Be fair to Reggae and Dancehall

Kaakie's Toffee Pon Tongue won the Reggae/Dance Hall Song Of The Year in 2013

Kaakie’s Toffee Pon Tongue won the Reggae/Dance Hall Song Of The Year in 2013

Let me share with you one interesting thing that took place during the launch of this year’s Vodafone Ghana Music Awards. As we all know, reggae and dancehall are different music genres but they were merged in one category for the awards last year because there was not sufficient material for both at that time. The award was titled Reggae/Dancehall Song of the Year.

During the launch, a list of categories was distributed to the media together with the description of each award. Miraculously or rather forgetfully, the category read “Reggae Song of the Year” with Dancehall omitted. An apology was issued after the attention of organisers was drawn to the omission.

While this incident may have been a genuine oversight, it confirmed the fact that, Ghanaians generally have not fully embraced reggae/dancehall as they have done to other genre of music.

Reggae appears to be the least loved music genre in Ghana even though there are many Ghanaians who patronise, appreciate and make so much noise about its existence in Ghana.

I want to behave like the conventional Ghanaian here; I’m not a fan of reggae music. However, I still do find time to listen to some reggae songs.

There are also few Ghanaian artistes who do reggae tunes that I occasionally nod my head and tap my feet to whenever those songs are blazing in my speakers.

It is my hope that, this piece is not going to be misconstrued and points that I’m about to raise will not be taken out of context. I’m simply not a fan of reggae music in general, not only about reggae music done in Ghana. But I’m not against it.

Certainly, it will be grievous if I show aversion to the genre because I do not perhaps understand the music or do not appreciate it.

Many Ghanaians despise reggae music for no apparent reason, just like me; let’s just say I represent the conventional Ghanaian here.

Nothing has not been done to promote the genre here in Ghana. On a personal level, I see reggae musicians in Ghana as a bunch of people who are not really comfortable with the growth of the genre in this country. I stand to be corrected and no pun intended here but a large chunk of them appear lost in their own world.

Over the three decades that I have been on this earth, reggae has been treated just as an unloved child is maltreated in a household. You know how one is treated when he or she goes to a place where they are not wanted. The one is treated as an outcast. In my perspective, that’s how reggae music is being treated in Ghana.

But wait a minute! There is nonetheless a part of reggae music that I love and appreciate. And it is Dancehall, an offshoot of reggae. Hypocrisy right? Not at all, I’m just being me!

So what is the difference between Reggae and Dancehall music? This is what I came across online: The difference between the two is in the general sound and the prevalent themes. Dance hall music is less melodic, with little harmony and has a faster (rapping) rhythm. In addition, the lyrics of Dancehall music are not that inspirational. On the other hand, Reggae music has a distinctively slow rhythm, characteristic baseline and inspirational lyrics of peace, love, unity, and the like.

I am not going to use this article to attempt to educate you about the origins of Dancehall music. That is not the aim of this article. Google can help with a quick search. My concern however is why nothing much is being done to help grow the Reggae and Dancehall genre of music in Ghana?

If we think songs from those genre do not make sense, why then is a category set aside for it at the prestigious Ghana Music Awards?

As I stated earlier on, Not much has been done to support the genre. Therefore, if it is growing on its own, should they not be encouraged?

Admittedly, Dancehall is having a good time in Ghana. In 2013, musicians in that genre captured the hearts of music enthusiasts as dancehall artistes were on the lips of many and they got the headlines and attention of writers all over the country.

Over the years, there have been complaints that Ghana music always played second fiddle to foreign music. In 2013, a completely different story was written . It was a year for Dancehall music, and it gives me the impetus to say that, this year’s awards is going to be all about artistes in the Dancehall genre.

The structure of the awards is such that depending on the artiste, a Reggae/Dancehall artistes cannot win more than three or four awards. Blame this on the numbers or lack of interest in that genre of music. Even so, I see that trend changing.

Which is why I will be so much surprised down to my bone marrow, if musicians in other genre of music campaign for votes to enable them win the biggest awards at this year’s Ghana Music Awards, should they get nominated at all.

The era when Dancehall artistes and their kind of music was disregarded in Ghana is long gone. There should have been a ‘Reggae/Dancehall Artiste of the Year’ category at this year’s music showpiece. Artiste in that line of music should be encouraged and awarded with such a prize.

Nii Ayitey Hammond, Director of Productions at Charterhouse, clearly shares a different opinion when he said, “Last year when we identified, for example, that a lot of Dancehall rhythms had come up, we included a Reggae/Dancehall category and it is the same thing that is happening this year too. The thing is that, you don’t just go ahead to create a category, no! You will have to watch out for say 3 or 4 years to determine whether the trend is sustainable. And that is what we do the moment there is a trend.”

The BASS Awards, an honour scheme that is solely geared towards awarding a crop of musicians who Charter House thinks are not of age, is whipping up interest in the genre which in the long run will benefit the Ghana Music Awards scheme.

In 2012, three categories; Gospel Album of the Year, Group of the Year, and Sound Engineer of the Year were reintroduced because the Academy/Board thought there has been significant growth. Has Reggae/Dancehall not come of age in Ghana? Should Ghanaians wait for about 3 or 4 years before the genre is fully recognised and more categories awarded to it them?

By:  Ebenezer Anangfio / Graphic Showbiz / Ghana or tweet @anangfio

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