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The Big Mamas of African music

‘It is about time the world sees the great work that we African artists do,” says Alex Okosi, senior vice-president and managing director of Viacom International Media Networks Africa.

“Instead of the gloom that you often see in the media, we thought about how to showcase a youth culture in Africa that is vibrant, aspirational and beautiful.”

It was this thinking a decade ago at MTV Networks, where Okosi has been for 17 years, that gave birth to MTV Base, arguably one of Africa’s most admired music TV channels today. And so the 2015 MTV African Music awards – the Mamas – were set up to do just that: “Showcase the beauty of Africa and its creativity to the world.”

“I think all credit should go to the talent and those creative enough to do the music that they produce,” says Okosi. “And I am also proud of what we have done. Not only in changing the [music] landscape, but also in elevating it to be a platform for African artists to show their talent.”


Okosi says the Mamas, taking place on Saturday at the Durban International Convention Centre, will feature performances from African and international artists, including collaborations between artists of different genres and cultures.

“I think it is incredible for African artists to work together,” he says. “Our plan has always been to see African artists collaborating – it takes Africa further out on to the world stage where it belongs.”

Last year the awards, which returned after a three-year break, were hosted by American comedian and actor Marlon Wayans. Artists such as 2Face Idibia, Big Nuz, HHP, P-Square, Liquideep, D’Banj, Lira, Nameless, Wahu, Fally Ipupa, Cabo Snoop and Zebra & Giraffe featured on stage, along with international guests Trey Songz, French Montana and Miguel.

This year, in the spirit of the collaboration hailed by Okosi, South African superstars Cassper Nyovest and Bucie will be sharing the stage with Nigerian singer Davido and Tanzanian hitmaker Diamond Platnumz, along with Nigerian songstress Yemi Alade, who was recently added to the line-up.

Nyovest, nominated for best newcomer, best hip-hop track and best song of the year, says he has dreamed of winning at the awards and promises his fans such a performance as they have never seen.

“I’m excited!” says the hip-hop superstar whose singles Gusheshe, Doc Shebeleza, Tsbip and Phumakim have blazed through the charts. “I hope I win!”

Again – and in spite of Okosi’s pro-Africa sentiments, a US actor and comedian will be hosting the Mamas. This year the funnyman in question is Anthony Anderson, the star of ABC’s Black-ish and has starred in his own sitcom, All About the Andersons.

Ne-Yo. (Reuters)

Last month, MTV announced that Grammy award-winning R&B singer Ne-Yo, probably the genre’s best lyricist, will be be joining the entertainment line-up at the awards.

He will mostly be performing songs from his sixth album, Non-Fiction, and says he’s excited to be performing in Durban for the first time. “I can’t wait for you to see what I have in store. I hope you’re ready, because I am.”

A number of international stars will be among those joining Ne-Yo on stage.

Okosi says: “We are delighted to welcome Jhené Aiko and Young Thug to the Mamas, continuing the proud tradition of combining Africa’s finest musicians with exciting international stars.”

The awards are open to all artists whose music videos have been played on MTV Base or MTV during the qualifying period for this year’s awards.

Ten of Africa’s most influential and iconic contemporary musicians have been nominated for the Evolution award, will be decided jointly by MTVBase and music fans voting online and via Twitter and Instagram.


According to MTV Base channel director Tim Horwood, the Evolution award honours “established artists who have made an indelible mark on African and global music culture, taken African music to new territories around the world, pushed the boundaries of creativity and shaped the soundscape of contemporary Africa”.

Nominated in the category are 2Face (Nigeria), Anselmo Ralph (Angola), Asa (Nigeria), Black Coffee (South Africa), Chameleone (Uganda), D’Banj (Nigeria), Fally Ipupa (DRC), HHP (South Africa), P-Square (Nigeria) and Samini (Ghana).

The Mamas will coincide with the birthday of Nelson Mandela. Okosi says that to honour the legacy of Madiba, MTV will be doing community service with many of the artists and Durban’s residents and will also give away tickets for the awards to some of the people who have volunteered to do their 67 minutes.

The awards will broadcast live on MTV Base (DStv Channel 322) and MTV (DStv Channel 130) on Saturday July 18. The show will also be transmitted worldwide on partner stations and content platforms.

•?To see the full nomination list and vote for your favourite artist, visit

•?Sthembiso Sithole’s trip to the Mamas is sponsored by MTV

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Sthembiso Sithole
Sthembiso Sithole is a social media specialist. He recently studied BA Honours in Journalism and Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. In 2014, he obtained his journalism qualification at Tshwane University of Technology. He has achieved so much, and there are tons more he dreams of accomplishing. He has written for The Star, was a blogger for JournTau, worked at SABC as a Digital News Producer and was formerly the Mail & Guardians social media editor.

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