Every household needs a jester. That person who would come and deflate tensions with their hilarious antics – be it comments, actions or behaviour. Life is hard and a bit of laughter goes a long way to make things a little lighter. In this regard, the jester’s position is very necessary, even if their antics are sometimes annoying.
Like it is in a house and a jester nexus, the Ghanaian music scene has also witnessed its own swell of artists who have been considered “jesters”. From the notable ones like Pharoah (of Akatakyie) to C-Zar, these musicians have had their fair share of public ridicule; their wins at the Ghana Music awards during their active years could not inoculate them from ridicule. It is however worth noting that, despite these ‘jesters’ improving on their music skills – in the case of Pharoah- the stench of their mediocrity, as some would describe never dissipated.
With the excitement surrounding the current music industry, and with every person who can blurt out some lyrics and melodies in the shower thinking they have the knack or talent to make music, “jesters” would never be in short supply.
One person who has become the face of musical ‘jestering’ is Patapaa Amisty. From his base in Agona Swedru, Patapaa’s rise into musical prominence has been nothing but incredible. Announcing himself on the music scene in 2017 with “One Corner”, Patapaa became a viral sensation not because the song was a masterpiece, but because of the dance routine that accompanied it. (It must be said that any genre of music that developed its own dance style mostly outlast the music that birthed it. Azonto, Alkaida are clear examples).
The nuisance value that “One Corner” – the song and the dance offered became a topic of public discourse. Even the church had some comments to make about the dance citing it as the devil’s handiwork. The debate centered on the appropriateness of the dance: who should perform the dance and where. Two school of thoughts emerged, with each defending its position. Whereas the upper and middle class of society considered the dance irresponsible and uncouth, defenders of the dance described it as an expression of “radical self-love”.
Discussions with some friends on this particular subject on why a song like “One Corner” and other music genres and dance movements get dismissed by a section of the public before they even grow into their own revealed an element of classiest thinking or posturing as the main cause of its death.
That is, those in the upper class have often been dismissive – instead of supporting it- of anything started by those at the lower economic strata of society. These stance, often misinformed are based on their inability to understand the origins of the music sub-genre and dance. For instance, Azonto, arguably the biggest cultural phenomenon out of Ghana after highlife music was dealt a premature death by the ‘elites’ who thought it too ‘local’. M.anifest, regarded by some as an intellectual or ‘woke’ rapper even had a line against azonto on the Coptic produced “Keep Shinning”, rapping: ‘I knew Azonto had an expiry date”.
Manste Aryeequaye, organizer of Chalewote Street Art Festival, in an article published by Accradotalt.com wrote in part: “Patapaa’s “One Corner” originated from Swedru in the Central Region of Ghana, a predominantly working-class town where most people work in farming. So, of course it falls outside of our elitist binaries of what constitutes “acceptable” or “cool” within contemporary subjectivity. “One Corner” is a genuine expression of radical self-love and an uninhibited outlet of emotions for people who have to endure protracted economic and political violence on a daily basis”.
Attention, fame, Vodafone Ghana Music Awards nominations – and Patapaa’s display of disappointment following his loss to Kuami Eugene as “Most Popular Song of the Year”, followed him. At a time when the embers of “One Corner” was extinguishing in Ghana, the dance craze was making waves in Nigeria, Ivory Coast, South Africa and other parts of the world.
Patapaa’s originality has accounted for his relevance. The relative success he has earned has not changed him much compared to the likes of C-Zar and Pharaoh who had to change or brand themselves to conform to peoples’ expectations. Patapaa’s personality has remained the same. He speaks with unhinged candidness. His fashion sense has not changed. And he makes the same ‘noisy” music that shot him to fame. Also, the lack of self-conscious continues to permeate his music.
There were many who thought Patapaa’s credentials as a musician would wane once the excitement around “One Corner” died. That was not to be the case. His popularity rather soared after music producer, Guiltybeatz recruited him on “Akwaaba” in 2018. Despite featuring Paapy Kojo and Mr.Eazi, it was Patapaa who stole the headlines, thanks to his 15 second verse. The verse became the highlight of the song and to an extent, helped turn the song into another viral phenomenon.
Patapaa does not possess the qualities and talent of some of his contemporaries, musically speaking. His strength, however lies in composing catchy and memorable phrases in his songs which takes life of their own. Take for instance, the globally embraced phrase “Scopatumana” found on Kawoula Biov’s song “Daavi Neba”. The interesting thing about the song is that, Patapaa, a featured artist on the song ended up making it a cultural phenomenon. Days after the song hit the streets, a “scopatumana” challenge began on social media with people attempting to rap his verse. The joke soon earned popularity, nationally and later globally, leading to Urban Dictionary adding the phrase to its online dictionary.
We have also witnessed how some businesses have co-opted this phrase to engage with their online customers. For what began as a viral joke to attract an almost universal acceptance is no mean feat for Patapaa.
It’s worth stating that two Ghanaian words or phrases have been added to the dictionary, and Patapaa contributed the most catchy, virally iconic phrase known to mankind. His name and the genesis of the phrase might not be known by non-Ghanaians, but Patapaa has successfully immortalized himself with this one single contribution.
Despite the personal and national gains chalked by Patapaa, many would continue to regard him as ‘jester’ for obvious reasons. Patapaa has shown himself as a man who does not care much about the opinion of others. He believes and moves on his own terms. His formidable self-belief is the anchor keeping him afloat. And I doubt we have heard the last from the Agona Swedru kingpin.