Why the other side of music awards rankles



Sauti Sol with their AFRIMA award.

The urge to be magnanimous sometimes hides a baser instinct to howl out in rage and frustration. This is especially when one sees how young musicians get treated by awards organisers.

Of course the plaudits go to the winners when they are deserved. One wants to assume the organisers do the right thing by the musicians who are what make the awards take place in the first place.

In this digital age, voting for the nominees is done online on laptops from the comfort of one’s sofa.

How the nominees are identified is an area and story for another day.

The Sunday just passed (November 15) saw the All African Music Awards happen at the Eko Hotels and Suites in Lagos. I won’t bother with the story of who won and in what categories, simply because it is not news. OK, because I am Kenyan, I celebrated the Sauti Sol victory in the Best Group and Producer of the Year category shared with Cedric Kadenyi. He plays keyboard for Sol and also happens to have been in university with a young colleague of mine.

What rankles is the fact there were several Kenyan nominees at these awards and one assumed having been nominated they would also be extended an air ticket to attend the awards, even if they would have had to fend for themselves in the streets of Lagos prior to the glitz and glamour of the Eko Suites on Sunday night.

I’ve since heard of one Kenyan up and coming lady musician, a nominee at the Afrima awards and quite good in my humble opinion. She is certainly cultivating a following in Kenya. She was desperate to go to Lagos to experience the occasion. Up to the airport she went only to be turned away. She had an understanding she would pick her air ticket sent from Lagos at the airport.

When she put in a call to the number she had been using to communicate with organisers in Lagos, a different voice answered and said they were not aware of that arrangement. And that was it.

It is easy to think that probably happened because the organisers already had a list of all the award winners and she wasn’t one of them. So why not spare themselves ‘some unnecessary expense’.

Winning an award would have been nice but I doubt it was the issue playing heaviest on her mind when she attempted to find her way to West Africa.

Either way it has left one person disappointed and the fear is this probably happened to many others in this country and across the continent.

Awards shows are wonderful places for musicians of diverse genres to touch base and exchange ideas.

Like a football game where at the end of the match opposing players go in search of the jerseys of their favourite players to keep as souvenirs, the intellectual exchange between musicians is invaluable in shaping perceptions.

Of course it is important for organisers to ensure formats and expenses are kept to within manageable limits. And this will continue to be a challenge.

The best the musicians can do is listen to the music of those who win these awards and then try to understand why they win.

In the process artistes need to rise to the levels where they can find the perfect balance between authenticity, originality and commercial considerations.


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