Media representation, telling positive stories, and highlighting successes go a long way in changing the narrative that surrounds certain groups in society. We have seen many groups being marginalized by a negative, often false, narrative spread through various media platforms. An example of a community that came into focus last year was the black community worldwide. Many media have recognized that they present this community in a more positive way and do not have to play with existing unconscious prejudices. One comedian, rapper and actor who uses his talents, network and resources to contribute more authentic, positive content is Michael Dapaah, founder of Dapaah International Group Ltd. & Production company Dapaah Ent.
Dapaah’s first interaction with the creative arts took place at school. He grew up in South Africa at the age of 7 and played Mowgli in a school remake of the Disney classic Jungle Book. This included singing, dancing, and acting, and sparked a long-term interest in the performance of “You’d go to bed and sing and dance to gospel music,” he recalls as his parents said. However, as much as he was encouraged by his parents and loved to perform, he knew from a young age that one had to focus on academics. In reference to his father, whom he describes as a “great inspiration”, he studied science at college, but did not pass his first year. It was clear to him that the passion just wasn’t there. “I remember a friend who went to acting class and I always wish I were in the same lesson,” he recalls, and that reflection led him to wonder what he wanted to do.
Inspired by the film Kidulthood, one of the first films to show some of the problems faced by young people in central London, and its now well-known director Noel Clarke, who had a background similar to Dapaah, he began his education on National Youth Theater in addition to continuing his studies. He quickly realized that in addition to the performance, which he naturally took for writing, he was writing his first screenplay, which was over 90 pages. It didn’t go anywhere but turned out to be a great training in writing. It was difficult to balance school and his creative side, but Dapaah made sure to make his parents proud by finishing university. When he was done, however, he knew it was time to focus on his passion, as he “wanted a full life where I could best bring in the gifts I believe I have,” he says.
After graduation, he continued his passion while working as a sales assistant in a Vodafone store. His first attempt at a sketch show filmed by a friend was unsuccessful, but he was not deterred and decided to create a second show called #SWIL (Somewhere In London). While writing the script for #SWIL Dapaah, he found he had some confidence issues with public speaking and used that time to work on speaking in schools and doing comedy as well. After the script was finished, he was introduced to film director Marv Brown. They worked together and the videos they posted online through Youtube and other social media platforms garnered views. They reached their first major milestone with a comedy video that was viewed over 1 million times. After season one, he was approached by major broadcast partners but declined offers related to the series as they were incorrect and decided to create and publish season 2 independently to ensure that creativity was not hampered and the series Crossing borders and always reaching an international audience.
The next major milestone in Dapaah’s career came in 2017 when he appeared on the BBC 1xtra radio show and played one of his characters “Big Shaq” in a now infamous episode of “Fire In The Booth”. This was a milestone when the video went viral and catapulted him into mainstream consciousness, leading to multiple opportunities including a recording deal and the release of a multi-platinum sales song that peaked at # 3 on the UK charts and that’s over 350 million views on Youtube. Since then, Dapaah has taken on multiple projects with brands, created more shows, and continues to build: “Not everything I’ve done has worked, but my beliefs ensure I keep moving,” he says.
Start Dapaah Ent.
More recently, Dapaah has set up its own production company – led by managers Knacai Ceres-McLeod and Fola Adeyemi – Dapaah Ent., Which aims to help share and nurture emerging talent across a variety of industries. The first project they are working on is called “We Need To Talk” and was launched in December 2020. The show was inspired by Black History Month and brings together Dapaah’s friends and people who inspired him to have important and meaningful conversations that would not normally take place in the public domain. “I’m tired of constant negativity, and I wanted to create something uplifting where we can all celebrate with the public.” The first episode included soccer player Rio Ferdinand, fellow comedian Mo Gilligan Seen model Eva Apio and DJ Julie Adenuga. Future episodes will include people from all walks of life, including journalists, musicians, business people, and more.
Dapaah’s rise was relatively quick and unexpected at the time, but his work ethic and belief in himself, fueled by his beliefs, have led him to maintain his success. For these reasons we are sure to hear a lot more about his work. his team and Dapaah Ent.
This article is part of a series featuring underrepresented people making a difference. You can keep up to date with new releases or contact me on Twitter – @ TommyASC91.