Namibia Music Awards Bigger or Worse?

WORLD over it is standard practise to periodically recognise and acknowledge artists’ contribution and performances in the industry.

For years, the music awards in Namibia were dogged by controversy when either artists pulled out, used the platform to send insulting messages to each other or even deemed the winner, a fake, among others.

For years, Namibia’s crowning moment was sponsored by Sanlam Namibia before they pulled out in 2010 in conjunction with the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation before MTC came in. The awards were then changed from Sanlam/NBC Music Awards to Namibia Annual Music Awards (NAMA).

The multi million dollar 2011 NAMA gala that will be hosted early next month promises to be action packed, with some noteworthy comeback performances.

Undoubtedly Namibia is home to some of the world’s best musical talents because of its cultural diversity and untamed vast talent busting in all corners of the country. And an event like the NAMA is of paramount importance to the development of the music industry in the country as it exposes different artists and assists upcoming performers with record deals, capital and exposure.

Unlike in more westernised societies where music awards are more about outfits and red carpet, the Namibian music awards are about who is winning what and why the person is winning.

From the look of it, this year’s event organisers seem to have pulled all stops to avoid post-awards controversy as well as make sure artists are lured into being part of the event, with increased prize monies and other rewarding incentives such as cars for top winners.

Says Tim Ekandjo, MTC’s Chief Human Capital and Corporate Affairs Officer; “We are excited about these awards that recognise that Namibian music has come a long way and just like the country itself is maturing into a well- organized and powerful influence in the region.”

As tradition, NBC will broadcast the show live. Of course part of the attention will be on whether can be viewed with good sound and picture quality by those at home, since the previous years have been tormenting for viewers. .

Sponsors include, Hyundai, Castle Lager, John & Penny Group, Sunsation, Alexander Forbes, Methealth Namibia, Metropolitan Life Namibia, Old Mutual, Bank Windhoek and Jay Jay Bodyworks.

Such an expensive array of sponsors should be welcome to musicians. However, a dark cloud looms over the presence of a host of foreign judges, not familiar with the local entertainment industry, although most top artists welcomes this as a move to avoid unfair or biased judgements.

This year’s NAMA panel of Judges consist of Clive Plaatjie (Universal Sounds owner-Namibia), Diane Coetzer (South African music journalist), Othilia Tutu Mungoba (Windhoek based television producer), Dennis Eiseb (Music Producer), Robin Tyson (UNAM media lecturer with Masters Degree in Music) and Frenchman Luc Fabre (FNCC Director).

Suleiman Kyababa, CEO of Butterfly Entertainment, the stable that brought internationally acclaimed duo Gal Level, is backafter a long sabbatical and says Butterfly’s return is largely due to the fact that the sponsors have met their previous grievances.

“These awards encourage artists to make album not tracks like the previous awards which concentrated on tracks rather than album. The categories are clearly defined and outlined and this presents artists with clear and open battle ground rather than jangled up genres,” he said.

Butterfly Entertainment welcomes the use of different judges’ background as a plus to the industry.

“The prizes are amazing, making them the best ever music awards in Namibia. The money will go a long way in helping the artists to produce quality music. On the judges’ issue, my fans are my judges, there are the ones to decide my work, for l don’t make music to be judged, but competition is good for the industry,” The Dogg says.

The music industry is a turbulent environment where egos and pride take centre stage and it is a matter of time before the potential losers, or those with fear of losing start making noise, like all the other years.

The Namibian music awards have never been short of controversy in the past and it looks like this year the losers will only cry out loud after the ‘big night’.

The 2009 artist of the year Tate Buti and his Omalaeti stable-mates, PDK, are among the few absentees from this year’s revamped awards, and Buti says he wants to see whether this year’s highly billed event will not be another case of ‘same script different cast.’

Traditional artist, Tunakie, who was nominated for the best Namibian traditional song from 2004 and 2009 says the inclusion of foreign judges is a positive thing because music goes beyond culture and language and it’s about the quality of the music, the instrument and the vocals.

“It enables Namibian artists to up their standards so as to complete on the international level and put Namibian music and culture on the global map,” she says.

Weighs in multi-award winning Gazza who is also making a return to the national awards; “l didn’t take part in the previous awards because they didn’t seem to be promoting the music industry. MTC seems to be having the interest of musicians at heart as shown by the resources injected.

“I am for the development and the good of the artists and the music industry, but anything that exploits or takes advantage of us l stay away,” said Gazza who has four nominations in Best Music Video (Shukusha), Best Male Artist, Best Kwaito (Penduka) and Song of the Year (Penduka).

An overwhelming 588 entries were received of which 262 are contesting in more than 26 categories which include Song of the Year, Best Afrikaans, and Best collaboration, Best Damara punch, Best Shambo, Best Kizomba, and Best Instrumental among others.

The highlight of the awards are the Best Male and Female artist of the year which both carry massive competition and set to be the talking point for many.

Interestingly, the old rivalry which has over-shadowed the previous awards is being renewed this year where The Dogg and Gazza are in the same category (Male Artist of the Year category).

A potential Mshasho/GMP warfare looms in post-awards reviews and that might be the testing part of the event, as either loser will look for the tiniest of holes to blame his defeat on the event organisers and soothe his mourning fan base.

“NAMA’s are for all artists, no category belongs to anyone. We have a Nomination Workshop to educate artists to be good loosers and good winners,” says Ekandjo.

But with Gazza having four nominations, The Dogg one short, together with Lady May and sister group Gal Level, the pandemonium is likely to come from their fanbase.

Not only that, both artists risk an egg on their face if Jericho and Damara Dik Ding who are in the same category stage a coup de tat.

The winners will be selected by public vote through the SMSing process and the panel of judges. The voting system consists of 40% from the smses and website votes and 60% by the judges.

Prime Focus put Ekandjo on the spot on the potential hazard that lies after the awards such as the presence of foreign judges, where the majority are white in a black owned and black run music industry.

Responded Ekandjo, “We only had two international judges; Diane Coetzer who has a vast experience and passion for music in Africa in general and Sean Watson. All judges have a sound appreciation of music in general and Namibian music in particular plus a musical ear through their profession and expert knowledge which each judge poses in abundance. Watson, MD of Sony South Africa, pulled out because of his recent promotion as MD of Sony Africa. Namibia must be exposed to the outside music world, the focus should be on whether the judges have expertise, just like in soccer, where every player wants international exposure. At Kora, MTV and other awards, it is international judges sitting there, and it is largely local artists who called for international judges.”

“The requirements were specific because the judges’ focus will not be on the popularity of the artist, but will specifically look at set criteria which look at things like the entertainment value of the song, the creativity that went into the song, the quality of production and its artistic ability. To be able to make a sound judgement on these factors it requires you to use your expert knowledge,” elaborated Ekandjo.

While the sponsors seem to have covered their backs, some musicians are not happy with the list of nominations citing that the screening process was not free and fair and that some songs were put in wrong categories.

MTC has referred complaining artists to the rules which state that entries must be albums released between November 2009 and December 2010.

“There was an extensive check if artists qualified. We checked with NASCAM and they didn’t have details regarding all the artists,” said MTC Sponsorship and Promotions Manager, Isack Hamata.

MTC has admitted in advance that there would be some disappointments about why some people did not make it.

“It was difficult in that some albums didn’t have dates on them and yet those that did, the dates were scratched off. So at the end of the day, we were faced with the dilemma of deciding who was telling the truth and who was not,” said Hamata.

MTC was forced to make changes in certain categories.

Best Oviritje: Initially had Yaranda-Ndjihumba and now its Wild Dogs -Yaranda Ohahenda

Best Rap Hip Hop: Stefan Ludik’s song “Keep it real” was replaced with KK’s “Put em Up.” 

In Best Shambo: Shekeni-Kefululu dja Ngwali was disqualified and was not replaced. This means there will now only be three nominees in the category.

For Best Newcomer: There will be only five nominees with Stefan Ludik – Black Girl, White Boy was replaced by Run Nams with the song “Hangover”.

Dixon-Down Low was removed. New additions are Fishman – Let’s Hook Up and Bertholdt - Friends with Benefits.

That’s how tough running a competition like the Namibia Music Awards can be.

Already reigning Artist of the Year Ees is out of the competition after his five applications failed to go through. And so is lady of the moment TeQuila, whose hit song, “Marry Me” with South African duo Bojo Mujo has done well around Africa, because rules state that the song must belong to a Namibian artist in order to qualify.

German based Ees whose album fell outside the prescribed release dates fumed.

“I have represented (Namibia) and I performed in Norway, Israel, Budapest, Italy, UK, Spain, Egypt, South Africa and Paraguay last year alone. I know the rest of the Namibian people know that I work hard to put real Nam- flavour music on the world map. I am happy for them (nominees) and will not disrespect them in any way. Something is different this year - there are a few judges that do not know what is happening in the Nam music industry,” he said.

That’s the test of what lies ahead of the music industry this June. But perhaps, the biggest review and analysis of who really deserved what and who didn’t deserve what will be best served after the event.

For now, kudos for the sponsors’ new initiative onto the music industry and good luck to all the nominees. Like the sponsors, we don’t expect the non-winners to be happy. PF