Last time, I had the opportunity of watching the 2016 Grammy Awards live on DSTV and though Rocky Dawuni didn’t win , it made me feel proud to be Ghanaian ( and African for that matter ) by virtue of his achievement of being a nominee. 21 gun salute, Rocky.!The real reason, however why I’m writing this piece is to highlight just a couple of concerns about what happens at our Ghana Music awards, comparing it to the Grammys.
MY POINT ONE is about the variety of genres that are recognised and honoured at our awards. At the GMAs the variety of genres awarded as well as the classification of songs by established genres is such a big issue. Though there is a strong jazz presence in Gh music ( as evidenced by what happens at places like +233 and other jazz grills ) it is not represented in the awards schemes . Traditional Ghanaian music like that of Wulomei and other ethnic groups and acts are sidelined .
Reggae is bunched up with dancehall which is a travesty of justice. True dancehall is yet to be clearly differentiated from Azonto-hall and this leads to people playing all sorts of beats ( from hip hop to azonto ) and rapping in patois over them to qualify into the Reggae/Dancehall category. Ghanaian Afropop acts ( like Wiyaala and Gasmilla etc ) should have their own category. Then there are the many choral groups scattered all over Ghana who are not recognised and awarded nor represented at all.
The non-differentiation of solo acts from group acts in the GMAs ( especially for the major categories) for me is also a big lapse. It would also be nice to have awards for the best band , best instrumentalist etc… To understand why, it is important to note the difference between a performer and a musician .
Indeed, many of our “so called best musicians” in this country are really only performers and not really musicians. They cannot function and have no basic knowledge about rhythm nor melody. They cannot identify even the keys in which they perform and this is really bad since this award is the Ghana “MUSIC” Awards and not Ghana “PERFORMERS” Awards.
That explains why for the past decade or so, basically rap performers have been awarded the best “musician” or “artiste” awards while musicianship has been sidelined. This is a path that can only lead to destruction and is not a path taken by any country that takes music seriously. To be aptly qualified as a musician you must be able to play at least one instrument. That is why in any music school you must major in an instrument and have other instrumental abilities for your minors.
MY POINT TWO is about the quality of performances at the awards ceremony and the seriousness attached to the ceremony. Currently the GMA awards attracts predominantly an audience between an age group of 18 to about 35. You will hardly see 50, 60, 70 year olds attending. Why, because it is not an award ceremony that cuts across like a serious one . People and fans ( some paid and bussed to attend ) shout, disturb , jump on chairs, swarm the stage etcccc and usually the most important award ( artiste of the year) is presented in a milieu of chaos where other decently seated people cannot even see the award being presented .
The choice of performers selected to perform at the GMAs leads to an event which maybe should be tagged ” the Ghana School Jams ” awards. Mainly only artistes whose songs are popular in the clubs ( club banging artistes ) are selected to perform. There is virtually no space for true soloist singers , choirs, instrumentalists, singers and performers who accompany themselves on instruments, “alternative” music performers ( eg R&B, soul, Jazz, Reggae etc on the bill. The GMAs have therefore been reduced to a low quality and very predictable event which is losing the interest of the public very fast.
That is why they will have to make sure that the big crowd pulling artistes like Shatta etc must perform that night so that a big crowd attendance at the event can be misinterpreted as a big interest in the event. Comparatively, I did not see Rihanna, Jay Z , Beyoncé , Ed Sheeran etc perform at the Grammy’s and yet the event was very well attended and very interesting to people of all ages, races , and sexes. The performances had variety and were of very high quality.
At the GMAs , I also cannot understand why , for the life of me, the instrumentalists playing for the artistes are bunched up into one corner with no place for them to join the performances or be noticed. So what happens if a band like Soul Winners win an award ? Will they also all stand in that corner behind and perform? Clearly this arrangement is a really ridiculous one and doesn’t highlight the contributions of players of instruments . The instrumentalists could be better spread in the background and elevated on platforms etc so that their skills can be on display too.
Let us remember that the day the musicians die, rappers will soon follow cos they need music on which to rap. Genres may even fade out but musicianship will always live. Therefore lets honour music. Ghana music is consumed by people of all ages , sexes and cultures so representations and performances must be well thought of to cater and be interesting for all.
Finally, let us also have an academy that will be the vanguard for preservation of good and worthy music overseeing all these awards. Lets not allow profit oriented people and organizations to misrepresent the treasures Ghana has to present to the world by organizing low quality awards schemes and programmes.
A Concerned Musician.