Once again it’s time to focus and uphold African musicians and artistes alike as the All Africa Music Awards, AFRIMA gears up to reward and celebrate African’s musical works, talents and creativity.
Contenders for this year’s BEST ARTISTE, DUO OR GROUP AFRICAN RAGGA, REGGAE & DANCEHALL are as follows; Burna Boy and Patoranking representing Nigeria, MzVee, Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy representing the Black Stars of Ghana. Diamond Platnumz from Tanzania, DJ Moh Green from Algeria, Jah Prayzah from Zimbabwe, Roberto from Zambia, Sauti Sol from Kenya and Van representing Morocco.
Taking a colossal look at the BEST ARTISTE, DUO OR GROUP AFRICAN RAGGA, REGGAE & DANCEHALL category one can see some duplication of terms within the confines of the Reggae Dancehall genre. Being a member of the number one reggae dancehall sound system in Nigeria known as ITAL SOUNDS SYSTEM operated and lead by Covenant Child, I have come to understand that the term Ragga is the short form of Raggamuffin a name used to describe ghetto people in Jamaica. Furthermore Ragga by extension is ghetto people music made popular in the 80s, and in actual practice Ragga is also Dancehall music hence the duplication of Ragga and Dancehall. Moving forward the category should be captioned; BEST AFRICAN REGGAE & DANCEHALL ARTISTE, DUO OR GROUP.
Having made this assertion it is important at this juncture to get into the nitty-gritty of reviewing the songs under this category in alphabetical order.
The song entitled Kondo from an Algerian artiste known as DJ Moh Green is no doubt an awesome song (a big tune in reggae dancehall parlance) judging from the elements that make up the entire song. Kondo embodies an up tempo riddim (beat) borrowing from Soca, Hip Hop, Reggaeton, Reggae and Dancehall music. There is a lot of fusion currently been experienced globally as it concerns dancehall music and I see this trend fully represented in this song. The sampling of the snare drum in Bob Marley’s One Love brings a depth of familiarity and memorability to the listening audience. This same Bob Marley’s One Love snare drum effect can also be felt in a Lover’s Rock song Need Somebody done by Faze a Nigerian artiste of the defunct Plantashun Boiz group.
However, vocals from these featured artistes Locko and Axel Tony in Kondo appropriately puts the singjay style into perspective as practiced in the late 80s and 90s, they literally divided it clearly into singing and deejaying each taking turns in their verses.
Now, running into the next song titled Sing my name, by a Ghanaian diva MzVee who features Patoranking a Nigerian dancehall reggae artiste currently making a lot of wave. There is no doubt that the producer sampled Tekno’s beat (riddim) what some jokers in Nigeria refer to as “pom-pom”.
However I failed to underscore the reggae or dancehall fusion in this song in terms of sound that would have warranted it being nominated in this category. The mere feature of a dancehall reggae artiste doesn’t in anyway make the song a dancehall or reggae song. The absence of the drum and baseline instantly removes the song from the reggae dancehall genre. The idea behind this can be categorized into Lovers Rock and Dancehall music, were the female artiste would showcase her vocals in a sweet but tender singing voice, full of the right emotions as depicted by the lyrical content or direction of the song. On the flip side the male artiste would present his vocals typical of a lion which translates to his ability to sing his verses with a burst of energy deserving of the reggae dancehall genre. You must understand the culture and philosophy of reggae dancehall music this knowledge would guide you in every department during production.
Judging from the contribution of another Ghanaian dancehall artiste known as Shatta Wale, his effort with Gringo really blew my mind in terms of quality of production, vocal arrangement and delivery. Apart from his controversial brand one would wonder why his work was nominated in this category.
Hero’s riddim from Ghanaian brilliant and intelligent songwriter – Stonebwoy is an authentic dancehall tune. His vocal has an uninterrupted d-jay feel as he kissed home AFRIMA’s trophy in this category in 2015.
The song Melanin done by Sauti Sol a Kenyan afro-pop is indeed a great song but has nothing whatsoever to do with reggae or dancehall music. The instrumentations in this song did not fall in line with principles that makeup reggae dancehall music so this great song has no business being in this category. Featuring Patoranking in this song does not make it a reggae or dancehall song.
Live your dream is from Morocco’s Artiste – Van and featured Dub Afrika. As they both live their dream, the riddim have a feel of current rock, ragga and Arabian flute blended rightly with a sing–jay vocal delivery
Nigeria’s Burna Boy gave a good account of himself with Heaven’s gate, a song he feature Lily Allen an British singer, song writer and TV host. It’s no doubt a superb song which saw the producer shift from mid to fast tempos making it a club banger anytime but in actually terms these tempo movements cannot in anyway make it an authentic dancehall song because the drum and baseline were heavily altered. Toasting or deejaying in a song does not make it a dancehall song; it has to do with the SOUND.
Right from the intro of Patoranking’s song Suh different one can instantly feel the energetic tendencies typical of dancehall reggae music, the drum and baseline were adequately prominent thus tilting this song to the genre in question. The producer did an intelligent job by replicating a certain tone in Bruk Off Yuh Back a song done by Konshens a Jamaican international reggae dancehall artiste in Suh different making it a more enjoyable song.
Hallelujah is coming from Tanzania’s golden prince – Diamond Platnumz a bongo flava recording artist and dancer. Who has had several hit songs including “Number One” which he featured Nigerian artiste Davido. He featured Jamaican reggae group–Morgan Heritage in this beautifully balanced reggae dancehall song. One can sense the vocal complementing factor between Peter Morgan the lead singer for Morgan heritage and the supple singing from Diamond Platnumz. This for me is an extended Lovers Rock song fused with reggae, dancehall and some East African sounds expressed in the guitar and flute.
Contolola riddim is stylishly confusing. Sounding like a dancehall or ragga riddim, it is the kind and type of tune heard regularly from Roberto, Zambian artiste. Featuring Patoranking from Nigeria rooted in and with the foundational reggae basis. Just like the riddim, his vocal is the regular and every day voice.
The song Angel Lo put together by Jah Prayzah a Zimbabwean contemporary musician and lead member of the band Third Generation. Goes to show quiet vividly that Africa has a huge reservoir of talented musicians and creative people. I really love the Pop and Country feels the music has but this is not a reggae dancehall song soit shouldn’t be in this category.