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Success of Shatta Wale is testament to cultivating passionate fans


photo from twitter

They never dey talk say Shatta be good always I be bad/I for win award for being me/ no be today wey we start this thing

Dem dey kai when I say I be the dancehall king/ But I no say dem dey like my thing

Make I repeat am again. Nobody can stop me/ My mind I dey use be high time key – AYOO

There are two types of leaders. Those who, based on their popularity, build a team of dedicated fans ready to stand by them to the hilt. And there are leaders who build their support long before they even climb the ladder of leadership. The fans of the latter are very loyal, passionate and dedicated to the course; ready to sweat, bleed, and also spring and break their bones for their leader. The supporters are more passionate than 10th century religious fanatics.

The latter describes Shatta Wale and the one pivot on which his success lives. For four (4) years, the ‘Shatta’ brand has been on the rise. The consistency has been mind- blowing due, in large part, to the expression of unflinching loyalty of his fans- defending his sometimes irate actions; patronizing his songs and massively parading at his concerts. Shatta’s rise has been well documented. His 2012/13 hit song ‘Dancehall King’ didn’t win the 2013 VGMA Reggae/ Dancehall accolade and that set the alarms off. Shatta took issues and as if by design, his popularity began to soar after the jaw dropping episode.

Fast forward to today, Shatta Wale remains arguably the most popular artiste in Ghana. It can be said that, he is shoulder and above all his contemporaries-Sarkodie included. This support is much on display if you have been to any of his concerts. I have to admit I have not been to many Shatta Wale concerts but the few I’ve seen had always left me in awe. His charisma is riveting; his performance is energy packed and his music catalogue is crazy (he confirmed to have released over 100 songs last year during an interview on Adom FM). The bundle of energy he exhibit on stage is enough to earn him the ‘energy god’ accolade.

Although some have criticized his style of churning out music (his reliance on a lottery hit song format), his fans aren’t perturb. They want the music and that’s what he is offering. The true Shatta fans know almost all his songs- both the ones that cross into the mainstream sphere (commercial tunes) and those that remain off the charts. These fans don’t just know the songs, they can sing it word for word, as if they helped in the writing of the lyrics.  True, Shatta Wale is no singer. His use of auto tune is nauseating sometimes. His beats are almost similar, his style is not varied enough and his lyrics are often basic, yet these limitations are not huge enough to blot the shine of the ‘Korle Gonno ni mij3’.

On the subject of lyrics, I was one who rarely paid attention to what Shatta says on songs. Usually, the chorus of the song is enough to make me bop. However, it wasn’t until I heard legendary producer, Hammer (Last Two) speak about Shatta’s lyricism in an interview on Joy FM’s Ghana Connect. Hammer described Shatta as a lyricists who is dismissed because of his often repetitive yet melodic hooks and his loud beats which often drum out his lyrics. Citing Kakai as proof, Hammer succeeded in making me take a listen to the song again, this time paying particular attention to his lyrics. Hammer was right. His “Mahama Paper’ is another attestation to Shatta Wale’s pen game. Shatta Wale is not the best lyricists out there but with songs such as ‘Kakai’, ‘Mahama Paper’ and his current tune ‘Ayoo’, he spreads thoughtful messages about him and the realities of life on tape.

Shatta Wale’s frequent assertion that he isn’t a ‘radio-made-me’ artiste holds true. It was the fans who made him who he is. The strategy was simple yet long. Between the years 2004 when he was performing under the moniker Bandana with ‘Mokoho’ getting respectable airplay right down to his 2012 breakthrough with ‘Dancehall King’, Shatta Wale was not only strategizing his next move towards stardom. He was cultivating a fan base through the release of songs for his small yet dedicated fans in and around his Korle Gonno (a suburb of Accra) enclave. A decade later, these fans transitioned with Shatta from their locale to dominating every musical space available.  For almost a decade, Shatta Wale had earned much support from his people and he has also paid them back with respect. His Shatta Movement, which should rebrand to Shatta Nation are passionate and resolute in their support of Shatta.

In all his interviews, he is quick to acknowledge his fans, citing them as the helium in his ever floating balloon. He has always shown them respect and has acted based on their prompting. The bond between himself and his fans is so strong that, in 2013, they ensured he won the VGMA Best Artiste. And when he fell out with the organizers, Charter House, his fans admonished him to stay out of the awards. I’m yet to hear him have any tiff with his fans.  For the dedication and passion they extend him, Shatta extends the same if not more respect to them. Unlike many of his compatriots who would ignore their fans, Shatta has a way of genuinely rubbing their ego through his songs, snapchat and Instagram videos as well as Facebook feeds. He doesn’t act like a celebrity. He comes across as an ordinary man; someone the fans see as one of them. An interesting fact is that, the demography of his fan base is not linear. He has all shades of people as fans; from high to middle class fans to the average person. A spectrum of fans only a few manage to rake during their career.

Shatta Wale’s rise also coincided with the rise of dancehall music, commercially speaking. Dancehall/Ragga music have had a cozy yet stuttering relationship within the Ghanaian music scene. The music scene was, thanks in part to Samini, opening up to our own home-grown dancehall/ragga music. By the time Shatta Wale’s ‘Dancehall King’ was released, the Ghanaian music market was ready to embrace dancehall music fully.

In the music industry and like any other industry, support is deliberately cultivated, nurtured and celebrated. That’s why it’s important for artistes not to disrespect their fans no matter what since the day the fans sense a slight condescension in an artiste’s relationship with them, they wilt with astonishing speed. The damage such action causes an artiste is far more than losing a six figure deal. Your charisma won’t save you. The number of hit records won’t be enough to get them back. And the art of respecting and placing fans before himself at a times is what Shatta Wale has mastered. And that has served him well thus far.

Shatta Wale knows that the day shit hits a fan, these fans who have been with him in the ‘wilderness’ through to the lights of superstardom would definitely remain fans no matter what. He, on the other hand is serving them what they need – music and love!

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