“What values are placed on academic work?” I.K. Gyasi
THE POPULARITY OF THE BEATLES had been so overwhelming that John Lennon remarked off-hand: “We're more popular than Jesus now”. In an interview with Maureen Cleave in 1966 and in 1980, he was shot by a mentally challenged man. The word 'celebrity' is applied to persons or groups of people who have been successful in their careers. Elsewhere, such people include singers, actors, bloggers, sports personalities, fiction writers, models, humanitarians, comedians, film actors, media personalities and politicians. It is reserved for people with exceptional lifestyles, wealth, controversial acts or others.
In Ancient Greece, athletes (including those who ran the pentathlon) returned home welcomed as heroes with songs and poems written in their honour; they were given free food and gifts. It was the same in ancient Rome. Interestingly, Roman Emperor, Nero, competed in the chariot race at Olympia. The word 'music' comes from the 'Muses' daughters of Zeus and patron goddesses of creative and intellectual endeavours.
Sometimes such personalities are referred to as stars, super-stars or mega-stars. Madow reminds us “fame is often conferred or withheld, just as love is, for reasons and on grounds other than merit”. The name is 'fanaticism'.
Ghanaians of the older generation were enjoying themselves with songs by Kwaa Mensah, Kwasi Manu, Onyina, E. K. Nyame, K. Gyasi, Kakaiku: “Onipa nua, asem aye me ya… Mante wo yare, mate wo wuo, na asem aye me ya… mante wo yare, mate wo wuo.” Nana Kwame Ampadu burst into the scene with stories of animals in his songs: Ebi te yie, ebi nte yie (some are well situated; others are not well situated). That was the time of 'highlife', and it was a joy to listen to Ramblers Dance Band and Joe Atiso's 'Swinging Safari'; and Black Beats. These were heavily patronised, but none were called 'celebrities' or 'stars' or 'super-stars' or 'mega-stars'. The word we knew was 'popular'.
Nana Ampadu, Amakye Dede, C.K. Mann, Paapa Yankson, Ewurama Badu, Daasebre Gyamera, Jewel Ackah and Pat Thomas emerged. Real 'highlife' was the vogue, with songs from outside our borders. Osibisa: 'Sakabo' and 'Africa we go'. Fela Anikulapo Kuti: 'If you call a woman, African woman he no go gree'; 'he go say I be lady'. Jimmy Cliff: 'Many rivers to cross'. Robert Nestor Marley: 'No Woman No Cry' and 'Redemption Song'.
While Millicent Small came up with 'My Boy Lollipop', Miriam Makeba struck the chord with Malaika and Pata Pata. While Abba sang: 'The Winner Takes It all', and 'Chiquitita', Elton John sang 'Nikita' and eulogised Lady Diana, England's Rose, with 'Candle in the Wind'. While Judy Boucher sang: 'You Caught My Eye', Bonney M moved the crowd with 'By the Rivers of Babylon'.
While Hugh Masakela was 'Gazing in the Sand', his counterpart, Lucky Dube reminded us of 'Prisoner'. Frank Sinatra, Johnny Nash, Jim Reeves, Louis Armstrong, Paul Mc Cartney, Lionel Richie, Harry Belafonte, Barry White, Kenny Rogers, Stevie Wonder were all great singers in American history. And the most colourful of them all, Michael Jackson, had teamed up with others in USA for Africa to sing 'We are the World' to get funds to support starvation victims in Ethiopia in 1985.
According to Plato, Pericles' teacher Damon said: “When the fundamental modes of music change, the fundamental modes of the state change with them.”
All of these take us to the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) last Saturday night at the auditorium of the Accra International Conference Centre. When Livingstone Etse Satekla, a.k.a. Stonebwoy, was called to the rostrum to collect his award for the Raggae / Dancehall Artiste of the Year, Charles Nii Armah Mensah a.k.a. Shatta Wale walked towards the stage. Both musical artistes went with some of their vociferous fans: Stonebwoy with members of the BHIM Natives and Shatta Wale with Members of the Shatta Movement (SM).
Why did Shatta Wale walk to the stage when he had not been so nominated? And why did Stonebwoy pull a weapon? Suppose he had mistakenly pressed the trigger… what would have happened? In the presence of all the dignitaries, including members of the diplomatic corps, it was a humongous disgrace, gargantuan ignominy. What does Shatta Wale mean when he calls Stonebwoy 'the aggressor'? What right has Shatta Wale to tweet: “Police, do your work”? Proverb 16:18 warns us: “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Let the law take its course.
Arms and Ammunition Act (NRCD 9); Arms and Ammunition Acts 1991, 1992, 1993 (Amendments) may have to be invoked. Lawyers will be kept busy, their pockets full. ACP Kwasi Ofori thinks “Security has to be a chief factor when organizing such events. In future, the police will take control of security arrangements…”
Greek Pythagoreans talked of proper form of music. Plato at one time complained: “… no whistles, unmusical mob-noises, or clapping. The rule was to listen silently and learn… But later, an unmusical anarchy was led by poets who had natural talent, but were ignorant of the laws of music… Through foolishness they deceived themselves into thinking that there was no right or wrong way in music, that it was to be judged good or bad by the pleasure it gave … So our theatres, once silent, grew vocal, and aristocracy of music gave way to a pernicious theatrocracy … the criterion was not music, but a reputation for promiscuous cleverness and a spirit of law-breaking.”
Gyedu Blay Ambulley, veteran highlife musician, like Plato, cries out loud: “The highlife that our elders left, the younger ones are not doing it. They are doing more dancehall music, singing in patois, doing reggae and putting highlife behind.” He adds lamentably: “The media is helping music that comes out of our heritage to vanish … Every country has its music … There are certain instrumentations that accompany highlife music. This time, you don't hear those instruments in their songs. When they do their recordings, there is no bass player; there is no drummer, because the technology has already programmed the instrumentations in their recordings… These can't cross borders…” And Samuel Boakye Ansah, a political icon from Kenyase, stresses that he does not follow the songs of these 'modern' singers. The songs are all unmelodious discordant cacophony.
In Literature, this would be like Jabberwocky, the nonsense poem. What is 'one corner'? Look at the youth unashamedly caressing any object and wriggling their waists while they sing 'one corner'. Nonsense! These youngsters should not be blinded by their own self-image. Over-confidence usually ends in destruction. Ebony died too early. What will it be 20 years hence?
Remember Kiki Gyan, the great keyboardist of Osibisa in the 1970s who played the piano at age 5; became professional at age 12; dropped out of secondary school at age 14. At age 18, Kiki Gyan had made more than $1million. This Takoradi-born prodigy had played for the Queen, moved with Elton John, Marvin Gaye, Peter Tosh and Stevie Wonder. He briefly married Fella Kuti's daughter whom he divorced and married a Ghanaian lady. Kiki got addicted to hard drugs. A millionaire turned into a pauper, begging for money for his sustenance. “Bor]de[, w'ankusa a [hye” (Plantain, if you don't toast it, will burn). Makasa awie. (I've finished the sermon).
Africanus Owusu – Ansah
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