The long road ahead

Glynis O’Hara on the Sama Awards

THE FNB/Sama (South African Music Awards) may have opened well with a gracefully orchestrated medley representing different South African music forms, but by the time it was nearly over and Dr Victor led a line-up in a sentimental anthem about not doing crime, a lot of that promise had fizzled out.

The main trouble was the MC, Treasure Tshabalala, kept disappearing and leaving the ceremony hanging in the air. He also failed to deal with his mistake when he started calling up Gauteng MEC for Safety and Security, Jesse Duarte, at the wrong time, leaving her halfway up the aisle and not a clue as to what to do next.

Despite the fact that it wasn’t quite all right on the night, the awards are extremely important to the industry in terms of publicity, excitement generated and recognition for hard work. They’re also a marvellous live showcase, in one place, of all the different types of music being generated in our country - white rock meets traditional Tsonga meets boeremusiek meets cool jazz.

But the ceremony simply has to reach the point where it’s slick enough for a live TV broadcast, and it’s not there yet.
The soundtrack for the brief video projections on stage with each nomination were inaudible and the only presenters who bothered to work out a routine were comics Joe Mafela and Leon Schuster. They were marvellous, adapting Hier Kom Die Alabama to Hier Kom Bafana Bafana, and stealing the show.

There were two really worthwhile innovations: the lifetime achievement award, given to Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s Joseph Shabalala and an outstanding contribution award, given to one-time pennywhistler-turned-producer West Nkosi. While both these men deserved their awards and without intending to take anything from them, there are, in fact, much older people around who deserve them. It would be nice if they were given some recognition before it’s too late for anything but a posthumous statuette.

Perhaps FNB/Sama could look at organising some special events through the year to honour some of these people. Just think of the broadcast opportunities.

The other interesting feature about the awards is gleaned from the programme’s list of best-selling albums of the year, the golds (25 000 units) and the platinums (50 000). These rarely intersect with award- winners. Indeed, the Grammys have long been criticised for giving awards to top sellers, at the expense of originality, skill or inspiration.

So, in a list of 21 gold and 17 platinum sellers, only five won an award - Amadodana Ase Wesile’s Ndikhokhele ‘O Jehova for best traditional gospel, M’du’s Ipompe for best township/kwaito dance, Skeem’s Waar Was Jy? for best township pop, Soul Brothers’ Umshado for best mbaqanga performance and Rebecca’s multi-platinum Uzube Nam for bestseller of the year. (So there is one commercial category.)

There were five nominations for awards in the bestsellers - Steve Hofmeyr’s Decade for best adult contemporary Afrikaans performance, M’du’s Ipompe for best township pop, Thomas Chauke na Shinyori Sisters’ Shimatsatsa Number 16 for best Tsonga music, Abashante’s Girls for best newcomer and Rebecca’s Uzube Nam for best contemporary gospel.

Winners like Sibongile Khumalo and Johannes Kerkorrel (best male vocalist, best adult contemporary Afrikaans), haven’t even reached gold sales, although Kerkorrel’s late release last year may mean big sales this year.

Looking at the bestsellers of the year, there are four main categories that hit the jackpot - gospel, Afrikaans, township dance and traditional. English and instrumental music don’t feature, although again, both Soweto String Quartet and Tananas were released very late last year and may still rack up large sales.

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