VERY NECESSARY! VGMA Needs Complete Overhaul

By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo

The highly anticipated 20th edition of the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) had such an anticlimax and since then, the conversation has inundated all platforms; political, religious and social.

Accusing fingers are being pointed at Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy for their roles in the melee that disrupted the event and also at the organizers, Charterhouse, for what critics say, was their lack of oversight on safety and security at the event.

If one has followed major award shows across the world extensively, the fellow would understand that, in as much as such incidence are not appropriate, they happen all the time. Artistes bum-rush the Grammy stage, guns are drawn and fights erupt at the BET Awards and the hangers-on for artistes mount the stage at the Source Awards, VIBE Awards and the MTV Awards.

Such situations are bound to occur and the most important things to note are how lessons are drawn and how such events grow and develop from such happenings; and it’s just about time the VGMA go through that learning curve.

Charterhouse Is Best To Organize the Awards

It is understandable to have some commentators blame the organizers partly for the mayhem that obviously placed the industry and nation in such a bad light, however, it is outrageous, ridiculous and nonsensical for anybody to tout that, Charterhouse should be made to stop organizing the awards.

For 19 good years, they have done such an enormous job, elevating the standards of events organization in the country, uplifting our music and our entertainment industry; and they have and continue to do their part in projecting the careers and brands of many musicians.

It is indisputable that Charterhouse are the best event organizers in our industry and one of the best across all sectors in the country, therefore, it is unfair for some persons to crucify them over just one event – in an incident that was triggered by some unscrupulous artistes.

Listening to some of these cynics would be heartbreaking for any staff of Charterhouse, considering the sort of effort they put in, in their bid to give us a memorable and befitting 20th anniversary –however, they should take such cynicism on the chin, learn from such an experience and get better.

Production for Television

Television has become an all important tool in awards for quite some time and in other places were TV ratings are held in high esteem, production houses and event organizers do not toy with the telecast of such events.

Unfortunately, the ability for Charterhouse to provide quality production of the event on television has been challenging. Like previous editions, the 20th edition didn’t have anything of international standard on television; from red carpet to main event.

After 20 years and with the event showing live to over 40 countries across the world and streaming to millions, it is unacceptable not to have the tags or inscription of names of celebrities or entertainers being interviewed on the carpet. It is even more irksome to watch such an event on television and see ‘camera men’ walk on stage with their cameras and wires, placing their gadgets in the faces of performers.

PIX – Rob Photography

Also, when the stage and its lighting system are being done, it seems as though, only the members are of the audience at the auditorium are considered, because, viewing is made torrid when the stage is dark and one cannot even see the faces of the performers or what is being done on stage.

It’s about time we put premium on production for television because the persons watching on television are more than those at the auditorium and once you get TV right, the others only fall in line.

The Procedures Must Be Revised

After 20 editions, it is just the right time for the scheme to have its procedures, regulations and mechanisms revised.  From the longstanding banter and seeming confusion on some category definitions to the opaqueness of the terms and conditions to the voting pattern and others, the awards must go through some revamp.

Charterhouse did admit some flaws in their handling of the event but the heaviest form of criticism came after the VGMA Board issued some sanctions against Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy. Hinging on its Terms & Conditions, the Board banned the two artistes indefinitely, stripped them off awards won that night and demanded them to return the statuettes.

The sanctions, which were received with mixed feelings, also exposed the inconsistencies, ambiguity and opacity of the rules governing the scheme.

After 20 years, it is clear that our music has evolved, genres have and are still metamorphosing and the reception to music has also changed, so, it is only wise for the scheme to also review the processes of selecting, categorizing and nominating songs and artistes.

For quite a longtime, a lot of the category definitions are yet to have a review and adjustments, considering how things have changed over the years while it is time to also add more categories. Internationally recognized award schemes all go through such revision of their procedures at some point and it’s germane for the VGMA to conduct such exercise.

The VGMA Board Needs Alteration Too

The Board is said and seen to be the highest decision-making body of the awards, yet, its mandate is quite confusing most times, especially when its authority is not well documented for all stakeholders of the scheme to know and comprehend.

It has become apparent that, the Board must also undergo some form of facelift. Its obligations must be clearly defined in order to disabuse the minds of critics on which body takes critical decisions for the Awards; Charterhouse or the Board.

No disrespect, but after so many editions, some faces need to be retired from the Board especially the folks who have refused to move with the changing times and have failed consistently to embrace new trends in the music industry.

Most importantly, happenings at the 20th editions have proved that, some Board members do not longer have to be on the Board; the President of the Creative Arts Council and the President of the Musicians Union of Ghana. These two, with their positions, were supposed to be arbitrating matters that arose between the two artistes and the organizers of the awards and chide whichever party got it wrong, but there they are, compromised with their roles on the Board.

It is also time to enlarge the membership of the Board; open it up to young, vibrant and enterprising industry experts as well as others outside the domain of Greater Accra. For a scheme generated for the entire country, it is insidious to have all 13 members of the existing Board based in Accra.

An Overhaul Needs Funding

It is always easier said than done; and all the suggestions of a complete renovation would come to nothing if Charterhouse lacks the requisite funding.

It takes money to ensure that there are production teams for both television and the live audience during the main event. It takes adequate funding to broaden the Board to inculcate other personalities from other Regions across the country and it takes some heavy financial succour to produce a world class award show.

It is always easy to compare the BETs, Grammys and SAMAs to the VGMA but in our hasty comparisons, we fail to realize and mention that these other internationally recognized schemes have better funding and infrastructure.

It is time to push the narrative for support, whether governmental or corporate for the organizers. If negative reportage of the awards can reach international portals like the BBC, it is also possible to project the positives of the same awards to hit such international platforms.

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