It’s SAMA time

2013-05-03 09:30

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The much-anticipated South African Music Awards is one of the highlights of Mzansi’s social calendar.


The first South African Music Awards took place in 1995.

The awards are run by the Recording Industry of South Africa (Risa).

There are only three awards that aren’t decided by Sama judges: Bestselling album (based on sales), lifetime achievement award (chosen by the Risa executive committee) and record of the year (public vote).

In 2004, the awards celebrated their 10th year by introducing two new categories: Song of the decade, voted for by the public; and bestselling release of the decade, based on sales. Brenda Fassie scooped both awards, for her song ‘Vulindlela’ and her album Memeza.

In 2011, the awards were moved from Sun City to Montecasino in Fourways. There were mixed reactions to the venue change and in 2012, Sun City was reinstated as the venue.

The big five

These awards receive the most attention and are considered the most prestigious:

1. Album of the year

2. Duo or group of the year

3. Female artist of the year

4. Male artist of the year

5. Newcomer of the year

The categories were titled a little differently at the 1995 inaugural Samas, but these were the top winners:

• Best vocal performance female – Brenda Fassie for her album Abantu Bayakhuluma

• Best vocal performance male –

Jabu Khanyile for his album Mmalo-We

• Best newcomer (artist or group) –

Soweto String Quartet with their album

Zebra Crossing

• Song of the year – Jabu Khanyile for


Killer collaborations

The Samas prides itself in celebrating all the genres on the local music scene. Over the years, this has resulted in some unlikely collaborations that South African audiences have loved. Here are some highlights.


Pop meets kwaito royalty

Pop sensation Danny K and kwaito bad boy Mandoza set the Sama stage on fire, right. The pair went on to release a song titled ‘Same Difference’ in the same year.


Eclectic fusion

Maskandi legend Bhekumuzi Luthuli took to the stage with electronica and dance group Goldfish. They mixed it up with Afro-jazz singer Zamajobe. The result was an unforgettable performance.

Gospel with a twist

Popular gospel group Joyous Celebration made music with Afrikaans pop singer Nicholis Louw.

Authentically African

African songstress Yvonne Chaka Chaka, left, and Afrikaans musician Anton Goosen got into the groove.


Gospel rocks

Popular pastor and gospel heavyweight Solly Mahlangu shared the stage with Christian pop/rock worship band The Plain Truth.


Harmonically zef

World-famous zef group Die Antwoord collaborated with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra on a rendition of their song ‘Enter the Ninja’, right.


Roots hip-hop

Hip-hop group Jozi took to the stage with maskandi legend Phuzekhemisi. This wasn’t the first time the group drew inspiration from old-school music – their first big hit, ‘What’s with the Attitude’, included a Vusi Ximba sample.

Different faces of rap

AKA is one of the most popular hip-hop artists, while fellow muso Jack Parow raps in Afrikaans with a distinctly Benoni twist. Together on stage, the two rappers brought the house down.

Judge and Jury

To make the awards as credible as possible, judges are selected from a wide spectrum of disciplines and allocated a category. Three former judges tell us what they think of the process.

Kemong Mopedi- Freelance entertainment journalist

In both the 2010 and 2011 Samas, I judged the Afro-pop category. I think I was chosen because as a journalist, I wrote music news and CD reviews for True Love magazine. The judging process is a little tricky and time consuming, because there is a lot of music we have to listen to. There were also some Afro-pop artists that I’d never heard of that I had to research. I learnt to listen with an open mind to ensure I didn’t put an artist through just because they were already famous.

I think the credibility of the Samas is pretty good, but the public always has some doubts because it is never fully certain that the judges who select the top five are objective enough. I was happy to be a judge and would do it again. The quality of local music

has improved so much over the past two years and I still maintain that, last year alone, South African music was way better than some of the international releases we heard. Our sound is groundbreaking and there is a lot of experimental work happening.

Percy Mabunda- Arts and features writer, City Press

I’m a jazz nerd and passionate and educated about the genre, which is why I was happy to judge the jazz category in 2012. I received a big box with more than 30 albums and had about three months to listen to and rate them.

Throughout the process, I never knew who the other judges were. I did all my scores online, but I wish we could have meetings with other judges where we can debate the albums. The organisers don’t want us to influence each other.

Judges can change annually, and that may mean there isn’t a level of consistency from year to year because different tastes dictate who gets ahead. That said, I think the Samas should be commended for keeping things as objective as possible in the voting process.

I also commend the fact that they aren’t aligned to any musical brand.

The one thing I would change is having genres like maskandi and Afrikaans sokkie music being honoured on a different night, because these musicians don’t get the publicity they deserve.

Simon Hodgson- Editor of

I was on the panel for seven years and got to judge across various categories, including best contemporary Christian album and best contemporary faith album.

I have a sincere love for local music, and through my organisation Love SA Music

I have had much exposure to different genres.

Being a Sama judge is a fairly time-intensive process. I would listen to all the albums non-stop until I felt I had gained a good understanding of the artist and their work. Usually by the time I had submitted my results, I would be completely out of touch with what else was going on in the world because I was so consumed by the music I was judging.

I do feel the Sama judging is fair and inclusive. What people don’t always realise is how many judges are involved. I think they often have the impression that it’s like an Idols setup, where three or four people have the final say. In reality there are lots of people from many backgrounds included in the judging process.

Yellow carpet glam

Glitz and glamour have always been a huge part of the Samas experience.

Ten minutes with Sama CEO Nhlanhla Sibisi

How did you find your way into your current role?

I focused on entertainment law at Webber Wenzel Attorneys before taking up my current role. The experience did me good. I’m passionate about music, so it made logical sense that my next move was into the arena I love.

What, in your mind, is your role as CEO of the Samas?

The local music industry is depressed, from a sales point of view. The Samas play a critical role in turning that around. It’s a permanent annual event that re-enforces and celebrates the art of music and the people that make it. It’s important to stop, albeit for a moment, and recognise the collective contribution it makes to our overall happiness.

What is the state of play?

The overriding message I am getting, from all corners, is one of hope. We’re well on our way out of a protracted depressed state. An artist like Zahara’s phenomenal sales success is a great example that fans are once again putting money where their appetite lies. Music piracy is still a major issue but I, and everyone within the industry that feeds us, need to be creative in tackling the scourge.

What does it take for you to do your job well?

Understanding the space. Passion and dedication help too. Expect good and bad. Investigate the bad. It’s important to understand when we get it wrong, and not to be defensive. Ultimately, though, I am as good as my team and

I always look to engage with them. The Samas belong to the public, so I look to engage there too.

What is the biggest challenge for local musicians?

Education. The basics are not known. There’s not enough around the business side of making music. Artists and musicians need to see themselves as brands and apply the same principles to their careers as successful business people do. Deciding to make commercial music for gain implies you intend being paid for your art, so work at understanding your audience and then play to them.

Awards. How important are they in your view?

Very! Recognition is important to artists and awards are a clear indicator of that. Being acknowledged as the best of the best inspires us all to work harder and create more.

What’s your favourite style of music?

It ranges. It swings from traditional one day to gospel the next. My job exposes me to a great deal of different music, and I love that. I’m a curious person by nature, so turning up a little hip-hop, or jiving to some Afro-pop over lunch, is bliss. Afro-pop is ours, and I’m passionate about promoting its distinctive-ness, so if I had to pick one that would be it.

Are you a musician?

No, no – not at all. My voice only works in the shower, and even then the drain takes strain!

Three things I’ve learnt on my journey

1. Dream big. Then make work of retrieving it.

2. Don’t run away at the first sign of an obstacle. Each one shapes and prepares you for the next hurdle.

3. No one can truly achieve success without passion.

» Get your copy of iMag in City Press on Sundays.

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