Besides seeing our favourite artistes win an award or two on such big nights as the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMAs), the surprises are what many live for. Witnessing history being made is a moment that lives with you forever. That’s exactly what happened last Saturday when gospel artiste, Joe mettle was crowned ‘The Artiste of the Year’ at the 17th Edition of the annual music festival. The win was of great significance. It was the first time a gospel artiste had won the top award.
History would have been made, Joe Mettle’s win notwithstanding. Most of the nominees in that category were previous winners. EL, if he had won, would have become the first artiste to win it back to back. Sarkodie and Stonebwoy had won the awards in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Although these past winners had had a great year, it was Joe Mettle, who seemed, based on the murmurs, to hold the sail that was to bring the wind of change.
Days after the 2016 edition of the VGMAs, I ghost wrote an article in which I made a point that gospel artistes need to position themselves well if they are to win the top award. My concluding statement was: It must, however be said that, until gospel artistes realize that they are in competition with these secular music artistes and begin to learn their ways in respect of management, promotions and positioning themselves not a gospel artistes but artistes who do gospel music, they shall forever be overlooked when it matters during Vodafone Ghana Music Awards.
The win by Joe Mettle is well deserved. He has been very visible during the year under review. A cursory look at the history of the awards shows that, for years, the gospel artistes have come close yet far from clinching the top crown. The last time a gospel artiste came close to making history was in 2004 when Daughters of Glorious Jesus were pipped to it by VIP. The gospel wins has always been within the gospel categories-Best Gospel Song, Best Gospel Artiste and Best Gospel Album. For instance, in 2016, out of the twenty-nine (29) categories, only two were gospel specific categories (the best album category was scrapped).
For some time now, a creeping phenomenon is infiltrating the awards scheme. It is what I would describe as ‘shout-to-be-heard’ phenomenon. Many gospel artistes have, on numerous occasions accused Charter House of deliberately been overlooking their efforts and impact as far as the awards are concern. Most of them share the view that, there is a bias against them; something which contribute to them continuously playing second fiddle to their secular companions especially when it comes to The Artiste of the Year category.
The accusations or ‘shouts of bias’ became intense last year, when one of the strongest voices in the gospel music scene began an advocacy for his colleagues to be rewarded for their works. Nacee, a singer and producer even called on his colleagues to start their own music awards because of this obvious bias. One year on, not only did Nacee pick up two awards (Gospel song and Gospel Album), Joe Mettle won three awards on the night including Artiste of the Year. The ‘shouts’ by Nacee aside, we have seen how secular artistes like Shatta Wale and Kwaw Kesse have, at various points, vented at the VGMA organizes for being unfair to them. As if by coincidence, these artistes won awards in the next editions of the ceremony including the Artiste of the Year.
They are not alone. Critics of the events have also pointed to the fact that, the nomination is not national enough; that only artistes who dominate charts in Accra and to some extent Kumasi get nominated. This leaves artistes who are making waves in other regions but have not yet broken the music ceilings in Accra and Kumasi out of the pack.
So, it was of great joy to see an artiste like Fancy Gadam , a Tamale based artiste pick the plaque for New Artiste of the Year. The consternation that greeted Fancy Gadam’s win especially on twitter was to some extent, valid. Medikal (AmgMedikal) had had a very outstanding 2016 and among music fans deserved it. However, it was soon pointed out that Fancy Gadam was no mean an artiste. He is a celebrated artiste in the Northern part of Ghana, where he hails. Photos shared on twitter of his sold out shows-where he filled the 20,000 capacity Tamale Sports Stadium-gave credence to why he deserved the award. The fact that his music hadn’t broken the Accra and Kumasi music ceiling (mainstream radio) doesn’t invalidate his status.
I’m not seeking to downplay the awards as it stands. Of course, each year, the organizers have been criticized by many for what they consider unfair treatment of certain artistes. These criticisms shall continue since each artiste and fans would want their work to be appreciated. The ones who are capable of ‘shouting’ the loudest and seeing their fortunes turn the next award year could be a case of pure coincidence, after all, public voting determines who wins what. It is also a proof of how a listening organization Charter House is becoming- expanding the list of artistes and taking note of the concerns of other artistes and critics.
The awards shall continue to draw criticisms from people who don’t win. The controversies shall always be part of event. It’s a human institution and an event based largely on public voting is not expected to be entirely perfect. The critique must be valid and the organizers must also take note and act appropriately.
It holds true that, the success and credibility of an artistes is not measured by the ‘how many awards’ scale. Success is achieved through hard work: recording of good tunes, selling shows and investing in promotion. However, the years have shown us that, sometimes one need to shout louder to get noticed and validated.