By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo
Wendy Shay is not happy! Apparently, some folks are giving songwriting credit of her latest single to somebody else.
The single, ‘Heat’ is receiving such rave reviews for its lyrical depth and critics are looking past the artiste over the songwriting credit. Her angst led her to make this post on Twitter;
“Almost every female artiste in Ghana has a songwriter but nobody really cares who writes for them but anytime Wendy Shay drops a Heat Song they want to credit everything to the So Called songwriter Ghana wake up!”
One can easily fathom Wendy’s frustration but the problem is not a Wendy problem but an industry-related drawback that has persisted for years.
No Mention For Songwriters
Elsewhere, a random music lover can name his top 20 songwriters in whatever industry he/she patronizes music from. In Ghana, that random music fan would have difficulty in making an attempt to name the top 20 songwriters. The best the fellow can do is to name some 5 or so popular musicians who are also songwriters.
For the many songwriters in the system who do not double as singers, they are hardly mentioned, not recognized and ultimately relegated to the background.
The most proficient creative geniuses behind the many hits are not known and to think that they may take consolation in being properly paid for their efforts or getting the needed royalties is just a wild imagination.
The Songwriter ‘Curse’
According to Wendy Shay, almost every female artiste in Ghana has a songwriter but nobody really cares or who writes on them. She is spot on!
But the truth is, nobody cares about the songwriters whether they write for females or males or whether they write for secular artistes or gospel artistes.
Who is to blame though?
It starts from the artistes and their respective teams who contract these prolific songwriters. They hardly disclose the identities of these songwriters. Others do not put their names on the records and what is even most disturbing is when these artistes go on promotional media tours for their music; they blatantly demur in mentioning the names of persons who pen their songs.
Wendy is also right when she talks about the fact that, nobody writes about them. That’s a fact!
The media has over the years not treated most of these songwriters fairly. We have failed woefully to write about them and project them. We have failed to accord them the necessary respect and recognition and we have indeed failed them in not making much noise about their inability to garner the royalties due them.
A Taboo to Mention Songwriters
In Ghana, it almost feels like a taboo for artistes to mention the songwriters responsible for their songs. Sometimes, during interviews of most of these artistes, it almost takes some form of coercion before they disclose the songwriters.
For many of these artistes, the disclosure of persons responsible for penning their songs seems like an act that diminishes their status as musicians. To them, it feels like revealing that they didn’t write their songs takes away some of respect from them and the revelation injures their reputation as musicians.
So, they’d rather lie, make all kind of stories up to hide the identities of the songwriters or not mention them at all.
It is not clear how artistes get the impression that people getting to know about them not writing their won songs is a career-ending venture or would reduce their stock.
Hardly do you get any critic, stakeholder or fans chastise any artiste for his/her inability to write songs. In fact, there are some musicians who are also songwriters but still offer other songwriters the opportunity to pen their songs.
Songwriters Need the Recognition
Elsewhere, songwriters are highly recognized for their role in the industry. Regarded as one of the most creative personnel within the arts ecosystem, songwriters are given their due in other jurisdictions.
Not only are they highly recognized, there are also laws that protect their intellectual properties. They are in such a good place.
It is interesting to note that, while record labels here in Ghana, both major and independent are only fixated on musicians, songwriters in other developed music industries sign songwriters.
Songwriters in Ghana need to be projected and protected. Artistes that contract the services of songwriters need not feel ashamed to shout them out. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having another take up the responsibility of writing songs.
The media has a responsibility of placing the spotlight on these songwriters in order to place on a pedestal that would elicit a high level of respect and recognition.
Songwriters are gems that ought not be hidden!