It’s SAMA time!

2012-04-27 08:24

Music’s biggest night is upon us. The yellow carpet has been vacuumed and rolled out, and the eyes of music-loving South Africans will be set on Sun City for a two-night extravaganza of song and dance – and of course awards.

The 18th edition of the SA Music Awards (Samas) gets under way tonight.

But this is also the night the Sama has to redeem itself after the shambles of last year’s fiasco, which dented its image with disorganisation and general pandemonium at Montecasino in Joburg.

This year, also under the national microscope will be Zahara, the new guitar-strumming singing sensation who injected much-needed excitement and life in the music industry with the release of her debut album, Loliwe, and went on to sell more than 300 000 copies.

She is up for seven gongs and the recent tabloid gossip about how her record company is allegedly ripping her off has fuelled an even bigger interest in her. Other attractions will be multiple nominees newcomers Zakwe and Mi Casa, and someone who might just pull off an upset, Zonke.

Ray Phiri and Vusi Mahlasela are fittingly scheduled to receive lifetime achievement recognition.

But for those in the know and behind-the-scenes watchers, their eyes will be fixed on the new CEO of the awards, Randall Abrahams.

He faces one of the toughest challenges of his career, which is to get the Sama orchestra playing in harmony and reaching for greater heights.

Known for his sharp tongue on the Idols talent show, he will surely feel like an Idols contestant about to perform for the entire nation. But in his usual brusque manner, he disagrees.

“I don’t feel like I am on stage, it’s a different exercise of management.”

As part of revamping the awards, not only has Abrahams tweaked the actual statuette of the Sama, but he has taken the awards back to their spiritual Sun City home and has a few more aces up his sleeve.

He has decided to move the awards from a Saturday to a Monday for the first time in their history, with a promise of a much bigger audience.

He is confident in his stride about the viewership numbers.

“This is not a gamble at all. The show is already sold out, we have no tickets and there are no rooms available. We have a very strong TV show and I feel we will do well. I have looked at the TV viewing numbers at SABC1.”

Last year the awards were held on a Saturday and they achieved 13.6 AR, which translates to a 47% share of the market. This means they pulled an estimated 3.6 million viewers.

Generally, the channel’s prime time shows draw massive figures. In March, Generations occupied 59.9% of the market share and Zone 14 took 49% of the pie, translating into more than 6.4 million people tuning in.

On Saturdays, with the soccer matches on offer, the channel manages a measly 21.9%, or 2.3 million viewers. So there is some truth in Abrahams’s philosophy and he just might set new viewing records for the event.

Conscious of the need to redeem the awards from the shambles of 2011, Abrahams believes that he has covered all the bases and there’s nothing that can possibly go wrong.

“I speak to my team every single day regarding logistics. I deal with stakeholders such as Risa and sponsors. From last Monday I have had one-hour telephone conversations with the head of production, running logistics, tickets, speaking to the chairman every day. I am engaged in the process.

“We recognise the pockets of problems we can have. We are very careful with the element of managing the event. And now the lights have been up for a while. Rehearsals started four weeks ago. And the performers have been stationed at Sun City since Thursday,” he explains.

“I sleep soundly because I have a strong team and they recognise the significance of the event. We have a good combination of people who have been working on these events and are now working with new ideas. The ultimate ambition is to celebrate musicians and satisfy the music-crazy followers.

“I am not the focus of attention. You won’t even see me on the yellow carpet or at the show. I will be working to make sure the TV show is a success. And it’s good that we go back to Sun City because they are experienced in these events.”

Serame Taukobong, MTN marketing executive whose company has been synonymous as the headline sponsor of the awards, says they never intended to withdraw from the Samas despite the disappointing staging from last year.

“Our involvement is bigger than just the awards. Walking away would have meant walking away from the music industry. We recognise the role we play in elevating South African music. We provide an important platform for our music. We take the experiences and learn from them. We’ve learnt that the Samas require dedication.”

Taukobong echos Abrahams’s statements, saying that this year the team has been on site for a while.
“We’ve learnt that the Samas are a high-demand event. They are not just a festival. It requires focus and attention. We sat with Risa and agreed that these things happen and they have been great since our detailed postmortem.

“We have sought to correct those things that caused discomfort the last time and with Randall at the helm you can expect a world-class show.

“The problem was operational and mostly about ticket distribution. It was handled last minute and resulted in a nightmare. This year my tickets arrived a week before the event and half of my team has been in Sun City sorting out seating plans.

“We have invested on the quality of production instead of having too many people there. We want you to sit at home and ask yourself, ‘Am I watching a South African show?’.

“We benchmark ourselves with the best in the world. The Samas will not be the best award show in South Africa, but one of the best globally.”

Talking about the format of the show, Abrahams points out that it will be different in that there will be no host. They have also dissected previous instalments of the awards and noticed that every moment has to be engaging and that the element of surprise is essential.

People shouldn’t know exactly the running order of the show, he says.

The event promises a galaxy of music and TV stars, such as the year’s greatest hit makers, nominees and household names that will keep the yellow carpet buzzing. While the job is high pressured and will keep Abrahams on his toes, the steely man insists he won’t need to take a holiday on Tuesday.

“I will have to debrief everyone, sort out budgetary issues and other things. For you the show will end tomorrow night at 11, but from my point of view I have to work on plans for the next show. I still feel there are some elements missing, and some type of sponsors that are missing.”

In the absence of world headline-grabbing antics that the Grammys have enjoyed in recent history, such as the shameful Chris Brown and Rihanna physical abuse episode and the untimely death of Whitney Houston this year, both happening on the eve of the ceremony, the Sama counts on good old entertainment and razzmatazz for the small screen.

Vukile Madlala, head of publicity at SABC1, says there are special peripheral shows planned for the Samas and they include a one-hour yellow-carpet show hosted by Bonang Matheba.

It will capture the glamour and celebrity arrivals on the yellow carpet as they happen. They will also have a panel, much like the Fashion Police, to dish out expert opinion on the fashion sense at the event.

There will be a Fan Park organised by the channel outside Sun City to beam the event live to fans not able to attend the actual ceremony.

The notorious Sama afterparti

es will be dotted across the resort. They include the official SABC1 Public Afterparty, which will also be the launch of the House Flava Fo Sho album, the VIP and winners’s afterparties.

TS Records will also be celebrating their 10th anniversary as well as their 10 Sama nominees at their exclusive do. Several other recording companies will also throw bashes.

» The Sama Special Yellow Carpet Show will be broadcast live on SABC1 tomorrow between 6.30pm and 7.30pm. The live broadcast of the awards starts at 8.30pm

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