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Opinions of Thursday, 6 September 2018

Columnist: AJ Sarpong

Playing 100% Ghanaian music won’t take us international

There have been conversations about the low reception given some Ghanaian musicians who went to perform Nigeria recently.

According to reports, the Nigerian audience at the show organised by Zylofon Media did not respond well to the performances by the Ghanaian acts.

I understand the frustration of many fans in Ghana, after what they felt was the sheer “disrespect” of our Ghanaian artistes and I agree that should never be the case.

I also noted what seems to be a campaign to ensure more Ghanaian music is played in Ghana and on our airwaves rather than Nigerian music. A case I can also understand, however I would like to pose a few questions on this.

Firstly, I get the need for people to push for more Ghanaian music on our airwaves. I have seen a campaign pushing for 80% local songs to be played on Ghanaian radio and TV.
However, I would also like to ask, what happens if we played 100% Ghanaian music all the time in Ghana, but we do not get heavy rotation in Nigeria, South Africa or Kenya or any other African Country?

Do our artistes get international gigs simply because their music is played heavily in Ghana?

Do our artistes get international recognition, endorsements and partnership simply because they are on heavy rotation in Ghana?

Well, the answer isn’t an automatic NO, but it’s not an emphatic YES either.

And I will explain my views. There are various scenarios that could lead to the above situations, but they however may be the exception to the rule.

1. Perhaps an Event Promoter will Come to Ghana and hear the music on heavy rotation and ask for the artiste and then place them on their bill in their home country and lead to revenue for the artiste and our industry.

2.Or perhaps a DJ or On Air Personality (OAP better known as a radio presenter) may come to Ghana, hear the heavy rotation and then ask who that artiste is and then, play them on their airwaves, circulate it to other OAP’s or DJ’s and they the music out there and this could also lead to them to performing in their home country.

3.Or perhaps a an industry person who happens to be a music lover, connected in the entertainment industry in their home country, will hear the song and buy the CD at the airport or vendor, then circulate it on air in their home country, and also circulate it to other OAP’s or DJ’s and make their name recognizable so when their 2nd album is released, it becomes a hit in their country and lead to concerts, like I personally did with M.I’s debut album “Talk About It,” in 2009.

4. Or perhaps in the Social media age, someone may play it on their Snap, IG, Facebook , and someone may ask whose song it is, get the title, and circulate it in their home country.

5. Or in a Final Scenario, perhaps their music lyrics or maybe its accompanying video and dance moves will go viral across the world over and lead to concerts and appearances like it happened with Patapaa’s ‘One Corner’ dance craze.

Or Maybe just maybe, neither of these scenarios happen and you are an artiste with Heavy Rotation, doing all the big shows in your Home country, but a with little or no rotation and a Virtual Unknown in another Country with an even Bigger market, like it unfortunately occurred in Nigeria to some of our established artistes.

So many factors could have contributed to the Lukewarm reception our artistes received in Nigeria, and an article I saw online explained it very well, from tired crowd (it started late apparently), to a VIP (strictly by invite) event (because we all know how the VIPs like to Pose lol, ), to a foreign audience, to an alleged lackadaisical performance by the artistes and finally the lack of awareness of the artistes to the crowd.

But I want to focus on the lack of Awareness of the artistes by the audience. I start with a question: How many artistes, in Ghana, will fly to Nigeria on their own dime, not for an event or concert, but simply to get to know the On air Personalities, the DJs and the Event Promoters? The answer will be NOT ENOUGH!

I have done freelance PR for close to 6 or 7 years, and this brought me in contact with many Nigerian artistes as Ghana has become a preferred destination for relaxation for many, and I have seen many artiste from the very big established names to the relatively Unknown, all come to Ghana and to simply introduce themselves to those who matter to get some rotation of their music.

These artistes will book their own hotel rooms, pay their own feeding, transportation, foot the bill for meetings, lunches and dinners to meet the right people, hob nob with them so that when that song is released the DJ will be familiar with the name and as such play it.

Most of the times and I can speak with authority here, no payola involved, just simple good music that is good on the ears making it on the airwaves. And the higher up the artiste goes the easier their hits get on radio and before we know it these artistes, are both big in Nigeria or South Africa or Kenya and as well in Ghana.

A typical example is Banky W’s performance at Miss Maliaka in the late 2000’s and he came with at that time a young, smallish looking, Wizkid, he was a virtual unknow back then but his hit song “Holla at your Boy’ was at that time getting Heavy Rotation in Nigeria but no one knew him in Ghana, however Banky W, asked to get him to perform with him and basically pull him along on stage so he can introduce himself and his music to a whole new audience. The Girls naturally loved him, and I’m sure Banky didn’t leave town without introducing Wizkid and his music to a few people, so when his Superstar album was released and the music was so infectious, naturally he would transition on the radio, plus he also came to Ghana fairly regularly, if my memory serves me right.

Another example is D’banj and Don Jazzy who performed at the VGMA’s in 2007, I believe or feel free to correct me if I am wrong, then known as the GMA’s and even though half the audience didn’t know them, it was live on GTV and if for nothing at all, the audience went home wondering who D’banj was and what on earth is Tongolo and “the KOKO” was. A few who have also taken advantage of that was Ugandan trio Blu 3 in 2005 or 2006 performed their African hit song, Hitaji or the South African Group known as Jozi, who performed in 2010 and even shot their song “Africa” video in Accra.
D’banj and Don Jazzy came to Ghana a few times afterwards and when their songs became benefited hits, it was easy for these songs to attract the Ghanaian ear as they weren’t necessarily strangers anymore.

Brings me back to my initial question; How many of our artiste have reached organizers of Industry awards across the continent and asked to Perform for very little or free, with logistics covered by the Organizers to be able to perform and market themselves in front of a new audience?

I don’t know if the story is the same with Davido but from what I gather he would occasionally pop in and out of Ghana, and naturally you may meet people who may be on air and aid that transition to get your music on air.

Let’s be honest, and this is in no way a justification, but it also doesn’t hurt that the Nigerian sound is naturally quite infectious and easy to vibe and dance to.

Another artiste is Florence Otedola, Popularly known as Dj Cuppy. Whenever she has something exciting, she will do press tours in various countries at her own cost and that of her team, and gets the mileage she wants. Some may argue that due to her pedigree (Daughter of Billionaire Femi Otedola) she has enough to spare, but trust me she is earning much more with these Press tours.

She did a club tour across certain countries, took a film crew with her and made the footage into a reality show on Fox Life Africa! Now that’s Gangsta! How many Ghanaians are willing and capable of doing that?

More recently I know of Nigerian Artiste who are willing to accept next to nothing, about a tenth (1/10th) or much less what they receive doing a performance, just to perform in Ghana simply because they want to open up to the Ghanaian market.

I know of another artiste that I personally did PR for, who came on their dime to do press in Ghana, and before they left, got a nice juicy deal to perform In Ghana. Would he have gotten that deal had he stay in Nigeria, I sincerely doubt it.

Now having said that are Ghanaian artiste doing enough? And the answer is absolutely NOT! One thing I have realized is, you use Money to Make Money, and the Nigerians understand that Concept immensely but do Ghanaians get that?

Let’s even look at a Wande Coal, who when he came for the First (and Only, not sure why ) MTV road to MAMA’s event, and took advantage and remixed his song “Kiss your Hand” with R2bees and that ended up bigger than the original and lead to him receiving recognition in Ghana? And the promotion goes on in various ways, with another example being Nigerian star Patoranking, who went from station to station during the yuletide season, one particular year, giving cake with media logos on them to various media houses to strengthen his bond with the Ghanaian media.

However I have also seen this issue in the reverse with South African artistes that have come to Ghana for events, concerts or company promotions and have been shocked that they didn’t have a massive fan base in Ghana and literally no one knew them. They also fall victim to the low promo and had neglected to hype and promo themselves in other markets and they ended up performing to abysmal numbers or even worse no reactions.

Let’s even look at Nasty C’s performance at the just ended VGMA’s, he stated it was the sound but it could also have been that people knew one or 2 of his songs but didn’t know him enough, so his performance wasn’t as great as it would in say Jo’burg or a Lagos event. Because largely people feed off the vibes of the audience.

So brings me back to my earlier question, how many Ghanaians will fly to South Africa, arrange a press tour, move from station to station and get their music played, do interviews, not because they are booked for a show in SA but simply because they want their music to blow there and then come back to Ghana? And hope that it will lead to more deals soon? Will they do the same in Kenya, and in Nigeria?

And don’t get me wrong I am not speaking about the underground artiste, I believe when you are underground or waiting to blow, you should blow first in Ghana or your country of origin, then try to replicate it around Africa. So I am talking about our very established artistes?

I have had several interactions with industry players in Nigeria and various other countries and largely they know Sarkodie. He is the face of Ghanaian music in various countries. I have also received positive feedback about Stonebwoy owning to his numerous African Collaborations which has seen him visible and recognizable on the African Continent. And Manifest is very well known in Southern African countries because of his promo.

I distinctively remember an event where a big wig in the Nigerian Music and Media scene didn’t know Shatta wale. Trust me, I was beyond Offended. “I mean how do you not know Shatta?” I questioned? “You must know our head of the SM Movement, the man who has everyone running after him after an appearance.” I argued. I went ahead to play Shatta’s songs and believe me when I say I left the Guy, a believer and bona-fide member of the Shatta Movement and singing Freedom!!!! after I was done! Whatttttttt! The Pride I felt after that ehn! Nothing can compare!

Shatta has gained quite some notoriety and fame in Nigeria after the stunt he pulled with Wizkid, which got people riled up, (and I personally thought was absolutely brilliant! ) And now they certainly know Shatta Wale.

However lot of our experienced and established artistes are relatively unknown in various markets including Nigeria and that to me is a Problem. They may know the songs and even sing it but the Artiste and their faces are not committed to memory. I mean , Why are our artistes known in every part of the Ghana, from the 2 year old child to the 80 year old Grandmother and not know outside our boarders?

Trust me I have been in clubs (not the African Clubs but the White clubs) in Central London and occasionally they may drop a Wizkid or a Mafikizolo but it is very rare to hear a Ghanaian tune.

That is a huge problem I believe and to solve it, we need to know the problem. Though many may point out to various root causes, from lack of structure in the Entertainment Industry, to PHD (Pull me down Syndrome in Ghana), to not enough Investment in the Industry as a whole, Lack of adequate management or Record Labels, many if not all, may be true, however I believe part of the problem stems from our complacency in accepting we are the top Dog in Ghana and not trying to sell our music elsewhere.

We complain when the foreign artistes are flown in to perform and naturally, get paid more. However we should also realize that the rate to perform in your backyard and to travel and perform are very different, so we should rather be thinking about the need to travel to perform and charge Big as well.

I saw that Kuami Eugene and Kidi performed at a Mayourkun concert and the crowd was so receptive, because they are familiar with the songs. Matter of fact, I have seen media personalities in Nigeria such as Toke Makinwa, on my Snap chat dancing and vibing to the sounds of Kidi and Kuami Eugene in their cars, such personalities whose snap is watched by 1000’s, and frankly the Guys have smartly leveraged on the likability of their songs to do remix’s with Nigerian artistes who in turn promoted their songs to their fans.

What I feel Lynx Entertainment should do now is to do more promotional tours to allow the Face behind the songs Register with the Nigerian Audience and not just the Songs.

So it goes back to my earlier question, does heavy rotation in Ghana translate to awareness of our Artiste in Nigeria, Kenya or South Africa?

If we are winning in Ghana, does it automatically translate to winning everywhere else?

Trust me established Ghanaian artistes are winning in Ghana, they are on the list of Events, they have media houses shoving for Interviews, which they choose or pass on, they are getting endorsement deals etc,

However does that translate to Awareness in other Frankly “Bigger Markets”? Trust me there is money to be made, the amounts that Nigerian artistes are getting from performances will make you dizzy because Bigger market does Equal Bigger money!
So how about we take our share of that cash that goes around by simply making ourselves more visible in their market.

Because the situation is becoming critical ooooo! Now our Neighbors have now graduated from gaining prominence in Africa and moving to the World stage and they are taking OUR Lyrics with them. Yep Our Lyrics! The emphasis on “Shito, Odo, Odo Yewo, Sika”, and various Twi words has become a big deal in Nigerian Music in recent times,the trend started by Mr Eazi, and sampled by other Nigerian artistes, has quickly become the new Wave in Nigeria, for the Artistes to get a more exotic/fresh sound, which also ends up appealing to Ghanaians so it becomes a Win-Win Situation for them, but are We the Ghanaian Originators winning?

So Ladies and Gentlemen, are we going to sit back and Simply Hope the New Wave includes Us? Or do we Ensure that It Does?

We must seize this New Wave that is distinctively Ghanaian, and make it sound even better and market it across the Continent and the World.

It’s time for Ghanaian music and our collaborations to be on Billboard 100, its Time for our songs and Collaborations to go Platinum, Diamond and Gold and for Ghanaian artistes to be featured with Hot current Artistes International Artistes, not the “Career almost Ended” Ones.

So in conclusion, until we go out there and market ourselves and get our music on their airwaves, we will face such situations like we recently saw, which will cause us a lot of Anger.

Above all its time for Ghanaians to do intensive PR, Else this New wave will pass us by.