VGMA Unsung Category: Something Isn’t Right

This initiative by Charterhouse, conceptualized and executed in 2014 has somehow lived up to its expectation – aiding so-called unsung artists in catapulting their respective careers to different levels.

Since 2014, the initiators, via the ‘Unsung’ category, have provided such big platforms of the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) for these young acts to showcase their prowess, however, in the spate of 5 years of rolling out this laudable model, it has become evident that, something is fundamentally awry with the category.

Albeit not being one of the major categories with the VGMA, the ‘Unsung’ category, without a doubt, carries the same edge of competiveness and attention as the other mainstream categories; so, it is imperative to draw attention to some seeming ills with that category. Unfortunately, devotion is always fixated on the mainstream categories, thereby leaving the ‘Unsung’ category to waddle in such confusion.

Good Motive, Confusing Criteria

We were told by the engineers of the category in 2014 that, since the VGMA platform is predominantly mounted by mainstream acts, making it an almost no-go area for ‘underground’ acts – it was prudent to give the opportunity to these unpopular acts to have the chance to mount such platforms via the ‘Unsung’ category. A brilliant idea!

In the last couple of years, nominees for the category have had the opportunity to perform at the various Nominees’ Jam over the period and the eventual winners have had that privilege of sharing the main VGMA stage with other notable performers.

Yes, the idea is good but the understanding of the category, the criteria for selection of nominees and the announcement of the winner have left observers and critics overly confused.

In its 5th year, the category definition for the category is still not properly documented except the usual cliché that the category is for up and coming talented artistes that are not popular but enterprising and burgeoning. In essence, the category definition stems directly from the meaning of ‘unsung’ which means; not celebrated, not popular, not honoured or not acknowledged.

Are These Guys Really Unsung?

By the definition, the personalities enlisted in the category over the years were expected to be unknown, not recognized and not heralded but clearly, the situation has been a sharp contrast to what it actually stands for.

In 2014, MzVee beat the likes of Cabum, Epixode, AK Songstress, Strongman and Eno Barony. At the time, almost all the nominees were recognized in the music industry. They had all released good singles, shot videos, mounted some high profile stages and had following. They were nowhere close to the tag, ‘unsung’.

Dark Suburb, Nero X, Luther, Kingzkid, Mz Yankey and Koo Ntakra competed for the category in 2015 and almost all the nominees were popular at the time, with some being music reality show winners and others, music award winners.

In 2016, Feli Nuna, Perez Music, Adomaa, Nii Funny, Ebony and Wan-O were bunched together in the category as unsung, at a time when almost all of them had such appreciable hits on the market with such following.

Kuami Eugene, Cina Soul, Deon Boakye, eShun and the likes were on a higher level than unsung but they were nominated in 2017, while Kelynboy, Dope Nation, Christian, who had amassed such tons of recognition were nominated in 2018.

For 2019, OV, who has already attained critical acclaim with her win at ‘MTN Hitmaker’ music reality show in 2018, and then signed on to Stonebwoy’s BMG Label – is classified as ‘unsung’. Then comes Mr. Drew, another alumnus of the ‘MTN Hitmaker’ show, now signed to one of the popular record labels in the country, Kaywa’s Highly Spiritual Music, and with a good single already on the market. With the support of Zylofon Music and under the guidance of the legendary Willi Roi, Efe Keyz had such a boisterous year in 2018, but alas, she is unsung too!

Not A Level Playing Field

Again, the format for choosing a winner for the category is not clearly defined and documented by Charterhouse, except the talk of the eventual winner garnering the most mentions on social media and attaining the most votes – but proceedings over the years doesn’t support this claim.

Clearly, throughout the years, some nominees are quintessentially unsung; not known, not popular and with no meaningful following – but are pegged to others who have attained recognition, popularity and acclaim in various regards.

MzVee won the category in 2014 and before the win, she was already popular; signed to Lynx and with one of the biggest records at the time, ‘Bokorborkor’ that featured VVIP’s Zeal. How does anybody compete with that level of popularity?

In 2015, Dark Suburb won that category and interestingly, the group had released a banger the previous year, attaining recognition and following and in 2017, Kuami Eugene, signed to Lynx and with singles featuring MzVee – won the competition and evidently, nobody was gutted.

Kelynboy was well-noted for his hype man duties for Stonebwoy, then came the quality singles that featured his label boss and other A-list acts in 2017. After garnering such popularity and critical acclaim, he easily won in 2018 against the likes of OBK, Real MC, and others.

Charterhouse & Conflict of Interest?

Singer, OV, who won the last edition of the ‘MTN Hitmaker’ series, a show produced by Charterhouse in the last 4 or so years, is in contention for honours in the category. Aside her being more popular than her peers – arguably, Charterhouse’s critical role in the making of the reality show and the VGMA cannot be over-emphasized.

Some observers have already tipped OV to win it and they are y pointing fingers at Charterhouse for some form of complicity in ensuring that, a product from a show they produce, win the category.

In 2017, Kuami Eugene, who was a runner-up at ‘MTN Hitmaker’ Season 5, a show produced by Charterhouse, was the only product of the reality show nominated in 2017 edition of VGMA Unsung – and yes, he won it!

Time To Review The Category

It’s just time to subject the category to some scrutiny, review and changes, considering the level of bewilderment that has greeted the machinations surrounding the category since its inception.

Charterhouse should reckon, that the ‘Unsung’ category is an keen as the other mainstream categories, so, the treatment accorded the others should be extend to it; a clearly defined and documented category definition and a well-understood and documented process of selecting nominees and choosing the winner.

Most importantly, the concept of ‘unsung’ should be reviewed – as the nominations over the years have defeated the core meaning of the word.

By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo

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