I don’t know why Gasmilla was not nominated for the 2016 Vodafone Ghana Music Awards – whether he was technically ruled out or he did not submit his works for entry (and this review is independent of either situation). If he did not submit his works for entry, I can understand why he didn’t – with all the unnecessary prejudices in the media as to whether his ‘Telemo’ hit song should be nominated in 2016 even months before nominations were opened.
In my 10 years of working in the Ghana showbiz industry, I have shared various opinions on the Ghana Music Awards scheme but after coming to the understanding that it is not an award for ‘excellence in music’ but an award for ‘popular music’ I have become less critical of it. The challenge the Ghana Music Awards still faces is the fact that it tries to combine good music standards within a people’s choice award scheme – without clearly defining certain key parameters for the awards.
In 2014, I shared my opinion on whether Akwaboah and Kumi Guitar deserved to be nominated for New Artist of the year in the face of argument that both were not new artists. In fact, Joey B who won Best New Artist that year was not entirely new either, as he had been featured in many songs including D-Black’s ‘Vera’, which was nominated for Ghana Music Awards in 2013. In my argument, I said that all three deserved the nomination because my little understanding of the award category in previous years has been that, if an artist enjoys success for his/her first major commercial/mainstream record, he/she qualifies as a new artist in that year.
This brings me to the question, what does the Ghana Music Awards scheme describe as ‘new artist’? Here is how the Grammys consider nominations for New Artist – although the VGMA is not the Grammys, it certainly provides us with key guidelines on how such award schemes run.
The Grammy Award for Best New Artist has been awarded since 1959. The official guidelines are as follows: “For a new artist who releases, during the Eligibility Year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist.” Note that this is not necessarily the first album released by an artist. In 2010, Lady Gaga’s exclusion from the Best New Artist category caused the Recording Academy to change eligibility requirements for the next ceremony. She was ineligible for the nomination because her hit “Just Dance” had been nominated in 2009. The new rule states that an artist can be nominated as long as the artist hasn’t previously released an entire album and hasn’t won a Grammy
This year, the same issue has popped up regarding the nomination of Kofi Kinaata for Best New Artist. In 2014, ‘Odo Pa’ by Castro featuring Kofi Kinaata and Asamoah Gyan won Best Hiplife Song, meaning that in fact Kofi Kinaata is even a VGMA winner already. So it all goes back to what the guidelines/rules for the awards say, and when there are such guidelines they should be published. I am waiting to hear what the VGMA Board has to say on this.
Now back to Gasmilla! If the Ghana Music Awards are for songs that are popular then by logic it should be for songs popular within the year under review. Let us not kid ourselves and pretend that in Ghana, we have a structured system of releasing songs. So let’s save ourselves the trouble and consider songs as and when they become hits because there is a process to how a song becomes a hit – it may bubble underground for a while before it becomes a hit in the mainstream. Gasmilla’s ‘Telemo’ on all accounts became a big hit in 2015, so it should have qualified for the 2016 Ghana Music Awards for works January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015.
R2bees officially released their album ‘Refuse To Be Broke – Da Revolution II’ in March 2013 which went on to win 6 awards at Ghana Music Awards ceremony held in May that same year with songs like ‘Life (Walahi)’ and ‘Odo’. The following year, 2014 the single, ‘Slow’ feat. Wizkid from the same album was nominated for Best Afropop song, Vodafone Song of the Year and Best Collaboration of the Year. I guess the argument would be that ‘Slow Down’ was released in 2014 or became popular in 2014?. The VGMAs calendar is usually for works ‘released’ from January 1 to December 31 of the previous year. So this means ‘Refuse To Be Broke – Da Revolution II’ was in consideration for January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012, and then again for January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013.
I know the members of VGMA Board work hard and take their reputation seriously. But often they leave room for such criticisms just due to the mere lack of sustained attention to details and a strict guideline to steer the process. I don’t even want to talk about the TeePhlow gaffe during the announcement of nominations this year. My advice? – keep it basic, know what you are, and what you are working with!!!!