As has always been the case, the annual Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) brings out the best and worst in the Ghanaian musician and social media Netizen. You can predict to the letter what would happen at the next VGMA and you would be spot on!
Last year, reggae musician, Ras Kuuku, who had performed creditably at the nominees jam in Sunyani left the auditorium of the Accra International Conference Centre - where the main event was taking place - in anger, raining about 10 bus-loads of expletives on the organisers, Charterhouse and the board.
He had been nominated for three awards and he lost all. The height of it all was when Stonebwoy was mentioned as winner of the Reggae/Dancehall Artiste of the Year category and not him. He, obviously, couldn’t hold it in anymore and so tongue-lashed everyone associated with VGMA and left.
Last Sunday (it was after midnight, of course), many people had predicted and hoped that the big banger of 2017, One Corner would be named as the Most Popular Song of the Year. Even more hopeful than anyone else on planet earth to bag that award was the singer, Patapaa.
Then the CEO of Vodafone, Yolanda Cuba, opened the sealed envelope from KPMG and mentioned the winner as Total Cheat by the unofficial King of the North (definitely not Jon Snow), Fancy Gadam. No sooner was it mentioned than Patapaa walked out of the auditorium, Ras Kuuku style. He would later accuse the organisers/board of taking money to give the award to someone who didn’t deserve it.
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Honestly, I thought this was one of the very well-produced VGMA events in the last decade or so. It had started quite early (about 30 minutes or so late is very early by Charterhouse standards), it looked good on TV3 and the social media channels and it really was going very well…
Well, until something happened when it was time to award the Music Video of the Year. Nana Aba Anamoah had asked a question of her co-presenter from Trace TV. Before he would answer the signal on TV3 was lost. Big deal!
The coincidence, some said, was too canny. It must be sabotage. Despite an official explanation from the station, many still believe it was deliberate. Well, well, well, it is the social media era and we all have to live with what the platform has to offer, for better or for worse.
Anyway, social media is always lit on VGMA nights and the days following and this year has not been an exception. Apart from the lost signal, there are also the small matters of King Promise’s “camboo” and the fact he won nothing on the night, Patapaa’s oversized suit and others.
What I need to mention in all this though is that splendid side-show by Vodafone for its very cherished customers. To start with, I have been a very biased and unrepentant fan of the Vodafone Red Room since it was added to the VGMA some six years ago.
I mean the first experience stuck with me. It was a very buoyant room of drinks, drinks and more drinks in addition to food and a very wide variety of hors d'oeuvres to munch on from arriving in at the AICC in a chauffeur-driven limo till the cows go home!
The second Red Room experience was equally exciting and very yummy and tipsy too. So were the subsequent ones with just a slight drop of the ball here and there that didn’t totally mess things up for those cherished guests of the telco brand.
So you can imagine why I always looked forward to the VGMA over the period – it is not just for the love of music. This year when I heard that it was going to be a Red Lounge and not the quintessential Red Room, I wondered what it would be like.
While the name may have changed, it was still a Vodafone event for privileged customers and so it would come with all the trappings of what the brand has been known for on VGMA nights: Class, food, drinks, music and everything else you wish to see at such a party.
Inside the Red Lounge were couches for those who wanted to sit and the bars that served all manner of drinks. There was also the stands for the grills, mini-sandwiches and wraps, fruits, cake and other such hors d'oeuvres to those who got invited by Vodafone to the place reserved for its key consumers.
The pre-event party in the Red Lounge started from 7pm-9pm with guests arriving to take a bite or two and have a drink while Yaa Yaa strummed on her guitar and serenaded them with some good songs with the support of her band.
DJ Vyrusky of Starr FM loves such occasions and he was on hand to play some good music from his turntables and also sent the lounge into a party mood during the post-event party. Kabutey Ocansey was the MC and hype-man on the night.
Compared to the Red Room what didn’t I like about the Red Lounge? The Red Room is a definition of opulence and the space available to play around was impressive. The space for the Red Lounge was small in relative terms and it seemed as a result of that, the noise level was too much to have a decent chat, especially during the after party.
It looked as though Vodafone had come to make a statement with their technology, given their new payoff line and focus. Thus the idea of engaging with the consumers in the Red Lounge with the inclusion of technology was just Vodafone telling us it is leading the way into the digital space.
Apart from an invitation by SMS and an SMS scan at the entrance to allow those invited to enter, there was also technology involved in ordering anything at the Red Lounge. Drinks and the canapés were ordered via an app on tablets.
There was an AI humanoid to engage with the people in the Red Lounge. The role of the robot was to show patrons the way to the washroom and also took a picture and print for them.
So even though this was not the typical Red Room that I experienced in the past, the transformation of the left wing of the AICC into a club atmosphere, the addition of technology in the experience and the uniqueness in the set up and engagement need commendation. It was another awesome addition to the VGMA experience.