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MANASSEH’S FOLDER: Where Sarkodie’s critics got it wrong

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Like Julius Caesar, Sarkodie’s critics have come to bury him. They are not here to praise him. And they don’t seem to tolerate anyone who attempts to do so.

I’m not here to defend Sarkodie in the ensuing feud. Nope! Does he have a bad case? Yep! I can’t right his wrongs. I may not even be qualified enough to partake in this debate because my knowledge in music is as limited as the knowledge of average Americans of the world outside their borders. And this is not borborbor. All that I remember from my music class are treble clef and bass clefs. These are the only terms I still recall from Mr Adorsu Mathias’ Music and Dance class back at Henkel Memorial Junior Secondary School in Kete-Krachi. But good music is like a beautiful woman. No one has a monopoly over the definition of beauty, but when you see one, you recognize it.

I find it necessary to make this point even as the dust between the two top artists of our country is far from settled. So, M.anifest’s worshipers, permit me to make my point. Failure to make it will give me a stomachache. It’s a point I think some of Sarkodie’s critics are missing. And they end up committing the same blunder of which he stands accused.

Before I continue, however, let me emphasise again that I’m not here to fight for Sarkodie. After all, he caused it. Our elders say a woman who brings insect-infested firewood to the house invariably invites fowls to a feast. So it was Sarkodie himself who invited the venomous anti-Sarkodie fowls, some of whom are filled with hatred, disdain and malice towards him, and are ready to eat him up. He, and not anyone else, must bear what he provoked. The lizard does not eat pepper for the frog to sweat.

I’m not here to sympathise with Sarkodie either, for he does not deserve my sympathy. He is allowing the destructive element of pride to take the better part of his auspicious career and, it seems some people who are not enthused about it are saying, “Enough is enough!” I don’t know Sarkodie’s net worth but he doesn’t fail to remind anyone who has ears to spare for his rap of how he has made it and why we should back off and allow him to enjoy his fortune. In a country where the richest entertainers can only boast of a few hundred thousands of cedis, I find this awkward.

After recording a track to fire Ghanaian journalists and media practitioners, he went on Twitter to say his respect for Joy FM had dropped to zero when myjoyonline.com reported exactly what he had said in an interview. He had stated in that interview that he had come of age and was not in the habit of granting interviews.

His attack on Manifest’s “GTP for kaba” dress code was both thoughtless and reckless. If our artists are our ambassadors, then they must as well showcase our rich cultural heritage. And those who wear local fabric cannot be said to be poor or lacking class. It was in the year 2011 that I decided to wear only African print (at least those I could get). If I buy a material and give it to my tailor to sew a shirt for me, I’m investing in the Ghanaian economy and creating jobs here. If I go to the shop and buy a shirt made in a foreign land, I’m investing in their economy and creating jobs there. And I always make it a point to buy my fabric from GTP or ATL. Anywhere I have traveled to outside of Ghana, my African print outfits have often attracted a lot of admiration.

I know people such as Pastor Mensa Otabil and KwesiTwum, CEO of Multimedia Group Limited, who wear only African print (including GTP, I guess). They are neither poor nor uninformed. Manifest should rather be praised, and not criticised, for marketing our beautiful fabric out there. Thankfully, Sarkodie’s lawyer has apologised to GTP.

For these reasons Sarkodie, who is said to have started this lyrical war, must bear the backlash. When the wood-insect gathers sticks on its own head, it carries them. Sarkodie must bear the burden of the sharp tongues, insults and unspeakable things that have been said about him since the feud between him and Manifest set social media ablaze and drowned topical national issues on mainstream media.

Our elders have, however, cautioned us that if you hate a duiker, you must fail to acknowledge its swiftness. While it is okay to criticise Sarkodie, we must be fair to him. And that is the point I want to make. A few points, actually.My first point is that Manifest is a good rapper. And Sarkodie is also a good rapper. The rise of one does not dim the talent of the other. Sarkodie cannot be Manifest. And Manifest cannot be Sarkodie. They are uniquely talented. They have their different appeals. If you give Manifest the rest of his life to learn to rap like Sarkodie, he may not be able to do it. And if you give Sarkodie the rest of his life to learn to rap like M.anifest, he may fail. So the comparison about who is greater is needless.

The second point I want to make is that Manifest is deep. And Sarkodie is also deep. Sarkodie is not shallow as some people have tried to suggest. I have heard and read the reason people say Manifest is deep as opposed to Sarkodie:

“When Manifest sings, you don’t immediately get what he tries to say. You have to think deep before you understand what he wants to say,” they say. “For Sarkodie, he is ordinary. You don’t need to think before you understand him.”

That’s a very shallow way of measuring the depth of music or lyrics. The depth of the music is not always about the how fast or easy it is to decode the lyrics. It has more to do with the message behind the lyrics, whether they are simple or complex. Kofi Kinaata sings about the ordinary things but he is not shallow. You get everything he says at a glance but he is deep. In Coat of Many Colours, Dolly Parton tells a simple story that does not require any complex brain work to understand but the meaning of the story is deep.

Manifest is deep and poetic. That is his style. He's a great guy. You cannot take that away from him. Sarkodie is also deep. Unless most of Sarkodie’s critics are measuring his depth by only his lyrical jibe at Manifest, it will be both dishonest and unfair to suggest that he is not shallow. Take time to listen to his songs more before drawing a conclusion.

I’m not Sarkodie’s fan, and I’m not a fan of his genre of music. I can best be described as a passive observer of the music industry. But I admire Sarkodie's dexterity with the Twi language. He is not the type of rappers who sing “Kotoka, Thessalonica and Veronica” and put together meaningless phrases just to make them rhyme. Unfortunately, however, the local language is not a language for the intelligent and enlightened people in our republic.

Being deep or philosophical is not the only criterion for measuring the quality of a musician. Music is not only about philosophy. A musician’s first aim is to entertain, and a good musician must know how to balance the two. When we talk about depth, Sarkodie is one of the deepest musicians when compared with his colleagues in the country currently. That is my view. If you don't think I'm entitled to it, go and swim in the Korle-Lagoon.


The third point I want to make is the tendency to look down on Sarkodie’s fans as unenlightened. I have read many such disturbing comments on Facebook. I work for Joy FM, but when it is midday my girlfriend would rather listen to Adom FM for one hour than listen to Joy Midday News. She is addicted to AfiaPokua (Vim Lady). She is one of the most intelligent young women I have met. I have educated and enlightened people who call to give me feedback on my stories only when I appear on Adom News. When I was producing a documentary on Borborbor, the Ewe old woman who was the main character in my story and speaks better English than Twi was worried she might miss it because her dial is forever locked on Adom FM.

So if you are a “discerning listener” of Joy FM and think that Joy or Citi FM stick more to the rules of conventional journalism story telling than Adom FM and the other Twi-speaking stations, you may be damn right. But to look down on the listeners of such stations will be a grave mistake. Some of them are more enlightened and more discerning than you.

It’s all about CHOICES! We are free to choose what we like. So spare Sarkodie’s fans.

Another issue I want to address is the concept of home Champion versus international champion. Sarkodie says he raps to the world but Manifest raps to his friends. Does that make him better than Manifest? Nope!

Every artiste has his or her target audience. The size of your crowd does not determine the quality of your music so Sarkodie was wrong in that regard. If the world is to celebrate the best musicians or entertainers of all time, it may not remember Psy whose "Gangnam Style" has been viewed over TWO BILLION SIX HUNDRED AND TWO MILLION TIMES on Youtube. The equation of what determines the popularity of a musician has very complex variables. Sarkodie must know this.

In the same way, Sarkodie got it wrong, his critics are also getting it wrong by showing pictures of Manifest performing in Europe and using that as the basis to refer to Sarkodie as a local champion. For such critics, even though Sarkodie also performs outside the country, his fans are mainly Ghanaians and Africans abroad. To them, you are not worth any hype until you perform for the white folks.

I think this group needs to see the curer of sick heads. Or rather, their heads are healthy but they feel incurably inferior in their dark skins. In effect, what they are saying is that if you perform to me, a black man, you mean nothing. But if you perform to a white man, you are a great artiste. This is lame thinking, which must be dumped in the nearest Zoomlion container.

There has not been any scientific survey of who is winning the war of words between Sarkodie and M.anifest, but any objective monitor of the media space, especially social media, would agree that public opinion has weighed heavily against Sarkodie. Manifest is enjoying massive support. I think this is fair. Sarkodie has not conducted himself in a way that would court public sympathy or support in a feud like this.

My verdict is that Sarkodie’s attitude has courted public condemnation, but that has not diminished his talent. You may say Messi is greedy or that Christiano Rolando is proud, but that does not take away their talents on the soccer pitch. Hate the duiker but praise its swiftness.

The public will continue to stoke the fire and pray that this feud lasts a bit longer. But Sarkodie and M.anifest should realise that this world is a stage and each actor is timed. The play may have its climax but each character reaches the climax of their roles at different points, and after that, they may become somewhat irrelevant to the plot. Who thought Nollywood would ever produce a romantic movie without Genevieve Nnaji or Ramsey Nouah or a comic movie without Aki, Popor or Ibu? Who thought Nollywood would survive without them? Who thought Kumawood producers would one day drop Agya Koo and still have comic characters in their movies?

Sarkodie and M.anifest should know that they have an expiry date and should make good use of their time. They should remember that before they ever got our attention we had rappers like, Reggie Rockstone, Obrafuor, Tic Tac, Akatakyie, Kontihene, Obuor, Sidney, A Plus and a host of talented musicians who are alive but whose times have passed. They should know that Daddy Lumba, KojoAntwi, Nana Acheampong and others are still alive.

Sarkodie and M.anifest should stop the unnecessary competition and focus on their careers. Society will cheer them on this destructive path of needless feud. They will cheer them into their graves, and turn round to say, "We knew they were headed for destruction. We said it!” And M.anifest must know that the praises being showered on him were once showered on Sarkodie.

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