Very royal, VGMA weekend
My weekend was quite an interesting one dominated by two events, which I believe was the same for quite a great number of Ghanaians.
While I had been looking forward to the coverage of the coronation of King Charles III of the United Kingdom, the other event more or less crept up on me, as it does every year.
Every year, my good friend Nana Awere Damoah likes to remind me rather gently of the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) on the eve of the event, knowing full well of my blissful ignorance of its imminence.
He would start by tagging me on “Facebook”, and then in our subsequent telephone conversation we would both lament about how lost we are about who is nominated for what, with a few exceptions.
We would then grudgingly agree that our time is past, and that really, VGMA is a generational thing.
We would then resolve to tune in for the red carpet aspect of the programme to gawk at the attires, both outrageous and admirable, and then retire to bed with a cup of Milo, to wake up in the morning to catch the news on who won what.
On Saturday night, I did indeed stay up to watch the red carpet part, but I had no idea who most of the personalities were, even though their attires were rather amusing.
Quietly, I followed the intense conversations on social media platforms. Most of them were completely over my head.
After a few yawns, I felt rather out of place, like a polar bear on the desert in Mali or Niger.
I did the respectable thing and went to bed. I did not have any particular favourites to win any particular prizes, so I slept rather soundly and blissfully.
Back to 1980s
While I do feel rather young at heart except for a few creaky bones when I wake up every morning with nature reminding me forcefully that I am no spring chicken, VGMA does succeed in reinforcing this brutal reality, which of course forces me back to about four decades ago.
Back in the 1980s, when Nana and I were growing up, the ‘Great Embassy Double Do’ was the headline event of the year in entertainment, with stars such as dance champions Alex Ofori, Reggie Rockstone rocking the stage with magical footwork, while smooth hosts such as Kwasi Kyei Darkwa kept the event running like a well-oiled machine.
On the Miss Ghana front, sparkling beauties such as Dzidzo Amoah, Augustina Henaku, Brigitte Dzogbenuku and others tickled our teenage minds and dropped our jaws as they and other contestants paraded on the stage.
It was a truly glamorous affair. Of course, back then, there was no social media to offer platforms to discuss clothing, poise, grammar and other gossipy bits of entertainment events, so we kept our opinions to ourselves or shared them in our small circles.
VGMA and the ‘Great Embassy Double Do’ have conspired in an unholy alliance to remind me that I really am getting by – as if I need a reminder.
But I can be quite stubborn, so maybe from now on I will pay a little more attention to the music stars and their songs, so that I can identify and plug into next year’s VGMA.
Who knows, I might even turn up on the red carpet in an age-defying, outrageous outfit from Kantamanto market. When a microphone is thrust in my face and I am asked “what are you wearing?”
I will be able to answer ‘clothes’ without missing a heartbeat.
Then everyone will know grandpa has arrived, is on top form and refuses to go down.
Earlier in the day, I had had a thoroughly enjoyable time following the coronation of King Charles III in faraway London.
I remember, as a teenager, watching the live coverage of the wedding of then Prince Charles to Princess Diana at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on July 29, 1981.
If I recall correctly, it was beamed through the Ghana Satellite Earth Station at Kuntunse, near Accra.
I have always enjoyed royal events, whether here in Ghana or in the UK when I lived there.
They always bring a touch of glamour and splendour and are usually steeped in such rich traditions and mystery that have endured for centuries.
I remember being riveted to the television set during the coverage of the funeral of the late Asantehemaa Nana Afua Kobi Serwaa Kobi Ampem II in 2017, watching ancient traditions unfold.
The UK prides itself as a modern, forward-looking society, yet is steeped in its ancient rituals of the deeply religious coronation ceremony for its monarch, for which its Coronation Chair dating back to 1300, the Stone of Destiny, even much older, and other regalia such as the orb and sceptre, all centuries old, are paraded on such occasions
For me, Otumfuo Asantehene’s appearance, with his wife, in kente and other accoutrements, both in Buckingham Palace on Friday and during the coronation on Saturday, among the suits and dresses, was a show-stopper and spoke royal volumes in every sense, to the admiration of many.
The royal couple certainly did turn heads and one did not have to be Asante to admire the spectacle.
‘God Save the King!’
Ordinarily, the idea, in a modern democracy, that certain persons are born into positions of dominance and privilege because they are deemed to be blue-blooded does rankle and offends everything there is about equality before the law.
But regardless of the cold, hard logic of this, I find a special place, as do many monarchists, for royalty and all the history and traditions it comes with.
Perhaps it is in the context of the sometimes bland and meaningless, tedious modernity that ancient rituals and ceremonies have a certain musty appeal and rich flavour.
I suppose royalty is easier to swallow where it is allowed to exist, even if in a ceremonial form, alongside democratic institutions, which many countries in Europe seem to have pursued to find a suitable living arrangement.
In Africa, many traditional kingdoms also exist within the modern nation state – albeit with very limited powers.
For me, this coexistence is both an acknowledgement of the rich past of those societies and an acceptance that in the 21st century and beyond, the march towards democracy is irreversible.
The relationship can be a bit terse, but I believe we can fine-tune it to serve our purposes.
We cannot, and should not, consign our traditional rulers to the bin.
It is interesting to note that the coronation of King Charles III took place on the 73rd birthday of the Asantehene, so when I raised a glass of my favourite drink and said ‘God Save the King!’ on Saturday, I meant it both in the Manhyia and Windsor sense.
May their Majesties continue to flourish.