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Archive for the ‘Sebitical Stool’ Category

 

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.

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Dear Wofa Kapokyikyi:

I bring you warm buharattan greetings from Amalaman where the value of cowries here, otherwise known as naiwries, is falling faster than the rate at which Nana Premang Ntow’s teeth fell out.

Another big story we are all watching from here is what role Oga Kpatakpata will let Amalaman play in sorting how Papa Jammeh, who drank humble sobolo after losing the bid to extend his time on the throne and then spat it all out, saying that he forgot that he hadn’t prepare for his time as an ex-Oga. 

You know, Wofa, that Amalaman exported democracy to Sierra Leone when it (Amalaman) had none at home. Sister Charity was definitely not at home. With democracy now in place in Amalaman, Oga Kpatakpata and Amalamanians will be more than eager to support the move to uproot Papa Jammeh like a yam.

We watch to see how it goes.

This week, my friend Abena Krobea shared a video about a young Malawian inventor called William Kamkwamba. In the video, the young man recounted how famine was ravaging his country in the early 2000s and how he had to drop out of secondary school. Determined to still educate himself, he decided to frequently visit the library of his former school and to read books, especially science books. From one of those books, he learnt about windmills, and decided to build one himself. Not having the requisite materials, he visited scrap yards around his house and salvaged bits and bits including bicycle parts, and PVC pipes, and built his first wind mills that powdered his house with electricity and also pumped water for irrigation. Awesome stuff! Inspirational!

In this TED talk by William, he made a profound statement: “I tried it. And I made it.” He made a move with his ideas, he took a risk on his dreams.

When I watched the video and as I personally tango with the many ideas I have that I haven’t tried, knowing what I to do and yet not doing it, procrastinating, thinking of how to do it perfectly, yet holding back and worrying about the passage of time, giving me a headache, I looked at William and I am provoked to take the pill of action and welcome my relief.

But it is not that easy and that is when I decided to write to you and share my reflections.

At a book reading at Rennie’s Garden, Dr Ruby Goka told us that one of the worse things about being a doctor or a medical student is that when one got ill, he or she only imagines the worse of possible illnesses. 

Same with the educated African. The educated African seems only to be conditioned for steady state conditions, to feel comfortable only when conditions are certain and all risks have been fully analysed and covered.

The educated African is the most afraid to take risks on his dreams.

Not so with many entrepreneurs who need to take a plunge into uncertain waters. Not so with William, who tried it and made it.

I am going to try, Wofa. Many of us are struggling with dreams that are in turbulent state. Unclear about how the dreams will pan out and unsure about whether the dreams are even sensible enough. Like seasoned sailors, like Peter the disciple, we look at the water and the weather and drop anchor, refusing to sail out. 

I will sail, Wofa.

The story is told of the rich man whose only daughter fell into a pond infested with crocodiles, at a game reserve. In desperation, as he looked at one giant crocodile close in on his daughter, the rich man shouted for help and promised that whoever could rescue his precious daughter would be given half of his entire wealth. Out of nowhere, one young man dived into the pond, swam quickly and brought the girl out, just in time to miss the closing jaws of the monster crocodile!

After catching his breath, everyone was eager to know from the young man what gave him such confidence.

“Young man,” they all asked at once, “what do you have to say about such daring? We all want to know what moved you to dive in. Was it the promised money?”

“Thank you all,” he started, “but what I really want to know first is who pushed me!”

Either pushed or not, I am going to learn to dive, Wofa.

“I tried. And I made it. Trust yourself. And believe.” Those are the words of Kamkwamba.

As I reflect some more, the story of a friend of mine, let’s call her Adwoa, come strongly to me. Adwoa was passionate about training and development, and talked continuously about how she would love to set up an outfit for that purpose when she went out of the company on an expected early retirement. We called it “being paid off”. That day never came. One day, Adwoa didn’t return to work. She died with her dream.

I am going to find that vim to dive, Wofa. Because, as I told Aboko my friend, sometimes one needs to know when to move before he is pushed. And I have seen a lot of pushing lately. Your company can decide to push you, to sack you. And then you would find that you can actually swim very well and beat crocodiles.

I tried and I made it. William has really provoked me.

Till I come your way another time with another sebitical letter from Amalaman, I remain:

Sebitically yours,

Kapokyikyiwofaase

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18 September 2016

Two events happened this weekend that brought me immense joy and satisfaction. Over the past couple of years, my friend Kofi Akpabli and I have been contributing our bits to the rejuvenation of a reading culture in Ghana, augmenting the efforts of organizations such as the Writers Project of Ghana (WPG holds a book reading at the Goethe Institute on the last Wednesday of every month) and Ghana Association of Writers who hold a fortnightly GAW Sunday event of book reading and poetry plus events on special days such as the upcoming GAWBOFEST which will be holding on 21st September, a holiday. In recent times, I have heard about other initiatives such as the one by Read Ghana, which is focused on providing Community Lead Read Literacy Services for Children in under-served areas in public primary schools, with other children in the community benefit as well. This effort is spearheaded by two amazing ladies – Klenam and Mary – and they have their next reading clinic slated for 21 September at Madina and Kwabenya. As I love to say, more vim to all the persons involved in these initiatives, which require our support.

Maukeni Padiki Kodjo is a blogger, writer and law student. She is the reigning Blogger of the Year, as awarded by Blogging Ghana, which is the key platform that organizes and provides an avenue for bloggers and persons who use social media to disseminate contents to connect and improve. Keni, as her admirers and followers call her, has been sharing her short stories in series on her popular blog kenikodjo.com. Some of the titles that she has churned out recently include Know Thy Man and Capital High. These stories are engaging and have huge following, who interact with the writer and offer creative suggestions for how the stories should unfold! What more can a writer wish for, eh? I see these stories quickly transiting onto screen soon, but we will discuss that some day.

This intense engagement should be part of the reasons why, after wrapping up on the latest series Know Thy Man, Keni decided to organize what, to me, is a first in Ghana: a meet-up for the fans of a blog to interact with the writer, her stories and characters, and to generally fraternize. According to Keni, the agenda included:

* Ask me anything’, an interactive Q and A

* Trivia quizzes

* ‘What would you have done?’ based on the #KnowThyMan series

* Photo shoots with some of the Kenikodjo characters

* Lots of networking and nibbles

* FUN!

And fun it was! I was unable to attend due to flight difficulties which meant I was able to get to Accra on the morning of 18th September, instead of the afternoon of the previous day as I had intended. However, again a mark of ingenuity on the part of Keni and her team, the meet-up was telecast live on Facebook, so I could follow live for a brief period but spent my evening watching the close to three hours video. In the words of Keni, “it was lit”! Young people gathering to discuss stories, characters, plots and literature. I was particularly impressed with the knowledge of the characters in the stories and quotes from the various series that the audience displayed during the trivia quiz session. Kudos to Keni! This column will be bringing you an interview with this amazing writer some time soon.

I have been part of a couples fellowship for about 14 years. This is a group of about ten couples who meet regularly to pray, study scriptures, discuss our marriages, relationships, children and other related concerns. And also to create a platform as friends to share our challenges for mutual support. And we do have fun too!

A couple of months ago, one of our members suggested that I should also make time to read to our children during one of our meetings. A bit like learning to bring charity home, since she is supposed to begin at home! After one postponement, we planned and held it on 18 September. 

Frankly, even though Akpabli and I had been reading to audiences over the past three years, this was the first time I would be reading to such a young audience. However, as my friend Jonathan Agyeman mentioned to a mutual friend who asked whether she could bring 13-year olds to our upcoming book reading in Kumasi on 24 September, I have been taking my children to most of my book readings; my eldest is only 10 years. And my kids love the book readings and will usually repeat to me their favourite portions heard. So I appreciated the fact that the children within our fellowship would enjoy the readings. My main challenge was the selections to read to them and how to space out the readings.

I worried for nothing! This was one of my most enjoyable sessions ever! I started with a reading of Akpabli’s fufu and soup articles, and then moved on to a reading from “How to Be a Nigerian” by Peter Enahoro. The kids giggled throughout. After the first two readings, I invited them to ask questions. Questions ranged from the differences between soups in Ghana and Nigeria to how to drink soup. When I took my book I Speak of Ghana to read for the second round, Kwaku Ofori-Atta, one of the kids, exclaimed that he loved the book and can he read his favourite chapter, please?

I handed over the book to him and he read the chapter “You know you are in Ghana when…”. We asked him questions after his reading which he fielded remarkably. From then on, the kids took over the reading! Each child wanted to read their portions of the various books! 
We had readings from Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (which was done by Papa Yaw), The Imported Ghanaian by Alba K Sumprim (my son NK read the chapter “You Are Invited”, which is his favourite chapter after hearing Alba read it at the JamRock event), Excursions in my Mind (my son NY read the chapter “Books and Knowledge”), Ladybird Favourite Stories for Boys (my 6-year old daughter and Papa Yaw read two stories from this book) and the Wimpy Kid collection (reading done by Papa Roberts). Each of the readers answered questions. The children asked for the meanings of the new words, with David Mankattah the most active, for which he won a prize: I vowed (he asked us to explain what the word “vowed” meant) to get him an favourite book of his choice from anywhere in the world. They also asked me about how they can also write books. Little Papa Yaw asked me if I can help him write his own book! Another vow was made!

The parents discussed the various, practical ways we can encourage reading amongst our children. My son NK contributed to this aspect of the discussion by encouraging the parents to get their kids adventure books. He showed one such book he had borrowed from the community library. 

Feedback after the reading event was really positive. Some of the parents confessed that this was their first such event, experiencing book reading in such a manner. Ato said he had listened to book discussions on BBC a number of times which usually focused on one book and the author’s experiences and views; but the format we used, where we just read from multiple books and enjoyed the sound of the written word, was unique and refreshing. The children indicated that they enjoyed it too, learnt new words and expressions. The parents remarked on the confidence exhibited by our children in stepping up voluntarily to read, for which we were proud. Some of the children answered, when asked if they had reading sessions in their schools and time set apart for library sessions, that these were not mainstream.

A good literary weekend it was for me, both from afar and near. In the words of the hymn writer, we thank God for such and humbly ask for more.

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