VGMA – great start, few hitches

It is only natural that after the first Vodafone edition of the Ghana Music Awards, there would be a number of reviews by entertainment writers and even people who may not be in the media. I am not an entertainment writer and I would not pretend to be one. But I guess I do not even need to be a journalist to say what I saw at the maiden VGMA (Vodafone Ghana Music Awards). Maiden because, even though the GMA is thirteen years old, it is also the first branded by Vodafone, after 10 years with competitor, MTN.

For starters, the show was not half bad. And that was largely due to 13 years experience. But this one also had a number of innovations, which was to be expected, particular because a competitor branded it so well for a decade, and it was only natural that the new sponsor would want to present some marked differences, and they did, in my opinion.

First of all the entrance arrangement was remarkably excellent. The arrangements at the main gate prevented the usual over-crowding, for which the organiser (Charterhouse), on one occasion, had to bring in the military and dogs to keep the crowd in check. In the process, there was a near stampede, where people fell and some lost valuable items like phones, watches, purses and what-have-you.

The main entrance gate was well cordoned, such that one could not even get close without a ticket – and the exit gate was different from the entrance gate, so there were no conflicting activities – the exit gate was virtually quiet and that was remarkable.

Once you enter the main gate you go through another check point where, the direction you go depended on whether you have a Standard or VIP ticket. That was even before you get to where your ticket would be authenticated under the mercury light. By the time you get to the mercury light, it is already clear whether your ticket is Standard, Media or VIP. Once again, that prevented the usually long queues that characterised the GMA.

After your ticket has been authenticated, you walk a few yards, have some photo opportunity (optional) then join a very short queue to enter the main hall, where your ticket is taken, and you are left with the branded ticket holder, which entitles you to one free drink of your choice.

The drink for me was a first and really cool; I have been to the GMAs several times and my ticket had never qualified me for a free drink. If ever that was the case in previous GMAs then it was not sufficiently communicated for everyone to know about it. Indeed, I must say that even at the VGMA, I only got to know the drink was free when I walked to the bar to buy a drink. One of the bar tenders was about to sell the drink to me when another asked to see my ticket holder, and told me I qualified for one free drink. But that was one innovation which was really cool, particularly because the waiting time at the GMA’s are usually long, so a drink gets you through the boredom.

Speaking of waiting time, for the first time of my 10 years of attending the GMAs, either as an artist or just an observer, this is the first one that started not too late. By started, I mean we were taken to the screens to see what was happening on the red carpet quite earlier than usual. That also killed the boredom a great deal. In the past, it took ages before we got to see what happened on the red carpet.

On the red carpet, KOD was cool as always. But I wondered what Confidence was doing on the red carpet. The only moment of excitement she gave the audience was when she had to interview her ex-lover, Edem. She made it too obvious every word she said was from a written script; no creativity, no spontaneity, just dry, very much unlike her name. When she wanted to say ‘welcome back’ she said ‘well back’; that was how dry and ordinary it was with her.

The sitting arrangement in the hall was different and innovative this time round. There was an elevated VVIP area, which seated the nominees, top executives from the organisers/sponsors, GMA committee members and academy, event statisticians, and some gurus of the music industry among others. Right below, and in front of the VVIP area was the VIP area, where the tickets went for GHC200, and they were deservedly seated comfortably around the catwalk, which was also the first of its kind at the GMA’s.

The catwalk was great, because it prevented the situation where, award winners had to hustle their way through several rolls of seats to go get their awards at previous GMAs. The catwalk is at the same level as the elevated VVIP area so winners just got out of their seats and got on the catwalk, to the main stage and took their awards.

But the killer innovation was the maiden VGMA TV with Funny Face, who is by all standards, the funniest man in Ghana right now. Funny Face had his own live stage set for him to the extreme right of the main hall, where he interviewed award winners intermittently. Well, at least that was the idea, but at the end of the day he interviewed only two award winners – Blak Rasta (Reggea Artistes of the Year) and Kwaw Kese (Hiplife-Hiphop). The idea was great, the host (Funny Face) was ‘funny-tastic’, but the execution was not the best.

Funny Face was only a side-kick for Chris Attoh, the main MC. Chris was good, but he was not in the least funny, and ‘funny’ brings life to the GMAs. Chris was too repetitive in some of his statements; for instance, he kept saying ‘we are putting Africa on the map’. He failed several times to get people to clap or scream. Funny Face was a cool balance; he got the audience cracking their ribs with laughter anytime he spoke. But Funny Face’s VGMA TV was largely sidelined, and the audience was stack with Chris for most part. In fact, Chris made some of us miss the Chairman General, Kwami Sefa Kayi.

I could not also look past the innovative way the organisers handled people who got out of the hall after being seated. I did, and before I got out, my ticket holder was taken from me and I was given a swipe card. On my return, the card was swiped again to ensure that it was authentic before I got my ticket holder back. Previously, they stamped your palm with ink. With the ink, I am told some people sprayed some substance on it and then stamp other people’s palms to help them get in without paying. But with the swipe card, you could not do that.

Speaking of people entering without paying, once again, it seemed the organisers sold and gave out more tickets than the hall could comfortably seat, so not only did several people place seats in the isles, and blocked the view of others, but some actually fought over seats. A lady seated right behind me left her seat to go get a drink; on her return, another lady had occupied the seat. It became a heated verbal exchange, not between the two ladies, but between the lady who had been denied and his two male friends on one hand, and the male friend of the lady who had ‘stolen’ the seat.

There were pockets of similar incidents all around me, where even some protocol guys jumped in and seated people on seats that others had reserved for their friends. Thumbs up to the protocol guys for doing that because people are fond of blocking seats for friends who get late to the show, and they deny people who go early. That thing must stop and protocol should make that sufficiently clear in writing, either on the tickets, or through notices at the entrance and various points in the hall.

The award presentation itself had something innovative about it, and that was the brevity of the display of nominees on the screen. The videos have been shortened, which is great because it saves time.

All the local artistes, apart from Sarkodie, performed one song each, but the foreigners were given the opportunity to do more than a song each. Speaking of foreigners, I wonder why the organisers brought an artiste from South Africa who is not a big hit in Ghana – he was not exciting as a performer and his songs were not popular so the audience just sat through his performance. I have even forgotten his name. That is how bad it was.

Appeatus’ gargantuan mess

One cannot overlook the gargantuan presentation fiasco that occurred. Appeatus walked on stage to present Hiplife-Hiphop Artiste of the Year, but the screen displayed Highlife Artistes of the Year. Appeatus went ahead and announced the winner of the Hiplife-Hiphop Artistes of the Year as Kwaw Kese, and it was only when the audience booed that he realised there was something wrong. Appeatus then said ‘I was given the wrong thing – o,o,o Charterhouse again!’

For a moment I wondered whether that was the same Appeatus I know. Indeed, what made the glitch gargantuan was not the wrong tape, which was played, but the fact that Appeatus watched the display of the nominees, did not see Kwaw Kese being displayed and yet announced Kwaw Kese’s name. He then made it worse by blaming it on Charterhouse; in fact he said it in a way to make it look like Charterhouse had always gotten it wrong and that was just one more of Charterhouse’s many mistakes.

I was amazed at Appeatus – that he thought he was so perfect and yet stood and watched the nominees, which did not include Kwaw Kese, and clearly labelled “Highlife Artiste of the Year”, and he went ahead and made things worse, only to stand right there on the stage and blame it on Charterhouse. The worst he could have done was to have walked off stage quietly and helped to resolve the problem. He should learn from Chris Attoh, who said nothing about the glitch, and did his best to get the show back on track, after Appeatus’ gargantuan fiasco.

Whoever bought a drink in the VGMA hall would agree that it was nothing short of daylight robbery. One small bottle of Voltic for GHC3?…that’s ridiculous. The organisers need to do something about that; seriously.

By and large, the show was cool. But it was not only because Vodafone added some innovative touches, but also because MTN helped to make the GMA the great brand that Vodafone saw fit to associate itself with. I can almost see the next telecom operator which would get onboard the GMA train when Vodafone is done with it.