Social media and web portals were inundated with mentions of UK-based Ghanaian act, Fuse ODG and producer, Killbeatz for being the first artist and producer to win Grammy for Ghana respectively and reading such news, I was ambivalent on how to react.
The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) organized Grammy Awards is the biggest music awards in the world and for the past 60 years, the anticipation for a Ghanaian musician to annex an award has grown higher.
It is understandable the level of excitement that heralded the mention of Fuse ODG and Killbeatz in connection to the Grammy, but the brazen fact is; we do not have a Grammy ‘win’ yet!
Kudos To Fuse ODG & Killbeatz
For their contribution to the making of a song on ‘Divide’ (The Deluxe edition), the chart-topping album for UK artist, Ed Sheeran – Fuse ODG and Killbeatz got critical mention by the Grammy by virtue of the fact that, the album won ‘Best Pop Vocal Album’. For their respective roles as co-writer and producer for the song ‘Bebia b3y3 y3’, they got mentioned.
Fuse and Killbeatz deserve the plaudits for making it that far, elevating their brand and putting some light on Ghanaian music, but the truth is; the only person who gets the mention as winner of the award is Ed Sheeran. As contributors, what our hardworking brothers would get are customized participatory certificates.
Before the 60th edition of the awards held last weekend, the Academy made several adjustments to who and what is nominable for a trophy, and in that announcement, it stated that, for the first time in years, all music creators credited with at least 33 percent or more playing time on the winning album will be eligible to receive a Grammy in the ‘Album Of The Year’ category.
The Recording Academy also offered customized participation certificates which recognize anyone who was creatively or professionally involved in a GRAMMY-winning or nominated recording. Musicians, composers, publishers, studios, and labels are requested to apply for a participation certificate.
Rocky Dawuni’s Feat Is the Biggest Thus Far
In every award scheme, the honour lies in the nomination and for Ghana, our biggest honour thus far in the Grammy came in 2015, when reggae artist, Rocky Dawuni, got nominated in the ‘Reggae Album’ category for his album, ‘Branches of the Same Tree’.
Before the awards, the artist groused over the lack of support for him and his works by Ghanaians and after the awards ceremony, where he lost out to Jamaican group, Morgan Heritage, Rocky again complained about the lack of support from Ghanaians – his reason for the loss.
The point is; his chances of winning were not in the hands of Ghanaians as the public has no say or vote in who wins what at the Grammy. The 100% voting rights at the Grammy go to the Voting Members of the Academy, but these members are also influenced somehow by what trends on social media, blogs and web portals – and at the time, the nomination for Rocky did not trend extensively, especially by Ghanaians.
Other Africans Are Winning
I hold a strong conception that the musician in Nigeria, Congo, Mali or South Africa is not better than the Ghanaian musician, an opinion that is backed by the fact that over the years, the country has produced recording artists, producers and engineers with inestimable skill and expertise.
Unfortunately, we have been unable to package and present our authentic sound in a manner that would garner the needed attention and recognition, allowing folks from other countries to dominate and take all the accolades.
Is it not intriguing that, South Africa’s male choral group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, has got a staggering 16 nomination since 1988 and won an impressive 5, with the latest coming just last weekend?
But wait, there’s more!
Benin’s Angelique Kidjo has garnered 8 nominations and won 3 awards at the Grammy, her last coming through in 2016, making her the most decorated African female artist at the Grammy.
Mali as a country has produced the highest number of African winners at the Grammy, yes, Mali. There’s Oumou Sangare, Mamadou Diabate, Ali Farka Toure and Tinariwen.
It is Time To Feature Prominently
Getting a mention at the Grammy is quite a big deal but that’s not the glory we should be basking in. We can do better, way better than tripping over some reference for contributing a song for another person’s album.
It is no rocket science on how Ghanaian musicians can get into the Grammys, as the criteria is spelt out clearly. We should even be buoyed by the fact that a fellow Ghanaian, Rocky Dawuni, has cleared all hurdles to be there – which should be easy for others to check the blueprint and emulate.
First, Ghanaian artists, in order to get their works at the Grammys, must have their songs/albums commercially released and distributed in the USA. The likes of Ladysmith, Kidjo and Rocky all have international labels that release and distribute their music in the States.
Also, the surest bet for Ghanaians to get into the Grammy, aside the ‘Reggae Album’ category is via the ‘Best World Music’ category, which demands that the bigger percentage of the sound be indigenous.
We have the sound, the expertise and the right purveyors; all we need are the proper branding, packaging, the connections and right platform to exhibit. If artists and songs from Mali, Senegal, Algeria and Nigeria are making it, why not Ghanaian acts? It is possible!
Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo, www.entertainmentgh.com