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VGMA24: Secular/Gospel ‘battle’ for Artiste of the Year

UNTIL 2017 when Gospel singer Joe Mettle made history by winning the topmost award of Artiste of the Year at the annual Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA), it was not far-fetched to assume the category was unfamiliar to the ‘Ambassadors of Christ’.

That historical win undoubtedly boosted the confidence of Gospel artistes to competently vie for the Artiste of the Year award, which before the Joe Mettle win seemed like the preserve of secular artistes.

Four years down the line, in 2021, it will be the turn of Diana Hamilton to put very broad smiles on the faces of Gospel music enthusiasts when she walked home from the Grand Arena of the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) with the biggest award on the VGMA night.

The ‘Adom’ award, as many would later describe Diana’s win, was quite unbelievable, considering that Lynx Entertainment signee KiDi had been named favourite among the contenders—Adina, Kuami Eugene, Medikal, Sarkodie and Diana Hamilton, at the time.

KiDi had had a very impressive year with his single Enjoyment; being the biggest song of the year under review. The Golden Boy had played all the major shows and even made good impression outside the shores of Ghana but that was not enough to grab him the bragging rights as VGMA Artiste of the Year in 2021.

The above incidents and subsequent twist of events at the ‘last hour’ is what many are driving as a good case for Piesie Esther for this year’s VGMA. And why not?

 Nominations

On Saturday, March 18, Charterhouse, organisers of the awards scheme, announced the nominees for VGMA24.

As usual, the prestigious Artiste of the Year caught the public attention, sparking useful conversations and in some cases, arguments about the artiste who is most deserving of the crown.

The category has Black Sherif aka Blacko, Stonebwoy, Sarkodie, King Promise, Camidoh, KiDi, Piesie Esther and Joe Mettle vying for the title.

Just like in 2017 and 2021 when a Gospel artiste was pitched against another contender, the story is not different this year with Piesie Esther and Black Sherif as favourites.

The comparison has started the Piesie Esther/Blacko battle for VGMA Artiste of the Year conversations. But the question is: “Does Blacko have what it takes to break the strong force that mostly accompanies the campaign for a Gospel artiste to win the title?”

Over the years, she has released a number of songs, but none has given her such mileage and prominence as W’aye Me Yie, which was released in the year under review.

W’aye Me Yie catapulted her significance and her performances in the year under review, which was crowned with her successful W’aye Me Yie 20th anniversary concerts in Accra and Kumasi, a major plus to her brand.

For his part, even though Black Sherif began his career in 2019, he had his major breakthrough in 2022 with Kwaku the Traveller, which reached Number 1 on both the Ghanaian and Nigerian Apple Music charts.

 He released his debut album, The Villain I Never Was, in October 2022 and also held his maiden Mosama Disco concert in December last year.

Black Sherif earned major international nominations including the Best International Flow category at the 2022 BET Hip-Hop Awards. He also performed on various international stages such as the MOBO Awards, UK.

Do his international exploits, however, count and also give him an edge over Piesie Esther to win the VGMA Artiste of the Year?

 Artiste of the Year Definition

The Artiste of the Year is the Artiste(s) adjudged by the Academy, Board and the General Public as the artiste with the highest audience appeal and popularity in the year under review.

The artiste(s) must have released a hit single/EP album and must be one of the artistes with the highest nominations in the year under review.

Per the definition, all the eight nominees are likely candidates for the topmost award at the VGMA24.

 Industry opinions

Speaking with Daily Graphic, entertainment journalist and Graphic Showbiz columnist, Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo, who has been a keen observer of the awards scheme over the years, tipped Piesie Esther as a favourite for the ultimate award.

“All the artistes in the category deserve to be there but obviously, Blacko and Piesie Esther seem to be at the forefront of the conversation on who could annex the ultimate prize.

“This is due to their level of activity, their popularity, their immense audience appeal and ability to generate excitement in the year under review.

“Personally, Blacko was at his best and so was Piesie Esther. However, I will stick my neck out for the Gospel songstress due to her level of activity, her audience appeal and ability to generate the most excitement in Ghana.

“Blacko’s level of activity and artistry were predominantly based on the international market, but the awards is ‘Ghana Music Awards’.

“Piesie Esther was all over the place in 2022, playing at various shows, events and sectors, even outside the Gospel frontiers.

“That’s the mark of an ‘Artiste of the Year’—the ability to appeal to all divides and different sectors, and Piesie nailed it in that regard.

“I won’t be surprised if it goes any other way, but I have the strongest conviction that based on the category definition, Piesie Esther truly deserves it,” he said.

 Table of Men

Table of Men (TOM) is a group of media personalities and artiste managers in the Gospel fraternity who seek to push the interests of Gospel musicians.

Their campaigns in 2017 and 2021 were very instrumental in changing the fortunes of gospel artistes, with respect to grabbing the Artiste of the Year title. 

The Chairman of TOM, Kwesi Ernest, who is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Media Excel Productions, said it is a straight fight between Piesie Esther and Black Sherif but the former stands a better chance of winning.

 “The two of them have been very dominant. Piesie Esther for instance was even on secular platforms. What this means for us in the Gospel fraternity is that the same support we gave to Joe Mettle and Diana Hamilton, we are giving to Piesie Esther and probably even more because we want her to be this year’s VGMA Artiste of the Year, which is very possible,” he said in an earlier interview with Graphic Showbiz.

The debate will surely end on Saturday, May 13 at the Grand Arena of AICC when an Artiste of the Year is crowned on the VGMA night.

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