Feature: Review of 2017 VGMA Nominations

Ghana Music Awards

Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) 2017 is here once more. The usual complaints, goofs and ‘lashing’ on social media & other media by the public have become an annual thing whenever the nomination list is released. Personally, I commend the VGMA board does a helluva job coming up with a satisfactory list all the time. Their work isn’t that easy, to be fair. It’s not like we have great metrics & solid charts here in our industry.

Plus, they seemed to have followed the popular suggestion that the various definitions of the various categories be published for the avoidance of doubt, so that’s great as well. You should check it out, if you haven’t.

This is not to say all is picture perfect. Some of the categories they put up are agreeable, conversely, others can be commented on. So I did a little critique of the ones I thought didn’t quite pan out as they should have.

Disclaimer: This review is based on the definitions of the categories publicized by the VGMA board.

Best Collaboration of the Year
Inasmuch as the nominated tracks are well suited, “Fire Bon Dem (Remix)” by Flowking Stone Ft. Sarkodie & Shatta Wale should’ve made the cut. It generated huge excitement and a massive response – at a point, that was the only song been discussed.

“Tension” by Okyeame Kwame Ft. Medikal and his girlfriend Sister Debbie, and Cabum should’ve been considered; all artistes had a great chemistry, and each musician’s contribution was necessary in making the track a complete whole.

Best Group of the Year
Dunsin doesn’t deserve this nomination because honestly, how many people know them.

Best Music Video of the Year
Almost all the videos nominated in this category have flaws. The only creative part of the PhamousPhilms’ directed “Nyedzilo” video is a complete rip of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. I don’t see how duplication is creativity. The visuals of “Leno” by Wiyaala are neither creative nor entertaining. “YɛwɔNyameaYɛwɔ Adze” by Nacee has a cliché Gospel video storyline.

In 2016, a lot of good videos were released which displays the creativity of the Ghanaian art. Among these are “Time bad” by Jeed Rogers which was a collage of concepts used in various videos, both local and foreign. Wanlov also did a great work with Joey B’s “89” video, taking us way back into time but including current shot angles.

Best New Artiste of the Year
Nii Funny doesn’t deserve a nomination because his biggest song that made him known is “Yooko Ebreaki Mi” which was released in 2015, falling out of the calendar for consideration.
Feli Nuna still doesn’t have a massive jam which puts her under the limelight.

Best Rapper of the Year
This is one category that a lot of people have issues with, because “Sarkodie was nominated with a song he doesn’t own”; thus “Fire Bon Dem (Remix)”. However, according to the criteria, the song chosen to judge the best rapper shouldn’t necessarily be owned by the artiste. The category is defined as the rap artiste with the best word compositions, rhymes and rap dexterity on a popular song released in the year under review.

M.anifest released a lot of good rap songs during the year under review, but among all that I don’t get why “100%” was chosen. M Dot has better verses on other songs that fit the definition perfectly – a typical example is “god MC”.

“Money On Mind” although is a rap song, Yaa Pono didn’t flex his lyrical muscles that much, hence it’s not suitable for the nomination.

Highlife Song of the Year
“Minste Bo” by Wisa Greid doesn’t have pure Highlife elements. It’s more Afro-Pop than Highlife, hence the board should’ve reconsidered putting it in such a category.

Hiplife Song of the Year
Although Hiplife is a genre which is hard to solidly define probably because it is not well documented, in my opinion “Sweetie Pie” is not a Hiplife song. It can be better classified as a Highlife song.

Record of the Year
Akwaboah’s “Hello” isn’t really an outstanding song, and it borrows influence & elements from foreign genres, lacking originality.

Reggae/Dancehall Song of the Year
One problematic category. Nominated songs consisting of “Gborgborvor” by Gallaxy, “Yonnah” by Samini, and “Arostor” by Kaakie are clearly not Reggae/Dancehall songs – they lack elements which qualify it to be as such. “Pain Dem” by Rudebwoy Ranking shouldn’t have been nominated due to its unpopularity.

Overall Artiste of the Year
MzVee doesn’t deserve the nomination because during the year under review she didn’t have mass appeal and popularity. On the other hand, M.anifest had a hit single “god MC” and a highly-rated album “Nowhere Cool” during the year under review, plus some good videos, and stage appearances. Nominating M Dot would’ve been fair.

Recommendations for Improvement
It has been noted that the VGMA board has improved over the year, but there’s still a lot to do for progression of the awards scheme.

The definitions of some categories have to be modified. These include “Album of the Year”- the current definition allows any artiste with hit singles off an album or compilation to grab a nomination. Albums are an artistic embodiment of musicians, they’re statements made by artistes, not just a compilations of songs. Hence the richness, constituents, message, concepts, and societal impacts all have to be considered when nominating. Also, “Best Rapper of the Year” should be adjudged by more than a verse during the year under review. So in my opinion, the artiste’s rap catalog should be studied and nominated accordingly.

The year under review has to be changed to suit the seasonal periods that Ghanaian artistes target for release of songs. Currently, the VGMA calendar year commences from Jan 1 and ends on Dec 30. A lot of songs are released for celebrations of occasions, i.e. Easter, Christmas, etc. Hence major songs are released in December which don’t get massive rotation for that year, rather the following year, and such songs never get nominated regardless of its impact. I suggest the time frame should be changed to September 1 – August 30. I believe if this change is effected it’ll help suit these challenges.

Whether we despise VGMAs or not, it’s still our prestigious awards scheme that rewards hardworking musicians in Ghana. Instead of fighting it, let’s look at making it better – hence the motivation for this article. I hope the VGMAs become better this year, and may the deserving artiste win.



Acknowledgement to Alan & Afrolektra for assisting me in creation of this article.


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