It was meant to be a momentous event. And so it was, after five-and- half hours of power pack performances from the main act of the night, rapper M.anifest, guest artists and surprise guests. Despite unbridled loyalty and dedication of “Manifans” (the name M.anifest’s fanbase) – their willingness to be present at the December 23 event, it was the announcement of Nigerian pop stars, Burna Boy and Simi as guest acts that convinced many to make their way to the Bukom Sports Arena to witness what was to be a fantastic occasion and the perfect caping of 2018; at least for some.
The clamour for a Burna Boy performance among Ghanaian music fans has been tremendous throughout the year and this festive season was considered the perfect opportunity to bring him to Ghana. Burna Boy has had a stellar 2018. His profile rose and shone brighter than the grills in Houston rapper, Paul Wall’s mouth. M.anifest, getting him and Simi was therefore a huge moment that many would thank M.anifest for in the coming months or year.
For an event that began two-and-half hours late, all could be forgiven considering the excitement, memories and historical moments that this year’s “Manifestivities” chalked.
Prior to M.anifest formally making an appearance, the IFKR boys- made up of DJ K3v and Eff The DJ- had warmed the crowd who had and were filing into the Bukom Sports Arena with their excellent sets. They made way for DJ Putin and Ms. Austin (of YFM) to indulge in a DJ battle, which for observers was an unfair contest. DJ Putin was in pole position to win. Experience aside, DJ Putin is your typical DJ and Ms. Austin was, based on her performance, someone who knows how to spin records. And when the MC for the evening, Kojo Manuel, asked the crowd to pick a winner, the decision was unanimous.
The main event was opened by Odartei, a fresh voice within the music scene who performed two songs – “Seduction and “Dance’. His performance didn’t make an overwhelming impression. He looked like someone overwhelmed by the occasion. In contrast, the 16 year old Herman Suede was more livelier, thanks to his energy on stage. His only flaw was that, we could barely hear what he was saying.
Bryan The Mensah, Supa Gaeta and Yung Pabi followed, performing from some of their latest works. It was Yung Pabi who received the biggest cheer for his engaging dramatization of songs like ” BushMan”, “Wanui” and “Who You Know”?. Pabi is an excellent story teller and his sets never gets boring. The veteran rapper, Trigmatic run through his old songs- Hold Yuh (Remix), My Life and new catalogues like ”Where We Dey Go”.
M.anifest’s entry for his set couldn’t come any better than what we witnessed. With members of Safoa Band taking their spots and KEYZUZ- who showed again why she’s the baddest DJ around- setting up her laptop and mixer, and the anticipation building, the beam struck at a side of arena, revealing M.anifest, seated like a fan waiting to see M.anifest. During a point in the set, KEYZUZ was adding live EDM/House elements to one of M.anifest’s songs.
The rapturous screams that heralded his walk from the stands to the stage was deafening. M.anifest’s set included songs like “B.E.A.R”, “Someway Bi”, “Invisible”, “Shining”, “Over And Under”, “Blue”, “Fine Fine”, “Forget Dem”. The noise decimals hit a crescendo when King Promise made a surprise appearance, joining M.anifest in performing their classic “Me Ni Woa”. King Promise wrapped up his night by serving a portion of his hit song “CCTV”. M.anifest’s interaction with the fans was a sight to behold.
Aside King Promise, M.Dot brought out Bayku for “Don’t Follow Me” and Efya, who assisted M.anifest on the afro-soul tune “Asa”. Efya then took centre stage and hummed songs off her own discography like “My High”, her verse on “Maame” (with Mr. Eazi), the smoking dancehall number “Until The Dawn”. One thing about Efya is this: she always has a way of recreating her old songs to feel fresh in your ears; sometimes leaving wondering if you’ve ever heard it before.
B4bonah had the crowd but failed to enchant them. Songs like “Energy”, “Devil Is A Liar (Bad Spirit)”, “Dear God” and “My Girl” knocked home, but his energy and body language onstage left much to be desired. I’ve seen him twice before last night, and the same template was repeated – breath loss, looks all over the place. B4bonah sounds more like a studio artist than a performer – a quality he must improve going forward. There were instances where his hypeman looked bubbler than he did.
The arena was once more turned into a club by DJ K3V and Eff The DJ with Manuel inflaming the fun with his skills. If K3V and Eff The DJ were the fire, Kojo Manuel was the dripping gasoline that inflamed their set.
At 12:17 AM, one of the attractions of the evening, the sensational Simi (or Simisola in full) came on stage. The energy within the arena was rekindled. With her band, she thrilled, engaged, danced, serenaded and proved how much of a complete artist/performer she is. Watching her go on with her performance for an hour (yes, she bowed out at 1: 05 AM) and still showing no signs of tiredness- or a crackled voice- is a feat that is reserved for ace performers; a quality that deserves to be respected; a learning template for both budding and made artists.
Twice, she came off stage to dance with the crowd, bursting any bubble of tension. And her set had a rhythm to it: she began with her mellow, afro-soul tunes like “Smile For Me”, “Jamb Question”, “I Dun Care” before hitting us with the up-tempo songs like “Lovin”, her verse off “Surrender”. (So effortless and malleable was her delivery that she interpolated the popular gospel song “I Surrender” as an extension of her rendition). And when she performed “Aimasiko”, the crowd couldn’t help themselves. So friendly was her set that, she invited two ladies who had been dancing to her music on stage.
Watching Simi perform is akin to watching, in footballing terms, Messi at play. She glided effortlessly on the stage; her voice carried the same pristine as she first emerged; her synchronization with her band (damn, those guys can play and her hype man was good) was astonishing. Simi could have gone another hour without breaking a sweat.
The appearance of Sarkodie at “Manifestivities” was an epic moment. Many who were there did not see it coming. Seeing DJ Mensah (Sark’s DJ) walk on stage prior to his set didn’t hit home for me. My surmise of Sarkodie sharing stage with M.anifest came when I saw DJ Mensah in discussion with M.anifest and a couple other DJs and pointing to how he wanted his Macbook to be placed.
Sarkodie’s appearance suddenly elevated the temperature, raising it two notches. The combustibility of his official entry song, “Original” was consuming. As soon as the two hit the stage and the beat dropped, the whole scene was transformed into one cauldron of surprise and amusement. Sarkodie used his limited time judiciously, performing his hit song “Can’t Let You Go”. The night officially ended any strain of feud- real or otherwise-between the two rappers; a rap tiff that began some two years ago.
Worlasi and Kwesi Arthur joined M.anifest to perform “100%” and “Okay”; and “Feels” respectively. There was a glitch with the sound when Worlasi and Worlasi were about to perform “Okay”. Despite being a tense moment, M.Dot found a way to alley fears and sustained the anticipation of the audience for close to 30 seconds.
Kwesi Arthur took his shirt off and lounged into a string of crowd pleasing hits: “No Title”, “Can’t Keep Me Waiting”, “Grind Day”, “Mensah”, “Woara”. One of the important moments was when Kwesi Arthur told the crowd how M.anifest “was the first guy to put me on a big stage”, further thanking the ‘big bro’.
Pleas to have all the lights off except for phone lights were adhered to without question. And the crowd roared in unison when M.Dot commanded them to scream the name of the man all had been waiting for: Oluwa Burna Boy.
And he appeared on stage with the confidence of a warrior ready to serve his fans that expected spectacle. Wearing a grin of excitement, Burna, like Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons went straight to breath fire on the crowd with “Heavens Gate”. Eliciting the expected reaction, Burna pitched in a couple of other songs like “Run My Race”, “Rock Your Body”, “Hosanna”, even singing the versus, including the Ga phrases of Shatta Wale.
Like Mohammed Ali dancing around and wearing out his opponent, Burna delivered the killer punch with “On The Low”, “Like To Party”, “Gbona”, wrapping the evening out with his global smash hit ” Ye”. The man who came on stage wearing a black Tee and a red and black stripped jacket went off stage shirtless- yes he threw his clothes into the animated fans. Burna hopped on stage at 1: 39 AM and vacated post at a little after 2 AM.
I bet I saw afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti last night watching Burna Boy on stage. His movement, energy, dance moves especially during the set of “Gbona” and “On The Low” is not one you can forget easily. It’s weird to hear many young Nigerian afropop acts wave the “I-Am-The-Young-Fela” flag. Burma Boy is, indeed, the closest you’d get to modern day Fela, yet he never makes that claim.
Last night at “Manifestivities”, I witnessed history made through reconciliation. I saw why Simi is, justifiably heralded so much. I saw how Ghanaians embrace their own. I also witnessed Burna Boy as a matador who got every soul to follow him and his every move.
I saw how the young artists like Kwesi Arthur, King Promise and Worlasi are loved unconditionally. And how some young acts could learn from these greats. Finally, I saw how being a bit bold and pushing your dream a little beyond boundaries could turn into a big win for you.
That, ladies and gentlemen was exactly what M.anifest and his team did by hosting their event at the Bukom Boxing Arena. Though it wasn’t a full house, the thrill that they offered will not be talked about; it’s their bargaining chip to their next projects.
some photos used in this article was courtesy @flynimaboy