Ghana wields cornerstone repute in the African music conversation. It’s often the source of new dance, melodic innovation, and validation for Afropop practitioners unsure of their sound, or looking for the one tested route to Africa. Nigeria may lead the hype, and South Africa may boast of model infrastructure, but Ghana is where everybody draws artistic juice from –the real music Mecca. What then is the problem with the upcoming Ghanaian act? Why is he so angered by “the Ghanaian system”?
Generally, it’s frustrating to practise Music Journalism in Ghana: as you’re not reporting politics, you’re considered “second rate” in a “second rate” profession. Maybe it’s founded: the writing could be a lot better, and the tabloid nonsense can be toned down to check the growing and troubling influence of Instagram stars, etc. Also, artists think that by granting you interviews, they’re doing you a favour —which is why there’s scanty wholesome content about them. One day, when their hype has died down altogether, they’ll bite their lower lips while moving from station to station, informing a generation too occupied by the new “wave” to care that he once ruled radio.
But it is the upcoming artist who frustrates me the most. He, with an unpronounceable stage name, 2 demos, no bio, no real social media presence or competence, no real team or game plan, or appreciable awareness about the terrain he wants to enter, is inundated in excessive hate about the industry he intends to be part of. To him, the industry, which has existed since before Palm wine music, has conspired against him specifically. You hear it in his music; an inexplicable sense of entitlement and resentment at the status quo. Also, a curious envy toward colleagues he “started with,” but who have hit the mainstream earlier than him.
He may have a point, our zealous rising star. But it is also true that the music industry has become very democratic, especial since the advent of social media and music sharing portals as SoundCloud, Spotify, Tidal, iTunes and YouTube, effectively making the artist the master of his own destiny.
Our upcoming artist feels absolutely no need to establish essential contact with players who can actually help his art flourish. Why should he? The system —like Trump’s proposed wall—is constructed specifically to keep him out, remember? And when he releases music, somehow, he expects that it will be reported on automatically, without him making active effort to push it to bloggers and journalists, never mind that even mainstream artists do. Yet, when the song fails, it’s the system.
Newsflash: the system is your oyster, dear upcoming artist —it has always been, it will always be. Harness it. Accept that it is fraught with obstacles that need to be scaled, but that it also holds opportunities that can help you realise your dream. Relax, nobody hates you. Be open-minded enough to embrace the possibilities that the system presents. Believe it or not, Sarkodie was once an “underground” act, as was Stonebwoy. Understudy the greats, read John Collins, and Doku, Asamoah –Baidoo, Abdulai Abu etc. Listen to the dreaded Okreku Mantey, and the magnificent Richie Mensah. Truly master the art of navigating the “system,” and then maybe, you won’t hate it so much.