An undisputable talent. A unique individual. A brave artiste whose life was crudely cut short on the cusp of greatness. A somber atmosphere enveloped the music scene, with both colleague artists and fans- even those who didn’t know him- shocked by the shocking incident that had befallen him. I recall that night when news filtered in about the passing of dancehall artist, Terry Bonchaka (real name Terrence Adjetey). I was tuned in to Radio Gold at night, listening to the ‘Night Train’ hosted by B.B. Menson when the story broke.
Terry had performed at an event at the University of Ghana, and was, according to reports, on his way to another event. The black SUV he was driving skidded off the road and crashed at the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange, killing him instantly. A promising life cut short too early.
The Come Up
Terry Bonchaka’s appeal to many came through his unique, almost iconic artistry. He was a new faces kid on the dancehall scene- a genre which was gathering enthusiasm locally. The likes of Sonni Bali, Samini (formally Batman), Yoggi Doggy, Bandana (now Shatta Wale) and Mad Fish were leading the pack. Then came Terry Bonchaka. For all those who remember, Terry’s fame began during his days at Adisadel College between 1998 to 2000. Performing across various colleges in the Cape Coast enclave, he built a following of mostly high school students. I recall how people kept singing his name as the one to watch in 1998, when I was in Junior High School.
His breakthrough came in 2001 after his crowning as Hiplife Champion, an event created as part of the Miss Ghana contest to boost its visibility and interest. That win marked his gradual rise to the top of the musical food chain. Within a short period, Terry Bonchaka was courting enormous support across various fans. His fan base kept growing and the fan dynamics was interesting. He was loved by both the young and old.
Style and Artistry
Terry realized earlier, in his short-lived career that, carving his own path, artistically was the way to earn himself the respect and acceptability he dreamt of. He tried to be different. This decision was a gamble which could have backfired. However, his bravery paid off.
His fashion sense was unparalleled. He wore only vintage clothes designed with African prints-this was way before wearing African prints became cool. His fashion was borrowed from the 70s fashion playbook. And he rocked it like a cool kid would. One iconic trademark of Terry, his fashion sense aside, was sticking a comb stuck into his afro hair (similar to Questlove of The Roots).
Aside his interesting costumes, Terry was an incredible performer. His testosterone level on stage was beyond fascinating. He performed like his life depended on it; that it was his last. Terry Bonchaka on stage wasn’t just a performance. He always sold an experience to the audience. His trademark dance moves- clutching one leg with his hand and hoping on another effortlessly added to his identity. These added to his overall charm, as the audience related to his ‘guy-next-door’ appeal.
Is there a claim of legacy to the name Terry Bonchaka? Yes, of course. Terry didn’t leave behind a heavy catalogue of music. He released four top singles that still sound evergreen today. His impact is still felt in the sense that, he’s remembered, respected and celebrated after his death. Terry was a versatile and charismatic artist – his could perform on highlife beats (Ghana Mma, Zoozey), funk based rhythms (Poulele), hip-hop beat (I’m Aware).
There hasn’t been any person in entertainment who was celebrated after his death than Terry Bonchaka in recent time. From look-alike competitions to his fashion sense, and others mimicking his style of talking, Terry received such a glorious tribute. Fourteen (14) years down the line, the name of a man whose great career was cut short at the age of 21 still inspires genuine words of praise from the public.
God knows best, we are always reminded. But, God allowing us to catch a glimpse of a beautiful star and then letting a dark cloud subsume it before we could enjoy it all is hardworking is heartbreaking.
Terry Bonechaka died on October 29, 2003. May he rest in eternal peace