VGMA Ban: The Shatta Wale –Stonebwoy Factor

By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo

THERE are three critical elements in the organisation of the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA), the musicians, the organisers and the public.

The process of the awards, from categorisation, nomination to the main awards night are all on the laps of Charterhouse, the organisers.

The musicians, with their songs and personalities make the awards; without them and their products, there is no scheme. And of course, the general public has a seat at the table; it has a measure of control over the awards due to the fact that the VGMA is a public-focused scheme.

It is important to note that when one of these three elements is affected in any way, in relation to the handling of the scheme, it becomes a matter of concern.

Another edition of the most prestigious music awards in Ghana is here and the organisers have opened nominations but that is not the topic generating chatter. It is on whether two of Ghana’s biggest acts currently, Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy, would be reinstated into the scheme or not.

Indefinite ban

After the infamous melee that marred the 20th anniversary of the VGMA, Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy suffered the gravest sanctions ever leveled at any participant in the scheme since its inception.

The VGMA Board, after reviewing the conduct of the two, came out with this judgment:

“The board of the 2019 Vodafone Ghana Music Awards deems the actions of Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy to have flouted the terms and conditions of the scheme, brought the name of the event into disrepute and therefore wish to sanction the two as follows.

“Both musicians are hereby banned indefinitely from participating in the nominations, selections and performances at the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards scheme.”

“Also the two artistes are hereby stripped of all the awards they won at the 20th VGMA and are thus requested by the board to return all plaques in their possession to Charterhouse effective immediately.”

Over the period, the farthest the Board has gone in sanction(s) is banning songs from competing due to what they said were explicit lyrics; Samini’s Linda (2007) and R2Bees’ Agyeei (2012) suffered this fate.

Amends made or not quite?

The indefinite ban on the two artistes was just one of the measures taken against them. There was even a frivolous call for the artistes to return their plaques – a directive that they totally ignored.

Then came the lawsuit instigated by the organisers against the two for disrupting the event – a matter that is still pending in court.

Amid all the drama, the two guys have found reason, via third parties or not – to make peace and have been patronising each other since – acting like best friends who were separated for years and have found their love again.

Even before all the kissing and making up, the two had issued statements apologising to Ghanaians, organisers and sponsors for their infantile roles in messing up the biggest night on our entertainment calendar.

Critical among happenings in the aftermath of the confusion is seeing Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy squash their beef – which is such a big deal, considering how they despised each other or made it seem so, and how entrenched their fans were in their hate for each other.

For these two to look past the seeming longstanding animosity, the attention it generated and whatever energy they derived from their interesting competition to make peace, should surely count for something.

Influence on the awards

There’s no shred of doubt about the influence of Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy in the music industry. They are currently two of the biggest acts in the country, and they have stayed in that zone for close to a decade if not more.

It would be convenient for any staunch follower of the awards to claim that the scheme can do without them. That’s a fair point but you need to exercise restraint and analyse their influence on the scheme before making any pronouncements.

In 2015, when Shatta Wale had issues with Charterhouse leading to his exclusion from the set-up, the reliance was heavily on Stonebwoy to not only project the Reggae/Dancehall categories, but to some extent, the entire scheme.

In the minds of influential persons on the VGMA Board and on the awards organising team, if they didn’t have Shatta Wale, they had Stonebwoy to fill the void.

Stonebwoy, true to that perception of maintaining attention and excitement in the Reggae/Dancehall categories, won the Reggae/Dancehall Artiste of the Year – four consecutive times, five, if you add last year’s.

One cannot also downplay the level of enthusiasm Shatta Wale and his fans inject into the scheme whenever he plays a part. His contribution is so crucial, Executive Director of Charterhouse, Mrs. Theresa Ayoade, had to have a sit-down with him on his participation prior to the 20th edition.

Interestingly, among all the artistes in the country, it was only Shatta Wale the guys at Charterhouse deemed it fit to discuss the awards with.

Here we are; with these two facing a time on the touchline and the implications on the 21st edition could be telling!

The Board is supreme?

Head of Public Events of Charterhouse, Robert Klah, in an interview recently said the inclusion or otherwise of Stonebwoy and Shatta Wale in the 2020 edition of the awards will be determined after the Board is reconstituted.

The Board has a decision to make!

In defending their decision to ban the two indefinitely, they claimed that the indefinite wording meant that, the two could be reinstated tomorrow.  Well, it’s been almost a year and a heavy amount of water has passed under the bridge.

Yes, no artiste is bigger than the VGMA, however, members of the Board should also not downplay the influence of some artistes on the awards.

This is not the same as banning a song and not the same as having Sarkodie and Shatta Wale perform on the beach the same night the music awards was happening.

This is actually having two influential artistes and their songs not being part of the scheme; its marketing, promotion and organisation. That’s quite tricky and the Board plus the organisers must really think deep about their decision.

What would work?

What would work is to have every artiste who released a hit single or album in the eligibility year be part of the awards; categorisation, nomination, promotion and performance.

Nobody is dictating to the Board, but it is not the only critical element of the scheme, therefore, whatever decision it takes should augur well for every other element as well as the betterment of the entire awards.

The challenge with ensuring that every act plays a role in the scheme is Shatta Wale’s declaration of not wanting to be part of the awards anymore, in a matter that can easily be resolved – same way Madam Ayoade went to have a meeting with him. Such resolution meetings can be held with Stonebwoy as well.

It is the decision of the Board and whatever it comes up with –would serve as a test case for the future of the awards and the music industry, be it positive or negative. We are watching!



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