For years, African artists have been included in “African Music”categories in award shows around the world, but after 2009 there was finally an African MTV award show that artists could be featured on for more than one collective category. Awarding African musicians on home ground makes the most sense, but when it comes to implementation, the MTV Africa Music Awards miss the mark every year, and 2016 was no exception.
The headline artist was American
Future may be one of the most well known trap artists of 2016, but what sense does it make for him to headline an African music award show? The announcement of Future’s performance, unlike other African performers, was presented to the public on the MAMAs website as a stand-alone artist, while his fellow performers were all photographed and promoted together. This follows artists such as Eve, Miguel, French Montana and Trey Songz gracing the stage in preceding years.
— MTN Nigeria (@MTNNG) 1 October 2016
What’s up with the non-African hosts?
Since the awards began, Trevor Nelson (UK), Wyclef Jean (USA/ Haiti), Eve (USA) , Marlon Wayans (USA), and Anthony Anderson (USA) have hosted the award show respectively. Trevor Noah was scheduled to host this year’s event, but was later replaced by the trio of Yemi Alade, Nomzamo Mbatha, and Bonang Matheba. Even though Trevor Noah has international appeal, his appointment as the host of the MAMAs would have made him the first African presenter of the awards in their history.
… And the recycled hosts?
South Africa loves, or loves to hate, Bonang Matheba. Her skills as a presenter are not questioned. It’s the fact that we see the same faces in entertainment that is the issue. South Africa has seen Queen B present everything from Top Billing to Revlon. She has earned her place as a top presenter, but why is she presenting everything when there are clearly other presenters who can do the job? Post announcement, the conversation about the same faces being recycled in the entertainment industry was re-opened via the #OpenTheIndustry hashtag.
As millennial’s better fight for equality and fairness if we want to see this nation moving forward. Invest in new talent & #OpenTheIndustry
— brighten (@u_bhekani) 21 October 2016
#OpenTheIndustry i feel sorry for all media studies,performing art & drama graduates the industry always shows you the middle finger
— MOREKI (@PRmudau23) 21 October 2016
They are hosted in a select few countries
The MAMAs have only been held in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa (three times) since their inception. It seems very limited in terms of where they have taken place. One would almost expect a more representative spread of host cities, right? Ghana, Uganda, Angola and Senegal being examples of countries that have the infrastructure to host an event of this magnitude.
Why don’t Swahili or Arabic get their own categories?
Coupled with the fact that we see the same countries’ artists winning awards, Nigeria and South Africa to name two, the separation of language is questionable with regards to Africa’s colonial history. For one, the Best Pop Alternative category, only had South African nominees in it. The Best Lusophone and Best Francophone categories separate art on the basis of its language of production. If the decision is made by gauging the reach of languages, then why don’t Swahili or Arabic get their own categories?
Why is ethnic music ignored?
The MAMAs are intended for African music overall. The fact that Afro jazz maestro Hugh Masekela won a Music Legend award proves that the awards are meant to recognise all genres of African music. Where are the categories for music like al-Jeel (Arabic), Benga (Kenya), and Azonto (Ghana) which are all ethnic? As such it’s unfortunate, and rather inexcusable, that there is no category for any traditional African genre. In a time when we are exploring the importance afrobeats holds for Africans ignoring indigenous African music seems remiss.
The MTV Africa Music Awards are an amazing platform for Africa to celebrate its entertainment industry, game changers and hit makers. All we ask is that they fully represent Africa, not just the Africa that’s traditionally palatable.
Peep the full list of winners here.
Written by Misa Narrates and Mayuyuka Kaunda
*An earlier version of this article wrongly stated that the MTV Africa Awards were the first African music award show. We meant the first African award show by MTV. The error has since been corrected.