This year marks the third anniversary of the VGMA Unsung category of the prestigious Vodafone Ghana Music Awards(VGMA). Winners of the VGMA Unsung categories, MzVee in 2014 and Dark Suburb in 2015 are not doing badly in the music scene.
Despite the fact that, just three years after its introduction, the VGMA Unsung category is living up to its expectations, I feel it needs to be reviewed as it seems there is no clear cut rule or guidelines in how underground acts are nominated in that category.
The VGMA is a popularity scheme with a popular tag on it. Going by that tag, it was difficult for any underground act to mount such a stage.
Unless of course such an act had featured on a song by an established musician which is huge and popular enough. It is through that medium that such an underground act will get close to the awards and be a part of it.
So in 2014, the organisers of VGMA, Charterhouse, introduced a new category in the scheme. The category; VGMA Unsung was to serve a particular purpose so far as budding musicians are concerned.
Also, the VGMA Unsung was to provide the platform for some of Ghana’s most promising artistes to showcase their musical talent to the right audiences in order to catapult them to the next level of their music career.
To cut a long story short, the category was made for underground musicians who are still struggling to find their bearings to offer them the opportunity to mount and rock the big stage at the main evening night of the VGMA with the big artistes.
Thus to bring the VGMA experience closer to the underground musicians, spearheaded by GhOne TV, the nominees for the maiden edition of the VGMA Unsung category were announced.
The nominees were MzVee, Cabum, Episode, AK Songstress, Strongman and Eno. They were shortlisted to battle each other for the nod. MzVee won the category after they had campaigned for votes for months.
The 2015 edition of the VGMA Unsung was won by Dark Suburb, Ghana’s alternative rock band. That year, the nominees were Koo Ntakra, Nero X, Kingzkid, Luther and Mz Yankeey.
This year, the competition is between Feli Nuna, Perez Muzik, Adoma, Wan-O, Ebony and Nii Funny. Good luck to all of them. Whoever emerges winner would be welcomed and embraced on the main awards night.
Unsung can be described as a person who has never showed to the others the activities he can do best. So, nobody will recognise it and he with his talent and his abilities will stay unsung.
Based on the definition, it’s obvious that, over the past three years, artistes considered and nominated in the Unsung category do not belong there as they have gone pass that level of being labeled unsung. Maybe not all but some of them clearly aren’t unsung.
For instance, in 2014, and going by the definition; all the nominees in the Unsung category; MzVee, Cabum, Episode, AK Songstress, Strongman and Eno were not mainstream yet but clearly, they did not aptly fit the Unsung tag since all of them had shown to Ghanaians what activities they can do best.
Before going solo and considered for the Unsung, MzVee had just come out of an all-female group, D3 who were gradually getting attention from Ghanaian music fans. Episode may not be as big as Samini, Shatta Wale or Stonebwoy in that year, but he had made his name performing on some of the biggest shows in that year.
Strongman had just won a rap battle Hip Hop competition and he was all over the place. Eno was also making her name doing covers of different hit songs. Cabum and AK Songstress weren’t sleeping either; they were busy doing their own things.
In 2015, the category had Dark Suburb, Koo Ntakra, Nero X, Kingzkid, Luther and Mz Yankeey as contenders. The award went to Dark Suburb.
A year prior to the introduction of the category, Koo Ntakra, the Akuapim rapper and Nero X had both won the third edition of MTN Hitmaker and Born Starz reality shows respectively. It was surprising that, they made the Unsung cut. Were they really unsung?
It was more surprising when Nero X with a banging hit Osey, a popular song that even merited the Most Popular Song of the Year category last year didn’t make the list.
His Osey song in 2015 was a bigger hit than Wisa’s Ekikimi and Atom’s cover of Gasmilla’s Telemo song which got him nominated in the awards.
If an act like Nero X could not make the cut for the main awards last year with such a huge hit, why did Wisa and Atom escaped the Unsung this year? Was it his decision to go for Unsung last year because he thought he stood a better chance of winning?
The medium used to nominate acts to be considered into the VGMA Unsung category is strictly by tagging the musician on the awards social media platform including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
So the argument will be that, they didn’t get any tagging for the category hence why they were elevated to the main awards.
Last year, Luther was in Wisa’s situation this year, just that, he didn’t show anything on stage to beef up his popularity. Last year, he had an equally big tune Slow Down featuring Screwface and Arrow.
Not only that, he had been a two time nominee at the BASS Awards and winner of the Best Male Vocalist for 2014/2015, yet he was still made Unsung.
My worry is about their colleagues who didn’t get any attention whatever? For me, those are the real unsung artistes. These are people who haven’t been given the opportunity whatsoever.
What I want to say is that, some of the nominees since the inception of the category clearly are fit to be referred to as unsung. They are not mainstream yet but at the same time they are not unsung.
If an artiste has a hit which is getting rotation on radio and television, on what basis is that artiste unsung?
Based on what happened last year, then Wisa and Atom should have been nominated as Unsung artiste. I think the medium and the category has to be reviewed again for better understanding.
By Ebenezer Anangfio / Graphic Showbiz