President of Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), Bice Osei Kufour, popularly known as Obour, spoke on his re-election and the issue of embezzlement his critics and opponents claim he is guilty of which almost destroyed his music ambition and plans for Ghanaian musicians and the music industry at large. In an interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, the easy going but passionate president of musicians in Ghana shared how he defeated his opponents in the just concluded MUSIGA election and what he intends to do in another four year tenure.
What do you think worked for you in the past MUSIGA election, despite the fact that you were being faced with serious allegations from your opponents?
I think the electorates were discerning and the delegates of the Musicians Union of Ghana were not influenced by the multiple political propaganda but they rather looked at the work that had been done, the vision that was projected and how far we have come on the vision. And they felt it would be a waste of time if they let go of that vision without taking it to its logical conclusion. They believed in the good work we have done, the achievements we have churned out and so, they wanted to give us the opportunity to continue with the vision.
The Musicians Union of Ghana has been around since 1975, but every leader had been faced with his own fair share of challenges. Before I took over the leadership of the union, one of the key issues facing the union was accountability, transparency, and financial crisis. There was a time the union had very difficult financial crisis and we had to lay off most of our workers. Actually, the office was operating once a week because we couldn’t do the whole week. So, these were a few of the issues we were dealing with.
So, why were you accused of embezzling the union’s money?
Once someone takes up a position of leadership, people just get up and talk about embezzlement. They just make accusations without any justification or proof. I am gradually developing a new form of dislike for such comments. Why would you say somebody is corrupt just because you feel like saying it. In my part of this world, when people are corrupt, you drag them to court, and they are jailed at the end of the day. If I find out that somebody is corrupt, that is what I would do. When I found out the board of a union associated with music in Ghana was doing something like that, we took them on. We took them to court, and the court put an injunction on their operation.
What is your take on the issue of piracy in this part of the world?
Piracy has become cancerous. Whether we like it or not we are gradually living with it. But again, for us at MUSIGA we cannot sleep on piracy. We’ve constantly partnered state agencies that have the mandate to battle piracy. Piracy is an issue of illegality, it’s criminal. So, really, when somebody pirates, it’s not just my responsibility as president to bring that person to book, but it’s the responsibility of the police and every discerning Ghanaian and state organizations responsible for the copyright enforcement and the society to fight piracy. We give them all our support and work with them through different activities; seminars and awareness for both users and makers of the music, and sound recording.
What are your plans for musicians for another four years as the MUSIGA president?
The Musicians Union of Ghana is working on a four year development plan in which we’ve executed many and currently, my executive and I are drafting another development plan for four years.
Ghana Music Week was launched in the United States recently. What is the motive?
It is in line with our mission to sell Ghana music to the rest of the world. So, we started with the international launch of the Ghana Music Week Festival. It is a festival we organize in Ghana and it’s in line with our directive and new team, using music as a catalyst for tourism.
What’s the relationship between the Musicians Union of Ghana and that of her Nigerian counterpart, PMAN?
Unfortunately, the Nigerian association used to have a great relationship with MUSIGA in the early days when members of the International Federation of Musicians but unfortunately, PMAN had its own fair share of challenges and lost her membership at the International Federation of Musicians. Now, we relate more with the Copyright Society of Nigeria, COSON than the musicians’ welfare association, PMAN or the likes. But, yes, we still have a great relationship but it is with Copyright Society of Nigeria.
What is your take on the fact that Ghanaian gospel musicians are neglected by the union?
That is not true, and if it is true, it’s not me that is not giving them attention, it is the general music industry. The problem our gospel musicians have is with sponsors which are mostly corporate organizations. Apart from mobile telecommunication companies, alcoholic beverage companies do not resonate well with the messages gospel preaches and so most of the time you find it difficult for gospel musicians headlining general music events because of the nature of the sponsorship. But we are doing well to make sure gospel music is well projected.
What next after your term in office?
Our tenure is not determined by us and no matter how much we waste time, it is the will of God that would supersede. I always take it one day at a time and currently, I’m the president of Musicians Union of Ghana. I have another four year mandate to serve. I pray that God gives me the strength to go through this.
So, when was the last time you released a song or an album due to your busy schedule?
That was in 2011, but I am working on a new song now. I’m sure by next year, I should have that song out there.
Tell us how you ventured into music?
Really, I was singing in church, my dad was a reverend minister so I used to sang in church all the time. My mom also sings in church and I joined the Presbyterian Church Youth Band and that’s how I started singing. My creativity was discovered that time.
Do you think like Nigeria and South Africa, Ghanaian artistes are also doing well in promoting the country musically to the world?
I think Ghanaian artistes are doing a fantastic job, only that there is still room for improvement. We lack the necessary machinery to project the industry to the rest of the world.
How do you create time for your family due to your busy schedule?
It’s very difficult but I make a conscious effort to spend time with my family. Now, technology has made life easy, so I can use Skype or imo and other social platforms to chat and stay in touch with my family. My family is actually based in the United States, but every year, we try as much as possible to spend a minimum of four months together. It’s difficult, but I make time for it.
What is your advice for the upcoming acts out there reading this interview?
I really just say one thing to everybody who dreams to be a musician, music profession is beyond talents. Once you are building your talents, remember that you can also be an artiste manager, aspire to take musicians on tour, not everybody is cut to be a musician, composer or song writer and that is one thing l like to emphasize.
– ADEBUKOLA ADENEYE- EDAH