The 2017 VGMAs, held over some weeks ago, wrote its own script in the minds of all those who watched it. From the exciting commentary on social media (twitter especially where respect for celebs was frozen for the about one and half hours as the ‘what are you wearing’ (Red Carpet) segment run) to the over an hour of black out at the Accra International Conference Centre, where the event was held; to the awards ceremony itself, there were many moments. Before I plunge into what caught my attention during the event, can some help explain why Mr. Eazi got overlooked again during the awards? For two years running, Mr. Eazi has been snubbed in a category he definitely deserve to win. Last year’s excuse for not nominating him was that, he isn’t a Ghanaian thus not qualified. In 2017, even though he was nominated in the Best African Act category, he lost to fellow Nigerian artiste Runtown.
The overwhelming ‘noise’ Runtown’s Mad Over You made across Africa (song is good) notwithstanding, his impact wasn’t as huge as that of Mr. Eazi per the year under review- both across the continent and outside of it. From releasing some of the biggest hits in the year to getting featured on big platforms (Beats1 Radio) and respected websites as well as drawing huge fans to his concerts, only an alien would think he didn’t deserve at least that African Artiste plaque. For the past few years, the African Artiste award is gradually losing its competitiveness. It is easy to predict who is going to win. Just check the African artiste invited and on the performance roll. In my view, Techno was better placed to have won it than Runtown.
Another concern, well more like an appeal to Charter House, the organizers. It would be goodif you tone down on the red colour used in designing the stage (we know you have to pay homage to Vodafone Ghana, the sponsors). The excessive use of red on the night actually took a bit from the beautifully designed stage.
So, to the few things that caught my attention. The positives first:
Honouring Paapa Yankson: I was excited to see highlife legend Paapa Yankson awarded with the Lifetime Achievement Awards on the night. The tribute performance of the beautiful and timeless classic ‘Tsena Men Kyen’ (Stand By Me) by Paulina Oduro and some of the young artistes on the night was a perfect tribute. Paapa Yankson deserved that kind of love and appreciation for his service to highlife music in particular and Ghana music in general.
Nace and friends ‘killed’ It: The performance by Nacee and his fellow gospel artistes was flawless. The choice of music was nothing but nostalgic. The Gospel All-Star song, ‘Ohene Kesse’ (Almighty King) is one of my all-time favourite gospel tunes and seeing them perform it was incredible. However, I’d have wished some of the artistes who originally performed the song joined in the rendition on the night. Imagine the excitement if the likes of Amy Newman, Stella Seal, Nana Yaw Asare and others had stepped on the stage. Also, let me acknowledge the fact that, the gospel performances are becoming one of the best moments of the VGMAs. Last year, we saw how Joe Mettle took the crowed to church. A year on, Nacee and friends left people catching the Holy Ghost. Brilliant stuff.
Kofi Kinata and the Ankos: Kofi Kinaata, who won three awards on the night introduced a bit of the twin-city (Sekondi-Takoradi), his home region’s famous ‘culture’ to many unfamiliar with that all important culture when he brought on stage the ankos to jam. Ankos refers to masqueraders who come out to play (dance) during festivals and special occasions. Better known to many as fancy dress thanks to their fanciful and colourful costumes. For someone who grew up in Cape Coast where the fancy dress culture is as popular
Sarkodie finally outdoored Strongman: How do you formally introduce a newly signed artiste to your label? Sarkodie had the answer. He outdoored his new artiste, Strongman by handing him the mic to rap his verse off the hip hop/hiplife nominated song ‘Trumpet’-something I felt was an excellent move. Yes, Strongman is known to many rap enthusiasts. After that night, I’m sure the many had no faint idea who he was got familiar.
M.anifest proved he’s the godMC: Diss songs make your fans happy, sometimes win you new fans and make the music scene exciting. The epic short-lived diss exchanges between M.anifest and Sarkodie got music fans both excited and troubled, the benefits on the rap game can’t be dismissed. Since I started watching the VGMAs (formerly Ghana Music Awards in the year 2000), never have I seen or heard a diss song win any artiste an award. M.anifest became the first artiste (I stand to be corrected) to win two awards (Best Rapper, Best Rap Song) off the back of his 2016 unexpected diss song #godMC. Even haters got nodding like agama (lizard) at this feat.
Kwaw Kesse Still With the Antics? Somebody stop Kwaw Kesse. The ‘man insane’ is a problem. How do you appear on the red carpet pushing a wheelbarrow holding all your VGMA awards with the caption ‘Awards For Sale’? Goodness! To the casual watcher, the inscription was nothing but a laughter drawing one. But, a good look at the inscription had a deeper connotation: was it a critique of the awards? That they are for sale? Or, Kwaw has no use for them hence wanting to auction them off? Or, could it be that, he was being typical Kwaw Kesse- being controversial?
DJ Black keeps it 110%: And one hella applauds to DJ Black. Fantastic doesn’t even cut it. As usual, he steered the show to perfection. From dropping Shatta Wale tunes, to playing Onaapo to welcome John Dumelo on stage to looping that (in) famous Sarkodie diss line: s3 rapper bi b3 dissi me a, 3nnye rapper )di GTV ntuma pam kaba’ when king Sark went to receive his award. Holy Shit!
No Respect: What is this trend where some of the award winners don’t show up on stage to receive their awards? Granted some of them were backstage but for goodness sake, their performances came late in the day. Even if some of them were backstage, they could still have made it on stage for their awards. The trend started last year. It did continue this year. If no measure is taken, we may see it happen during subsequent awards. There’s nothing thrilling than your fans screaming your name as you step onstage to pick an award. There’s nothing better than being in front of that mic with your award appreciating your fans. Not showing up is in my view a sign of disrespect. Again, Ghanaian artistes must learn to speak on national issues when they get these opportunities. Galamsey is a hot topic and none of the winners said anything on it. Hmm!
Live Band Problems: I’m a big fan of live band music but the band should know their business. The live band used by the organizers didn’t win me over. They did their best but it wasn’t enough. The band’s performance didn’t get the audience dancing and that in a way drew a bit from the performances of some of the artistes. Crowd reaction is an important factor in an artiste’s performance. Charter House should, just as they have done with DJ Black, get a very good ‘resident’ live band or hire some of the best bands in this country to play at the events in subsequent years.
Best African Artiste Category Losing Gloss: The Best African Artiste category is gradually getting cheapened. One could easily predict the winner by looking at the African artiste invited to the event. Holding nothing against Runtown (his Mad Over You song is dope) but then it raises a few questions which include how an artiste with just one tune in a year wins Best African Artiste? I’d have preferred Tekno to Runtown since he has more hit songs. Also worth asking is the question: How come Mr. Eazi missed this one?
The VGMAs is indeed the biggest and well-known music event in Ghana. This is one of the reasons it must be safeguarded and the organizers, urged to do better.-the categorization of music right down to the awards handed out- must be looked at again. Gradually, people are increasing becoming flippant and cynical about the whole event, which is a serious concern that needs to be discussed and fixed. After all, who would take you serious if the awards scheme that you pride yourself on is tainted with suspicion and disaffection?
It shouldn’t only be the disgruntled public and artistes who feel cheated that vent at the organizers. The artistes who have clout in the music space equally have responsibilities at helping Charter House improve the music award scheme through constructive criticisms and good advice.
Artistes should recognize that, when the awards loses its credibility and get scorched by the flame of discreditability, they would be the first group to be burnt badly.