Taking a Critical look at the first Mtv Africa Music Awards(MAMAs)

This being a blog that focuses on Kenyan arts as well as African Music, I have been contemplating whether to voice my thoughts on the just ended Mtv Africa Music Awards(MAMAs) that was on 22nd Nov at Abuja Nigeria.
The Awards were organised by MTV Networks Africa together with  Zain, a mobile Telecommunications company that  operates in most African Countries including Nigeria.

The MAMAs had 13 categories, which include staples such as Artist of the Year, Best Male Artist, Best Female Artist, Best Group, Best New Act, Best Alternative, Best Hip-Hop, Best R&B, Video of the Year and Best Live Performance. While the focus was on promoting African artists, MTV Africa fans still got to enjoy American-infused hip hop, R&B and alternative music, so these categories  included both African and non-African artists.

Nominations for each category were decided by a group of 150 music professionals and opinion-makers from 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including artists, music video producers, and video jockeys and radio personalities.

Being Kenyan, most would expect me to be elated, however I am not, but do not brand me a hater yet.

One of the Awards  that has shocked many including myself, was to in the ‘Best Female Artist’ Category in which a Kenyan, Wahu Mathenge won.

When I saw this in our local dailies, I was perturbed. This is because I had known who the other contestants were and having heard Wahu’s music in the ever noisy Nairobi matatus, I did not think that she could actually take the award.
Other contestants who were competing in this category were, Asa from Nigeria, who I have featured on this blog quite extensively,  Zonke(South Africa), bling (mozambique) and Sasha (Nigeria).

I decided to do a check on various website to see people’s reaction to this, were Kenyan’s proud of this? Are there those who felt that she did not deserve to win?
A look at Vybes’ article comments on the awards,
November 25, 2008 at 2:50 pm
Mocha says,

He have been taking part in lots of awards but winning???…just bad luck. But i hope he win one soon.

BTW hapa hapa nyumbani, Amani is a better singer than Wahu. I was even shocked, they chose Wahu instead of Amani. Maybe they could be some sought of rigging or something…lol.

Njoki’s comments were

I do not think WAHU is the best female artist – We know what is going on. Period.

However, on Kumekucha, the atmosphere was very different with alot of congratulatory messages.

Its seems like the news of Wahu’s win is getting mixed reactions from Kenyans especially those that have listened to music by other talented Kenyan artists or those that have listened to music by the other award contestants.

Out of all this, one cannot help but wonder, what criteria were the MTV organisers/judges using to select the best femal artist?
The title ‘Best Female Artist’ holds alot of weight and it means that the choosen artist for this award has been able to transcend the local barriers to make music that can be listened to anywhere in the world regardless of the language it is composed in. This is something alot of African music artists have been able to achieve e.g Salif Keita, Rokai Traore, Angelique Kidjo just to mention a few. Sadly, this is something I have not experienced Wahu’s music, or atleast from all her previous hits. She has not yet found her place in music in terms of style and genre. The same cannot be said of Asa who’s  self titled album  gives one a feel of what subject matters she tackles, her music genre and calling as well as her firm grounding in her choosen style. One can also see consistency in Zonke whose music has alot of  the distinctive South African beats and style.

Another thing I found somewhat akward was the fact that the nominees were not required to have produced an album prior to entering the competition. This for a ‘Best Female Artist’ award is abit weird. One cannot help but wonder, under what basis was winner selected as tthe  best, a particular hit single or overall achievement?

I hope that the Awards will not make young African’s choose to sing African music that apes too much from the west.
Send me your thoughts on this.

About Kenyan Poet

Showcasing the best in Kenyan Arts;Music,writing,Poetry,fine art and art reviews as well as info on emerging art trends. “Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite…getting something down.”