FEATURE: Total Cheat Awards; VGMA Losing its Credibility

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Music Awards are occasions to take stock and accordingly recognize hard-working musicians, producers, record labels as well as contributions of other industry players.

Ghana’s version of the music awards, the Vodafone Music Awards (VGMA) is equivalent to the Grammys in the United States, the BRIT Awards of the British. But it seems the VGMA which ordinarily should be means of boosts is shamelessly bestowed on friends and cronies who don’t deserve such awards.

The 2018 edition of the VGMA was particularly blatant soul-sucking and manipulative event. The 19-year-old music awards could have been a step forward for Charter House (organizers of the awards show). Instead, it turned out to be the most disappointing awards show in recent history.

I was really shocked last Saturday night (14th April 2018) with some of the results I heard especially the “most popular song of the year” (now song of the year) going for Fancy Gadam’s “Total cheat” song. A category which had Patapaa’s One corner song, Bronya by Wutah, Taking Over by Shatta Wale, Angela by Kwame Eugene, Poison by Ebony, Odo by Kidi and Bo noo ni by Joe Mettle. Indeed there was TOTAL CHEAT that night.

I decided to enquire from other sources how come Fancy Gadam‘s Total Cheat song which was unknown to majority of Ghana could sweep that award from artistes who really deserved it. I was told the same old story, the general public voted massively for Fancy Gadam because he represented the entire northern part of Ghana. Again I decided to learn more about the voting scheme for the most popular song category and I realized it was no longer decided by 100% public votes.

In the past years, the power to choose the most popular song of the year was the preserve of the general public. As a corrective measure, the voting scheme was revised in February, 2018 and so the Academy now has 30% votes, 30% also for the board and the 40% votes reserved for the general public. So it’s never true that the most popular song was still decided by 100% public votes. Per Charter House definition of most popular song, the song must have enjoyed a lot of patronage and generated the most excitement during the year.

Fancy Gadem’s song isn’t bad and neither is he artistically and in terms of popularity; however his Total cheat song does not come near to that of his competitors in the category. Take Patapaa’s one corner, Watah’s Bronya and Shatta Wale’s taking over, which other songs was bigger and popular than theirs. One corner song has been everywhere, across Africa, playing in cities and suburbs, house parties, at wedding ceremonies, festivals, in people’s headphones and so on. One corner song was inescapable and inevitable that even Parliamentarians couldn’t avoid it.

The song was more than the results of what happens when human voice is stretched on top of music, and more than a beat that sits at your lips. To have a whole country including parliamentarians singing along was a feat. Music lovers in Ghana have always craved for something different from what they’ve been listening, and one corner song was able to offer that.

Unfortunately, this song was not even immune to the myopic watch of the board and the Academy. Surprisingly, the board and the Academy which had 60% votes were not even unanimous and miss the boat to the extent that they failed to honour a piece of work that’s truly transcendental and widely popular. How can you award a song that is only known in Accra and some parts of northern Ghana over a song that was all over Africa.

I am not really concerned about the public votes, because votes can be bought. Anybody can buy loads of credits and get people to vote massively for him/her even if that person does not deserve the award. That’s why the VGMA gets it wrong all the time. The change in voting pattern this year, I believe should have been the rescuer but that wasn’t the case at all.

Why the VGMA gets it wrong all the time

For an institution that claims to reward artistic ‘excellence’ in the music industry, the VGMA sure get a lot wrong. Charter House has over the years revamped the way it organizes and awards prizes in an effort to improve the results—only to draw the same old complaints. . I believe this is not the first time the Charter house has been accused of rigging awards. The board and the Academy who have been put there to sanitize the system miss the mark so frequently that the VGMA is losing its credibility.

First and foremost, the board and the Academy, which are made of industry professionals, have allowed personal interest to override technicalities. The board and the Academy practically are made up of seasoned DJ’s, radio presenters, musicians, engineers, producers, artiste managers, executives etc. Some of the members on the board and in the Academy will vote for musicians they have some business link with, artistes they manage or artistes on their record labels instead of voting on technicalities.

A gain of the biggest problems with the VGMA is that most of people on the board and on the Academy restrict themselves only to Accra and sometimes Kumasi. That is why sometimes they get it wrong. Famous musicians tend to get more votes from clueless Academy members, regardless of the quality of their work. For example, if the board and the Academy had done their homework well Fancy Gadam’s “Total cheat” song wouldn’t’ have won the song of the year award. Talk to DJ’s at Arise FM and Sweet FM in Twifo Praso, Osagyefo in Mankessim or Ahomka or Okokroko FM in Cape coast- all in the Central Region or even West Gold radio in Takoradi and one would appreciate how much people loved Patapaa’s “one corner song”.

In conclusion, it’s not as though the VGMA have never recognized deserving artists. But I believe more need to be done to clear all doubts.

Written by: Jerry Kweku Asomaning

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