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Opinions of Monday, 3 June 2019

Columnist: Akyena Brantuo

Ghana Music Awards: Time to say goodbye to ‘Shattahouse’

The 2019 Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) ended with Michael Owusu Addo (Sarkodie) as artist of the decade. How is that possible?

I think Emmanuel Andrews Samini should have won it. He is not only a rapper. He sings as well as do genres of music not limited to hiplife. Unlike Sarkodie he does highlife, dancehall, Afropup, etc.

Sarkodie might have done some good for his career the years under review but certainly not more than Stonebwoy, Shatta Wale or Samini.

When Charles Nii Armah Mensah Jr (Shatta Wale) complains about the unfair nature of the award scheme, he is quickly dismissed as victim of delusions of grandeur.

You may disagree with this writer but it does not have to be your view against his. That is why an objective evaluation scheme is needed.

Currently, there is none, at least not in the present composition of the VGMA.

What VGMA presents us is not verifiable. It is also not transparent. The disputations and gun-brandishing each year tells it all.

Claims that people win awards based on gaining more votes of ordinary people is not meritorious.

In the current regime to win an award, an artist or his supporters must have enough money to sponsor text messages in favour of the musician in question for as many times as possible.

How do so many votes for particular music or musician make that person the best?

Even that is ridiculed by a component of the scheme which reserves the final say on who wins an award to a panel of judges. So that, it does not matter the number of popular votes one gets, the panel of judges has the final say.

This is ‘soo’ wrong.

We need to award musicians based on the sales of their songs. After 20 years of an award, there should be an objective scheme to track that.

That should be in addition to shows performed, international tours and media play the artist had under the music year in question. That will be awarding the artist for their commercial success.

But what does the industry think?

The Disc Jockeys must also vote on the various musicians and their songs. Musicians must also vote on which category which musician must win.

The award must reflect the market, the consumers and the industry players. In fact, there can be a category for engineers, producers and managers to also have their votes.

The system of voting must be such that one person can vote once and it should be without a cost to the voter.

All the various segments of the industry will vote at separate times and it will be announced how artist fared in each of the votings. Examples who DJ’s voted as artists of the year or who engineers and producers voted for in the same category should be announced after the vote.

This will be followed by the summation of all the individual votes from the various segments of the voting population. The one who wins this is the artist of the year, etc.

So that one person can win artist of the year by virtue of sales and market but another person will emerge the overall artist of the year.

It will be like Presidential election in a federation. A candidate can win a state election but another can win more states to be declared the president of that country.

But there will be transparency because everybody knows what the votes are at the state level and the summation of who emerges the ultimate winner.

Even most importantly the parties being allowed to vote are relevant parties and stakeholders who encompass all the various sectors of the music industry.

Which organization must be in charge of coordinating this award?

Let me put it this way, between the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Electoral Commission of Ghana which body is legitimately clothed to organize national elections?

Let me put it another way.

Which body should award musicians? Should it be Charterhouse, a body which has nothing to do with music apart from awarding musicians or the Musician Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), a body composed of all the stakeholders of the music industry?

I hold nothing against Charterhouse, a private award company headed by a foreigner rating indigenous music. But after 20years the evidence is clear to even the disinterested observer to see.

Those brandishing guns are not the villains of this industry. Neither is it appropriate to mudsling Shatta Wale for wanting to ‘congratulate’ his brother.

But after several painful, sleepless nights and toils, it is clear the Ghanaian musician does not feel rewarded enough by what is happing at the VGMA.

That is why this conversation must not be limited to just the aggrieved parties.

It is too risky to leave an industry which captures the spirit of our youth to strangulation by an insatiable appetite for profit at the expense of the artist.

Lest we forget, the music industry represents the face of our tourism sector and drives almost every sector of the economy not just with its tunes but employs many of the creative minds of our population.

Ghana must be thankful to Shatta Wale, whose creative destructive antics gives everybody the opportunity to have a conversation about a music industry which has been held hostage by an award scheme which thrives on patronage.