Samas hits the wrong note … again

If you have been a follower of South African music over the past 20 years and don’t get excited about the sheer brilliance this country has produced, I don’t know what you’ve been listening to. 

And this year was the 20th annual South African Music awards (Samas) – coinciding with the country’s 20 years of democracy celebrations. Exciting right? 

No. Not exciting. Because, much like previous years, the Samas, one of our biggest, longest-running annual music events, just hasn’t been able to get it right. So much for celebrating local talent.

It appeared as if the presenters hadn’t attended rehearsals – the constant stumbling and stammering and general lack of preparedness did little to hold the viewer’s attention. 

First up to present the award for best pop album was singer Vusi Nova, who could hardly string three words together. I actually have no clue what he said. All I know is that Mafikizolo won and that’s about it. Not sure whether it was nerves or because he couldn’t see what’s on the teleprompter. 

Even – and I use the word “even” lightly here – Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula wasn’t impressed. 

It’s not clear why headline sponsor MTN decided to withdraw from the Samas this year but I would too if I was asked to spend money on a three-hour production that was little more than an amateur version of a high school talent show. Not only was the glitzy production we’ve come to expect of the Samas absent, there was no host or MC to knit the show together.

Singer Zonke, who won Best Live DVD and Best African Adult Album for Give and Take Live, was tasked with opening the show by taking us through a brief history of South African music. The usually eloquent Zonke gave a reading of what sounded like an obituary.

Singer Zonke.

And then the morose tone set by Zonke was perpetuated by the voice-over artist (obviously a cost-cutting exercise) continuously delivering a laundry list of presenters ranging from Kahn Morbee (The Parlotones) to Vusi Nova, DJ Lulo Café, Maps Maponyane, and Boity Thulo, among others. What ensued was a never-ending parade of the most un-entertaining entertainers in the industry. They either struggled to read the teleprompter, or made vague attempts at having random, off-the-cuff conversations with one another.

The highlights were an energetic opening performance by Uhuru, immediately followed by some initially exciting rapping by Best Rap Album winner iFani (alas, he seemed to lose momentum halfway through), and later, a moving collaboration (strange but true) between gospel singer Rebecca Malope and Judith Sephuma.  

Rebecca Malope (left) and Judith Sephuma.

Those acts and Twitter commentary were the only saving grace to a dismal and cringeworthy show. Best moment: when a “who wore it best?” moment happened. Every girl’s worst nightmare played out when it appeared that Rebecca Molope and Boity Thulo (who was celebrating her birthday) were wearing the same dress by the apparently not-so-exclusive designer boutique Pallu.

Boity Thulo.

Depressing when a social media debate about a frock overshadows what should be an auspicious occasion. Can someone say yellow dress? The conversation needs to continue but most of us are getting sick and tired of writing about how badly award shows are produced in the country. Ragging award shows has become a national sport. 

The South African Music Awards should be the grand dame of music awards ceremonies – yet is being outdone by the Metro FM Music awards, the Channel O Music Video awards and I am sure by the upcoming MTV Africa Music awards if the performances at the nominations party are anything to go by.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

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