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VGMA & ‘Gospel Vs. The Streets’ nonsense
Piesie Esther and Black Sherif

VGMA & ‘Gospel Vs. The Streets’ nonsense

THE 24th edition of the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) came to a conclusion last weekend and as expected, it was met with an admixture of sentiments; from Red Carpet to hosts to performances, everybody had something to say.

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Critically, one of things that ought to be discussed which had nothing to do with the main awards night but part of the intense narrative that preceded the awards night; was the ‘Gospel Vs. The Streets’ plot.

In the 24-year history of the VGMAs, Gospel music has fiercely competed with ‘secular’ music just a few times; 2007 when Kwaku Gyasi contested with the likes of Ofori Amponsah and King Ayisoba, 2011 when No Tribe had a go at VIP and the rest. Then came 2017, where Joe Mettle had to ‘battle’ the likes of Sarkodie and Diana had to ‘wrestle’ with KiDi in 2021.

This year witnessed a whole new ‘tussle’ between Gospel music and ‘secular’music—a repugnant narrative projected by overzealous fans, promulgated by the media and endorsed by the organisers of the awards, Charterhouse.

The ‘Church People’

In 2017, when Joe Mettle broke the jinx to become the first Gospel musician to win the coveted ‘Artiste of the Year’ prize, it was met with some misgivings, with some critics propounding that he didn’t deserve it. Of course, crusaders of the Word had to defend the win and for most of them, defend the gospel and in doing so – they had to pitch the gospel against ‘secular’.

It got worse in 2021 when Diana Hamilton won and that was when the ‘grace’ card was pushed in the faces of everyone who was not on the side of the gospel. With Diana winning with the song Adom (Grace), it became convenient for the ‘gospel people’ to use the plot of grace to solidify the celebration but it got obnoxious and exasperating.

This year, it got messier!

From the pitching of the two genres against each other to the campaign strategy to the positioning of the supporters of the gospel, everything felt awkward.

The ‘Streets’

Clearly, ‘the streets’ or ‘secular’ had 2021 on their minds, the fact that the Gospel folks were in their faces justifying Diana’s win to some special grace, as though, every other person outside the gospel domain had no grace. They were not going to let it repeat and they surely went all out.

For some reason, some of the advocates of the Gospel played into the hands of ‘the streets’ by their ill-advised strategy of campaigning to members of the Academy and the Board. That seemed far-reaching.

The gauntlet was now dropped and the ‘secular’ guys rose up to ‘fight’ with all their might, doing everything possible to ensure that gospel did not win. All sorts of narratives were projected; a fight between the world and Christ, a fight between Lucifer and God, a fight between Pentecost Church and Mozama Disco Christo Church and other trivial storylines.

In the heat of the ‘fight’ and the pitching, some commentaries from ‘worldly’ people to the ‘gospel’ folks seemed disrespectful, denigrating and grotesque to the Church and its leaders. Some were seeing beyond an awards scheme but were now targeting people’s faith, beliefs and religious leanings. It was outrageous and ludicrous!

Gospel singer Piesie Esther and Black Sherif's contention for this year's Artiste of the Year was seen as a competition between the church and secular world

The Media

The media is always on the prowl looking for news and content and in an era where social media dictates the pace on how news is disseminated, mainstream media is always playing catch-up. Traditional media now rely and pick on trending issues on social media for content – all in the name of closing the gap.

In not wanting to lose out on the trends, the conversations and the intense debate that shrouded the awards, traditional media hopped on the wave and picked on the ‘Gospel Vs. the Streets’ plot and fueled it.

It is the VGMA and in a bid to get into the excitement and the build-up, traditional media got into the act, threw caution to the wind and fueled the narrative – cementing an unnecessary agenda of pitching the gospel against the world.

Charterhouse

The biggest element culpable of this nonsensical ‘Gospel Vs. the Streets’ was the organisers, Charterhouse Ghana.

It was shocking to actually see artworks emanating from the camp of the organisers, pitching the gospel against the world or street. How possible?

It is understandable for everybody to get entangled in the excitement and the drive leading to the awards but definitely not the organisers, the legion of personnel who are supposed to know and do better.

Charterhouse, as initiators of the scheme, who have a better understanding of the dynamics of the awards were not supposed to get involved, not to talk about wanting to lead a surge for that plot.

These guys are supposed to be playing referee, injecting some common sense into the heads of the many who got caught up in the frenzy to cast aspersions to persons and religions— instead, they forgot their positioning and influence and decided to get immersed in the ‘madness’.

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Nip it In the Bud

This is the Ghana Music Awards—which offers to award music and musicians who excelled with their artistry in the year under review. In the 24-year period of the scheme, it has never been about one genre fighting with another or one faith tussling with another over critical acclaim.

 It is okay to have it be as part of a narrative that adds to the excitement of the scheme, which ought to be managed and controlled. The VGMA is a celebration of Ghanaian music and not a platform for people’s faith and religion to be denigrated.

If the Church is getting involved in the scheme, it must be applauded and encouraged and not be open for unnecessary backlash, otherwise, the scheme must alter its directives not to include public votes and all.

If the status quo is maintained then there’s the possibility Gospel artistes would always be in contention with ‘secular’ artistes. We must understand where and how to draw the lines in our chatter and banter, that are only supposed to generate excitement and not chide or debase anybody, any institution and their faith.

We are all responsible!

 

 

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