is more Gerald Levert, Smoothe Da Hustler, and Trigga are Americans.

We have also either read or heard about claims of plagiarism brought against Guru, one of Ghana’s hip-life acts. Even many of the ideas for our music videos are clearly “stolen” ideas.

These unfortunate events happen largely because copyright laws are not enforced in Ghana. In effect many of the celebrated amongst the new generation of “musicians” are as “good” as Milli Vanilli, and infamous musical duo of lip-synchronizers.

Fact is, she [Shatta Michy] was merely trying so hard to sound like a relevantly knowledgeable musicologist, which she and her popular husband are not. And this partly explains why there is no creativity in the contemporary music scene of Ghana.

But why not “Wopapa Koti”?

This straightforward question and its answer(s) go to the very heart of our neocolonial phallocentric and patriarchal society and mindset—glorification of misogyny, dehumanization of femininity, and sexual objectification of women in contemporary music videos!

Of course, we have also identified these negative trends in the lyrical superstructure of songs this new generation of musicians, writers, arrangers and singers churn out these days.

Raw talent does not appear to matter anymore in today’s music industry as more and more “musicians” churn out songs lacking the emotional power of rhythmic and lyrical longevity.

Our subpar “musicians” get BET nominations and awards and they mistakenly think the “recognition” reflects acknowledgment of musical talent. Ghana today has a handful of talented musicians. Some of these BET (and Grammy) Awards are given to some of these artistes on backstage!

Agya Koo Nimo, folk palm-wine instrumentalist (“guitarist”) and lyricist and a trained laboratory technician, was right when he gave the following advice to the youth:

“It’s the quality of music that will make you succeed in the industry and not the number of songs or albums you have churned out…make haste slowly.”

And yes, A.B. Crentsil’s sang the powerful track “Moses” but he would not have descended to the level of exposing his genitals to public pleasure as Wisa Greid and Wanlov da Kubolor did!

Crentsil’s demonstrates a commanding height of lyrical sophistication Wale’s “Womaami Twe” can never attain in a lifetime.

And he, the former, offended the sensibilities of the largely hypocritical conservative public because he took the Book of Exodus, a revered book for Ghanaian Judeo-Christians, and creatively turned it into a vulgarized romantic secularism—in the opinion of our hypocritical moral entrepreneurs and cultural conservatives.

Yet the lyrics and the title of the song, unlike those of Wale’s, were not easy to decipher by just any listener.

Actually, it took the sophisticated aficionado and the mature listener of Crentsil’s music to grasp the full lyrical subtext of “Moses.”

What is more, the lyrics of “Moses” were and are lyrically “ambiguous” as to fit the running profile of multiple interpretations.

One of the highpoints of Crentsil’s long music career, perhaps, was when he, together with Sidiku Buari, publicly apologized for using “vulgar” language in their music.

On the other hand Bisa Kdei, one of the promising new-generation high-life singers, has also apologized for using the F-word in his hit song “Brother Brother.”

These musicians have strategically used “vulgar” language to court public affection and patronage for their music, a strategy that sometimes turns their work into huge commercial success.

Notwithstanding all the above, Shatta Michy’s fails to make for a convincing defense of “Womaami Twe” in that she subtly acknowledges a negative side to the track, even as she unsuccessfully tries to circumnavigate the scandalous controversy trailing the moral pollution the song had generated.

One day—possibly—her child’s friends and enemies are going to call her just that, “Womaami Twe.”

Here is what Michy did at 17 with his husband-to-be (our emphasis):

“I met him (Shatta Wale) on Facebook, and we became good friends on Facebook, I was then in Norway. When I came to Ghana, any person I asked about Shatta Wale, it was all about the negative, and it was all those negative stories I heard which got me attracted to him because I was a bad girl loading.

“So he asked me to come over to his Nima residence, and after some good conversation, we ended up having sex that very day we met. Even though it was all supposed to be a fling, we did enjoy it in his house for some weeks before going home.”

Diamond Michelle will ask: “I slept with Shatta Wale on our first date and so what?

They [Wale and his wife] are so uncomfortable with public backlash and the “negative” lyrical content of the song as to conflate the provocative title into a Triagrammaton, “WMT,” something close to the Tetragrammaton “YHWH”—for Yahweh.

Again, Crentsil’s “Moses” exhibits an astounding sophistication of lyrical dexterity and nuance in terms of moral maturity than Wale’s! Here is what Wale has to say about “Womaami Twe”:

“I’m proud of the song and I believe in the history of Ghana music nobody has been able to compose such a creative piece…”

What utter nonsense!

Finally, most of the “good” songs released in Ghana these days are “a one-hit wonder.” Certainly, they lack the psycho-emotional and spiritual appeal some attach to “good” music. Oftentimes some of us mistake prolificacy for quality and hard work—which should not be the case.

Time Magazine has described Bob Marley’s “Exodus” as “Album of the Century” while BBC has called “One Love/People Get Ready” (a song with partial credits going to The Impressions and Curtis Mayfield) “Song of the Millennium.”

Yet Shatta Wale is no Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, George Darko, Yellow Man, Moby, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Agya Koo Nimo, Sly and Robbie, Dr. Dre, Nana Ampadu, James Brown…

Wale is simply Wale, himself, and has a long way to go to learn the ropes…though we are necessarily implying that what constitutes “good music” is rigidly absolute.

He is hardworking and prolific nonetheless. This no one can take from him. Perhaps one day he may become great in his own right, as he does not have to be Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Moby, Sly and Robbie, Yellow Man, Dr. Dre, Agya Koo Nimo, Lee “Scratch” Perry, James Brown, Nana Ampadu…in order to be great! Greatness is unique and comes with the high price of creative individuation.

Of course, the potential for creative or innovative [originality] is there and Wale and his management and producers are yet to tap into it.

Nevertheless, where does our music stand in terms of global recognition? Let us encourage the creative and hardworking ones amongst the many to assume the mantle of creativity from the older generation!


Ghanaweb. “I Love Shatta Wale’s Profane Song—Shatta Michy.” May 23, 2016.

Ghanaweb. “Compose Good Songs—Agya Koo Nimo.” May 31, 2016.

Ghanaweb. “I'm Proud Of Profane Song—Shatta Wale.” May 25, 2016.

Ghanaweb. “I ‘Slept’ With Shatta Wale At Age 17—Shatta Michy.” March 18, 2016.

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis