Pulse Blogger: The Sarkodie – Shatta Wale beef & how it concerns Nigeria

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After trash-talking Wizkid and being ignored, Shatta Wale apologizes to Wizkid

The tension between Shatta and Sarkodie might have been recently heightened by the comment made by the dancehall singer about the rapper being broke…

But there has been a longstanding issue of Sarkodie’s  alliance with Nigerian artistes over his colleagues in Ghana.

What most people know, here in Nigeria, is the steaming hot beef between Shatta Wale  and Sarkodie, whereas there is a bigger situation  – the music industry in Ghana is virtually turning into a theatre of war, with Shatta Wale standing in the core centre.  Shatta’s habit of blunt-talking and aggression often gathers storm around him; and Nigerians confirmed his appetite for controversy when, in November, last year, he took to Twitter to reveal that he has no admiration for Wizkid; days after the Starboy dominated the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA).

This resulted in a bloodless but intense war between Shatta and Wizkid fans who termed the singer’s tweets as disrespectful, full of hate and desperation. Although the fight stayed on social media, “the dancehall king” turned to his colleagues in Ghana to clear out what seems like frustration – the cause: Nigerian artistes like Wizkid are hero-worshipped by Ghanaians. People did not have that mind to elevate themselves.

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That’s why we see the Wizkids. I don’t see Wizkid to be too much for me but Ghanaians see him like that. Ghanaian artistes see him like that. I don’t want to see Wizkid and feel like ‘oh wow.’ I want Wizkid to see me and go like ‘oh wow.’”, Shatta Wale told his Ghanaian Radio host, during the heat of the Twitter war with Wizkid fans.

The Nigerian music industry as the leading market on the continent

The Nigerian music industry, which Wizkid is an ambassador of, has held immense influence in the music scene in Africa, perhaps for as long as the continent existed as a community. This influence is primarily due to the country’s population size which translates into an audience to which music, as a product, can be marketed to. For this reason and the fact that the common language used in Nigerian music – English language –  is widely accepted.

An artiste who breakthroughs the Nigerian music industry almost automatically becomes a continental star, while it is not the same for other industries, except perhaps the South African and Tanzania music industry. This has made the Nigerian music industry the holy grail for African artistes who look to penetrate it through collaborations and affiliations with Nigerian musicians.

Shatta Wale’s Push For The Rise Of Ghanian Music

Shatta Wale, however, does not share in that belief. Rather, he advocates for a revolution in which music industries, especially the Ghanaian industry, which is a neighbour to Nigeria, can be self-sufficient; and Ghanaian artistes can become International stars without necessarily lobbying for endorsement from Nigeria.

The incident at a recent event in Nigeria where Shatta Wale allegedly performed to a lukewarm audience that suddenly came alive once Burna Boy came on, further fuelled the conversation for the need for a restructured industry in Ghana which does not lionise foreign artistes at the expense of local stars. “I studied and I have learnt and I have learnt something and that’s what I want the industry to learn…We have to grow our culture”, Shatta said during his interview on Hitz FM of Ghana.

Nigerian media, particularly the radio, priorities local content; and the limited import is mostly music from US and U.K.; and very little Ghanaian music, which explains why the Nigerian audience knows little of Shatta Wale or Stonebwoy’s music.

Ghanaians are forming up to enact a similar legislative policy that would see a significant increase in the airplay allotted to local content. Andy Dosty of Hitz FM revealed that the plan is to have the ratio at 80:20, while Shatta suggested 90:10. He said, “I even want 90: 10. If that’s what the media wants to do, we would support it. But let us let the government know we are ready.”

Shatta’s Controversial Character & It’s Effect On The Cause

Shatta’s controversial character, however, is acting as a force of repulsion that has caused expected proponents to become opponents. The dancehall music superstar is being accused of preaching peace and unity yet working to tear down other Ghanaian industry figures. One of Shatta Wale’s enemies, Kwaw Kese, a Ghanaian rapper who featured him on a hit song, said, “Shatta is always preaching peace, which is a good thing, but always fighting the same people he is trying to maintain peace with.”

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The situation between Shatta and Stonebwoy is even more personal – the two are direct genre rivals, Shatta’s signing forced Stonebwoy to exit Zylofon Media Record Company and Shatta often disses Stonebwoy; calling him broke and pretentious, accusing him of receiving unmerited awards and alleging that the BET wining singer killed his mother.

The fact is, Shatta and Stonebwoy are sworn-enemies and if the movement led by the former would attract an opposition, it won’t be strange if it comes from Stonebwoy; not because he has a problem with the  message but because of the bearer of the message. But there has been surprising signs of possible reconciliation.

The tension between Shatta and Sarkodie might have been recently heightened by the comment made by the dancehall singer about the rapper being broke; but there has been a longstanding issue of Sarkodie’s  alliance with Nigerian artistes over his colleagues in Ghana.

In the wake of the growing call for the “independence” of the Ghanaian music industry, the  rapper’s decision to host Mr.P in Ghana, in September, evoked criticism from Ghanaians. Shatta Wale, during his interview on Hitz Fm, revealed that he feels disrespected by Sarkodie because the rapper eschewed his request to appear in his video but would readily jump on projects with Nigerian artistes.

The Fate Of The Movement

The personal differences between the two Ghanaian stars is an obvious case but beneath the personal war is a bigger struggle for the future of Ghanaian music. The rivalry is an offshoot of the growing acrimony towards foreign influence on the Ghanian music culture, particularly the influence of Nigeria.

The mood in Ghana is: we have what it takes to entertain ourselves. This aspiration to self-sufficiency has resulted in a complex war between a leading advocate of the revolutionary cause – Shatta Wale – and  other active players who grew peevish with his uncivil approach; leading to a situation in which the fractured relationship between the artistes is threatening to roll back the movement, or even result in its total abandonment.

Written by Oluwatobi Ibironke

Oluwatobi Ibironke is a writer with keen interest in music, politics and social topics about love and relationship. He tweets via @ibironketweets

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