Notes from the Console: Ghanaian acts, where’s your ‘wow’ factor?

We don’t have the resources, our stages are not built to capacity, event centres do not have what it takes, government isn’t rehabilitating old event centres.

These and more will be the rebuttals and excuses that will follow the issues that will be raised in this write-up. I have provided them myself and so there will be no need.

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Now that we have that out of the way, may I just suggest that Ghanaian musicians are fast asleep? In fact, I insist that when it comes to stagecraft and showmanship, we’re settling for mediocrity by the day.

So Beyonce is a sensation, a ‘goddess’ even. People adore the Queen B and recently a mass was held in her honour.

The singer holds an air of enigma around her every time she climbs the stage. It’s not just her voice, for she’s definitely not the greatest singer in America.

It’s not the body; fake or real, otherwise Kim Kardashian would have a shrine in her honour by now. I dare say it’s the magic she creates every time she mounts the stage.

The kind of performance that makes you fold your arms, raise your shoulders, with your mouth wide open and staring, like the Nigerian would do. It’s the kind of stagecraft that gives you Goosebumps and makes you fall in love whether you like it or yes.

On the 14th of April at the 2018 Coachella, Queen B did her ‘thing’ (translate from Twi) once again. Here’s how Billboard’s Steven J. Horowitz described the performance.

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“Throughout a ceaseless two-hour set, the pop icon took the swelling Coachella crowd back to the days of feverish high school pep rallies and college homecomings. On stage, a tiered set of bleachers scraped the sky as a brass band and dozens of dancers backed what was indisputably the weekend’s most stunning performance, with guest appearances from a reunited Destiny’s Child (for a series of their classics), as well as cameos from her husband JAY-Z and sister Solange.”

The performance trended and made the headlines for weeks. Her choreographers, Chris Grant and JaQuel Knight reveal, preparations and plans started way back in December.

At the last BET awards, rapper Meek Mill and singer Miguel put up an emotional performance highlighting police brutality towards the black community. The act was nothing short of awesome.

The stage was transformed into a black community with a brilliant enactment which ended up in the shooting of a young child. The two musicians blended into the scene and took turns to perform the song “Stay woke”.

The examples could go on and on.

A musician is a performer.  If fans only wanted to enjoy the songs on their mobile devices, shows would not even fill the front rows. Fans attend shows to watch their favourite acts perform their favourite songs.

Truth is, these songs have been heard over and over again. Your fans know every single hook, bridge, adlib, melody of the song, so they don’t need you to stand in the middle of the stage and just sing it off to them. What is new?

People remember the unusual things, the unique things about performances. When Efya at her last Girl Talk concert in 2017 appeared on stage in a bubble, it was surely a breath of fresh air.

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Many after that, remember the concert where Efya came on stage in a bubble. Many remember that show where Sarkodie came on stage with a choir and the lamps. These are what make performances memorable.

Putting up a ‘show’ for an audience, however, is not a walk in the park. It takes creativity and preparation, but most of all it takes hard work and hours of practice.

While the industry is holding discussions about doing music that will stand the test of time, we might as well have discussions concerning the presentation of the music being churned out. Ghanaians are ready for some excitement on our stages.

Our stages may not be the most ultra-modern, and our event centres may not have functions built in them that support razzmatazz performances, but I believe there’s still a lot we can do with what we have. At least some efforts can be made to inject some excitement into stagecraft.

Maybe before your next big show, you can simply throw out a challenge to your huge fan base. Ask for a creative person to script you a unique act with which you can either open or punctuate the show with.

You never know what you’ll get!

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