Music Scene in Ghana Reflects Love for Reggae and Strong Ties to Jamaica

Jamaican reggae musicians like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh have long been credited with establishing the love of reggae music in Ghana some 50 years ago. Their influence is strongly felt today as the African nation now produces its own reggae artists, and the Jamaican Patois language used in reggae has also impacted Ghanaian speech as well. As an example, Livingston Satekla, one of the most popular reggae/dancehall artists from Africa, is better known by his stage name of Stonebwoy. The spelling of this name reflects the influence of Jamaican Patois.

Acknowledging in a BBC interview that some Ghanaians dislike the common use of Jamaican Patois in the country, Stonebwoy believes that it is appropriate to use the language, which is a basic means of communication in reggae and dancehall music. He has said that those who love reggae and dancehall should learn Patois.

Stonebwoy was born outside of Accra in Ashaiman, and during his teen years, he listened to Jamaican dancehall stars like Capelton and Beenie Man. He aspired to sound just like them and went on to host these artists at his yearly BHIM Concert in December, one of the most successful of Africa’s dancehall showcases. The concert is part of Ghana’s Beyond the Return project, a major event that is designed to encourage people in the Diaspora to visit the country.

Reggae music has also been influential in spreading the message of Rastafariansim and has promoted the attractions of Africa’s natural beauty, and abundant natural resources, and encourages those in the Diaspora to return to their motherland. This has solidified the connection between reggae and Africa, particularly during and after colonial rule. In 1957, Ghana became one of the first nations in Africa to gain its independence from the United Kingdom, and it was attracted to reggae’s references to economic and social struggle.

In addition to Stonebwoy, there are several rising reggae/dancehall stars in Africa. One of the country’s first big reggae artists was Kojo Antwi, who was also known as Mr. Music Man. His career started in the 1970s when he worked with the reggae band Classique Handles, later known as Classique Vibes. The group released its debut album “Higher: Suffer Hell on Earth.” in 1979. The album addressed issues such as the economic problems in the ghetto and how having no job opportunities may result in starvation. He went on to release songs with lyrics in his local language of Twi sung over the sounds of lover’s rock reggae, which inspired other artists in the country. Ghanaian artist Rocky Dawuni began his reggae career in 1998 with the hit recording “In Ghana.” Some of his songs have been featured on television dramas in the United States and brought him three Grammy Award nominations.

Two Ghanaian musicians influenced by Jamaican dancehall and its use of Patois are Samini, who is known for his live performances in the languages of Pidgin, Patois, and Twi. He is called Africa’s “King of Dancehall Music” and has been praised by local and foreign organizations, winning a MOBO in 2006 and an MTV Africa Music Award in 2009 for Best Live Performer.

The artist Shatta Wale is another top-ranked Ghanaian musician influenced by Jamaica’s music. He began performing in Accra as a student in 2004 but then disappeared until he was resurrected by a trip to Jamaica. As Shatta Wale, he had a 2019 collaboration with superstar Beyonce, and since then has expanded into successful business operations with a line of taxis called Shaxi.

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