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VGMA needs an overhaul [Article]

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Preamble: I have a lot of suggestions for the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) but I have sifted a few of them to proffer to the organisers, and the Board for that matter.

This year has not been different from the previous years as regards controversies surrounding the awards. Of course, because it is a human institution, some mistakes are bound to occur; not everybody will be pleased with the entire nominations.

However, there are mistakes that can be avoided. Such mistakes are unpardonable. My contribution to the VGMA in helping them to shape the music industry is this piece of thought.

Review Category /Operational Definitions: I strongly believe that some of the category definitions need to be reviewed to white out ambiguities and vagueness therein.

For example, one criterion states that: “the Album of the Year is adjudged by the Academy and Board as the most outstanding compilation of hit songs on an album that was released during the year under review. It must have generated the most excitement during the year.”

How many hit songs off an album must one have to qualify for nomination in the Album of the Year category? Is it one, two, three, four, a half of the entire songs on the album, one third, etc? This vagueness must be addressed because there have been artistes who gained nominations with only two hit songs. If you release an album of about 10 songs and you can only have two hit song, why gain nomination in the album of the year? To me, the artiste must have not less than half of the songs on their album as hit.

Publish Operational Definitions: I entreat the organizers of the awards to also publish the Operational Definitions of the various categories so the public will be duly educated and informed on what parameters the nominations are hinged on.

Artiste Category Haziness: It is true that what an artiste does in a year defines who they are but the artiste must  have released a certain number of hit songs in a particular genre, performed those songs most, to be nominated as artiste of the year in that genre. A case in point is Kofi Kinaata’s nomination as Highlife Artiste of the Year.

In the year under review, which is 2016, Kofi Kinaata had only one smash hit highlife song, which is Confession. Confession was released in mid-December and He had another hit song Sweetie Pie which VGMA Board has nominated as Hiplife Song of the Year. This same VGMA acclaimed Hiplife Song earned nomination in the overall Vodafone Song of the Year category.

So it is surprising that a Hiplife Song of the Year/Vodafone Song of the Year nominee Sweetie Pie could not win Kofi Kinaata Hip life Artiste nomination upon its monumental success. At least, it made more impact in 2016 than Confession, so it best defines what Kinaata did in that year.

Reconstitute the Board: I presume the work of the Board is a very herculean one. In fact, I must commend all past and present members of the Board. However, I also suggest that the Board be reconstituted. I am convinced that some of the members have gone stale and must be changed. There are very vibrant and smart guys out there who have a lot to offer on that Board when given the chance.

They can even co-opt guest judges every year. Yes! They can invite people with expert knowledge in music each year, to augment the ‘brain bank’ at the Board. These guests may be changed on yearly basis.

Let Academy Peruse Nomination List: It will do the VGMA Board a lot of good if they allow the academy to look through their nominations before they are finally published. This will forestall the petty but grave mistakes that characterize the awards on yearly basis.

In the past, the Academy had been invited during the voting periods to cast their 30% vote for the Public Voting Categories and the 50% for the Industry Categories. It was only last year that the system was digitized – so instead of Academy members converging at venue to cast their votes, everything was sent to them online.

Even though I believe that is a brilliant decision, I still think the Academy’s mandate should go beyond just voting. I suggest that they are made to look through the final nomination list compiled by the Board before they are put in the public domain.

Publish Detailed Results of Votes: The call by many for the organizers to publish the overall results of votes cast had been a big debate in the past. Last year, the organizers were prodded to provide summary results of the votes. However, I wish that a graphical and detailed presentation will be done.

Work with Copyright Office: How do you know if a song someone has filed formation isn’t their intellectual property? Recently, King Promise has said that Adina’s song Too Late which was said to have been written by Killbeatz was actually written by him. So he should have been nominated in the Songwriter category for that song.  If there is at least an official from the Copyright Office on the Board who tries to help verify the true ownership of songs, it will help prevent some of these mistakes. It will also encourage musicians to register their songs – something most of them don’t care about.

Conclusion: It is definitely a huge task but if it must be done, it must be done well. It is my hope that these suggestions I have mooted will be considered. Long live Ghana Music Awards, Long live Ghanaian music!

By: Kwame Dadzie

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