Did the Samas get it wrong?

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Boity Thulo still has a lot to offer viewers and her fans. Photo : BET Africa
Boity Thulo still has a lot to offer viewers and her fans. Photo : BET Africa


Awards season beckons. Yesterday, the 27th edition of the annual SA Music Awards (Samas) kicked off with the announcement of this year’s nomination list.

Naturally, this had opinions flying back and forth, with music fans once again decrying the final selection list. Among the more controversial nominees is Boity Thulo in the hip-hop album of the year category.

The rapper will battle it out against Nadia Nakai, Nasty C, Yanga Chief and Zakwe. Boity’s 4436 (her first musical project) was, of course, an EP – not an album – but the awards committee seems to be unbothered about distinguishing between the two. Last year, Yanga Chief received the award for his EP, Becoming a Pop Star.

The debate

An album has always been regarded as a more complex and complete creation than an EP, which is usually done as a test run for an album. It is seen as a means of trying out sounds to gauge what would work best for an album. Why not simply award EPs in a category of their own? Classing the two formats in the same category comes across as disrespectful to those who churn out full-length albums.

The approaches used by the artists are not the same, as albums are about laying and building on a foundation, while EPs are about exploring a concept. How can they be judged on an even keel? Good albums encompass a thread that unfolds as a story or theme. An EP is a more eclectic, experimental sound, aiming to find a niche for an artist to pursue on a full-length feature. A full-blown and well-stitched sonic saga is not in the same league as a compilation of sounds.

Meanwhile, Limpopo is up in arms over Makhadzi again failing to be nominated, after her 2019 album Matorokisi was bypassed last year. Her 2020 Kokovha album was more than warmly received. Her fellow Limpopo-born artists, Master KG and King Monada, were also sidelined by the Samas.

Makhadzi’s infectious melodies have enjoyed a high degree of engagement on YouTube. She released Sugar Sugar with Mampintsha three months ago and it already has more than 1 million views. She released the visuals for Red Card just over a month ago and it, too, has been viewed more than 1 million times. This begs the question: How long will the Samas continue to ignore her? Sales and views, however, are apparently not paramount and she will have to figure out how to appease the Sama judges.

READ: Is Kabza de Small the king of amapiano?

Producer Kabza De Small seems set to have a big night, with no fewer than six nominations: I am the King of Amapiano: Sweet and Dust in the album of the year, best amapiano album and male artist of the year categories, and his project Once Upon a Time in Lockdown with DJ Maphorisa nominated for duo/group of the year, album of the year and best amapiano album.

The female artist of the year nominations include the likes of Bucy Radebe, Sho Madjozi and gospel singer Hle.

It is astounding that an artist like Elaine is not among the nominees, given the run she has enjoyed off the strength of her debut EP, Elements, and signing with a major international label. The best newcomer of the year category would have been ideal for her, as not only is she vocally gifted, but her lyrics are of a high quality. In fact, those who were indeed nominated for best newcomer attracted audiences nowhere near as large as Elaine did – and not just within the borders of this country.

The stipulations for best newcomer of the year state: “The award will go to the artist or group whose entry is the debut album by that artist or group, and where such debut album – in the opinion of the judges – is by its excellence, regardless of its genre, better than any other debut album entered by a newcomer in the 27th annual SA Music Awards.”

Given those criteria, we either need to ask whether Elaine entered as a candidate or, if she did, who was selecting nominees, as her debut album was, hands down, one of the best in recent years.

READ: Elaine is a home-grown global phenomenon

What is arguably Cassper Nyovest’s most mature album was also brushed aside, much to the dismay of his fans. He is regarded as a high-calibre artist who outdid himself by creating an album with genuine substance. Instead, a rapper like Nasty C got the nod for one of the most underwhelming projects of last year. He did, however, enjoy a 2020 brimming with coverage and attention. He is also fortunate that the criteria for the best hip-hop Album are somewhat vague.

According to the Sama requirement manual, “this category is for artists who produce and/or perform music forms identifiable to the hip-hop subculture, including rap, trap and all other subgenres. All entered albums should meet the vocal performance quota of 70% of the tracks on them. Licensed tracks that are not produced and/or performed by the artist entered should not form more than 30% of the album. A declaration indicating the licensed tracks on the album should be submitted when entering.

Entrants should note that the judges will only consider the tracks performed and/or produced by the artists in question when adjudicating the album.”

Nothing is mentioned with regard to lyrical efficacy for a genre that is built on the foundations of well-written poetry, leaving this category susceptible to praising hype over artistry.

READ: Album Review | The maturation of Cassper Nyovest

We would suggest keeping a keen eye on the best Afro pop album of the year. Beyond quietly being one of our strongest, most consistent and most authentic genres, it is also stellar. Azana, Manu Worldstar, Simmy, Vusi Nova and Kelly Khumalo will duke it out, which should make for an interesting outcome, as all these projects are worthy of top honours.

The complete list of nominees for this year’s Samas

Album of the year

• Persistence – Bongo Riot

• The Healers: The Last Chapter – Black Motion

• Once Upon a Time in Lockdown – Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa (Scorpion Kings)

• I am the King of Amapiano: Sweet and Dust – Kabza De Small

• Back to Love – Junior Taurus

Duo/group of the year

• Reece Madlisa and Zuma – Ama Roto EP

• MFR Souls – Musical Kings

• Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa (Scorpion Kings) – Once Upon a Time in Lockdown

• Mas Musiq and Aymos – Shonamalanga

• Mi Casa – We Made It

Female artist of the year

• Reign Afrika – On the Frontline

• Bucy Radebe – Spiritual Encounter

• Sho Madjozi – What a Life

• Nomcebo Zikode – Xola Moya Wam’

• Hle – Your Kingdom on Earth

Male artist of the year

• Sun-El Musician – To the World and Beyond

• Bongo Riot – Persistence

• Kabza De Small – I am the King of Amapiano: Sweet & Dust

• Oscar Mbo – For the Groovists

• Junior Taurus – Back to Love

Newcomer of the year

• Xolly Mncwango – Jesus is Enough

• Reign Afrika – On the Frontline

• BandaBanda and the Crocodiles – Africado

• Azana – Ingoma Azana

• Bucy Radebe – Spiritual Encounter

Best rock album

• Chrome Neon Jesus – Ethyl Ether

• Here’s to the Now – Nathan Smith

• Orange Sunshine – Yum Yuck

• The Devil’s Cattle – Ruff Majik

• Nothing’s Gonna Change – Oooth

Best pop album

• 11:11 – Rowlene

• I Don’t Sleep – Jethro Tait

• Tribes and Angels – Locnville

• Sugar – Mark Stent

• She – Amy Lilley

Beste pop album

• 2021 – Die Heuwels Fantasties

• Die Toekoms is Synth – Synth Peter

• Twintig20 – Brendan Peyper

• Gewigloos – Juan Boucher

• Gemaklik Verlore – Christia Visser

Best adult contemporary album

• In the Kingdom of the Aloës – amaFranx

• Repaired – Jack Atlantic

• Rise – Ndlovu Youth Choir

• Take Me to the River – Connell Cruise

• The South African Songbook – Kurt Darren and the Soweto Gospel Choir

Beste kontemporêre musiekalbum

• Wandel in my Woning – Refentse

• Herverbeel – Die Heuwels Fantasties

• Net Geleen – Bernice West

• Monumentaal – Ruhan du Toit


Phumlani S Langa 


+27 11 713 9001
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park

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