So soon, after the usual annual complains about the scheme and organization, the 17th edition of Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) is here with us. Radio, TV and social media most especially, got buzzing with music analysts, bloggers, entertainment personalities, musicians and the general public sharing sentiments about the nomination list which got released on Feb 26, 2016.
After going through the various songs and keenly digesting each track, I present a review of the VGMA 2016 nomination list. Firstly, I’d have to give it up to Charter House, the organizing body of the awards, and the board which came up with the list for a good work done. Sadly, in Ghana, there’s no metrics system which calculates the number of airplays songs receive, nor a trusted chart which may make it easy for board members in the selection and decision making. Hence, the board members are vulnerable to making avoidable errors and omissions. A few of these are outlined below.
Some categories, I should say are satisfactory. Among these include Gospel Artiste & Gospel Song of the Year, Best Female Vocalist, Best Male Vocalist, Afro Pop Song of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Best Collaboration of the Year, Hip-Hop/Hip-Life Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Most Popular Song of the Year, and Artist of the Year. Not to say that they’re impeccable, but even if there are faults, it can be regarded as minor.
However, in humble opinion, the following factors should’ve been considered by the board.
High-Life Artiste of the Year
Some artists and songs were considered because they had to fill up the categories, but in actual fact they do not well deserve it. With that being said, Afriyie didn’t do enough to land the nomination. Thus, he didn’t contribute much to High-Life as a genre, he had just a major single with insignificant appearances and effort.
High-Life Song of the Year
Closely considering the elements of the genre, “Brother Brother” should’ve being boldly stated in the list (even over Mansa).
Hip-Hop Song of the Year
After an in-depth analysis and research, I can state emphatically that “Aye Late” by Pappy Kojo is not Hip-Hop, rather it qualifies as a Hip-Life song. Although it has rap verses, the instruments incorporated were used in a sound which deviates from Hip-Hop.
“Hand To Mouth” was released during the latter part of 2015 and started gaining feat in 2016. So to call it Hip-Hop song of the year makes it unbefitting. “Revenge of the Spartans” or “New Guy” could’ve been nominated in place of that.
If the just mentioned tracks weren’t nominated because of the swear words, then the category has to be redefined. Hip-Hop as a culture doesn’t frown on swear words used in a song. If we want to accept Hip-Hop in Ghana without any rebranding, then we should be welcome to all elements/art structure in the original Hip-Hop culture. If not, then we better localize and redefine it to suit our moral values.
Hip-Life Song of the Year
If Ghana accepts that Reggie Rockstone is the true originator of Hip-Life, then the core elements of the genre can be derived from his debut album, “Me Na Me Kae”. I understand music is dynamic, but that doesn’t means it should deviate from the core sound. Hip-Life basically is a mixture of Hip-Hop(Rap) with High-Life elements/influences. With that being said, “Koko” and “Ekiki Me” are not Hip-Life songs, rather Afrobeats/Afro-Pop. “Forget Dem” by M.anifest deserved a nomination in place of the above mentioned as it’s an exemplary Hip-Life tune.
Reggae/Dancehall Artiste of the Year
Blakk Rasta didn’t do enough to deserve this nomination.
Record of the Year
Obviously, one basic criterion every song should meet to become eligible for nomination is popularity. You can do a quick statistical research, and you’d realize Yaa Yaa’s “Dumb Drum” has not being heard by a huge percentage of Ghanaians. For such a category, “Dumb Drum” although a great song shouldn’t have made it.
Producer of the Year
The “Ye Wo Krom” producer, Dr. Ray, didn’t deserve a nomination, period! Clearly, one can realize it’s a remake of Telemo’s beat – the arrangement, tempo and patterns are equally closely similar. In addition, the beat (and the song in general) suffered poor post-production. Not every popular song bears good production.
Young producers contributed massively to uplifting our music industry in 2015, and their efforts should’ve been appreciated. Drumroll deserved a nomination for the intelligent work done on “All Black” and/or “King Without a Crown”.
Best Group of the Year
There are not too many relevant and impactful groups in GH music at the moment. That may have influenced the board to nominate Gallaxy and Preachers.
Best Rapper of the Year
Pappy Kojo’s rap verses in “Aye Late” aren’t solid enough to secure him a spot in this category. Rap involves a lot, and those schemes & elements are not well pronounced in this song. Again, “New Guy’ should’ve made the cut here.
New Artiste of the Year
This category isn’t as competitive as the previous years. That enabled Donzy, Wisa and Atom to gain nominations despite having only one hit singles. Considering the caliber of musicians nominated, Shaker should’ve also being in the list. He had a hit single “M’adakraa”, he put out collabos with E.L, Pappy Kojo and the like, and released an album, plus a couple of nice videos.
African Artiste of the Year
Filled with Nigerian nominees only, this category should’ve involved others from various African countries, so it’d be a representation of the continent. Artistes like Cassper Nyovest and Diamondz Platinum might have as well been nominated.
Most Popular Song of the Year
“Brother Brother” was one of the greatest hits in 2015, hence should’ve landed a nomination.
Suggestions for Improvement
First and foremost, the VGMA board should make available the criteria for acceptance and nomination of songs. This will enable the artistes themselves to know which song to submit and inform the public how they make decisions. It’ll also reduce the insults, confusion and chaos directed to them each year. Most awards have their criteria published on their official websites, so it’ll be only right if they can also do same.
Gasmilla’s “Telemo” not gaining a nomination may have being a big blow to the musician and his management. That’s arguably the most popular song in 2015, but because it was released in 2014, it didn’t fall in the eligible period for submission. This basically means that songs released during the latter part of the year stand less chance of grabbing nomination. Meanwhile, these songs may have impact throughout the subsequent year. Hence I suggest the system should be reviewed to cater for such situations.
Most times, the board wrongly categorizes songs due to confusion of its genre. The board should therefore have a representation of expertise of various genres which can involve producers, DJs, songwriters and pioneers.
“Mansa” and “Brother Brother” both qualify to have been nominated as High-Life Song of the Year. The reason given for eliminating the latter, thus to increase Bisa’s votes and his chances of winning is not tangible. A nomination is a step in awarding an artiste for a good work done. If an artiste truly deserves it, his fans will vote regardless of the number of nominations. It is for them to decide. What if most of his fans prefer “Brother Brother” to “Mansa” in relation to the High-Life category and decide not to vote for him? Honestly, the board could’ve done better with that decision.
I hope the VGMA festival becomes better this year, and the enumerated suggestions are considered.