By Ogova Ondego
Published September 4, 2007
The annual Kisima Music Awards, in its 7th edition, shall be held at the Marula Manor in Karen, Nairobi, Kenya, on September 8, 2007. This is the first time Kisima has moved out of its traditional home, The Carnivore in Lang’ata, Nairobi. Questions are raised over nomination, definition of styles like boomba and kapuka, the rationale for sub-dividing benga into three categories and why the voting deadline has had to be extended four times. Why, for example, would categories like Best Song and Best Video be given separately to Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya instead of combining them so there is one Best Video or Best Song in the Kisima Music Awards? Instead of awards in 25 categories, perhaps it would be better to have just 20? OGOVA ONDEGO interviews Kisima chief executive officer, Victor Mayeya, and media relations head, Jones Situma, who say Kisima has never been better.
How was the list of the 7th Kisima Music Awards nominees arrived at?
The Kisima Music Academy came up with the list after listening to the music submitted for consideration by the musicians concerned. The Academy listens to the music submitted at four stages-Entry, Nomination, Voting, Gala Night-before the winners are declared. The music eligible for nomination is that produced between April 2006 and April 2007. From the music submitted by the artists, a selection is made by the Kisima Music Awards Academy comprising music producers and VJs, script writers, film producers and directors, music teachers, broadcast media programme controllers and researchers in the music field after sitting through capacity-building sessions with music lecturers, renowned musicians and other experts like Joseph Kamaru (musician), Hellen Mtawali (musician and music lecturer), Marisella Ouma (Copyright Board lawyer), and Ali Hussein (an expert in online marketing). Before any song is nominated it has to be looked at from the angles of creativity, production, genre, and originality. Points are awarded in all these areas. The score-sheet then determines who and which song is nominated in which category. That means the artist and their music are nominated for the categories in which they score their highest marks. No individual can manipulate the panel that consists of 13-15 people.
What will determine who wins in which category, external voters via SMS or the judges? If external voters decide, what will be the role of the judges?
The voting is evenly distributed between public voting via SMS and online and the Academy panel who listen to the nominated songs and vote on each of them. There are no judges but a voting Academy. Then an independent audit firm tabulates the scores. No one knows the results till the envelopes they present at the gala night are opened and read. The audit firm we work with is Deloite & Touche.
The Nomination Academy is co-chaired by Kanja Waruru of STV and Sheila Amdany of Radio Simba.
Kisima has been marred by controversies to the extent the founder of the awards, Tedd Josiah, had to step aside. How has this affected this year’s publicity and participation?
That has not affected 7th Kisima Music Awards in any way. The controversies you are talking about have affected sponsorship as potential sponsors have held back their support.
However this has not affected the artists as 2007 received the highest number of music submission ever: 250. We received entries from the East African Diaspora in USA, Canada, Germany, and Australia. For the first time ever, we received an entry from Zanzibar. Even Sponsorship is improving as things are being done properly.
Some of the categories of Kisima awards, like Western benga, Eastern benga and Central benga, appear unnecessary as benga is an established music style that does not need to be re-defined.
Benga varies depending on the region from which it hails. We received a large number of benga entries this year and if we limited it to just ‘benga’ we would kill the genre and the artists. We split benga into regions to accommodate the many entries. The number of categories is usually determined by the number of entries received. If we get adequate number of calypso music, for example, we would consider it for Kisima Awards. This year we got Afro-jazz entry from Aaron Rimbui that we considered. We put together Afro-jazz, Afro-pop and Afro-benga under Afro-fusion. Should each of this grow to an adequate number, we are likely to consider them individually as genres instead of lumping them together under Afro-fusion. Kisima Music Awards are fluid enough to accommodate this growth.
Is the judging of the music submission transparent? How come some unknown musicians without albums have beaten their well known and prolific recording counterparts to Kisima Awards?
Music is dictated by listenership. Some known artists don’t get airtime. Some are not even known in their circles but their music is appreciated when it is played.
What is defined as boomba and what is the difference between it and the Kenyan version of hip hop category? Why do you single out boomba and not genge or kapuka?
Both genge and kapuka have their beats in boomba. While it is Calif Records who came up with genge, Ogopa DJs are the Originators of kapuka. Boomba combines genge and kapuka beats. Genge plus Kapuka divide by 2 equals Boomba, i.e. genge + kapuka/2 = boomba.
Boomba is a local style that has developed; it is almost like hip-hop.
In the most promising artist category you have placed well known and experienced Karma against virtually unknown Astar. Is this a ploy to give the former an easy win?
Karma is at the beginning of her career; she’s recorded just a single song that got good reviews and publicity but she yet to make it in music. Astar, on the other hand, has already released an album and is well known in gospel circles.
This again brings us to the previous issue of who determines the categories for which one is nominated in. How is it done?
This is done by the Kisima Music Award Academy using the systems and structures in place; they classify the music and put it in categories before the voting and tabulation of votes is done.