The Mama of all prizes

2010-12-17 09:40

Once upon a time ruled ­Ernest ­Adjovi, a Beninoise impressario.

His empire stretched from Dakar to Mogadishu, Tunis to Cape Town.

Every year, the enterprising king of music would gather the finest musicians from all over Africa and the diaspora – ­Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone – to descend on Sun City and be honoured with a prestigious trophy named the Kora.

African royalty, presidents, government dignitaries, US stars, tycoons, municipal officials and fans all scrambled for invitations to be at the Kora Awards.

As years passed by, and as it usually happens in the fickle and unpredictable music industry, the Kora lost its shine.

The impressario had to fight accusations.

He was driven out of South Africa and relocated to his homeland of Benin, West Africa, where he continued with a smaller Kora ceremony.

After the Kora demise, African music became poorer.

Until five years ago.

A new sheriff rolled into town in the form of MTV Africa, dripping with bling, swagger, flashing lights and dollar signs.

No, it wasn’t Uncle Sam; it was his viceroy.

He came with all that was pop (or was it hip-hop?) – shades, big diamond-encrusted chains and grills, and a TV channel worth millions of dollars.

MTV peddled voyeurism, and the art and science of African music videos were taken to the next level.

Last weekend, we attended the third edition of the annual MTV Africa Music Awards, or the Mamas for short, in the humid Victoria Island, Lagos, in Nigeria.

The finest of Nigeria’s high society came out in full force, led by the most beautiful girl in that land, Miss Nigeria Fiona ­Amuzie, inaugural Face of Africa Oluchi ­Onweagba, radio personality Gbemi Olateru-Olagbegi and football hero Daniel Amokachi.

The Eko Expo Hall became a scene of ­celebration and wild partying as Nigeria rolled out the red carpet.

MTV rap darling Eve was hauled from semi-retirement to host the event, and top-class rappers Rick Ross and T-Pain were brought in as headline acts.

The night was kicked off by Rick Ross, and collaborations that lit up the stage included 2Face and South African rockers The Parlotones.

Big Nuz, Cabo Snoop and Paul from Angola and DRC’s Barbara Kanam put their heads together to perform Banky W’s hit ­Lagos Party.

The closing number was a ­collaboration of Win featuring T-Pain, Rick Ross, Da LES and 2Face.

The hip-swivelling kwassa kwassa of Fally Ipupa was entertaining.

He turned out to be one of the big winners of the night when he bagged the Best Video (for Sexy Dance) and Best Francophone Act awards.

Chuck D of hip-hop pioneers Public Enemy announced Miriam Makeba’s posthumous MTV Africa Lifetime Achievement Award, with no one to accept it.

Another big winner of the night was 2Face, who scooped the Best Male Artist and Artist of the Year awards.

The small South African contingent went into a frenzy when Liquideep won the Song of the Year category.

Eminem won best international act, but was not there to accept it. Only a video-taped message was shown.

The Mamas (and the Channel O Awards) have been accused of being pro-Nigerian.

This year, there was a balanced spread of wins, showing that the voting public is maturing and not simply voting by nationality.

If the awards were to rely on votes only, it would remain an all-Nigerian affair simply because of how populated the country is.

However, the awards didn’t acknowledge the diaspora, as the winners were all from the mainland.

Such is the spirit of awards.

You can never please everyone.

As the Kora dynasty becomes a distant memory and the suave blinged-up MTV generation takes the music industry by the scruff of its neck, we can celebrate the fact that African music is still unified and there is ample cross-pollination of genres and artists across the continent.

» Mofokeng was a guest of?MTVbase and DStv in Nigeria

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