From My Sebitical Couch: VGMA 2017

 

The Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) for 2017 (covering the performance year of 2016, I believe) was held yesterday 8 April, 2017 at the Accra International Conference Centre. As an avowed old duade who has over the years drifted away from the path of current music trends and the new school genres, some of which I don’t understand and many of whose artistes I don’t know, I do not have the habit of staying up to watch the usually long program that runs into the early hours of the following day, usually not starting on time.

The best I do, in the past years, have been to ‘watch’ the program on Facebook (mostly) and Twitter, following the posts of dedicated members of CAG – Couch Analysts of Ghana, whose witty commentaries from the red carpet moments to the moment when the top award – Artiste of the Year – is awarded, makes for better entertainment than the program instead. Notable members of CAG are Kwame Gyan, Kofi Obirikorang, Andre Jnr, Francis Doku (he is normally off duty on VGMA days as he attends in person and could be relied upon for inside information), Nuerki Ata-Bedu, Lawrencia Elikem Zigah, Prosper Afuti, Kofi Yankey and Ayimadu theDukeofGH.

I was planning to follow the same path this year. Until I checked a WhatsApp message from my friend Kwabena Poku, which indicated that the show would be telecast live on DSTV, which meant Kapokyikyiwofaase the Old Duade could also watch from Amalaman and show fellow Duades like the MP of Facebook South, Hon. Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng, that duades move by sizes.

Predictably, during the build-up to the show, old duades like Rodney and Prof HKP were asking what VGMA meant. Rodney said it stood for ‘Very Good Men Abound’ and Matthew Ayiku wondered if it was a contraceptive. Well, you now know who influenced the new way of pronouncing VGMA. Vagima, is it? These Old Duades will kill me shy! See, the best pitch you can make to an Old Duade, when helping him to understand what the VGMA stands for, is to tell him that it is the ECRAG Awards. ECRAG stands for the Entertainment Critics and Reviewers Association of Ghana. At one point, it was ACRAG. More on that later.

For the red carpet session, what first hit me was the Red Sea dress. Then I saw a train, actually lots of trains. Frankly, the trains had it. My humble view was the red train of the Red Sea should have on wheels and a barricade put around it for safety purposes. I loved the fact that most of those questioned on whom they were wearing (apart from themselves) mentioned designers (the old duade terms are tailors and seamstresses) in Kumasi et al. A good showcase of our pride in our own. My best red carpet moment was when Nana Ama McBrown appeared. She comes across to me as so real, someone who takes life easy and makes the most of it, enjoying every moment.

As Elikem the Tailor (shouldn’t it be Designer, as in current-speak or is it bespoke-speak?) and Mundi (yeah, forget that it was my first time of seeing her name) rounded up the red carpet session, it occurred to me that I hadn’t actually seen any red carpet. Many of the CAG members put my intrigue to rest: they indicated that this year, it was decided that one of the red carpet hosts would wear the red carpet.

Then we were cued in for the program itself to start. And, I got my first major disappointment. We lost the feed. For a couple of hours. What a missed opportunity to showcase Ghanaian music to the entire continent and to show we have also arrived. I lost a lot of vim due to that, but how for do? As we waited, the CAG members went back to their previous red carpet posts and expanded them. We needed to keep busy.

Fortunately, the feed was restored and I got back onto my sebitical couch. As you would see as you read on, I didn’t attempt to do a critical assessment of songs and genres and awards. It is clear that I am not qualified. There is a limit to which a duade can act as ‘youthe’ (apologies to the Katanga folks). So I will share a few thoughts of the performances and some reflections from the past, as to how we can improve the industry.

First of all, the program ran for too long. Far too long. Did I hear that this year’s was to be quite efficient? It must have run for at least five hours. We should improve that.

The performances are not well-rounded. These are shows and must be choreographed. The big stage was not fully utilized and many of the performers looked isolated on stage. After the first two or three acts, I admitted, reluctantly, to myself that my time had indeed passed. I couldn’t even catch the words of the songs. Then Becca performed. At least I knew her songs. Then Kinaata got me with his Tadi Fanti. There is something just exotic about Tadi Fanti in song. Naadze naadze. Reason why I still miss TH 4 Kwagees. Okay, you got the duadeness vibe, forgive me.

Charles Amoah and Naa Amanua lifted the game for me. It was clear Charles Amoah rehearsed with the band. Even the band came to live! What energy! Performance! You know what they say about old wine and taste, right? But, in there, I wondered how come our highlife stars seem to have “better” longevity compared to our hiplife stars. Many of our hiplife and new stars just come to pass, as it were.

Stonebwoy was good. Even before I started listening to him, just from his appearance, it was evident Stonebwoy had scripted and rehearsed his act. That’s performance. Even though I didn’t get any of the words he didn’t sing in Ga. Sarkodie was great and I was gladdened by the young ones he sang with; more on that later. My revelation of the evening was the young Kwame Eugene.

From many of the performances, it seemed to me that many of these new artistes sing only in the studios and do not do any further voice training and practice. It shows when they sing outside studios. And they felt uncomfortable or out of sorts on the performance stage. Mastery of the stage is not learnt on big stages. It is learnt on the circuit, and even off stage. Many of our young artistes need to work on their craft. Work it!

On the production itself and the telecast, the visuals and sounds were not synchronized. Felt like an 80s Chinese movie. Was the theme for the stage design inspired by some science fiction cum space travel sort of thing?

The moment when the deceased actors and actresses were remembered was touching. May the departed stars rest in peace.

Charterhouse, the event organisers, seemed to have briefed the presenters of the awards to say “…and the nominees are…” and then the video rolls. They should be told that when you use such a leader in a statement, the subsequent sentence must flow and make sense. Well, the video starts with “…the Vodafone…blah blah…” Not kosher. Next time, if using the same style for videos, the presenters should rather be briefed to ask for the video of nominees to roll, for example, “…shall we now get to know the nominees?”

I stayed up paa, I did. But, in the end, the duadeness of a man cannot be hidden under the bushel. I fell asleep two awards from the ultimate. I woke up about 20 minutes later and made a post of congratulations to Joe Mettle, who made history by being named Artiste of the Year, the first one in the gospel genre.

After all, I could always blame my delayed post on the epileptic nature of Amalaman networks and the dry-season-tv-ness of DSTV.

So I said I would not say anything about the classification of awards but just allow an old duade this one. After all, old age must be respected, no? My friend Andre Jnr brought my mind to the classification of Kinaata’s Confession as highlife. I was confused too, but I took it that the definition of highlife has changed when I wasn’t paying attention. If I were thinking the same as the ‘youthe’ Andre, then perhaps I can safely brag to Hon. Rodney that there are duades and then there are High Duades, anaa?

Back to how old duades would relate to the VGMAs and how we used to experience music awards in the days when we were we, my mind again went to ECRAG and I wondered, again, why we are unable to sustain some of the brilliant nurturing and apprenticeship programs we had in the past. For instance, I am attempting a review by this write-up. In the days of yore, one could rely on the reports of professional critics who had gone through mentoring and training. Indeed, the critics and reviewers were the ones who organised the awards. I remember stalwarts like Uncle Nanabanyin Dadson, under whose tutelage Francis Doku developed. What happened to ECRAG? For sure, we have entertainment writers now but do we have critics and reviewers?

On the subject of apprenticeship, and on my disappointment with the quality of performances, I thought again of how the highlife legends we have today were nurtured by those before them. For instance, Akwasi Ampofo Adjei aka Mr. AAA, Dada Thick, the Shining Star, who passed away in 2004 and is acknowledged as one of the biggest names in Ghana’s highlife genre, trained and mentored similarly big names in Ghana’s music industry today such as Abrantie Amakye Dede, the founder and leader of Apollo High Kings International, Ali Baba of Mahu Odo Anya Shock fame, K. K. Kabobo and Cudjoe, popularly called Papa Shee, who was one of his dancers. Just an example. Nana Ampadu had in his stable many young singers who grew up into their own. The young learnt from the old and then detached to develop their own nests. I am gratified to know that Sarkodie has under his wings some young artistes like Strongman, whose punchline “Mi rap ɛgyina Circle sɛ ashawo” got me blinking twice! This morning, my friend Kobby Blay sent me a link for the Trumpet song and I learnt that Sarkodie featured Medikal, Strongman, Koo Ntakra, Donzy and Pappy Kojo. We need more of those. Apprenticeship of the young under the old.

We must build an industry with collaboration and not beefs, whatever that means.

From my sebitical couch in Amalaman, this has been Kapokyikyiwofaase reporting for the Sikaman News Agency.

Advertisements

Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng reviews I SPEAK OF GHANA

Book Review: ‘I speak of Ghana’ (Author: Nana Awere Damoah)

By: ‘Hon’ Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng (Hon Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng)

(Author, ‘Abrokyir Nkomo: Reflections of A Ghanaian Immigrant’)

It is not often that you come across a book that evokes deep-seated memories, makes you break out in a thousand smiles, and sends you into deep reflection at the same time. Such roller-coaster journeys are rare, and yet that is precisely what ‘I Speak of Ghana’ does to the reader. Nana Damoah deftly uses the power of words to build a magnificent bus and then he invites us on a journey. This bus is special, built with a Rolls Royce engine. It has the luxury of a Bentley, and the speed and sleekness of a Ferrari.

Driving this bus himself, Nana does not limit himself to the first gear-no, no, no. He drives us through our own world called Sikaman as he smoothly changes from gear to gear with skill and aplomb. In a short while, we are already on fourth gear. It is a pleasant journey, evoking varying sentiments. The scenery is beautiful, but at times he swings by the squalid slums just to remind us that these blots exist on our national landscape and that we ought to do better. He digs into our collective memory bank, he challenges us to think, he inspires us and he makes us laugh-all in varying measures.

Nana starts the journey with a warm-up titled ‘You Know You Are in Ghana When…’ . He reminds us of some of the things that uniquely make us Ghanaian-the good the bad and the ugly. You cannot help but chuckle as your read along. As a true ‘Kumasiano’, whose home region is the undisputed nerve centre of Ghana’s funeral industry, I was particularly struck by his apt observation that;

‘You know you are in Ghana when ambulances carry dead people leisurely from the hospitals whilst taxis carry sick people hurriedly to the hospitals’

Of course I laughed over this truism, but I was also sharply reminded of the twisted priorities we have in this nation. Here is another sharp one; that highlights our obsession with all things western;

You know you are in Ghana when you hear names of football clubs like Asante Akyem Weder Bremen, Gomoa Dominase Everton, Betomu Hull City, Sefwi Wiaso Barcelona, Patase Milan.

From a gentle cruise, Nana steps on the accelerator and forces us to think about our sense of patriotism and call to duty, with a chapter titled ‘Pro Patria, For The Sake of Africa!’ He traces his early days at Ghana National College, Cape Coast, and explores the school’s motto, ’Pro Patria’ (For the sake of the Fatherland). Here, my only quarrel with the author is that really, he should have attended my alma mater, Opoku Ware School. I was in Upper Six there when he entered Form One at Ghana National. I assure him that had he abandoned the sea and come to the hinterland to enter OWASS, I would have taken better care of him and prevented the treatment he recounts he received at the hands of a senior called Stagger who had bloodshot eyes, or from the tall, lanky Senior Vandycke who was suspected to sample herbal delights. But I will forgive him, as brothers do each other.

Throughout the book, Nana swings from discussing deep, crucial issues afflicting our nation to exhorting us to do our best for our nation and continent, and then to taking pot shots at Ghanaians as a people, in a bid to help us laugh at ourselves and also be more serious about growing this country. He touches on our national identity over 50 years following our independence. He hits hard at the lack of access to places of convenience for most of our citizens. He touches on youth and development. He pulls no punches and asks our leaders whether they are not ashamed about their inability to replicate all the lovely things they see abroad back home-the orderliness, the planned streets and many others. Ladies and gentlemen, do not be fooled by Nana’s smooth smiles and gentle physical demeanour. Once he hits the computer keyboard, his literary fangs can be deadlier than a cobra’s.

Nana exhorts us not to be of the grasshopper mentality but rather think and soar like the eagle. He tells a fascinating story recounted by the late Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey to drive home his point. He exhorts our youth not to regard life before the age of 40 as ‘non-scoring’ and reminds us of the exploits of Alexander the Great and British Prime Minister William Pitt The Younger, who both accomplished a great deal before the age of 30. He questions why we should flock abroad in droves to search for greener pastures when foreigners are flocking this country in search of even greener pastures and actually find these pastures right here. Nana boxes you in and forces you to think. He reminds us that hope is not a strategy. But then the importance of the mind and of thinking is of such great importance to him and is a common theme that runs through his earlier works, notably ‘Excursions In My Mind’, and ‘Through The Gates of Thought’. The titles are self-evident. No nation has been able to develop without great thinkers, and clearly, Nana is one of the foremost thinkers of his generation in this country.

But the author does not just do philosophy, motivation and story-telling. He switches gears and helps us to laugh at ourselves. And that is an excellent tonic for any nation. He tells us, in the chapter whose title I had to practice for several days before today. In ‘Ghana mano syncratic Nsempiism’ he weaves around with some of the favourite Ghanaian phrases and words that are not found in the dictionary but which are standard and unique in Ghanaian lexicology. ‘Who born dog?’ ‘Who born you by mistake?’ ‘Booklong’, ’Dumsor’, and many more. I would add one of my grandfather’s favourites; ‘bleddy fool’. You can’t help but laugh. He also tells us of the things to be fearful of in Sikaman, chief of which is when nature comes calling with such unapologetic force and there is no place in sight to do your physiological ‘downloading’. I am sure many of us have been in that desperate situation that forces you to walk so gingerly, lest things eject themselves ‘by force’ from your body. It is truly fearful. Another fearful thing he recounts is how to navigate overzealous policemen eager to nab you for any traffic offence, real or contrived. Many examples abound in the book.

Before Nana signs out, he takes his passengers on a breathtaking drive around the Volta Region as he recounts a holiday with his family exploring the natural beauty there. Through the power and dexterity of words, he captures this untapped region in a way that no tourist guide is able to, and points out how with some lateral thinking and a sense of purpose, we could work magic in this country. Now I know that come Valentine Day 2014, I will whisk the object of my heart’s desire across the Adomi Bridge and up Afadjato, where we shall enjoy some coolness. Boys abr3!

Nana simply holds you spellbound. Putting the book down once you have started it is not an option, not because someone says so, but because you just can’t. Nana is a satirist, a philosopher, a storyteller and a motivational writer all rolled into one, and he explores his work with great skill, dovetailing the themes neatly and seamlessly into each other.

And when you have come to the end of this wonderful journey in his literary bus, you get off having a huge imprint in your mind, and the word ‘wow’ is what comes to mind. You are blown away. But you are slightly annoyed that the journey has come to an end. Time flies when you are having a great time. You wonder when the driver will take you on another trip.

Ladies and gentlemen, you cannot afford not to have a copy of this book. But even more than that you cannot afford NOT to tell others about it. We have a duty to celebrate our own, especially when they shine and dazzle as Nana has with this book.

‘I speak of Ghana’ is a great piece of work, and I highly recommend it to all.

20131211-000901.jpg

Customer Review of I SPEAK OF GHANA on Amazon.co.uk by @Hanat_Akordor

A summary of the expression ‘truth hurts’. Humorous yet thought-provoking

Posted: 30 Oct 2013

This book is a must read for all Ghanaians. There’s trouble in Sikaman (referring to Ghana). Through citing real life experiences both past and present Nana Damoah addresses the current state of affairs in the nation, saying it as it is – lots of talk with minimal action! He tasks all Ghanaians at home and in the diaspora to contribute to building the better Ghana. Packed with rich quotes and amusing humour, you will want to flip the pages. He concludes beautifully with a taste of Ghana’s beautiful tourist sites in the Volta region and yet sadly how the industry seems neglected.

I Speak of Ghana is the book all Ghanaians should be “speaking” about.

20131103-050548.jpg

Theo Acheampong reviews I SPEAK OF GHANA

“…Again, he captures the imperative paradigm of our time of the need for a new generation of THINKERS who will transform this ‘parched’ land called Ghana from the perennial quagmire of poverty and under-development to one in which opportunities exist for all regardless of one’s creed, tribe or party affiliation. This Nana eloquently sums in the following statement: “our generation is the game-changing generation for our country and continent. We cannot join in the chant of our predecessors; we cannot THINK at the same level, we cannot go at the same pace. We are the generation with the greatest exposure to what better conditions can be like – let’s replicate it here.”  i speak of ghana artist impression

I Speak of Ghana carries a powerful message: that of the rallying call for change across our societal strata in Ghana and Africa. It beautifully and humorously tells the Ghanaian story and as well captures our hopes, dreams and aspirations of nationhood for the next half century.”
Read the full review at: http://theoacheampong.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/book-review-i-speak-of-ghana-by-nana.html
Theo Acheampong is a Petroleum Economist, now reading for his PhD in Economics at the University of Aberdeen, UK.

I Speak of Ghana will be launched in Accra on 6 December 2013, at 6pm at Sytris Cafe (Mark Cofie house, Osu, opposite Papaye and in same building with Compu-Ghana).

Abubakar Ibrahim review I SPEAK OF GHANA

Have you tried to look into the mirror to understand who you are as a Ghanaian? What image did you see? I looked into the mirror and it threw back #ispeakofghana in my face!

Are you out there wanting to understand the mind-set of the Ghanaian? Is the Ghanaian that different from any other African? What’s the difference or similarity of the Lagos traffic jam and that of Accra, Johannesburg or Nairobi? How noisy is Ghanaian “lights off” (power cut) compared to the silent din by generators crying and begging for mercy in Abuja? Do the problems of the everyday Ghanaian speak louder than any “Gbeshie” (politically intoxicated) politician on a platform gunning for votes?I Speak of GH

To say Nana Awere Damoah has told the history of our time is an understatement. His new book yet to be launched in hard copy throws back nostalgic memories for those who have lived, are living and those who yearn to experience Ghana. For those who yearn to experience Ghana, perhaps your guidebook in simple ABC without much questions. And yet again if you are living in Ghana and want to wake up your conscience, slap yourself in the face, face some hard truth about the people we were, where we stand and perhaps where are heading this is your book.

It is the kind of book you read in hiding as a Ghanaian hoping the next person sitting next to you in that “trotro”, tram, bus, train or class won’t get to know what secrets you were hiding in reading. Shamefully telling of the Ghanaian and Ghana!

How many times do we read books about us without all the fanciful permutations, economic figures, unnecessary politicking, finger pointing and big English confusing everyone? This could pass for one written by your average market seller: hard truth, plain simple language, succinct and talking to the issues.

What language do you speak when you speak of Ghana? I Speak Of Ghana by Nana Awere Damoah is speaking to you, do you have the ears to listen?

Abubakar Ibrahim is a communications professional.

Author ‘Speaks of Ghana’ – By David Dankwa

I left Ghana, the land of my birth, 20 years ago when I was only a teenager. But sometimes it feels as though I never left. The culture, the people, the sounds, and even the smells of my homeland are forever present in my life.I Speak of GH

In the last decade, I have made certain to stay abreast of the social, cultural, political and economic changes redefining the country I call home. It is important for me to do so. Ghana is changing, and every visit reminds me of this fact. It is no longer my father’s Ghana. And it is hardly the Ghana I knew in my salad days.

Indeed, when I picked up my copy of Nana Awere Damoah’s ‘I Speak of Ghana,’ I did so not because I was compelled by the chorus of exaltation the book has received from friends and admirers of the author. I did, not because, by most account, Damoah is the finest of gentlemen, and a book of art, they say, is a self-portrait of its author.

No, I was motivated to read ‘I Speak of Ghana’ by the same consistent force that compels me to tune in to Ghanaian radio stations, read its press, and listen to its popular music. The subject is intimately familiar, and familiarity breeds interest. Anyone who speaks of Ghana speaks a language I understand.

But, hold on! Imagine a native Californian, who has never stepped foot on Ghanaian soil, attempting to make sense of what ‘Sikaman,’ ‘kotimen,’ or ‘KVIP’ means or what the author refers to as ‘Vanderpuije’s Accra’ or ‘ecomini.’ Either Damoah assumes everyone who reads his book knows the story behind the late president John Atta Mills’ public mispronunciation of the word “economy,” or that he simply doesn’t care whether the reader knows. I suspect it’s the latter.

In any case, while I maneuver the early chapters of Damoah’s essays, such as Fearful Things and Ghanaman Prose with great ease, the over-usage of local jargon is certain to confound any foreigner unfamiliar with those terrains, and especially since the author makes a haphazard effort to explain them. Clearly, the early chapters in ‘I Speak of Ghana’ are sermons narrowly tailored for the choir, the Ghanaman, with complete disregard for an inquisitive outsider.

That seems intentional. It has to be. Of the 26 essays—including a poem – in the book, nearly all are devoted to pointing out the deeply flawed habits and thinking of the Ghanaman. A few, such as ‘Are We Really Ready for the Oil,’ ‘Brown Leaves Fall, Green Leaves Fall Too,’ and ‘The Future Started Yesterday and We are Already Late,’ double as advice columns, designed to motivate the Ghanaman and their leaders to change their ways.

One essay, though, appears to have wandered into the book by mistake. Perhaps, it lost its bearings in the Volta Region, a part of Ghana that Damoah and his family toured. Sure, that adventure makes for an interesting travel story, but ‘I Speak of Ghana’ should have never been its destination. To say it is misplaced is being too generous – and that also goes for the order in which the essays are presented.

Still, if you can look past the untidiness of the essays, Damoah manages to do some special things in this book. His patriotic fervor is particularly infectious. I love how much he loves Ghana.

But here’s my biggest take-away from the I Speak of Ghana: It’s a message I have never heard any Ghanaian leader espouse. It is the urgent message Damoah sends to young men and women who, he writes, “are causing wealth loss to their generation [by] sitting on inert ideas, bottled-up potential energy and scratching the ground.” He writes that young people in Ghana “are so disillusioned they live life without any urgency.”

Damoah’s message reminds me of an article I read recently by an economist – It was an open letter to everyone under the age of 30. The author starts by narrating an old story about a guy taking a smoke break with a non-smoking colleague.

“How long have you been smoking for?” the colleague asks.

“Thirty years,” says the smoker.

“Thirty years!” marveled the co-worker. “That costs so much money. At a pack a day, you’re spending $1,900 a year. Had you instead invested that money at an 8% return for the last 30 years, you’d have $250,000 in the bank today. That’s enough to buy a Ferrari.”

The smoker looked puzzled. “Do you smoke?” he asked his co-worker.

“No.”

“So where is your Ferrari?”

The lesson from this exchange, which is identical to Damoah’s message to Ghana’s people, is that time is one of the greatest assets a person owns. The economist -author said it’s the biggest financial asset that most people are not even aware they own.

What you do today will determine whether you are able to turn cigarettes into Ferraris and Damoah’s ‘Sikaman’ into the land of opportunities.

 

David Dankwa is a Ghanaian-born financial news journalist in the United States and currently editor of The Africonomist, an online busines newsletter focused on Africa.