“Mr. Eazi is not a ‘Ghanaian artiste.” I heard this statement umpteenth times during the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards – and it has resurfaced after the release of the 2017 BET nominations.
The Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards recently released its nominees and for the Best International Act: Africa category, these artistes from Africa were nominated: Mr. Eazi (Nigeria), Wizkid (Nigeria), Davido (Nigeria), Tekno (Nigeria), AKA (South Africa), Nasty C (South Africa), and Babes Wodumo (South Africa) for the ‘Best International Act: Africa.’
Nationality is an issue that is strictly embedded in law. Every country has a law that stipulates how one becomes a citizen.
So how does one become a Ghanaian? Can Oluwatosin Oluwole Ajibade aka Mr. Eazi be described as a Ghanaian considering that he has lived and schooled in Ghana for more than 10 years? Well Ghana’s Constitution doesn’t give one automatic citizenship by mere long stay in the country but I trust there is a difference between being ‘Ghanaian’ and being a ‘Ghanaian Artiste.’
Who then is a ‘Ghanaian Artiste’?
Using the word ‘Ghanaian’ to qualify ‘artiste,’ to me, has two basic meanings: the denotative/legal meaning and the connotative meaning.
I believe that the tag ‘Ghanaian Artiste’ should be broadened to also cover people who ply their music trade in Ghana but may not be Ghanaian citizens. If an artiste LIVES in Ghana, records his songs in Ghana, promotes his songs with Ghanaian media, plays Ghanaian-organised shows that should be enough to make them Ghanaian artistes. To me, the parameters must go beyond citizenship.
Per the Constitution of Ghana, Mr. Eazi is not legally a citizen of Ghana. He is a Nigerian who lives in Ghana and does his music here. Therefore, he qualifies to be called ‘Ghanaian Artiste.’ He’s a Ghanaian artiste by virtue of where he plies his trade and not where he originally comes from.
The VGMA Experience
Last year, when I hosted George Quaye and Nii Ayite Hammond on ‘Flex on Pluzz’ on Pluzz FM, I asked them about the Vodafone Ghana Music Award’s definition of ‘Ghanaian Artiste.’
They answered but I wasn’t satisfied. They said any artiste that was Ghanaian was a ‘Ghanaian artiste.’
Then I asked how they would know each of the artistes was truly a Ghanaian. They answered that if one was not a Ghanaian, people around would know. That year, Mr. Eazi was not nominated in the VGMA on that basis.
However, there are a lot of Mr. Eazi’s in this country. If they don’t tell you their real places of ‘origin,’ you won’t know. Everybody knows them as Ghanaians but per the laws, they may not be.
Prior to the 2017 VGMA, it was reported that the organisers had contacted Mr. Eazi to contract him to perform but they could not meet his charge so he could not perform.
According to Mr. Eazi in an interview with KMJ on Hitz FM, he said he named a price of $30,000 to the organizers but the two parties could not come to agreement.
Then on the night of the awards, he alleged that he was prevented from performing with Wizkid on stage.
Ghana made Mr. Eazi
Like he said on KMJ’s show, Ghanaians play his songs like an anthem. Ghanaians took Mr. Eazi as one of them because he lives with them and does good music.
The kind of support he has received by way of airplay has been great. This is not merely because Ghanaians love Nigerian music but because they like his songs, coupled with the fact that he has done his home work well.
Because of the love Ghanaians have shown him, he has also lived as a Ghanaian. Yes, he has integrated well into the Ghanaian society.
So why did BET nominate him for Nigeria and not Ghana?
I am ignorant about what specific factors influence nominations in the Black Entertainment Television Awards. I only know about which people take part in the nomination process.
However, I strongly believe that VGMA’s labelling of Mr. Eazi as a ‘foreign artiste’ and its concomitant repercussions may have contributed to his nomination as a Nigerian artiste and not a Ghanaian artiste.
Fuse ODG is described at international level as a British artiste of Ghanaian descent yet he gets nominated in the VGMAs and is treated as a Ghanaian artiste too. If the VGMAs had treated Mr. Eazi as a Ghanaian artiste, we may have ‘stolen’ a great act from Nigeria. We accept Fuse as a Ghanaian even though he doesn’t live here yet he gets nominated in the BET as a UK act.
I agree Fuse sells Ghana wherever he goes. He’s done it through Azonto but is he a Ghanaian artiste?
Mr. Eazi has always shown appreciation to Ghana but I am sure as smart as he is he would rather want to be associated more to Nigeria, where he originally comes from. This is because Nigeria always has a bigger support when it comes to international awards like BET. They have a larger population and a more buoyant music industry.
Don’t get me wrong! I don’t know if the BET or any other international award has deals with the VGMA. I am not sure the VGMA has been contracted by BET to select people for the BET Awards. However, it is human beings that do the nominations and the voting.
Irrespective of what the criteria may be, one’s influence (including winning awards) in their countries could influence the choice of the voters.
Take it or leave it VGMA is the biggest music award scheme in Ghana. Music stakeholders from within and outside the country keep tabs on what goes on in the industry.
Implicitly, the VGMA results have the propensity to influence views and decisions of the international award schemes.
The Vodafone Ghana Music Awards is our Grammy Awards. It has more or else become an authority [or better still an archetype] of awards in Ghana. Whatever they do does not only become their principles. It turns into an institution and model.
I personally believe that the VGMA should take a second look at who they call ‘Ghanaian artiste.’
If it will be limited to pure ‘nationality,’ then they must really authenticate with a ‘citizenry test.’ You can’t just know of one’s citizenship by looking at their names or faces.
It is a pleasure to have Stonebwoy nominated in the BET. Yes, he is the only Ghanaian in there but it calls for celebration.
Some people say Stonebwoy’s nomination does not call for celebration because it is not enough for Ghana. They say Ghana should have had more a nomination.
For the Best International Act Africa category, Ghana had 1 nomination, South Africa had 3 and Nigeria had 4, bringing it to a total of 8 nominations.
This means that out of 54 countries in Africa only 3 countries had nomination. Where are the other 51?
That notwithstanding, it would have been good if we had more nominees. Mr. Eazi could have been our second nominee but we ‘lost’ him to Nigeria where he originally comes from. In the event that he wins, he wins for Nigeria.
This is a typical case of ‘obi huhu ma obi keka,’ meaning someone works for another to reap the benefits. Ghanaians gave Mr. Eazi fertile grounds to nurse his career but today, Nigeria is enjoying the fruits.
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