By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo
It is quite interesting that, a statement made some several weeks ago; an account that went virtually unnoticed could be revived to spark such uproar within the industry. Well, the timing and circumstance doesn’t matter now. The fact is, something was said and we must all face it, address it as we usually do and move on.
Executive Director for Charterhouse, Mrs. Theresa Ayoade made the headlines and elicited the ‘wrath’ of two of our biggest music stars, Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy over commentary expressed at a Stakeholders Meeting on the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards last month.
“Can you as the media help the industry rise above these two? Let’s rise above these two and let the industry breathe and move on. Sarkodie won artiste of the decade and nobody even talked about it. The industry is bigger than these two artistes and that what I what I want you to go back with. There are a lots of young people who need the opportunity so let’s move on.”
The above statement generated intense debate and provoked some harsh rebuttal from the two artistes involved as well as their respective fan base.
Today, I attempt to explain, contrary to the admonition from Mrs. Ayoade, how we, as the media cannot rise about Stonebwoy and Shatta Wale under the circumstance.
Staying In Context
First of all, many commentators on the subject have not been fair to the Executive Director of Charterhouse; taking her comment out of context.
The honourable lady was speaking in relation to the VGMA, the ban of the two artistes and the media’s fixation on the subject. She suggested that, as media, we should let go off the subject of the ban and concentrate on other related subjects on the awards – including speaking on others who won awards at the 20th edition of the scheme as well as the projection of young talents.
Mrs. Ayoade has every right to her opinion and as a major stakeholder of Charterhouse and the VGMA, it is quite understandable why she would offer such suggestion, however, her suggestion, albeit welcome, are also misplaced.
Ban Is a Big Deal
Mrs. Ayoade wants the media to stop talking about the ban and focus on other things regarding the VGMA. Clearly, she forgets how huge the action by the VGMA Board to level an indefinite ban on these artistes is. The ban, in the structure of the organization of the awards is big and needs all the fixation it is getting.
Clarifications are welcome but in the world of music awards, there’s no scheme that has ever banned artistes from competing for laurels. VGMA is the first ever to actually debar the purveyors of music, the owners of the product, from taking part in the awards.
Even the Grammys, under the National Academy of Recording Artistes & Sciences have not banned any musician from competing. The closest it came was to revoke the wins of Pop Group, Milli Vanilli in 2019 for deception.
In history, the VGMA Board, over the period has banned songs from competing; Samini’s ‘Linda’ and R2Bees’ ‘Ajeei’ – but it has never attempted to actually stop any major artiste from taking part in the awards. This is a first, so clearly, how does Mrs. Ayoade expect the media not to have a fixation on this subject?
Shatta Wale – Stonebwoy Factor: A Big Deal
It is indisputable the level of influence, clout and following the two possess. The two are among a few super stars the music industry and the country as a whole can gloat over. These same two have been consistent in the last decade with their respective craft and other ventures linked to music.
With their status and pedigree in the music industry at this stage, it is also undeniable that the two generate attention regardless of what they do and how they do it.
These same two have worked their butts off to attain such prominence both locally and internally, where they have projected Ghana to such a pedestal. These two are household names in Ghana, not just within the corridors of entertainment. They are famous!
How is it possible for the media to simply rise above a chatter that hinges on these artistes and especially when it is connected to the VGMA and a ban; an injunction that kills their participation in the scheme indefinitely?
Impact on the Awards
There’s already this strong argument being bandied around that the VGMA can and will hold without the involvement of Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy. That is possible and likely to be the case come this May, when the Awards are held.
However, what these commentators fail to realize is the sort of impact these two, individually and collectively, have or have had on the awards over the period.
The VGMA is a public-oriented scheme that requires the general public to expend their money to vote for deserving artistes to win various awards. The fact is; this public voting is crucial to the scheme, the reason it has not been altered in the last 20 years.
If one believes that public voting is decisive in the making of the Awards, then the fellow should also take into cognizance the impact these two have had in how things have panned out in terms of public voting.
In May 2019, prior to the VGMA main event, Stonebwoy organized a gathering, something he called, a ‘Voting Party’ at One Corner Gardens at Kokomlemle, where his team and scores of his fans converged to vote massively for him to win various categories in last year’s awards.
After the episode, he came out to state on record that, they voted massively to an amount of GHc50, 000. The cost of others that voted for him outside Kokomlele plus those who voted vastly for Shatta Wale cannot be estimated.
How does the media simply rise above the impact these two bring to the VGMA?
No Dictation Here, Mum!
Mrs. Ayoade, in all fairness, has the right to counsel the media as well as pass comments that seek to protect her organization, however, she has no right to dictate to the media on what they should do in terms of news projection.
Every media house has the right to project any news it deems fit for its consumers, especially when such news is bereft of doubt, is factual, not fabricated or misinterpreted.
The media have every right to fixate on the ban of Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy and their relationship with the VGMA as long as they wants and there’s little Madam can do about it. Once such news is authentic, relevant and satisfies a need for the general public, the media would stay there and not rise above it.
She talked about the media also focusing on Sarkodie winning ‘Artiste of the Decade’. No disrespect but how is Sarkodie winning such an award such a big news? How different is it from any other artiste that won an award on the night?
Which other happenings, in all sincerity, beats the talk of the ban and the connection of the two acts to the awards? Which one?
If Mrs. Ayoade found herself in the position as an Editor for a Newspaper or a blog, will she genuinely focus on any other news or that particular subject that generates the attention and elicits the loudest banter?
Live & Let Others Live Too
As blunt as it may sound, it is not the media that banned the two artistes. The VGMA Board presided over the matter, analyzed the situation and came up with a decision. The work of the media is to focus on what makes the news and in this instance, the ban ticks all the boxes.
The media has done no wrong in being inquisitorial on the ban, how it affects the artistes and the awards, the possibility of the ban being revised, lifted or otherwise. All these are legitimate questions for which the media should not be called out for. When the media exhaust all angles concerning the matter, they would definitely move on to the next relevant subject.
With all due respect, the media cannot dictate to Charterhouse on how it goes about its operations and it cannot dictate to the VGMA Board on who to ban and who not to ban. Same way, the stakeholders of the awards and the Board cannot also tell the media on what news to project or which direction it should go with their reportage.
Stay in your lane and let others stay in theirs too – all in the interest and betterment of a viable music industry.