Ghana: Music union calls for regulation on obscene lyrics

17 June 2016

musiga ghana
The Musician Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) has urged musicians to refrain from using profane and obscene lyrics in their songs, asked radio and tv station operators to act as gatekeepers in this regard, and called upon Parliament to step in where the National Media Commission has failed to regulate what music goes on the airwaves, reported Ghanaian newspaper Today on 2 June 2016.

“When it comes to music, the framers of our laws never foresaw these days and I want to believe that if our parliamentarians are sensitive to what is happening, I won’t be surprised if sooner than later a bill goes before Parliament where they are looking at lyrical contents, just like they have movies, so they can control what they say,” said MUSIGA Academy coordinator Ahuma Bosco Ocansey.

Union president Bice Osei Kuffour, himself a musician known as Obour, said in a statement released on 26 May 2016 that the union is “concerned” at “the rising incidence of profane lyrics” and is “disturbed” that such songs are played on the radio without edits, especially during primetime.

“MUSIGA is therefore urging all musicians to be mindful of the need to provide inspiring and positive lyrics in our songs,” the statement read. “In the same breadth, we are also calling on radio and television station operators to be mindful of their role as gatekeepers of society and be circumspect in what they play on air. We are also calling on the National Media Commission to throw their spotlight on the content of music played on air not only on the political content of programmes.”

Artists weigh in
Popular producer and musician Nana Osei, known as Nacee, agreed with the union, asking fellow musicians to be “mindful” of their lyrics, reported entertainment website on 8 June 2016.

“Some things are for kids; some for adults. So whatever we do, we should be mindful,” he told Hitz FM. “We should think about the next generation; that is it OK for anybody to consume this.”

However popular dancehall artist Shatta Wale, himself an artist who writes music with what MUSIGA would consider profane lyrics, disagreed, reported news website on 27 May 2016.

Instead Shatta Wale said the union shold rather focus its efforts on improving the welfare of musicians, as discouraging the use of certain lyrics will limit artistic creativity, which in turn will affect the livelihoods of musicians.

Radio personality and station manager Aboagye Boadi Yaw took a stronger stance on the issue and slammed Obour and his union, also pointing out the union’s lack of support, reported Ghanaweb on 2 June 2016.

“Obour has a point for calling on musicians to be conscious of their songs devoid of profane but he doesn’t have the control. If you’re a leader and you lack control then you have lost your direction. Obour has never done anything about the welfare of the musicians,” said Yaw. “Obour is a failure. He should tell us what he’s done. This is his second term. In terms of developing the musicians, he has failed.”

Egypt union exerting same controls
Egypt is also dealing with their controversial musicians’ union and its head Hani Shaker, also a popular singer, who has been banning artists for “indecent” clothing and “vulgar” lyrics ever since taking office in July 2015.

Most recently, Shaker and the union have been granted the power to literally self-police by the judiciary in November 2015, meaning the musicians’ unions (as well as the actors’ union) can legally police and self-regulate.

The issue was also further compounded when Shaker was given the authority to appoint other union members to have the same policing powers. Further, the terms of reference for these internal law enforcement officers remain nebulous.


» – 8 June 2016:
Be mindful of your lyrics – Nacee cautions musicians

» Today – 6 June 2016:
MUSIGA raises red flag over profanity in Ghanaian music

» Ghanaweb – 2 June 2016:
Obour have no control over musicians on profane songs – Radio manager

» – 27 May 2016:
Shatta Wale condemns MUSIGA over call to end profane songs

» MUSIGA – 26 May 2016:
Statement on profane lyrics in songs

Related information

» – 25 January 2016:
Egypt: Arts unions granted legal powers to self-police

» – 30 September 2015:
Egypt: Resolution against revealing clothing and “vulgar” lyrics

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