Beyond any reasonable doubt, Ghana has had an enviable history in music that affected the continent and globe. Our hay days were filled with much joy to hear our palm wine tappers sing on the farm and fishermen at the shore. Fast forward to the era where our musicians were heavily influenced by Western act to this modern era where most of our upcoming acts are breaking from these chains and exploring new sounds. Ghanaian music still remained the toast of several music lovers regardless.
Cheers to the late-sixties when our very own Teddy Osei and his band, Osibisa made great music which sent them touring several music hubs globally. This was followed with the emergence of Hiplife; a fusion of Ghanaian indigenous language laced with American hip-hop beats which revolutionized the African music industry. At that point, Ghana had become a reference point as far as music was concerned. This attracted industry professionals from all over to learn the rudiments of the trade. Not long after, we saw other African musicians introduce unique elements peculiar to Ghanaian music in their works. This was the height at which our music had reached in the early nineties.
But currently, what do we see? Name the top ten African artists who have made remarkable impact globally and it will be a shame the number of Ghanaian musicians to be on that list. So what went wrong? A few thoughts:
“If we had genuine love for each other’s music and persons, supported each other selflessly, our industry would be a far more profitable one and we’d reach much greater heights! Unfortunately, this is what our neighboring countries have over us… Too much hate and pull him down out here”. – D-Black
“I think the Nigerians are still kicking our ass and there is so much room for improvement. When you go to a show and you hear an afro beat song, 10% is Ghanaian while 90% is Nigerian.” – EL
“The music industry is revolving. Our music has taken a different trend. The old folks up there know this but their hubris won’t allow them to reach out to the upcoming ones. These acts know what they are about. It’s sad how they struggle to be heard. I think “Support your own” is more of a cliché than a verb. We love the music but do not want to promote the act. C’mon! Let’s channel our resources rightly” – Stephen Dwamena (A&R)
“It’s growing but there’s always room for improvement but we all have to help each other. We are trying to raise a new level of patriotism; we have to be united. It’s as though we joke with things like this when we say them but it’s the truth; it’s just like the broom, when its bound together, it stays strong and can work better.”- Reggie Rock Stone
“I invest in my body to be somebody, pray to Allah that it works/We pay for videos, we pay for studio, blowing our savings, oh it hurts/No record labels, we are the label/A bunch of workhorses we no get stable,” – M.anifest on Ayat’s KUDI
“When you listen to radio today, it looks like you are listening to a medley of songs produced by one producer. There are many songs trending, beautiful songs trending, but unfortunately, for me, they are all monotonous; they sound the same, no distinction. Why is society telling artistes the kind of music and rhythm they do in this country?” – Kwabena Kwabena
“I tweeted this one day ‘If you don’t support your own. If you don’t rate your culture, someone else will take it, package it and sell it to you at a premium price. I think that’s what’s happening to Ghana. I keep saying this and even got lambasted online. The sound source is heavy from Ghana, everyone is singing about Shitor, Nana, Ohemaa, Odo meanwhile this is where it’s from. Kumasi, Accra, Tema. Because there is division internally, Ghanaian artist are not able to sell this properly because you have to come as united front.” – MrEazi
“Nigerians have the zeal to just get things done and they move ahead and the people out there believe in what they’re doing unlike Ghanaians who are yet to understand what they’re actually doing. Nigerians invest, they actually do invest a lot, but down here, Ghanaians don’t and that’s why Nigerians dominate in almost all the entertainment business we see. Countries leading in anything are patriotic. America has been using this mind game. They act like they haven’t seen any artistes but Ghanaians don’t do that. In China, people are not allowed to go on YouTube to listen to my albums. If I go to Germany, there are certain songs I can’t listen to.’’ – Sarkodie
The brutal truth is we have failed as Ghanaians in supporting the growth and development of our music and musicians. What we consider to be The Ghana Music Industry is non-existent; It is down the drain! We play the blame game with the artistes for not being able to keep up with the international competition. I read one article that said, “Upcoming artists don’t always know the pathways to get their content and profile in the spotlight”. But what resources or infrastructures have we put in place as a country to ensure their progressive existence? Are there logging systems in place to determine how much radio and television networks are to pay to musicians? How many registered and recognized Ghanaian record/label companies can we boast of, do they have the expertise and capability to transform raw talents into international brands?
It is not the musicians’ business to be chasing producers and music engineers to figure out the appropriate rhythm for his music or booking and payment for recording sessions, mixes and mastering. But that is the usual case in Ghana. In a music industry and a well-structured setup, those are part of the duties of an Artists and Repertoire (A&R). How many of our record/label companies are operating with such structures– Artist Managers, A&R, Talent Scouts and others? In Ghana. A music distributor is anyone who manages to acquire one shop in Accra plus two extra in Kumasi and Tamale respectively. Isn’t this interesting?
In countries where music is a multi-million-dollar industry, there are mechanisms for individuals and organizations to produce and make money from the music they make. Among these individuals and organizations are the musicians who compose and perform the music, the companies and professionals who create and sell the recorded music (music publishers, producers, recording studios, record labels, performance rights organizations, retail and online music stores) and those that present live music performances (booking agents, promoters, event and music venues and road crew). There are also the professionals who assist musicians with their music careers (talent managers, business managers and entertainment lawyers), those who broadcast music (satellite, cable, and internet television and radio platforms), journalists, educators, musical instrument manufacturers and several others. These structures and players mentioned define music industries around the world ensuring industry professionals are able to benefit from their sweat.
Indisputably, the Ghanaian music scene is just a space of acts pushing their arts and trying to make a living out of it, and we know the way forward because you are thinking of it! Maybe you are planning on taking action, or maybe you just don’t care what happens to music industry or lovers of the art, maybe you think you don’t play any role in this, or maybe you think music is overrated and this whole article was a time buster. Too many maybes’, but if I am sure of something it’s, “If you want to go far, [you] go as a team, but if you want to go fast, [you] go alone” – #AVMB