What makes Wanlov an enigma rest far from his image and more with his music and his antics.
No one has a better description of Wanlov (Emmanuel Owusu Bonsu) than himself. And not many understand him or his ways. But, if there is one thing we love about him, it is his music. He is one of the most refreshing and versatile artistes around. A maverick to some. An irreverent man who believes in his own conviction and gives no heed to what others think of him (except perhaps his sister Deborah and mum) to some. For others, he is a joke; a lost soul. Simply, Wanlov is nothing short of crazy.
This is how Wanlov described Wanlov in his twitter bio: ‘Artivist, Musician, Filmaker and Cultural Icon. Ei I forgot to add Spermatozoa Philanthropist’. Wanlov is one of the few artists who would grace any art event in the capital. I have bumped into him so many times at various events- even when he is not on the bill-to support. And he is one of the few who would promote other people’s work on social media.
His musical credentials is not in doubt. He has put out three albums- Green Card, Brown Card and Wanlov & Afro Gypsy Band. His fourth album, “Red Card: The Minstrel Cycle” is in the works.(The album was released last year and is available on his bandcamp page.) This is aside the classic FOKN Wit Ewe album he, together with M3nsa put out under the FOKN BOIS banner. Wanlov has put out singles and guest featured on other peoples’ tracks.
Wanlov’s association with film is not in doubt. He is a video editor, a music video director- he has directed a couple of videos for his peers -and an actor. He was a protagonist together with M3nsa in the first ever pidgin musical Coz Ov Moni. He has starred in the TV ‘Bongo Bar’.
I first heard of Wanlov somewhere in 2007 when his major single ‘Konkonsa’ broke out into mainstream radio. The song, which was fresh and original with an all too familiar theme, was driven in same measure as the personality of Wanlov. A light skinned, dread lock spotting, skirt wearing and bare-footer rapping in a street lingua-pidgen was refreshingly exciting. His debut album, Green Card and its lead single Konkonsa was nominated at the 2008 Ghana Music Awards in the ‘Discovery of the Year’, ‘Record of the Year’, ‘Video of the Year’ and Hip Hop Song of the Year’ categories.
What makes Wanlov an enigma rest far from his image and more with his music and his antics. A closer listen to Wanlov’s music exhibit an individual who is socially aware of his environment; politically conscious and also one who is not afraid to confront and challenge people who have differing views from his on subject such as religion and politics with his wits, sarcasm and plain talk.
Wanlov’s socio-political consciousness was earlier revealed on his debut Green Card. Songs such as 50th Dependence which questioned the real essence of Ghana’s Independence, the humane, emotive and pleading Human Being; Skin, a song with racism as a theme.
In recent times, singles such as Never Change, Very Soon and Fokn Country have been brutally revolutionary in tone yet honest, capturing the happenings in the country. On Very Soon, a string led revolutionary tune that calls for the death of corruptible leaders whose actions and decisions which are crippling the state.
Never Change ask an important question: Would you change if you were a politician enjoying all the perks that come with it?
Fokn Country itemized all that is right and wrong with Ghana ending with the words: No bi my fault say they, they say them born me for Ghana/No bi my fault say they, they say them raise me for Ghana’.
Flip the page again and you are confronted with a Wanlov who would not blink to infamously expose his penis on TV or share a photo of him in nude on social media. His actions and comments serve as news on social media and mainstream media. I recall an incident last year when during a FOKN Bois performance at The Republic Bar, he took away the mic from an ‘underground’ act who was on stage. Wanlov’s action was provoked by the fact that the young artiste was speaking patois; something Wanlov detest.
There is also the Wanlov who would banter with anyone who dares to have a different opinion especially when religion is concerned. I don’t know what his religious persuasion is but judging from some of his opinions on religion, one could assume him as a humanist. For instance, during the whole gay debate that engulfed the nation last year, Wanlov was one of the vociferous voices which defended the rights of the gays and even declared himself as ‘gay’.
Emmanuel Owusu Bonsu, popularly called Wanlov is a funny, creative, free spirited and open-minded individual. He shows each one he meets- his fans and acquaintances- respect and would easily open up for a chat. Wanlov makes nonsense of the celebrity tag which many of today’s celebs hold on to very dearly.
What makes him an enigma is that, one cannot tell when Wanlov would do something that would leave you with many questions.
This article was first published in 2016 in the Business & Financial Times.