Here is the concluding part of our “Day Off with Sadiq” series with 3Music Awards CEO Sadiq Abdullai Abu, on the scheme’s intention, its place in Ghana’s event and awards ecosystem, and a behind-the-scenes walk through this year’s event. Catch up here and here.
Part 3— CURATING MUSIC’S BIGGEST STAGE
Sadiq was gone, with key creative acumen required for the ongoing event—but “the show must go on.”
It did—even if it meant that the rest of the team traded creativity for functionality.
As doctors worked on Sadiq (who couldn’t return to the event grounds to oversee the show, and could only monitor proceedings from his sick bed), Shatta Wale descended from the heavens, flamboyant in a yellow hoodie, and armed with an eruptive playlist set to light up any party. At the prime of a historic career, Shatta Wale dispatched his performance with flair and charisma, tucking away another iconic 3Music Awards opening set.
Last year, the event was opened by Wale’s musical rival, Stonebwoy, who exploded onto the stage with deafening motorcycles and a dire warning to whom the cap fits. Witnessing the “Kpoo Keke” singer’s performance last year, I observed that the set portrayed him as a warrior fighting to secure the realms—a calm lion whose tail had been stepped on by elements who mistook his humility for timidity. His song choices consisted prophetic scenarios he composed himself. “Be very afraid, for we come ready. If the need be, we are the danger.”
Like Stonebwoy, Shatta Wale’s set was his response to trying times that had befallen him; in addition to perennial turf wars that characterized GH dancehall, Wale was dealing with family conflicts, and irreconcilable difference with his backroom staff that meant a complete overhaul of his machinery.
Both opening acts demonstrated that the 3Music stage not only represented a refreshing alternative, but also stood as a tremendously expressive platform that allowed talents to pour out their specific emotions and get out a significant personal message. This is consistent with the overall vision of Sadiq’s establishment; to steadily become music’s biggest stage around here. It is what he reiterates to artists billed to perform at the ceremony: “this is the only opportunity you have within the year to show and prove, and speak your mind.”
Sadiq notes that his team worked closely with artists on scripts for their sets; even prescribing on a number of occasions, the best way to tackle a performance, in order to arrive at a memorable experience. It worked. The artists especially were highly impressed. To achieve this, “you need to be able to get into a very comfortable space in an artist’s mind—you have to appeal to them in that way,” he says. This all harks back to 3Music’s intention to be the difference; and to never lose sight of the fact that “people come out for the experience.”
He plays me a 1997 MTV Video Music Awards performance of “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy, Sting, Faith Evans, and 112 from his iPhone. Even though that performance is over 2 decades old, the video allows for fresh chills alongside the nostalgia it invokes. I get the point. It is experiences like this that 3Music aims for –to prove an event’s ability to activate music in a way that truly engages the emotions.
Citing Kofi Mole, who was “Next Rated” at the ceremony, and whose performance (which referenced Kanye West’s 2015 BRIT Awards set) swiftly became a never-ending talking point after the event, Sadiq is certain that in coming years, 3Music will be seen by artists and fans alike, as the platform that enabled the careers of so-and-so musician. Cina Soul, Adina, Akwaboah, Tulenkey, Eddie Khae, Quamina MP, Wendy Shay, the Bethel Revival Choir among others all rendered noteworthy sets.
Another thing that the 3Music Awards stage has done, is that it has vindicated artists who have constantly been subjected to public bashing for “one way” performances. The effort and logistics invested into the 3Music stage communicates that the only limitation to an artist’s set is the range of his own imagination—because the possibilities that the stage presents are virtually endless. A vast and dynamic design, it enabled a lot of creativity by performers, who descended on captivating contraptions hanging from the roof, performed in the company of roaring motorcycles, or zoomed off in batmobiles.
In fact, prior to the main event, the stage had stirred up massive public reaction. 3D impressions of the stage, when they popped up on social media days earlier, ensured this–generating praise and scepticism about organisers’ audacity.
Sadiq concedes that the 2019 3Music Awards didn’t go exactly as planned, even if the ceremony passed off to generally positive reviews. At 3Music, they go hard. “Haaaaaard,” Sadiq thunders via a vigorous Fadama-nurtured voice, and so, when something goes wrong, it’s especially difficult to swallow. Why? They’re creatives at heart; very passionate—giving the project their all. However, Sadiq says that it is also important to “develop the thick skin and mental fortitude to overcome these challenges.” Again, to safeguard its integrity, 3Music operates a policy of “full disclosure.”
And what’s the benefit of this?
It “generates trust,” intimates Sadiq, and “keeps your image intact—than having to lie.” For example, some of the award winners, most prominently, underdogs Bethel Revival Choir, would set them up for public bashing, but the truth remains paramount.
Next question: is this “full disclosure” approach of crisis management suitable for the Ghanaian environment?
“You need to be able to educate and carry a particular market along in the direction of your dreams. Hence, even if Ghanaian event producers almost pride themselves in secrecy, especially during crises, the philosophy of full disclosure is a company’s best bet, and posterity would always vindicate this.
Are there lessons to be picked up from 3Music 2019?
Of course, submits Sadiq. “If we don’t learn our lessons, we will not thrive. If we want to live our lives through the lessons of others, then we’ve not really thrived. You need to get yourself dirty and burnt.
“What do you have to lose anyway? You’ve created something out of nothing—which means that you can always create something out of nothing, given the right conditions and time. What’s the fear, really?”
Yes, Sadiq and his team are already thinking 3Music Awards 2020. “We recognize the expectation on us at every stage […] we can always go up and above ourselves,” he shrugs.
Yes, the stage will be bigger, and the team will work twice as hard. Why? “We don’t want to be known for what we attempted to do, rather than what we actually did!”
More images from 3Music Awards 2019: