#VGMA2017: Don’t Be Too Quick To Blame Chaterhouse Yet!

#VGMA2017: Don’t Be Too Quick To Blame Chaterhouse Yet!

Hmmmmmmm! Another year, another Vodafone Ghana Music Awards, and yet another opportunity for some reflection. The 18th Vodafone Music Awards org

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Hmmmmmmm!

Another year, another Vodafone Ghana Music Awards, and yet another opportunity for some reflection.

The 18th Vodafone Music Awards organized by Charterhouse was held last Saturday April 8th. The show itself might have ended but as usual, the highlights, conversations and controversies are going to be around for sometime. For this reason, I also join the debate with this review.

Prior to the event, I jotted down a title, “Ten VGMA traditions that need to be nipped in the bud.” I am only now realizing that piece wouldn’t have been any different from the review I did of last year’s edition. Quite frankly, it wouldn’t have also been any different from the many reviews that others have done on the show since its inception. So what exactly am I driving at?

In summary, it is an undeniable fact that Ghanaians love the VGMAs. It is one of the very few events that manages to incite the entire country and even folks abroad in the diaspora. Maybe this interest transcends our love for the event, and more towards our love for Ghanaian music.

While the responsibility appears to always fall on Charterhouse, the chief organizers of the show, I would in this article be insinuating that the success of the event should be a well-coordinated effort among the following groups: The event organizers; Our musicians; Fashion Designers, Ghanaian celebrities or public figures; Media Partners; Patrons of the show (people who attend the show and “Us”, yes, the audience, yes, you and I). So lend me your ears and tag any lover of Ghanaian music and the VGMAs to come along this ride.

Charter House

I for one remain very positive about the VGMAs. I always have. I look forward to it every year. In fact, right after Christmas, I start monitoring preparations and publicity towards the event. Therefore, I think Charter House deserves some credit. It’s not easy to have come this far, especially in the full glare of an unforgiving public. Despite the controversies, they still manage to get all of us glued. And again, I wouldn’t want to believe that the organizers deliberately do things to undermine progress of the event.

The thing about entertainment business in Ghana is that it is very hard, just like anything else in Ghana. The industry lacks reputable training avenues, which end up producing half-baked talents in all its spheres: artists, producers, coordinators, etc. Therefore, very early on in my days, I knew if I ever did showbiz, it would have to be a “side-gig”rather than a full-time thing. So Let’s give credit where its due.

Maybe the progress we hope to see hasn’t been that huge but there’s been some progress. The red carpet segment for two or three conservative years has been starting at the scheduled time. And not just that, it’s been kept very brief. The live stream has also been easily accessible. For this year, I personally counted about four to five online platforms that streamed online. For our outside communities, I can say they were well taken care of although, in the beginning connection was a little slow.

The constant “testing” of MCs also prove that they do listen to our critiques. Finally, I think we might have found Kwame Sefa Kayi’s “replacement” for the next couple years. Not that the others were not good, but, we always work towards perfection noh? Unfortunately, the problems of the night managed to drown Anita Erskine’s excellent delivery to an extent and reviews on her performance, came much later.

Nonetheless, those of us with a much vested interest in the entire show took the time to savour her talent. Anita is just phenomenal!

Dress rehearsals

See, it’s been what, eighteen years so far? Mehn! It’s no fun writing and talking about the same issues over and over again. Matter of fact, many of the things I’m going to say here, I already did in my review for last year’s event: Every single detail of the show needs to be dressed-rehearsed! From the entry of the MC, to transitioning of performances, to anticipating crowd reactions and finally to the personalities called upon to present the awards.

Especially on the award presenters, I maintain that they are probably the most irrelevant aspect of the show. What they do currently could be easily stripped away for the MC of the night to do. If we maintain them, then let’s save their faces a little.

Part of their responsibilities would be to inform and educate the audience and viewers about the categories for which they are presenting the awards. Or, it could simply be about past winners of that category, and what that category seeks to achieve or looks out for. Or even simply put, just a mere elaboration on the criteria for that nomination. Organizers must hire professional writers with vested interest in the shows and Ghanaian music to script what they say for them, let them either memorize or read out when they arrive on the stage.

In this just ended event, the lifetime achievement award was probably the only category that executed that properly. Many of the award presenters came on stage for just two main agendas; to show off their outfits or sell-their brands. I don’t know what good that did for the event. That segment either needs some serious tweaking and coaching, or just simply needs to be scrapped. This could even solve many of the controversies surrounding award winners because the information the award presenters give could answer a lot of questions.

Red Carpet

It is a fact that the concept of the entire awards show might be borrowed, but must we copy everything? It is also a fact that our celebs have improved immensely with their red carpet appearances and no one should downplay their efforts. But we also know there is no way our industry would grow if we do not “fine-tune” aspects of the entertainment industry to fit our own system here.

Here are some facts about the red carpet culture: (1) That aspect of the show projects highly anticipated public figures. (2) Celebs are paid to wear clothes by designers and in the real world, some designers even lobby their way to get a particular celebrity to wear their designs (3) The goal is to give publicity to designers. So let’s go through this checklist then:

  1. Were you sought after by your designer?
  2. Did you describe your outfit to her/him yourself or did they, together with your stylist or glam team, team up to come up with something that suited not just your brand, body type and taste, but for the event itself?
  3. Were you made to pay the cost of your outfit?

If you answered “No” to questions 1 and 2 and “Yes” to number 3, then you have no business being on the red carpet, especially to even give credit to your designers. Note, however, this criticism is for those who made it to the red carpet live show to talk to either Berla or Elikem to answer questions like “Who are you wearing?” and does not extend to pictures that were taken on the side.

Budding GhOne television presenter, ELi Kharis at the 2017 VGMAs

Remember I started this piece addressing “all of us” including fashion designers? Well this is where they come in. Our industry is in its current epileptic state because we don’t have all hands on deck. The entertainment industries elsewhere we tend to look up to or rather envy, are not a single independent body. It takes immense dedication and contribution from all the components: The fashion industry, the online blogging community, movie/stage directors, choreographers, models, actors, script writers, sound engineers, patrons and consumers.

We cannot have a splendid and fun red carpet segment when celebs are footing every single bill in their glam team. We cannot have amazing memorable performances without the right stage directing; our backup dancers would continue to look like ghetto street dancers when they are left out of the planning period; and our musicians would continue to, well, you do the math. 

Beyonce’s backup dancers in costumes by Ghanaian designer, Christie Brown.

Can’t we hire some of our most prominent designers to come up with creative attires for back up dancers? Isn’t it about time?  And of course, the mix-tape performances. Chartehouse should not be responsible for how artistes fail to satisfy their fans. That is solely their own problem. 

In conclusion then, I’d like to state emphatically that I probably remain one of the few people proud of Charterhouse. I hardly see the problems surrounding these events as something Charterhouse alone can solve. To a large extent, the problems reflect the failures of Musiga, the ministry of arts and our educational system in general. We haven’t spent enough resources in developing our arts and creative industry. At this juncture, it behooves Musiga and the ministry of arts to support the arts in new and creative ways. We are in dire need of bigger and multi-purpose auditoriums, as well as constant in-house training and reflection. Or better still, after 18 years of monopolizing the awards, wouldn’t it be time for some competition?

Mediocrity

As a colonized people, there are several ripple effects we exude and one serious one is mediocrity. Mediocrity is likely to emanate from inauthenticity largely because we are never really proud of who we are or what we have. Yes, the awards may not be local to us but at which point do we put ourselves into it? It is “Ghana” Music Awards after all…

The lack of originality in our fashion, music, performances, and delivery makes it really difficult to appreciate things produced locally. We’ve gradually become “knock-off” versions of the White man. The mission and vision of Sankofa Reviews calls for us to go back and learn what is good from the past. Let’s start championing our true selves above all else. And to our artistes, higher learning education is not mutually exclusive to the pursuit of your dreams. There are programs for the creative industries all the way up to the PhD level. 

Our artistes lack depth. Our celebrities (Movie stars) in general hardly show for it. And I’m afraid our event organizers aren’t prioritizing quality over quantity. We all need to do our homework well.

 

Efe Plange

Efe Plange

Efe Plange is founder and editor of Sankofa Reviews. She holds a Master's degree in Rhetoric and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University. She is passionate about the Arts and Cultural industry and her background in the field is fueled by a longstanding dream of seeing theory work together with practice. Connect with Efe on social media.
Efe Plange

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