Slow your roll, Wiyaala!
Noella Wiyaala is a star. She’s been in our faces since 2012, when she introduced herself to us via music reality show, Vodafone Icons.
And since going solo the following year, the artiste affectionately called Wiyaala, has proved and still proving her mettle.
Just weeks ago, the artiste with such an enviable international acclaim and appeal, expressed some misgivings about the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) and inasmuch as her reservations are understandable, they hold no water.
Speaking to Prince Hamdan Banang on The North Podcast, the Rock Your Body hit maker asserted that the VGMA have established criteria for selecting nominees which she believes disqualify her, consequently leading her to cease submitting nominations.
She also talked about how the scheme focuses predominantly in projecting only Accra-based artistes while relegating all others and how songs that garner airplay in Accra only get nods at the awards.
Incredibly, she then talked about the DJs and presenters’ lack of comprehension of songs from her side of the country.
According to Wiyaala, the existing criteria that guide the VGMA bar her from competing; therefore she has made the decision not to file for nominations. To her, the definitions for all the categories of the scheme are not constructed to her benefit so she deems it prudent not to participate.
The basic requirements to make the nomination list of the VGMA are having a hit song, album and now, an EP, plus having a good run as an artiste in the year under review.
Wiyaala is telling us, that having a hit song and commanding an appreciable audience appeal and popularity during the eligibility year of the scheme does not favour her, so, it is better not to expend time and resources to file for nomination.
Interestingly, these are the same requirements, same category definitions that pertained when she was first introduced to the scheme in 2015, the same year she bagged multiple nominations.
Popularity in Accra
She mulled over songs that make it to the VGMA being popular in Accra. Hear her; “In my heart, I believe VGMA is trying to get all of us involved. But let’s not tickle and make a fool of ourselves. “It’s very obvious and glaring what VGMA is all about. You have to be in Accra and your songs have to be popular in Accra. There are songs that were never popular in the North, but they made it, and the criteria keep changing. It’s their rules and regulations, if you cannot follow them, you shouldn’t enter.”
As far as the dynamics of the VGMA is concerned, the song must have generated enough or appreciable popularity across the country to gain entry unto the nomination list.
King Ayisoba, who hails from Kalaga in the Upper West Region of Ghana, won the ultimate, the Most Popular Song of the Year with My Father in 2007. The song also won Traditional Song of the Year. That song was not only popular in just Accra.
Fancy Gadam from Tamale in the Northern Region won the VGMA in 2017 and 2018; New Artiste of the Year, Hiplife Artiste of the Year and Collaboration of the Year with the song, Total Cheat. That song was not popular only in Accra.
Comprehension of Songs
She also emphasised the lack of deliberate efforts to showcase artistes from other regions whose songs may not be widely known due to language barriers.
“I can be as popular as any artiste in the Northern Region, but since the programmme is Accra-based and most of the radio stations are Accra-based, it’s only natural that they predominantly feature songs from Accra. Most DJs do not comprehend our songs, and many people are unwilling to understand them,” Wiyaala explained.
Possibly, a genuine concern from the artiste but is not factual that DJs and presenters are not playing songs from the North because they do not have a comprehension of the language from there.
Most of the Nigerian songs and to some degree, other African songs that dominated our space in the last years are delivered in languages the Ghanaian DJs and presenters do not understand.
In 2015, the song Tinambaynyi by Wiyaala, delivered in Sisaala was a banger, played by Accra-based DJs and presenters and accepted by the masses that had no inkling of the lyrics of the song.
A VGMA Winner
Wiyaala is expressing concerns over the dynamics, the establishment, the criteria and every other element that see to the categorisation, nomination and selection of songs and artistes as winners of the VGMA.
Intriguingly, these were the same mechanism that allowed her to garner multiple nominations at the 2015 edition of the awards scheme.
In 2015, Wiyaala was nominated for Best Female Vocal Performance, New Artiste of the Year’, Album of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Record of the Year and Afro-Pop Song of the Year. She won Songwriter of the Year and Best Female Vocal Performance.
How Wiyaala has concerns over the same set-up that allowed her to win multiple awards some few years ago beat understanding. Maybe, in 2015, Accra-based DJs and presenters understood the lyrics to her song, so they ‘blasted’ it very well.
Maybe, in 2015, Wiyaala’s hit song and album was popular only in Accra. Perhaps, in 2015, the criteria of the VGMA was useful to her so there was no need to disqualify herself from the scheme – just maybe!
The VGMA is not perfect. It surely has issues, but we must be fair and factual when we place it under scrutiny and also in our bid to proffer suggestions that seek to make the scheme better.
While appreciating the fact that, the VGMA must be an-inclusive scheme that would involve songs and artistes across the regions of the country, it is also important to note that Charterhouse has over the years made efforts to ensure there’s equal representation.
Wiyaala and her team produced a quality album in 2015 and ensured that the project was promoted and marketed, which saw to its popularity and eventual acclaim at the VGMA. The question is; why has the artiste and her team not employed the same strategy that saw her win multiple awards?
It is true that the VGMA should never be an ‘Accra Awards’ but one must also appreciate the fact that the capital of the country, which is also her largest city is an economic and administrative hub, so, extending marketing and promotion of any product is the way to go.