The above question always comes to mind whenever the process for an edition of the Ghana Music Awards commences.
For many years, I have been asking myself, really, who has the right to determine which song is more popular in Ghana?
It is very tedious for a musician to walk into a studio, book and record a song, not forgetting the numerous problems they go through in the promotion of the songs and they are overlooked in the prestigious Ghana Music Awards with the excuse that, the songs are not popular. How heartbreaking!
Sometimes, one just admires when musicians are interviewed concerning how they managed to put down words together to make a beautiful song which has become a hit and very popular in the country, sometimes even beyond the shores of Ghana.
The above is not referred to a one day wonder hit songs which gets missing after three or less months of taking the airwaves by storm. Instead, I’m talking about that song that may not necessarily be your favourite but it is the song that many people resonate with.
I’m talking about a song like Daddy Lumba’s Aben Wo Ha, Lord Kenya’s Medo, KojoAntwi’s Mmirika, VIP’s AhomkaWom and the likes. How this and other hit songs were recorded, mixed and mastered may not be known anywhere but indeed, a lot went into the making of those songs.
These are few of the songs that one cannot help but to admire and wonder what led to their composition. The songs do not just appear from nowhere, it came from a musical journey which comprises a lot of works.
It starts when the musician conceives the idea or the topic on which he or she wants to sing about. The lyrics are then written. At most times, whatever a musician writes is based on how the person is feeling at that particular moment. In fact, most write about their own experiences or that of their close associates.
When the lyrics have been written and revised if necessary, the next on the journey is for the musician to hit the studio to start the song making process.
Also, a musician can go to the studio without any words written down. Such musicians are often inspired by the beat produced by the producer and then they get into their groove and write the words. When he or she cannot write, the producer assists in that department as well.
When the beat is produced and arranged, the vocals are then recorded. The next on the journey are the mixing and the mastering of the song. The lyrics, verse, chorus, hook are arranged to synchronize with the beat.
If after listening to the final outcome of the mixing and the mastering, the musician is not impressed with the work done, a new mixing and mastering can be requested, sometimes from a totally different person.
The next obvious thing is how the general public will get to hear the song and appreciate it. The ability to do this is what is called promotion of the song. After all, one cannot listen and enjoy their own work alone. This perhaps is the toughest and most difficult of all the activities that go into making a song a hit and a household name.
Even though Payola has metamorphosed into rather an acceptable routine of the musician showing appreciation to the DJ or the radio presenters in order to have them give more airplay to the song, the promotion of songs can be a daunting task.
In this part of the world, one has to promote one’s songs by ensuring that, the palms of DJs and radio presenters are well-greased, so their songs can be given the needed attention on air.
It’s on record that, years back, some DJs had cars, piece of lands and other properties for the same cause.
And if after all the challenges that the musicians have passed through to make a song a hit and very popular, they would be heartbroken when they are overlooked in the awards. That’s when all the name calling of the awards scheme begins.
A lot of these hullabaloo spring up whenever nominees for the awards are announced and made public. The hullabaloos sometimes are in the right direction because occasionally, I think what the Board has continually told Ghanaians with the nominations is that, there are hit songs and there are actually popular songs. The awards is a popularity based awards.
In a nutshell, according to the Board and in my own understanding, hit songs cannot be automatically popular songs. This is how the nominees have appeared over the years and even with this year’s nominations; a hit song like MiYadawo by Akoo Nana featuring Castro was overlooked. Shocking! The reason, I assumed that, the Board didn’t think it was popular enough.
The Ghana Music Awards ever since its inception in the year 2000 has always played around the expression ‘popular’. This term plays an integral part in all the category definitions of the awards.
An example is the Artiste of the Year which is defined in the awards as “The Artiste of the Year is the Artiste(s) adjudged by the Academy, Board and the General Public as the Artiste(s) with the highest audience appeal and popularity. The Artiste(s) must have released a hit single/album during the year under review.”
The Song of the Year which is defined as the ‘Most Popular’ is defined in the awards scheme as, “The Most Popular Song of the Year is the song adjudged 100 percent by the General Public as the most popular song released in the year under review, irrespective of genre. The song must have enjoyed a lot of patronage and generated the most excitement during the year.”
By the above definitions, it is clear that, there are song which are popular and the songs which are not.
In the ‘Most Popular Song of the Year’ category, there is no mention of any Board; it just mentioned the general public even though it is the Board that selects which songs are popular for the general public to vote for the ultimate winner.
It is known that, the Board by their understanding makes available particular songs as the Most Popular Songs in the year under review. But should a few people determine which song is popular before the general public comes in the picture? By what yardstick do they use to distinguish between popular and not popular songs?
Should few people like the VGMA Board members determine which songs are popular? Can’t the general public be asked to nominate instead?