This year’s edition of the much anticipated Vodafone Ghana Music Awards will mark 20 years of the initiative that has promoted Ghanaian music to the world. One of the areas already gathering steam is the category for the ‘Artiste of the Decade’. This is a unique category as it sums the achievements and musical relevance among other factors to award one Ghanaian musician who has shown excellence over the ten year period. A heated debate has arisen concerning the criteria for the competitive award and why some popular names should and should not be nominated. A proposed addition to the criteria for the ‘Artiste of the Decade’ may narrow the list of potentials at the VGMA 2019. A lot of names have been mentioned as competitors for the ‘Artiste of the Decade’ award, however, artistes like ‘Stonebwoy’, ‘Sarkodie’, ‘Samini’, ‘Okyeame Kwame’ and ‘Shatta Wale’ have had the highest applause. With each of them receiving an appreciable amount of awards both home and abroad over the period, some critics have suggested that the ‘Artiste of the Decade’ should not just be based on the number of awards or hit songs the artiste has. They suggested other factors should be added in order to differentiate the ‘Artist of the Decade’ from the ‘Artiste of the Year’ in terms of purpose. A Ghanaian music enthusiast and DJ based in the United States, ‘Mac Dealon’, gave his opinion on the matter. “Our musicians are beginning to sound like American artistes! They forget the nature of our culture and tradition and copy whatever is hailed as the truth. Our musicians now focus on acquiring wealth and that’s all. And this is wrong for our Ghanaian heritage. That’s why these days, any ‘sakawa’ boy or just anyone wants to become a musician; they think about only the glamour and the fame, and forget the responsibility that comes with it. I don’t think getting rich is wrong, but looking at the African perspective of acquiring wealth, its ultimate purpose is to be used to improve the lives of not just one’s family but the immediate society as well. That’s why we have titles like ‘Nkosuohene’. But how many of our rich musicians are doing that? Therefore, I think we should add ‘contribution to the community’ as part of the criteria for the ‘Artiste of the Year’. This will not just boost the reputation of the VGMAs but also give the public a reason to use their hard earned money to vote for these acts, because no one will waste their airtime voting consistently for a musician when they know all their going to get in return is a nothing.” Should the proposed criterion be accepted by the organizers of the VGMA 2019, Charter House, very few will might sail through. Ghanaian ‘Hiplife’ pioneer ‘Okyeame Kwame’ who was among the first people to win the first ever award for the ‘Artiste of the Year’, ‘Hip Life Song of the Year’ and the ‘Song of the Year’ at the maiden edition of the ‘Ghana Music Awards’ in 1999, seems to stand tall among his peers. Over the ten year period, the rapper has been able to successfully execute a ‘Hepatitis B’ awareness campaign, which he started in 2009, and gather support from corporate Ghana through his own foundation (Okyeame Kwame Foundation). He was able to bring to public notice the danger of the silent killer disease and its growing presence in the community. In 2017, the MTN Foundation Ghana was also part of his initiative. Commenting on the campaign, the then Corporate Services Executive of MTN Ghana, Mrs. Cynthia Lumor said, “MTN Ghana Foundation partnered this initiative because health is of critical concern to the Foundation. Research shows that the infectivity of Hepatitis B Virus is hundred times higher than HIV virus, yet it receives little attention in public health. The disease is one of the leading causes of death across the globe”. “This requires well-meaning Ghanaians and institutions to support in creating awareness to control the prevalence of the disease,” she added. The programme started with pre-test counseling done by doctors, followed by screening and vaccination. A total of 351 people were screened out of which 301 were vaccinated against Hepatitis B disease. There was also post-test counselling by doctors from the Ghana Health Services. The MTN Ghana Foundation supported the project with the objective of helping efforts being made to create awareness and encourage people to screen and vaccinate against the disease. He also created and brought to life a musical concept that embodied the essence of Ghanaian musical culture called the ‘Versatile Show’. Last year in December, he was made a brand ambassador for the ‘Made – In – Ghana’ campaign by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and was required to travel the 10 regions of Ghana during the campaign. Apart from his obvious concern for community service, ‘Okyeame Kwame’ has also promoted Ghanaian fashion, and healthy lyrics with the intention to educate and motivate. His entire career has not seen a moment in his songs were he uses ‘foul’ language such as ‘F*ck’. He has also been an ambassador for Climate Change’ in Ghana. This has also presented him as a worthy role model for upcoming musicians in Ghana. Other acts have also shown some commitment to their communities such as ‘Stonebwoy’ who also started the ‘Livingstone Foundation’ which hopes to “to provide a better quality of life for the Ghanaian community through education and disability justice.” ‘Shatta Wale’ has also been very active in this area with donations to the children’s ward at the Police Hospital in 2016. He also gave some exercise books to ‘Raising Readers Ghana’ foundation, and in 2013, he donated to an orphanage in Kumasi. ‘Samini’ is also no stranger when it comes to helping the society. In 2014, he embarked on an exercise to donate a million solar lanterns across the country. The donation is was carried out through the ‘Samini Light a Million Lives’ (SLAML) project. Again, he showed his generosity and concern in 2015 by donating to the ‘Aya Community Centre’ in the Western Region of Ghana. In February 2017, rapper Sarkodie supported fellow rapper Kwaw Kese to make a donation to the ‘Pantang Psychiatric Hospital’, and in July 2013, he donated products worth fifteen thousand Ghana Cedis (GHc15, 000) and an undisclosed sum of money to the Royal Seed Home in Kasoa. “Music is a reflection of what we believe in” and that is why some Ghanaian music enthusiasts are praying that the organizers of the VGMA will take heed of their request and give more meaning to Ghanaian music and a better sense of direction for upcoming artistes. Jerry Wonder #shinepublications #VGMA #VGMA2019 #Okyeamekwame #Stonebwoy #Samini #Sarkodie #Shattawale
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