The attention that the Asaaka wave has brought to Ghana music can rival Kwame Nkrumah’s 6th March declaration of Independence some six decades ago.
2020 has ended. A new year has been ushered in. However, the world is orbiting the sun on bated breath. The COVID-19 pandemic is still disrupting the world. Governments are struggling to keep people safe; individuals are still walking around with fear and the world economy is still wobbling. Despite these challenges, despite the test of the human spirit, one thing is certain: We Shall Overcome.
Amidst the chaos that engulfed the world, music became a clutch. And, the artists did not fail. A lot of musical works were released, from singles, EPs to albums contrary to what some think. It was in the throes of this pandemic era that Stonebwoy dropped “Anloga Junction”, KiDi released his best work thus far “Blue EP”. His fellow labelmatete, Kuami Eugene dropped his “Son of Africa” album. On a limp, I’d say Kuami Eugene deserves to win the Artiste of The Year award once again considering his impressive run this year. Fameye covered more grounds in 2020, crowning it with the release of “Greater Than” album.
Darkovibes, propelled by the single “Inna Song”, off his Kpanlogo album witnesses his biggest commercial break. Kwesi Arthur who has been quiet for a while released the second instalment of “This Is Not The Tape, Sorry For The Wait” EP. Fellow Ground Up Chale act, Twitch 4EVA made himself heard with “LOST”. Sarkodie continued from 2019 with the single releases, the most notable being ” Happy Day”. Keche saw their career take a huge jump off their Kuami Eugene assisted record “No Dulling”.
Mr Drew did put in work this year, enough to place him in the New Artiste of The Year conversation. Camidoh’s album “C.P” is among the best that came out last year. Medikal was busy – he released a handful of singles plus 2 hip hop EPs and showed up on countless features, wrapping the year one banging tune “La Hustle (Remix). Kelvyn Boy, Strongman, MzVee, Gyakie and Adina Thembi dropped albums during the course of the year. Amaarae came with a punch on her full debut “The Devil You Don’t Know” album.
On the African front, 2020 was the year Master KG got the whole continent jamming to his hit song “Jerusalema”. It was the same year that South Africa’s amapiano sound began to penetrate the West African sub-region. Our Nigerian fellows did not sit out of the fun. Burna Boy put out “Twice As Tall” album. Both Davido and Wizkid came out swinging with “A Better Time” and “Made In Lagos” albums respectively.
Tiwa Savage released “CELIA”, Simi popped out with “RESTLESS”, Patoranking caught the wave with “Three”. YBNL label boss Olamide and his talented signee, Fireboy DML both released full-length projects – “Carpe Diem” and “Apollo” respectively. Emerging voices such as Omah Lay, Bella Shmurda, Rexxie, Tems, Chike proved themselves worthy of taking the mantle in the coming year. In South Africa, Elaine piqued people’s attention while her Tanzanian counterpart, Zuchu kept shining her light across the East African region.
Aside music releases, 2020 registered some ‘innovation’ among Ghanaian artists, particularly with regards to virtual performances. Leading acts like Shatta Wale, Stonebwoy, Sarkodie pursued this front. Arts writer Ghameli (@gahmeli) wrote an excellent piece on a virtual performance by Ghanaian acts which you can read HERE.
Who can forget the exciting yet short-lived ‘Producer Battle” promoted by Sarkodie? The battles were a celebration of producers, a nostalgic elixir and a history class. It affirmed the importance of producers – Jay Q and Appietus, the change in eras – Killbeatz and Richie, and longevity – Hammer (Last 2) and Appietus.
The most remarkable point in the history of Ghanaian music in 2020 was the growth, acceptance and validation of the Kumerican sound, known commonly as “Asaaka”. The drill inspired wave gained attention after Dead Peepol’s fastidious “Otan Hunu” became a viral hit. Soon, Life Living Records, a frontline label in the diffusion of the Asaaka or drill sound began to empty the shells in their barrels, figuratively speaking.
The infectious, roof-raising anthem “Sore” by Yaw Tog featuring his fellow Life Living Records mates engulfed the blogs and social media. The cascading effect of this single would soon define the third half of the year. Life Living Record artist, O’Kenneth, Reggie, Kawabanga, Kwaku DMC, Jay Bahd would flood the streets with more music. So catchy was the movement that other rappers who were hesitant to ride the wave soon began surfing it.
From Medikal to Kofi Jamar, Kwesi Arthur to Kweku Flick, Joey B to Bosom P-Yung, Kweku Smoke, Eno Barony and Shatta Wale,- yes Shatta Wale- all ended up plugging into the wave. The attention that the Asaaka wave has brought to Ghana music rivals Kwame Nkrumah’s declaration of Independence some six decades ago.
In 2021, the music scene will get busy. With a rumoured album release from Sarkodie, King Promise, Kwesi Arthur, KiDi, Kofi Kinaata, Wendy Shay and more, the scene is definitely going to light up. Also, the Asaaka wave would keep growing stronger. The attention the wave has gotten should be protected by everyone, from the music to the culture associated with it.
The year is also looking promising for young acts like Yaw Tog, Gyakie, Black Sherif (Blacko is the future). I hope artists like Maayaa, Efya, Cina Soul would be a bit deliberate by satisfying the demands of fans by releasing more music in 2021.
My greatest wish for 2021 is for our artists to surround themselves with people who understand music business. They should hire people who understand the inner workings of the music business to help them earn more from their hard work. The reliance on booking fees is all good but it’s just one medium of revenue.
Take time out to educate yourself on new music business trends like publishing, music licencing, streaming, merchandising, songwriting opportunities, growing your Youtube and other social media channels. Understand the analytics and work with it. Cultivating strong fanbase is currency in pop culture. It does not happen by accident. You thought Gafacci earning a Grand Auto Theft placement is by chance, huh?
Learn the language spoken by music executives. Build valuable assets while you are doing all this. With labels now interested in the content and less about artist development, having assets is a sure way to leverage on value. Like Nipsey Hussle rightly enunciated ”My self-educated, suit, negotiations/ Got these sharks that I’m sittin’ at this table with afraid to bait me”.
Also, hire professional publicists to help build your brand by writing your press releases, coach you on public speaking especially interviews, generate editorial support across DSPs and sell your imagine across all mediums. Remember, there are some labels or businesses who sign you up not necessarily because of the quality of your music but how you look, your brand. It’s 2021, laid out your dreams and get your team to help you actualize them.
Small Wins… Thank You
Hey Readers, Happy New Year. Your tremendous support, by way of reading our articles, sharing the links, suggesting this blog to other readers and your never-ending encouragement has meant a lot to us. It has spurred us on to continue running this blog.
Through your support, we were able to grow our Ghanaian readership from 11K last year to 24K at the end of December 2020. Although we planned on working on more stories last year, we managed to publish 91 articles, which brought us 40K views and 26K visitors from Ghana, US, UK, Nigeria, South Africa, Canada, Germany, China, India, The EU region constituting our Top 10 reader countries.
Continuing from last year, we are developing more original video content for our Youtube channel. We aim to document the culture in more ways than one. The Youtube channel is available. Subscribe to the page and check out some of the content we have. Thank y’all for helping our growth.