Pop Culture

VGMA 2019: Why What Went Wrong, Went Wrong

VGMA

The big news from Saturday May 18th’s VGMA is the Shatta Wale-Stonebowy scuffle or skirmish or whatever it was. From the night of the event all through Sunday, everywhere I went on social media or in Accra or Ada, that was all everybody talked about. I won’t talk about the incident directly, I will use it to discuss a bigger problem.

The Vodafone Ghana Music Awards is a popularity-based event. That means it is the pulse of the industry. Everything that happens on the night of the award show is an indication of the state of the industry.

NO SURPRISES THERE

Nobody in the entertainment industry can honestly say the Shatta Wale-Stonebowy incident was a novelty, not anticipated by the prior art.

Both artists have been involved in gun-related incidents. Both artists have had shooting incidents in their camps. Both artists have publicly inferred they own guns. More importantly, both artists have publicly demonstrated an unwillingness to make peace with each other.

They were on the same label and decided to stage separate shows instead of performing on the same show. Executives of their label were divided in their support for them. It is very obvious whatever beef they seem to have on the grill is personal. Family lines has been crossed, personal attacks have been meted out.

They both have a very passionate fanbase who know about their enmity. They have both capitalised on that enmity to further their careers. Songs of both artistes nominated for last Saturday’s awards were believed to be shots at each other, pun intended.

Anytime they have to be in the same room, it is a high security risk.

The organisers capitalised on that enmity to promote the show. They knew what they were doing when they put the camera on just Shatta Wale and Stonebowy when the category was been announced. I know they know because I was with Shatta Wale’s manager, Chris Koney, when they were trying to get him to make Shatta Wale sit at a place more convenient for camera shoots. Shatta Wale had decided he wanted to sit in the Gold (Regular) session with his fans instead of in the VIP Session where the other nominees and celebrities were. The organisers needed Shatta Wale on camera and were moving heaven and hell to make that happen.

When Stonebowy won the award, the organisers cut to Shatta’s gloomy face when Stonebowy was gesturing “5” with his hand. Everybody in the auditorium had their eyes fixed on the screen at the time. How did they expect the artists involved to feel?

There is nothing wrong with capitalising on the beef. The question is, what did they do to stop it from escalating to the level it did?

Given my experience in event organisation, I know National Security, the Police, the military and some other private security were all involved in the security decisions and arrangements for the night. Did the security detail anticipate the various possible security threats and what was the solution they proposed for those possible threats?

Neither Shatta Wale nor Stonebowy should be blamed for the incident of the night. The organisers and their bad security decisions deserve all the blame. My bad, my bad. I’m asking too much of Ghana’s securities service. This is a country where the CID boss believes the best way to console families who have had their children kidnapped is announcing they have been found when they haven’t. How can I possibly expect that to take preemptive steps to stop a possible security breach?

Teargas were sprayed in the auditorium last Saturday. A packed auditorium with limited exit gates was sprayed with teargas, a mere 10 days after the 17th Anniversary of the May 9th Stadium Disaster. Do we ever learn in this country?

The security is who we should be mad at, not Shatta Wale and Stonebowy. Honestly, not Charterhouse because they paid for the services of the Ghanaian security men at the venue. Yes, they paid for soldiers and police who were supposed to maintain peace and order at a venue and had no intelligence on what the possible risk will be. May be Charterhouse should go back to hiring the very violent Togolese security team they used at the VGMA some ten years ago. Everything in this country is falling apart. I will do the cliché thing and blame the Commander-in-Chief, Nana Addo for presiding over no intelligence security forces.

CONSIDER ALL VARIABLES

The demand for VGMA tickets is always high. So high that last year’s venue, AICC Main Hall, is not enough to accommodate the people who will like to be in attendance. It made sense that they got a bigger venue, a 5,000-capacity venue. However, whenever you are building a Jenga, the last piece you add or take out is the very piece likely to break the Jenga.

I watched the show from all allocated portions of the venue. The journalist in me was roaming the venue looking for scoops and stories. You may have seen me on the red carpet with Trigmatic, getting ignored by Sika Osei (she no try give me kraa. The way my boys troll me). I was in the VIP session briefly. I was in the Gold session most of my time in the auditorium. I watched the show from the Red Lounge and even from the entrance.

Watching the show on the TV at the entrance was more convenient than watching it from the Gold session. Over 2,000 people bought tickets for GHC250 only to be seated at a place where they can’t see the stage or screens properly. The stage was too low to see from afar. No effort was made to make the viewing experience more pleasant for the regular folks. People buy tickets to an event they can see on TV so they can have a good experience but it turned out the folks at home had a better viewing experience.

THE STATE OF THE ART

We have an emceeing deficit in Ghana. Since Kwami Sefa-Kayi last hosted the show in 2007, the only good host the VGMA has had is Chris Attoh in 2012. He had a splendid introduction with the Recharged skit and went on to have a good night with the changing outfits and Funny Face’s cameos. In 2019, people were excited when the Chairman-General was announced to MC again after a 12 years hiatus.

Unfortunately it turned out, e be like Chairman’s showbiz shocks make weak. He was flat on the night from the start of the show. You know when you are going to a party and you pregame so hard, you were too tired by the time you get to the party? For those not up on modern slang, pregame is getting drunk or having fun at home before going to a party. Sometimes pregaming can get you worked out to enjoy whatever fun will be at the party. The pregame of Chairman-General hosting the show was more fun than him actually hosting it. It was like he didn’t want to be there or he was sick or something. He spoke in a monotone throughout the show.

I realized the deficit of MCs for entertainment events last December when Nana Aba Anamoah hosted the Rapperholic Concert. It became very clear Nana Aba was a great TV host but a below average live show host. People don’t like Nana Aba as a person and were waiting for her to fail. So it was understandable she couldn’t win the audience over. Kwami is different. People like him. The crowd was excited to have him host yet he couldn’t carry the crowd along. Seeing Bella Mundi on stage with KSK  was as if he took his plus one on stage and handed her a mic just so she won’t be lonely backstage, there seemed to be no cohesion in that pair.

After 20 years of Ghana music awards, we all know who to call on when a night needs saving and that is the man Samini. When Samini was on stage, for a minute, it felt that the earlier event of the night didn’t happen. He did what an entertainer is supposed to do, give people an escape. Even when Samini freestyled about the incident, it had entertainment value.

Chairman-General couldn’t build on the momentum Samini brought. He killed it when he asked the audience if the mood is back. 

I had told people around me when the Stonebowy Shatta Wale incident has ended the show abruptly. They told me I was wrong Samini may have curbed the chaos when he  came on then Kwami came and proved me right. If there’s one thing I love more than anything, it is winning arguments. I’m grateful to Mr. Sefa-Kayi for that win.

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