Every awards ceremony is marred by controversies: this artist should have won, that artist should have won. Yet the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMAs) are special in how much controversy they attract.
Since its establishment in 2000, the ceremony has become the most awaited event on the annual music industry calendar. Naturally, every act craves recognition. And when this doesn’t happen, as is the case in all categories, there is an uproar.
Alhough the awards' organiser, Charterhouse, appears to be over the Shatta Wale debacle, which threatened to take attention from last year’s programme, other issues have taken the place of the ‘Kakai’ man’s dissatisfaction.
Here then are five talking points from the latest VGMAs, an event so anticipated and controversial, it deserves its own award for causing yearly drama in good ol’ Ghana.
5. Medikal’s Headache
Rapper Medikal was overly optimistic about a happy ending to his first ever VGMAs. He even rapped about it several weeks earlier. In ’Still Pampee’, a single released shortly after the nominees were announced, he bragged: “Small boy wonder, seven nominations. Sake of I be the best inna the nation.”
In the end he lost. Though his losing-out on all seven awards is both unfair and enough to significantly break his spirit, his reaction after his performance – pulling his girlfriend Sister Deborah a little too strongly and shouting “forget everybody” – is yet another sad tale of what an artist’s inability to manage his optimism can lead to.
4. Ras Kuuku’s Lesson
Reggae-man Ras Kuuku had joked on the red carper that his votes were the reason for the perceived “over-voting this year”. He appeared fearless in spite of Stonebwoy’s nomination in the same category. But no reggae/dancehall category which has Stonebwoy as a nominee is exactly a fair fight.
Still, the 'Puom Anthem' singer was shocked at his loss. Disgusted even. He rose to his feet, his hype man in tow. He roared something at hostess Anita Erskine, who interpreted it as an answer to the question she had just asked: Who picks up Artist of the Year? Artist and hype man then made for the exit, walking past many faces too frozen in bewilderment to say a word. At the exit, Ras Kuuku turned sharply and yelled “akronfuo nkuaa” (thieves) presumably at the organisers.
3. Glitches and Ghana Man Time
At some point, organisers of the show ran around trying to rectify what looked like a power emergency – which some claimed to be an attempt to sabotage the event.
“At exactly 8.40pm, just at the strike of the drum for the amazing opening performance by the Accra Symphony Orchestra and Lumina, we suddenly lost all power losing some equipment in the process,” read an official statement from Charterhouse. “The fluctuations that followed were simply unprecedented and inexplicable. Regrettably the event started two hours later than scheduled – for which we are deeply sorry.”
Eventually, and thankfully, the show returned. The Accra Symphony Orchestra came back to complete a compelling opening act, which was truncated the first time due to the technical situation. Also, Erskine was impeccable, running the prestigious event with the facility of an experienced waakye seller.
2. M.anifest’s loss of Album of the Year and Dobble’s ‘Christy’ Win
In two upsets, Nacee beat M.anifest to win Album of the Year and former Dobble member Paa Kwei went up to accept the prize for Most Popular Song of the Year. Dobble’s ’Christy’ was popular but it won the award ahead of such songs as Joey B’s ’You x Me’, Sarkodie’s ’RNS’, Article Wan’s ‘Solo’, FlowKing Stone’s 'Go Low’, Stonebwoy’s ’People Dey’ and others. On both occasions, there was palpable disbelief, an unvoiced “Did they really deserve it?”
1. Joe Mettle’s Gospel Triumph
Without debate, this year was for gospel music. Controversial or not, Joe Mettle winning Artist of the Year is an important statement for the gospel fraternity, which had embarked on a massive campaign, arguing that he was not merely good enough to be nominated for the ultimate prize, but good enough to win it too, despite competition from EL and Stonebwoy and MzVee and Medikal and Sarkodie.
People wondered what “true hit song” Joe Mettle had released last year or whether his visibility all through the year surpassed his competitors, but the masterminds behind the 'Gospel Artist can be Artist of the Year too' campaign would not be distracted.
But the auditorium was bereft of the pandemonium usually accompanying the ultimate announcement at the VGMAs.
It appears that because Joe is a Gospel singer, and Ghanaians being a very religious people, one can’t contest what credentials got him to beat popular secular acts. Joe may have deserved the award on merit but the entire nation must be sufficiently convinced that this is so. Else in the future, there will be a similar agenda by the jazz community, or the traditional music community, or the acapella community – once they see some mainstream recognition – to solicit a kind of affirmative action at the detriment of those who are truly deserving. This will not necessarily be a good look for a scheme already considered suspect by many.
“As children of God, sometimes we get things we don’t deserve” was Joe Mettle’s response to skeptics. A profound statement, it somewhat fuels the debate concerning whether it was just his mettle that got him the VGMA top award.