The Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) formerly, Ghana Music Awards show was introduced by Charterhouse in the year 2000 to celebrate Ghanaian musicians and music. Since its inception, it has been one of the most recognized awards in the country. The awards show’s contribution to the music industry is laudable as it has motivated other bodies to start awards in different sectors in the entertainment industry. It is therefore not surprising to see the likes of 4syte music video awards and now 3Music awards which is only two-years-old.
For growth to occur in every sector, various stakeholders must be empowered enough to contribute towards change and development throughout the various sectors within the country. From 2000 to 2003, the National Theatre of Ghana hosted the awards. It was later moved to the 1,600 capacity Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) from 2004 to 2009. Over time, the awards show has become bigger due to an increase in patronage and support from other organisations. I believe that was one of the reasons organisers moved it to the Fantasy Dome from 2010 to 2012. Unfortunately, due to the nature of acoustic set up in the Dome, it was moved back to the AICC in 2013.
As we mark 20 years of the Ghana music awards, a much bigger space would have been preferable as many would like to witness the event, however, organisers have to make do with the AICC again due to unavailability of alternative venues. Take industry players alone out of the 1,600-seating capacity and it will be left with just small space to manage by some dignitaries (if invited) and other patrons. Already, there has been several complains of overcrowding at AICC, meaning many would love to attend such events if the environment was conducive and accommodating enough.
This has deterred a lot from even buying tickets out of fear of not getting seats they have paid for. Should this continue, it will eventually discourage people from patronising such events. Can we afford to have a strong industry when there is little or no interest by patrons?
Development must have an impact in every sector and for years, the entertainment industry has seen little development as governments continuously pay little or no attention to the sector. It is embarrassing that in 2019, Ghana cannot boast of an ultra-modern venue to host top awards or for state functions.
Let us refresh our memories about how the AICC came about. It was built purposely to host the tenth Ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1991. It has since hosted major conferences and summits by U.N and other top-notch events and awards in Ghana, including VGMA. Does the facility qualify to be called an “International Conference centre”? That will be another topic for discussion in future, but I suggest “Ghana Conference Centre” would have been ideal.
The Black Entertainment Television (BET) awards which are held in America was established in 2001, to celebrate African Americans in the entertainment, sports, and other industries. Though it will be unfair to compare America to Ghana, I believe we are not pushing enough. BET which is younger than VGMA has been hosted in different cities in America. The inaugural ceremony, for instance, was held at Paris Las Vegas resort in 2001 on the Las Vegas strip. And from 2002 to 2005, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. From 2006 to 2012, it was moved to the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. And from 2013 to date, it is held at the Microsoft Theatre, L.A
BET is a television channel that also promotes acts by black people but later introduced an awards ceremony just like 4syte TV. When Charterhouse started GHone TV, I felt that was going to solely promote entertainment in Ghana but unfortunately, they couldn't hold on for long. And I ask, have they also helped themselves as a corporate body?
Every award schemes go through criticisms and constructive criticisms are not bad as it helps one to correct some errors of the past. Over the years, people have challenged voting results, stage design, red carpet, sound, and event plan but it looks like very little has been done by Charterhouse to right these wrongs. I won’t solely blame Charterhouse but all stakeholders who contribute one way or the other to organise the awards. We are not growing. They keep giving us the same thing over and over. Rehearsals are not effectively done, sound engineers will not learn and avoid mishaps from previous years and those in charge of the stage will not give us something striking. The same average content is brought year after year.
Through all the challenges and bashing from the public, I am still proud of Charterhouse for organising the awards for 20 years. It is indeed a great achievement. Of course, it is business and probably the motivation has been the returns.
Since 2000; the following artistes in order has won the coveted Artiste of the year till 2018; Daddy Lumba, Kojo Antwi, Lord Kenya, Kontihene, V.I.P, Obour, Ofori Amponsah, Samini, Kwaw Kese, Okyeame Kwame, Sarkodie, V.I.P, Sarkodie, R2Bees, Shatta Wale, Stonebwowy, EL, Joe Mettle and Ebony Reigns.
The year 2018 was a bit of everything; emotional, funny, highly criticized though many described it as boring. On the 18th of May 2019, I know many have expectations. This is the 20th edition and social media has made it easier for people to share their opinions. Last year, for instance, many got a live update from their friends on social media.
VGMA 2018, was one of the awards I personally watched from start to finish. From my observations, many usually criticize the questions asked on the red carpet by our presenters as many usually would ask "who are you wearing?". In 2018, Johnnie Hughes and AJ Sarpong added something different; they added: "who are you rooting for". Let us see what Giovani Caleb and Sika Osei will bring up this year. Almost all the guys on the red carpet last year claim they wore a Zara.... interesting. Who checks their tags? No wonder one can mention any designer and get away with it. I bet most of these American celebrities wear most of these designers as part of their endorsements deals. We have loads of great designers but some celebs here don’t think about the business aspect and feel it is super cool to rock a foreign designer.
Again, last year the VGMA red carpet missed fashionistas like; Naa Ashorkor, Sandra Ankobea, Zynell Zuh, Nana Akua Addo, Moesha Buduong and Benedicta Gafah who usually make the red carpet a delight to watch. What happened to these celebrities last year? As for Moesha, I may be able to answer for her. Was it because of her infamous CNN interview with Christina Amanpour?
Patapaa stormed the red carpet with his oversized suit and Ahoufe Patri also showed up in a shiny robe like a kung-fu fighter. There were various fashion disasters last year and talented Kuami Eugene was not left out. He was also looking like a junior pastor from a one-man church. Nevertheless, Sally Galley stunned and many were in love with her outfit.
As if the red-carpet hitches were not enough, I was disappointed that in this technological age, the television station that aired the event live - TV3 - could not tag names of celebrities and other dignitaries on the red carpet. Will this year be different? The red carpet didn't offer anything interesting, so patrons were eager to have a feel of the main event.
The stage lighting looked like an occultic shrine in Nigerian movies. DJ black gave the audience something to laugh over when he played “onaapo", the main campaign song for NDC in 2016 for John Dumelo. John tried to make the ceremony funny but his performance wasn't impressive. We may pardon him as he is not a presenter by profession.
Over the years, top-notch presenters hosted the show. The host of Peace FM's morning show, Kwame Sefa Kayi for instance hosted from 2000 to 2007. The likes of KOD, Chris Attoh, KKD, Naa Ashorkor, Samini, just to mention a few have also had the opportunity.
This year, Kwame Sefa Kayi and Kofi Okyere Darko will be hosting the 20th anniversary of VGMA. We couldn't have asked for more. I believe this will bring a whole new feel.
When the show started last year, many thought a minutes silence would be observed for the Late Ebony Reigns but they didn't. Kwesi Arthur was the first to acknowledge the late Ebony by performing with a T-shirt with a picture of Ebony inscribed on it. They later had tribute concert for her as her female colleagues performed some of her hit tunes. It's been a year since she left. Will they still remember her? What about musicians we have lost in the past who one way or the other contributed to making VGMA a success. In its 20th year, I think a small documentary on them won't be a bad idea.
I also observed that the live band that was introduced last year didn't help most of our artiste. Kuami Eugene, Samini and one or two did well though.
Other things that caught the eyes of patrons was King Promise’ Balenciaga which many believed was oversized, Patapaa losing popular song of the year to Fancy Gadam, the beauty queen who goofed whiles presenting the award, Praye's reunion as they gave a hot performance the alleged results leak and the alleged cutting Nana Aba Anamuah off by TV3.
Less I forget, Samini introduced a young artiste Deon on stage with some fire but the guy didn't impress many. Where is Deon and how far with his music Career? Bullet introduced two ladies last year. Many chastised him as it was too early to replace Ebony. Out of anger, Ghanaians descended on the two ladies and called them all sort of names, including been ugly. A year on and one of the girls, Wendy Shay has nominations at VGMA. This makes me want to ask again, where is Deon?
VGMA is here again! It’s been 20 years, are we happy with the awards so far? If it was to be an exam, I will award Charterhouse 70 per cent. If things should change after VGMA 2019, I will add some marks. What are your expectations for this year? Let that be a discussion with friends and family.
Long live Ghana, long Live Ghana music.
One Ghana, one Africa, one love...peace!