It began so well. The people of Wa came in numbers expecting a night of quality music headlined by Ghana’s queen of AfroPop and supported by local artists. Wiyaala’s mission is to establish an annual music festival to shine the light on talent from the Upper West Region. The same region from which she struggled for many years to make a career as a musician and to which she was now offering to give back some of her fame to help her peers.
Patrons arriving at the venue would have appreciated the renovations her team had made to the Wa Community Centre, which had been freshly painted, decorated by artists and equipped with a locally manufactured stage displaying an array of musical instruments awaiting the Djimba World Band’s arrival on stage.
It soon became apparent that demand for VIP tickets was high and the VIP areas were extended as more chairs were brought for the comfort of the fans. At 10pm, The Djimba World Band climbed the stage and played popular African and Western songs as the crowd settled in for an enjoyable evening of quality music and sound.
The first to perform was Hatie, Wiyaala’s junior sister making her debut live performance as a solo artist. She might not yet be as effervescent or boisterous as her elder sibling, but the nineteen year old showed that musical talent runs through the family with excellent covers of Bob Marley’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low” and John Legend’s “All Of Me”. Next up was Stevo Atimbre, a traditional musician from Bolga who fuses his colaco with modern instruments to create a unique style which is gaining popularity with European audiences. His music and personality connected with the audience who enjoyed both the intensity of his music and his jovial comments. Following Stevo, was the evergreen reggae artist, Jah Bone, who charmed the audience with his tunes that have been popular in Wa down the years. Then it was the turn of Samson B, a former MTN Hitmaker finalist, who is developing into one of Ghana’s most promising talents. He is an accomplished rapper and witty lyricist who incorporates melody and structure into his beats. Samson B took full advantage of the live band opportunity to improvise and improve on the CD versions of his music. Then the crowd enjoyed the punchlines of El Twist and Young Ghale who also turned in noteworthy performances whilst experiencing live band performance for the first time. A special mention must be made of the professionality of the Djimba World Band who travelled from Accra and in two days of rehearsals learnt fifteen new songs which they performed with precision and aplomb.
The atmosphere began to change as the playback rappers climbed the stage and performed to a younger section of the crowd that began to get more boisterous. Whilst Apaco and Jack Still put in creditable performances, it became apparent that local rapper Gamebwoy, a writer and performer of a “dis” song to a local rival had some enemies in the crowd who began pelting the stage with water sachets during his performance and damaged some of the mixing equipment in the process. This caused alarm amongst those respectable citizens who had come to support Wiyaala’s bold initiative. Happily, the police were alert and ejected the miscreants and order was restored without injury. After a short break, Wiyaala climbed the stage at 2am to give the kind of performance for which she has become renown in Ghana and internationally. But by then, the unruly events of the evening had cast a small shadow and the much anticipated return to her home crowd was somewhat blighted, but not enough to compromise her lioness personality, strength of purpose and “show must go on” attitude.
Notwithstanding, the disturbance, Wiyaala’s initiative to bring her music home and to celebrate the event with local musicians in a live band setting was achieved. To deliver such a show requires significant financial investment in transportation, rehearsal and mobilisation of local resources, a feat which she achieved without a sponsor. The benefits of such initiatives are clear. They create employment, social and cultural activity which are the bedrock of civilised human society.
The final word rests with Wiyaala, the leader of the Djimba World project; “It was disappointing that some small boys decided to behave badly, but we still managed to carry off the festival. We have learnt some important lessons for future festivals. I thank God that numerous messages of support have been expressed for the continuation of the event, which I believe we should. My team spearheaded by Abu Seidu Issah and EkoSoundz worked incredibly hard to achieve a positive outcome. My heartfelt thanks to them, the Djimba World Band, Stephen Asamoah on sound, the performers, Radio Progress, Radio WFM, Radio Sunmaale, national and local bloggers and fans who all contributed with a good heart to make this a notable milestone in the cultural life of my region.”