Opinion

REFRESHING! Sarkodie & Comedian OB: Good Season For GH. Showbiz

By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo

The narrative has always been that, arts/entertainment, in other words, show business – is not anything to take seriously in Ghana, a misconception that has seen the sector not garner the well-needed attention and succor from Government and the entire corporate front.

In just a spate of days, two Ghanaian entertainers sold Ghana more than what the Ghana Tourism Development Company has done in the last year or more.

Rapper, Sarkodie and comedian, OB Amponsah did not only project their respective brands on different international platforms, they also, most importantly sold Ghana in the best of ways – on the wings of arts and entertainment.

Comedian OB Excels In Nigeria

The tale of Ghanaian comedians not being funny was erased some years ago, thanks to the budding crop of comedians including DKB, Warris, Khemikal, OB, Lekzy, Forster Romanus, Jacinta and others.

Just like their more successful Nigerian counterparts, our comedians in the last couple of years, have been organizing their own shows to such admiration by the genera public.

The other challenge was for these hardworking guys to get the opportunity to showcase their craft to the rest of the world. Getting international gigs is part of a successful craft, and Ghanaian comedians lacked that, as compared to their fellow musicians and actors.

Getting the call for an international gig in comedy is not enough; the core mandate is to go out there and deliver and that delivery could be a catalyst for many other things to transpire. The fact is, over the years, the likes of Funny Face and DKB have had the chance to go out there and perform, however, the consistency of such moves have been weak.

Days ago, Comedian OB got the nod to represent his brand and Ghana at the well-publicized ‘Lord of the Ribs’ Comedy Festival in Nigeria. Footage from the festival shows how OB performed – doing exceptionally well to elicit the best of response and applause from the audience.

He indeed depicted to Nigeria, renowned as the home of comedy in Africa, that Ghana has quality too. In minutes, he sold Ghana to persons who never thought or believed we had a comedy industry, have comedians who can ‘rock’ international platforms, as well as persons who had doubts about the abilities of Ghanaian comedians.

Sarkodie Is ‘King’

Sarkodie is all about making records. The rapper has, once again, etched his name in the annals of world music by being the first artiste worldwide to win the BET Hip Hop Award for ‘Best International Flow’. He becomes the first African to annex such an honour, and again, the first Ghanaian rapper to ever do it.

Consistently, Sarkodie has placed Ghana on the international music map with his craft and distinctively, he sells Ghana with a local product, the language, Twi. He has sold Ghana with that product more than what the Ghana Investment Promotion Center (GIPC) has done in years with any other local product.

What was even grander about Sarkodie’s win was the power and conviction in his acceptance speech. In his speech, he highlighted the heavily budgeted ‘Year of Return’ initiative by Government and called on the rest of the world to visit Ghana when coming to Africa.

Mind you, he was not supported by the Committee for ‘Year of Return’, neither was he sponsored by any Government entity to fly to US for the ceremony, yet, when he had the opportunity, the well-thinking fellow, used the opportunity to sell Ghana and the initiative of ‘Year of Return’.

By this win, Sarkodie continues to cement his legacy as the most decorated Ghanaian musician ever in the history of Ghanaian music. Nobody has garnered enough honours and plaudits like Sarkodie in their lifetime in music – nobody!

As stated in this column some months ago with the article, ‘Yes, Sarkodie Can Be Studied In Schools’ – this win, an award for the best delivery of rap by an international artiste outside the US, affirms my opinion that indeed, it is not outrageous to study Sarkodie as a subject or curriculum in schools.

In the last 10 years, Sarkodie, who also won the VGMA ‘Artiste of the Decade’ earlier in the year, has elevated his brand, his local language, his country and his business acumen, from the local setting to the international market, more than any other Ghanaian act ever. The interesting bit about all these is the fact that, he is doing all that on the wings of arts/entertainment.

Show the Arts Some Respect

In the last couple of months, commentaries from some well-placed individuals like Prof. Ransford Gyampo and Mustapha Hameed on the state of the arts and its stakeholders have been disheartening.

Their warped opinions on the arts and practitioners are repugnant and do nothing to aid an industry that also solves critical economic issues of employment and social related issues.

In this era, if you have supposed intelligent fellows like the Professor and politician demean and debase the arts, then we are doomed, hopeless in expecting anything better from persons who champion policies that are supposed to shape the nation.

In the face of such critics and dream-killers, we need to fight and reject such narratives against the arts and its players. We need to shift the paradigm and oppose such irrelevant views with sound arguments and records of how well the arts have done and still doing, more than a lot of that sectors that have had the attention and support over the years.

The denigration of the arts did not start with the likes of Hameed and co. It has been with us for quite a longtime and we are also to blame for such an outcome. Parents do not wish for their kids to tinker with the arts and pursue it as a profession, Politicians only find good use for the arts during political campaign seasons, Corporate Ghana are yet to exploit the full potential of the arts and the general perception of the arts by the populace is contrived.

It’s time we proclaim the good stuff of the arts, shout it out and show the naysayers how well these entertainers are doing and how magnificent the arts have projected tourism in the last decade. The change starts with us in the arts.

The Arts Need Support

For how long should we holler that the arts/entertainment industry needs support? Even without the requisite support, these folks are doing well, hoisting their respective brands and promulgating Ghana – all by themselves.

Support for the industry is just not about the money; it’s about the laws, regulations, directives and policies that would put the industry and its players on a pedestal. It is the direction that would ensure that the industry is well placed to enrich its players and encourage many others to pursue careers in the industry.

We have no law to enhance the Creative Industry, we are still waiting on some Film Law to set up a National Film Authority, we are in a state of confusion over the Creative Arts Fund, and we are bewildered over our slapdash copyright laws and lack of copyright courts to handle issues of intellectual properties.

We are still floundering with a haphazard royalty and publishing system that have seen most of our legends in the arts die as paupers, with those alive, virtually begging for arms in their debilitated state of health.

In essence, the arts/entertainment industry is in such a sorry state and we need support, quality provision and sustenance in order to explore and exploit its full potential.

With the requisite support, there would more Sarkodies and OBs elevating Ghana on the international front, in the promotion of tourism and wooing of investors into the country.

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