|Article by Ogova Ondego
Published February 24, 2008
The pan-African Kora Music Awards, which has been on hold since 2006, has returned in 2008 with a US$1 million cash prize to the “Best African Artiste or Group.” Moreover, the event takes place not in Africa’s largest economy “South Africa” but in Nigeria, the mother continent’s most populous nation. OGOVA ONDEGO writes.
As if anticipating to be questioned on why he is bringing the awards ceremony to Nigeria after a decade of its hosting in South Africa, the Benin-born founder, president and executive producer of Kora, Ernest Coovi Adjovi, explains that his decision is guided by the fact that “Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world; it parades lots of human and natural resources. Apart from these, Nigeria is blessed with abundant artistic and musical talents that can hold their own any where in the world.”
Accordingly, the 11th Kora All Africa Music Awards will hold in Tinapa, Cross River State, Nigeria, on December 6, 2008.
Nzan Ogbe, the managing director of the Cross River State Tourism Bureau, who represented Cross River State Governor Liyel Imoke at the Kora 2008 press conference held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos, said the Kora Awards had found a home in the Cross River State capital, Calabar, because of her clean and serene environment characterised by world class tourist sites.
Created in 1976 with its seat of government at Calabar, Cross River is a coastal state in south-eastern Nigeria and borders Cameroon to the east.
Alex C Otti, the executive director of First Bank Plc, explained that the winner of the “Best African Artiste or Group” prize will be presented with a US$1 million cheque from First Bank Plc. “First Bank is supporting the Kora Awards to promote the African culture and contribute its quota in the development of African music. This is the reason we are sponsoring the US$1 million prize for the Best African Artiste or Group,” he said.
Adjovi, as if acquiescing with the constant criticism of the Kora by critics, said,
Saying that the Kora awards had not been “created to make money, and has since inception, been funded mainly by myself as President and Executive Producer,” Adjovi says that he had by 2005 pumped more than US$14 million of his own money into the event.
For any one who may be interested in finding out the achievements of the Kora Awards over the past decade, Adjovi says the event has since 1996 nominated more than 1000 musicians/groups and “197 Kora statuettes presented to musicians of African descent from across the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, America and of course throughout the five regions of the African continent.”
He adds, “The Kora All Africa Music Awards has truly presented the best of African music and artists, with performances over the years from established luminaries like Gerald Levert, Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomide, Kelly Price, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Oliver Mtukudzi, Brenda Fassie, Angie Stone, Jeff Maluleke and Oliver N’Goma, Bebe Winans, Michael Jackson and Missy Elliot among many others.”
Drawing a distinction between “established luminaries” and “awardees”, Adjovi adds: “However, the KORA Music Awardees include Salif Keita, Yvonne Chaka-Chaka, Meiwey, Sammie Okposo, Thandiswa Mazwai, Sunny Nneji, Kunle Ayo, Ayuba, Ade Bantu, JCC & 419 Squad, Femi Kuti, Awilo Longomba, late Brenda Fassie and VIP among numerous others.”
And then he mentions the contentious issue of dishing out Kora Music Awards statuettes to non-musicians for what critics term as public relations and marketing purposes: “Ten Legendary Awards have been presented to distinguished personalities who have contributed to the betterment of African continent; a better understanding of African cultures and positive images of African society.”
Among those “distinguished personalities” who have been honoured by the Kora organisers include Bill Clinton (former US president), Alpha Oumar Konare (former president of Mali and chairman of the African Union Commission), Nelson Mandela (former South African president), Graca Machel (former Mozambican first lady), Kofi Annan (former UN secretary-general, and Dr Cheick Modibo Diarra (an astro-physician and president of Microsoft Africa).
Perhaps Adjovi needs to know that such “distinguished personalities” have their own award scheme that is organised and sponsored by Sudan-born Mohamed Ibrahim, founder and former chairman of Celtel International. Joaquin Chisano (former president of Mozambique) won this Celtel Africa Leadership Award in 2007. No musician “no matter how distinguished” was considered for this award that is reserved for former sub-Saharan African presidents and thus has a clearly defined criterion.
As for singling out the likes of Salif Keita, Koffi Olomide, Papa Wemba, Oliver Mtukudzi and Yvonne Chaka Chaka for awards makes little difference as these artists are already major players on the world stage. Perhaps the Kora organizers would have reason to brag if they had identified, nurtured, and then ushered a little known musician on the international stage?
In the press release he sent out in October 2006 halting the Kora Awards, Adjovi had said, “The Kora Awards were not easy to arrange as there were many disappointments and sponsorship was not forthcoming as promised. Many key institutions did not fulfill their promises and in one case there were legal obligations.”
Even though he had “not been financially successful” despite ploughing “in millions of rands and dollars into this project,” Adjovi had said, “it has been worth the effort because of the joy and celebration this event brought to African musicians. I regard my financial losses, which were significant but a worthwhile price to pay, because the Kora brought the concept of African unity closer to fulfillment.”
Promising “to revamp the whole system of Kora so that it is more
Thus having taken two years instead of one to put his act together, it is hoped that Adjovi has managed to remove the hiccups that characterized the event over the years and forced critics to dismiss it as lacking merit.
To determine the “Best Artist or Group”, each with male and female sub-categories, Africa has been split into four regions. It is from this regional categorisation that the overall winner of the big cash prize of US$ 1,000,000 will emerge. This “Best Artist or Group of the Continent” will be chosen from the “Best Artists or Groups” of all the regions as follows: East Africa (Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Iles Eparses (Scattered Islands), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Le Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion Island, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda); Central Africa (Angola, Cameroon, Central Africa, Chad, Congo, Dem. Rep. of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe); Southern Africa (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe); and West Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, la Sainte-Hélène, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo).
The non-regional categories, on the other hand, include: Best Traditional Artist or Group, Best Hip-hop Artist or Group, Best Ragga Artist or Group, Best Reggae Artist or Group, Best Spiritual Artist or Group, Best African Video Clip, Best Arrangement, Best Artiste or Group of the Caribbean/Europe Diaspora, Best Artiste or Group of the African/American Diaspora, and Most Promising Artiste or Group.
This non-regional categorisation is likely to generate much more confusion than clarity. To make it easier for everyone, perhaps the Kora organisers ought to remove the categorization, “non-regional” as even the regions are likely to produce “Best Hip-hop Artists or Group”, “Best Spiritual Artist or Group”, “Most Promising Artist or Group”, and “Best African Video Clip.”
The only sensible distinction, perhaps, would be in the African Diaspora, for instance, Best Artiste or Group of the Caribbean, Best Artiste or Group of the Americas or Best Artiste or Group of Europe.
It looks like artists in the regional category will be chosen through elimination at public concerts, something their Diaspora counterparts are unlikely to be subjected to.
The Kora awards entries opened on February 15, 2008 and close on April 15, 2008. The national and regional representatives “to whom nominations are to be sent” are expected to send the entries to the Kora head office at Calabar in Nigeria before April 18, 2008. The jury is to announce the results on May 21, 2008.
Soon after this, the short-listed artists or groups have “to perform during the mega regional concerts as a prerequisite to their qualification for the final. The concert will be held in one of the biggest cities of each region. These cities will be determined in due course by the Kora Committee and will be announced on May 21, 2008 at the same time with the list of artists or groups retained,” Adjovi says. “The artists or groups performing will have to convince more than 1 billion of television viewers because each concert will be given a wide coverage on television in more than 82 nations.”
These mega concerts will be held as follows: Eastern Africa (August 2, 2008), Central Africa (August 16, 2008), Southern Africa (August 30, 2008) and Western Africa (September 13, 2008).
“At the end of the four giant regional concerts,” Adjovi says, “three artists or groups will be retained per region. These artists or groups will then form a continental group in order to run for the Best Artists or Groups of the continent. For this purpose, Africans and Africans in Diaspora are invited to participate in the voting process from November 1 to December 6, 2008 through SMS and Internet.”
The executive producer adds, “The results of all the votes will be regularly announced through radio, TV, Internet and print media. The regional and local representatives will do likewise. The SMS and Internet voting will have an important role in the process of the choice of the regional ‘Best Artists or Groups’.”
Saying the format of the SMS voting “to be done through the Kora websites” will be announced later, Adjovi says the voting “varies from one country to another, looking at population and numbers of nominees in each country.”