Just another Sama night

No doubt there was much excitement when the new South Africa got it’s very own multicoloured Grammies 12 years ago. And they definitely have grown since then: more entrants than ever, a major sponsorship from MTN, it’s live on SABC1 and open to the screaming public, who are jammed into the Sun City Super Bowl.

There have been exciting moments over the years.
In 1995, the then kwaito king Arthur Mafokate performed a defiant simulation of anal sex in a dance routine that gave the finger to the South African Music Awards (Sama) organisers. That’s how the kwaito labels felt at the time—ignored. In 1997 Boom Shaka caused a stir with their funky rendition of the national anthem. In 1999 we saw kwaito’s growth and Afro-pop’s birth when Bongo Maffin picked up an award for The Concerto. There were years we were treated to genre-bending collaborations, like the time kwaito boys TKZee collaborated with the late great jazz pianist Moses Molelekwa.

In 2001 the event was moved to the Sandton Convention Centre and went on for over five tiresome hours. Brenda Fassie stole the spotlight that night: she ended up drunkenly accusing a prominent journalist of being a moffie who’d destroyed her with his stories. Then she fought with Mandoza, demanding that he hand over “her award”.

Last year we saw the birth of a new musical movement when Simphiwe Dana and Thandiswa Mazwai won awards and Freshlyground and Zamajobe appeared on stage.

How times have changed. Once kwaito acts felt excluded, now the show is all about youth appeal and urban popular culture. Perhaps the event is moulded to fit in with the image of the sponsors and the broadcast partner. The Sama event is now indistinguishable from awards like the Metro FM Awards and the Channel O Awards, also aimed solely at the youth market.

This year it seemed the only people over the age of 35 on stage were the lifetime achievement award winners (apart from a token performance by veteran Abigail Khubeka during Ntando’s show).

Traditional music categories—maskandi, Tsonga, instrumental music and contemporary gospel—were sidelined, presented during television ad breaks. Poor Phuze-khemisi, Thomas Chauke, Wessel van Rensburg, McCoy Mrubata and Soweto String Quartet.

With what the Samas have become over the years, I can’t imagine hugely popular sellers such as Phuze-khemisi, Steve Hofmeyr and Solly Moholo being considered cool enough to be invited to perform. We have such a diverse local music scene, yet the Sama show certainly does not represent this variety.

So much for a united musical nation. How come white media and fans don’t turn up? None of the screeching giddy fans or the reporters and photo-graphers seemed to know who the white nominees were, apart from Arno Carstens. Louise Carver, Chris Chameleon and some Afrikaans meisies walked the Y’ello carpet unnoticed, free from harassment. Others, like Pam Andrews and Malaika’s Tseli in David Tlale couture, were begged to pose.

Man of the moment Ntando arrived like a Xhosa prince with his traditionally dressed TS Record label crew singing and chanting up the carpet. In the end, they had plenty to celebrate: the publicly voted song of the year and artist of the year awards.

The 12th annual Samas added a fashion component that saw starlets prancing down the carpet in pretty frocks by the likes of Gavin Rajah, Hip Hop and the ubiquitous Sun Godd’ess. Yet it seemed that the hottest attention-grabbing accessory this year wasn’t a cool bag or killer pair of shoes, but a child. Mafokate and Bongo Maffin leading lady Thandiswa brought their daughters. You can imagine how the photographers’ flashbulbs popped.

The Sama show, presented by Top Billing presenter Tumisho Masha, was not the most entertaining ever seen, and there were too many sloppy blunders for a show of this calibre. No industry or media types I spoke to seemed at all impressed.

Triple-winner Judith Sephuma, Ntando, best kwaito and best newcomer winner Brickz and best adult contemporary in English winner Carstens put on performances that didn’t differ from their usual shows. Thankfully, best Afro-pop winners Malaika, dressed in school uniforms, shone with a performance that featured choreo-grapher Somizi Mhlongo and a bevy of teenage dancers.

Bongo Maffin walked away with the best group award, they performed alone. It would have been great to see their much-publicised performance with maskandi crew Shwi Nomtekhala, who didn’t turn up. Shwi’s album Wangisiza Baba sold 270 000 copies and so was crowned bestselling group of the year.

Deborah Fraser, the Lusanda Spiri-tual Group and Rebecca Malope paid tribute to artists who died in the past year and, as always, there were numerous. “Why is Rebecca Malope the only one here who isn’t wearing a dress by Sun Godd’ess?” joked guest presenter Kenneth Nkosi. “Because she’s always crawling on the ground, and Sun Godd’ess is quite expensive.” Sure enough, Rebecca ended her performance on the floor. And, sure enough, she won the award for best traditional gospel artist.

The revelation of the night was hip-hop. We’re far away from the days when there was no hip-hop award because there were no hip-hop records out. Gone are the days when this genre was seen as underground. Both the paying crowd and the VIPs were up on their feet dancing when nominees Pro Kid, Hip Hop Pantsula and eventual winner Tuks Senganga got on stage. Pity that love has not translated into sales figures—Skwatta Kamp’s 2004 album Mkhuku Funkshen was the last hip-hop album to go gold. Like the awards themselves, it’s time for South African hip-hop to move beyond the hype to the next level.

For the full list of winners, go to www.samusicawards.co.za

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