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Opinions of Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Columnist: Ivory Ari Ocean

Why the VGMA ban of Shatta Wale and Stonebowy is a slap to music


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Don't expect to see or hear of Shatta Wale or Stonebowy at the upcoming VGMAs. Why? There is an active ban on the two. Reason(s)? Well, they behaved badly at last year's event. But I'd rather not get into the background story here, that's reserved for another topic. So if you've been living under a rock with blinders and earplugs on all this while, and can't wait for that write-up? welcome back from "Rockministan", get to the nearest barbershop or the nearest hair salon for that update.

Ok, so back to the topic at hand. the ban precludes the two artiste from the participation, appearance and (I guess the consumption) of the awards program indefinitely. Too harsh? Didn't go far enough? whatever your position and in spite of who you might blame for the shit-show that marred last year's event that has gotten us here, I implore you, please hear me out.

My reaction to the ban was: “ What! What are they thinking?” while I scratched my scalp as I pondered the thought. Something didn't feel right. Ultimately I arrived at a thought, a verdict that sat quite right with me: The ban is UNFAIR. But unfair to who? Unfair to the music art and the consumers of said art-form, unfair to the spirit of music, artistry and talent. Presumably, this VGMA board is not comprised of stupid, corrupt, or ill-intentioned people. But what could motivate this kind of unfair policy? We might never know. What I have set out here to do is to explain the reason(s) for my verdict.

Of course as a private organization the VGMA is within it's right to determine who can and cannot participate in the awards ceremony. If they do however exercise this right, it's to be expected that questions of motive and soundness of decision will arise, and answers demanded. So there's no question that the VGMA reserve this right, just as any member of the public has the right to tune in or out of said event.

So then VGMA ban is all well and good, right? Maybe, errm..... but not quite. Exercising a right isn't always the smartest thing to do at all times. Case in point, the ban by the VGMA of the two artiste. My verdict of unfairness to the Shatta and Stonebowy ban is predicated on what the VGMA stands for, represents and how they should be perceived. According to the VGMA's own website their edict is:

To honour and appreciate musicians and other music industry players who released work(s) that generated the most public excitement within the calendar year of the scheme.

Provide an international platform through which the Ghanaian music industry can be accessed.

To reward veteran musicians who have blazed the trail in the music industry.

Going by their stated objective, the VGMA ban is not just unfair but a violation of public faith, it defeats the very purpose for which they stand.

As an entertainment industry award organization the VGMA has entrusted on itself the responsibility to be a fair and free for all participatory platform for the purpose of honoring our entertainers by merit and solely based on the art that defines the profession.

To this end, the public expects that they demonstrate the impartial ability to assess what music or creative work most meets the considerational requirements of the awards scheme in a fair and unbiased manner. By making all music acceptable for consideration and capable of reward, irrespective of who the creator is, be they morally corrupt or pious saints, the purity of the art form is maintained the merit of the intellectual creation protected. abiding by this sacred principle the art is left untainted.

It's not a fair edict to segregate art from art in a competitive arrangement, not according to specific and universally accepted guidelines but rather by an arbitrary code, prevent participation than to proceed to hold contest. How can the honor of "best in category" be deserving, when that particular genre has been deprived of the rigor of competition from which the best is to be derived and the attending laurels bestowed?

If the VGMA organization feels so repulsed by the two artistse or are deeply offended or embarrassed by the incident at last year's event, and hold them accountable for the unfortunate disruption, the organization reserves the right to punitive action. A fair example will be to dis-invite the two individuals from future events, until such time that penance is determined. However, where the organization errs and cause consternation amongst the public, casting a legitimate shade of doubt as to the true motive of the organization is the decision to preclude the work, the art, the music of the two individuals from consideration. This single act flies in the face of any previously perceived impartiality.

It's perfectly ok to prohibit the physical presence of Shatta Wale and Stonebowy at the award ceremony for last year's bad behavior (and if it took the nature of a crime) or anyone else for that matter, as the organization may see fit. But to ban the music is blatantly unfair. To ban the music is sacrilegious to the ethos, the spirit of the art.

Art is an immutable human quality not evenly distributed, and though we might not particularly approve of the vessel from which it comes sometimes, we cannot deny it's ultimate quality when we encounter it. The banned individuals are two of the more talented artistes in contemporary Ghanaian music culture, their music heavy on the social and entertainment scene, to expunge their work from the music awards event is to deny society our right to honor the music to which we have danced, made merry and sang along with, it denies us the entertainment value of seeing the best of the best compete, it interferes with history, muddies the waters of what the purity of art should be, it creates an uneven competitive platform and its a robbery of our ability to fully partake in the estimation of the worth and value that all music (with no exception) is to us, the consumer.

The VGMA owes to itself and has a responsibility to appear and be presented as an impartial platform, to steer clear off the temptation to think of itself as some moral authority or a monolithic judge over the music art, which is best left untouched, uncontrolled, untamed, un-curtailed.

It's important, to recognize that the VGMA is not a music regulatory establishment, a licensing authority nor an oversight body. The vgma is akin to a plain field suitable for tillage where seeds of all kind are cast, left to grow or wither as they may.

Why is it unfair to ban "a few miscreants" from a prestigious music awards event such as the VGMA is? Because anyone so creatively gifted can create something new of entertainment value, singing, rapping and bless us with the most amazing music of our time, and if they do, they deserve fair participation "miscreant" or not, It's music, not behavior.

The VGMA should be careful not to slight the creative individuals who's hardwork, talent and passion butters it's bread.

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