Despite the immense popularity football enjoys in Africa, it could not help leaning on branches of the arts - poetry and music - to whip up some excitement for the next big continental soccer splash scheduled to happen from January 20 to February 11, 2008 in Ghana.
The Ghana 2008 Local Organising Committee (LOC) staged the finals of its poetry and song contests at the forecourt of its Secretariat in Accra last Saturday.
The youngest participant in each group won the top prize. 21-year-old Joseph Dankwah won in the poetry category whilst 19-year-old Stephen Osei Poku came out tops in the song division.
Both contests, according to Dr Kofi Amoah, Chairman of the LOC Board, attracted over 12,000 entries from Ghanaians at home and abroad.
He said one of the LOC's main intentions for organising the contests was “to excite the imagination of Africa's youth and to rekindle their desire to add something more to our music, culture, oratorial skills and the arts in general.”
Dr Amoah displayed his own oratorial skills when he tried to explain why the LOC was integrating poetry and song in the build-up to the soccer fiesta next year.
About poetry, he said it “reflects man's attempt to craft a beautiful and emotional architecture of our metaphysical environment with words.”
Regarding songs, he stated that “made up of human voices and instruments, they create a melodious harmony of sounds that sometimes titillate our deepest senses and also inspire emotions of joy, happiness, sorrow and wonderment.”
Several notable sports and music personalities turned up to see how the eight finalists in each group would impress the jury which comprised Lepowura Alhaji M.N.D. Jawula, Alhaji Sidiku Buari, Amandzeba and Nana Akua Busia.
Guidelines for the finalists included creating poems and songs that espouse continental unity and which generally position Africa in a positive light. The works must also not be too difficult for the general public to digest.
Despite these briefs, some of the contestants were overly nationalistic in their presentations. A fair amount of them also chose to weave things around the tournament slogan of 'Sharing Passions at the Centre of the Earth.'
Introducing Joseph Dankwah, a 21-year-old student at the Wisconsin International University in Accra, the Master of Ceremony, Azigiza Jnr added that sleeping was his hobby.
The young man, however, did not appear sleepy at all in delivering his poem. He was stylish and 'floated like a butterfly', stinging the audience with his fast-paced rhyming lines. He had more of a rap artiste's attitude than just a conventional poet trying to string some words together.
His prize was 30 million cedis, an LG mobile phone and a scholarship from Readwide Limited to take care of the rest of his university education in Computer Science and Business Management.
Richard Avornyotse of the Ghana News Agency and Franklord Appiah, a mining engineer, won the second and third places respectively in the poetry contest.
The song component wavered between reggae and highlife. Some contestants came up with easily recognizable styles and it was not too difficult making out, for instance, the Shasha Marley, Rocky Dawuni or Lucky Dube influences.
There was nothing earth-shattering in terms of vocal ability or arrangements from any of them but the audience chuckled at the humble-looking lad who, probably too nervous for the occasion, addressed them as 'mummies and daddies.' He turned out to be the 19-year-old winner.
Stephen Osei Poku finished Apam Secondary School about three weeks ago. The traits of shyness had vanished by the time he was declared winner in the song category.
He went delirious, jumping and hugging friends. He received 50 million cedis and an LG mobile phone. Readwide Limited promised to sponsor him through university if he gains admission.
SW1 and Calvis Hammond were the first and second runners-up respectively in the song category.
There were also performances by Amandzeba, Philipa Baafi, a special appellation group from the Centre for National Culture in Kumasi and Rex Omar.
Story by Nii Laryea Korley