It’s uncommon to see artists turn to movies for inspiration for their music and videos. Together with their video directors, they succeed in creating visuals that are not only cinematic but stunning to watch.
Dancehall artist, Shatta Wale is the latest to go this route for his video ‘Gringo’. Directed by Sesan, ‘Gringo’ is shot in Texas, US and deviates from the usual Shatta Wale videos.
“Gringo” carries a Spaghetti Western theme, with Shatta Wale playing the protagonist who came to end the iron fist rule of the Marshall of a town, obviously a Southern state during the slave era. This is very important to note for its reverse white ‘saviour’ narrative with a black one.
The director used a narrator to advance the 7 minute plot, providing context for what was to unfold. The rural town is predominantly a white settlement with countable blacks. The setting is more 19th century deep American South. We are immediately introduced to an eye patch wearing man who ‘owns’ the city. With his entourage, they made a stop at a bar. Snake Eye, as he’s called, came with a Jasmine, lovely lady of mixed coloured heritage; obviously a house nigga girl.
El Shatta is shown riding on the back of his horse into town. The expression of the predominantly white town folks were one of bewilderment. They had never seen a fashionable (he wore linen), confident blackman riding a horse.
Enchanted by Jasmine, El Shatta walked into the bar wirh here, provoking a fight after confronted by Snake Eye. Ultimately, scores had to be settled through a gun fight in full view of the townsfolk. The prize: the lovely Jasmine.
After taking a draw from his beer (handed to him Jasmine, which could have been spiked) and readied himself to take aim, El Shatta dropped four shots into him. The saviour is finally in town.
The setting of the video-era specific- isn’t in doubt. The environment, the cowboy apparels- boots, clothes, horses, guns, are enough proof of 19th century America.
Some of the scenes in “Gringo” seem to have been influenced by the Quentin Tarantino’s movie “Django Unchained” and “Magnificent Seven” directed by Antoine Fuqua.
In both Spaghetti Western flicks, we see how shocked the whites felt seeing a black man (stranger) stroll into their town on horseback. First, we saw that in Django Unchained when Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and Django (Jamie Foxx) visited a town on horse back. Same with Denzel Washington’s “Magnificent Seven”.
Horses were ridden by free black slaves and high ranking whites in society, so to see these black ‘nobodys’ on horseback was a huge spectacle. And similar to today’s Westerns, the black men usually achieve their glory. Same was depicted when El Shatta strolled into one town, earning those legitimate stares of shock.
Another movie which might have inspired the fight scene is “A Million Ways To Die In The West”. In the movie, Seth MacFarlane (the butt of joke of his town) was challenged to a gun fight with Liam Neeson (the fearful bandit) after Liam discovered Seth was cheating with his wife (Charlize Theron). Seth became the hero after killing Liam using the latter’s own strategy sold to him by the bandit’s wife.
In “Gringo”, same gun fight scene was re-enacted. El Shatta proved himself as the better gunslinger by taking the shot first. The stranger who rode into town saved these townsfolk from the capriciousness of this eye patch wearing bandit.
According to @jakuuire, ‘Gringo’ draws similarities to Mel Brook’s comedic movie ‘Blazing Saddle’. The 1974 movie had a black sherrif appointed to protect the inhabitants of a predominantly white town who initially were hostile to him.
If there’s anything Shatta Wale wanted to emphasize, it’s the fact that he can perform real dancehall music. For his critics, his self acclaimed dancehall king tag fall short of the known Jamaican dancehall music. To establish his claim as a dancehall artist, Shatta Wale brought real dancehall feel to “Gringo”.
Not only is he trying to lay this argument to bed, Shatta Wale is also paying homage to one of the genres respected acts, Vybz Kartel. From the riddim beat, to the cadences in his flows, you need not be told it drawn from Vybz Kartel.
‘Gringo’ is one of Shatta Wale’s best videos to date, in terms of continuity, concept and overall narrative. The video of the song could be watched and understood by people who might not even comprehend what Shatta is saying. Clearly, it’s money well spent.