By Ogova Ondego
Published November 19, 2007
From South Africa’s Kora to Kenya’s Kisima and Uganda’s Pearl of Africa, music awards in Africa appear to be in great trouble; cunning people and other miscreants masquerading as lovers and promoters of art desecrate both the altar and the temple of creativity. OGOVA ONDEGO argues.
The essence of any competition or awards scheme is to be guided by clearly formulated criteria and well informed, experienced and independent-minded jury to identify, recognise and publicly award talent. It should also be independent of any manipulation. While information concerning awards bagged by a certain musician can inform such a panel of judges, it should not influence it. Anything short of this just won’t do as it compromises the credibility of the awards and renders them irrelevant. Furthermore, the judging panel does well to recognise that “popular”, as history has amply proved, does not necessarily translate to “creative”.
Organisers of events like Kora, Kisima and PAM appear to disregard the above yardsticks to their own detriment and for that, they deserve little respect from the creative sector.
I, for one, being an artist, festival organiser and judge, have great respect for any one who does anything creative but almost have no time for impostors who take creativity purely as merchandise to push fast bucks into their pockets. Shouldn’t there be barometers to gauge the social impact of one’s music, commercial success in terms of sales, lyric and thematic depth, and cultural relevance, for instance? Air play alone cannot be used as the indicator of success. And SMS and e-mail voting should certainly not replace a judging panel with impeccable credentials.
Instead of rejoicing for winning Best Video at the 7th Kisima Music Awards on September 8, 2007 at Marula Manor in the Karen residential neighbourhood of Nairobi, Afro-fusion musician Eric Wainaina said he was “shocked that I won in the best video category.”
Wainaina, no doubt a talented musician, said the video for Twende Twende album had not even been released officially. He gave away the award to Nyota Ndogo when the audience booed him when he went to receive it. For him to have acted this way, he must have realised he did not deserve the award.
Writing in Sunday Nation’s BUZZ pullout, Philip Mwaniki accused Kisima of “Lack of professionalism and handing out awards to cronies who don’t deserve them”.
Come November 3, 2007, a similar scenario unfolded as leading musicians gave the ceremony a wide berth and members of the audience openly disagreed with the list of winners at Lugogo Cricket Oval in Kampala during the 5th Pearl of Africa Music Awards.
Like at Kisima two months earlier, none of the Tanzanian PAM nominees showed up in Uganda while only Jua Cali turned up for the awards from Kenya. This trend appears not just to dent the image of such awards ceremonies but also to turn them into laughing stocks. Why would a person who stands to win an award at a ceremony for which he or she has been invited opt to skip the event to perform in another town or country as happened in Kenya and Uganda in September and November 2007?
Though UTAKE anthem was created through the collaboration of Wilson Bugembe of Uganda, Jua Cali of Kenya and AY of Tanzania, PAM organisers awarded Bugembe alone for this hip-hop single, probably out of ignorance.
In mid 2006, many people who respect and treat art like the religion that it is in Africa sighed with relief when Ernest Coovi Adjovi, the founder and president of the Kora All Africa Music Awards in South Africa, said he had suspended the event in 2006 “to recreate an amazing musical experience which will make an even greater impact for African music in the world” in future.
Though he seemed to put blame for suspending Kora that had been touted as Africa’s equivalent of Grammy, Oscar and BAFTA awards combined at the doorpost of partners he claimed had not fulfilled their financial obligations to Kora, Adjovi also appeared to concur with critics in his admission that he was “going to revamp the whole system of KORA so that it is more open and transparent” and that he was “working out a new organizational committee system so that all participants are clear on how winners are chosen.”
All going well, his statement that ArtMatters.Info declined to use in 2006.promised that the Kora would be back in 2007. The year is almost over now without any indication that the Kora will take place. But this is welcome if he is doing something to change the image of the much discredited Kora that in its 10 years of existence appeared to dish out awards for political and social correctness instead of artistry.
Among other ills, Kora organisers were accused of “Americanising” the African music sector instead of “Africanising” it in line with the award scheme’s stated objectives: promoting African artists and their works globally, uniting Africa and its Diaspora through music and the arts, and producing a world class television show that portrays Africa positively.
Critics had wondered rhetorically how an African event like Kora could dish out awards to Americans as happened in 2002. Is the African Diaspora only found in the United States of America and not in Latin America, Asia, or Europe?, they posed.
Besides taking issue with Kora on what they termed unclear criteria of selecting African Diaspora nominees, critics faulted the judging and awarding of Kora for not being executed by an academy or public polling.
While awards for female artists had gone to males and vice versa, politicians like Oumar Konare of Mali had been awarded a Kora. Even musicians like Kenya’s DNG, who at that time did not have any album “other than the single they entered for judging” and thus the quality of their work could not be gauged were declared Best Kora Artist.
As South African president Thabo Mbeki and his Senegalese counterpart Abdoulaye Wade promoted their New Approach to Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and African Renaissance slogans, the Kora Awards organisers jumped on their political bandwagon and the awards event started to give the impression that the KORA is a NEPAD meeting with an African soundtrack, as ArtMatters.Info once reported.
Is it any wonder that the future of Kora hangs in the balance?
Kisima Awards 2007 Winners
Afro-Fusion: Eric Wainana (Twende Twende)
Boomba Male: Jua Cali (Bidii Yangu)
Boomba Female: Amani (Missing My Baby)
Boomba Group: P-Unit (Si Lazima)
Contemporary Gospel: Astar (Close Your Eyes)
Eastern Benga: John De’Mathew (KiuriaKinene)
Gospel Ensembles: Jemima Thiongo (Imani)
Hip Hop: Wakamba Wawili (Musiq ya Soul)
R & B: Nikki (Niwe Wako)
Ragga: Wyre (She say Dat)
Reggae: Ras Liugi (My)
Traditional: Tony Nyadundo (Obama)
Western Benga: Jamanzi (Riziki)
Best Producer East Africa: Robert Kamanzi (R Kay)
Best Song Uganda: Chameleon ft. Prof Jay (Sivyo Ndivyo)
Best Video Uganda: Obsessions (Jangu)
Best Song Tanzania: Mantonya (Vaileti)
Best Video Tanzania: A.Y. (Usijaribu)
Best Collaboration Artiste: ke (Tatizo)
Best Video Kenya: Eric Wainana (Twende Twende)
Best Song Kenya: Eric Wainaina (Twende Twende)
Most Promising Artist: Karma
Best Male Artist: Jua Cali
Best Female Artist Kenya: Jemima Thiongo
Best Group Kenya: Wenyeji
Social Responsibility: Gidigidi Ft. Shaky, Fundi n Die Hard (Wanaume Ibilisi)
Lifetime Achievement Award: James Onyango Joel
PAM Awards 2007 Winners
Artiste of the Year: Ronald Mayinja
Album of the Year: Ssente (Ronald Mayinja)
Song of the Year: Africa (Ronald Mayinja)
Best New Artiste: Henry Tigan
Best Male Artiste: Bebe Cool
Best Female Artiste: Sophia Nantongo
Video of the Year: Burrn (Blu*3)
Audio Producer of the Year: Henry Kiwuwa
Song Writer of the Year: Sylva Kyagulanyi
Eastern Artiste of the Year: Filippe Emuli
Northern Artiste of the Year: Bosmic Otim
Western Artiste of the Year: Agatha Kaffooko
Best Gospel Single: Mukama Njagala Kukumanya (Wilson Bugembe)
Best Gospel Artiste/Group: Wilson Bugembe
Best Live Band: Eagles’ Production
Best Live Band Single: Africa (Ronald Mayinja)
Best R&B Single: Ndibeera Naawe (Blu*3)
Best R&B Artiste/Group: Juliana Kanyomozi
Best Afro-Beat Single: Kiwani (Bobi Wine)
Best Afro-Beat Artiste/Group: Bobi Wine
Best Hip-Hop Single: Utake Anthem (Bataka Underground)
Best Hip-Hop Artiste/Group: Rocky Giant
Best Kadongo Kamu Single: Ekyeddalu (Gerald Kiweewa)
Best Kadongo Kamu Artiste/Group: Mathias Walukagga
Best Ragga Artiste/Group: Peter Miles
Best Reggae Artiste/Group: Bebe Cool
Best Cultural Artiste/Group: Kigambo Araali Moses
Best Folk-Pop Artiste/Group: Doris Mutahunga
Best Male Artist (Kenya): Jua Cal
Best Male Artist (Rwanda): Rafiki
Best Male Artist (Tanzania): Professor J
Best Band/Group (Kenya): Jamnazi
Best Band/Group (Rwanda): KGB Groupe
Best Band/Group (Tanzania): African Stars
Best Female Artiste (Kenya): Amani
Best Female Artiste (Tanzania): Lady Jay Dee
Best Female Artiste- Rwanda: Queen Ally
Lifetime Achievement Award: Choreographer Christopher Kato.