MUSIC AWARDS IN NIGERIA: ENTHRONING INTEGRITY
By Seun Apara (www.eraveng.com)
E-RAVE SPECIAL FEATURE
MUSIC AWARDS IN NIGERIA: ENTHRONING INTEGRITY
In the history of America’s music calendar, majority of the artistes look forward to one night with glee, fondness and great sense of anticipation in their hearts and only very few events are credited for arousing these feelings; especially the prestigious GRAMMY Awards!
It is startling that after 52 years since its inception, the Grammy Awards has not lost its credibility in any way. This made me ponder for a long time if there is a replication of such an event in Nigeria that the music industry especially the artistes particularly look forward to with so much enthusiasm like the GRAMMY.
As much we would have loved to, most of us couldn’t make it to the event but footages reveal that the event remains the most glamorous and credible music awards in the entire world. The artistes were well dressed for the evening. They honoured the ceremony because of its credibility and they wanted to be counted not just because they were ‘persuaded’ upon to attend. The enthusiasm on the faces of the nominees showed that they craved so much to win. The expressions on their faces couldn’t hide how much they desired the statuette. They love and appreciate the awards that have been in existence before most of them were born. But the reverse seems to be the case ‘to some extent’ back home here in Nigeria.
A typical Nigerian artiste has one or two things to complain about our awards. African China, Dagrin (in blessed memory), P-Square and host of others have one time or the other took awards organizers to the cleaners and that the organizers were all after what they would gain from it monetarily. Different comments, accusations and counter accusations keep flying from different corners from various artistes. They no longer hide their feelings. They are becoming more vocal by the day. Their list is inexhaustible.
At this point, one is forced to wonder why it is so difficult to have an award ceremony in Nigeria that would be the cynosure of most if not all eyes in the world. Why do majority of Nigerian artistes lose hope in the credibility of our awards? Why is it becoming increasingly difficult for corporate bodies to sponsor our awards? There are so many unanswered questions that that no one seems keen to provide answers to at least not just yet. We vividly remember few years back how the entire music industry in Africa looked forward to KORA. It symbolized our own GRAMMY then or so we thought. We loved and cherished the statuette. The awards attracted lots of people from all over the continent of Africa with South-Africa as the convergence point. But now, it has lost its credibility in a very controversial manner.
We feel it is high time we started organizing awards the whole industry would be looking forward to especially the artistes whose creativity the awards are meant to reward. What is the essence of giving someone a statuette he or she doesn’t appreciate or value? It is just like a mere waste of time considering what organizers have to go through.
Organizers of awards should make the artistes see reasons to want to attend the event. They should build the credibility of the awards to uphold its integrity. So that even after their demise or when they are no longer in charge, the awards will continue to hold and remain relevant. We need no seer to tell us that most of the people that started GRAMMY Awards are no more today. Awards organisers should distance themselves from the judgments to reasonable extent thereby creating transparent and credible judgement criteria.
Currently in Nigeria, two major awards are being held consistently and annually. They are: Headies (formerly Hip Hop World Awards ) and the Nigeria Music Video Awards (NMVA). There is also the City People EntertainmentAwards likewise the Nigeria Entertainment Awards (NEA) which holds in New-York annually. Headies no doubts raised the bar in the staging of awards in Nigeria. Their carpet (yellow or red) has always been amazing. They have all what it takes to be the biggest awards in Africa but the only snag is that it doesn’t cover all the genres. That is why the organizers of AMEN Awards need to bring back the awards. We understand the organizers have been facing sponsorship challenges but the award covers the entire music industry and as such all players should rise to the occasion. It recognizes highlife, fuji, juju, afro-beat, gospel, Islamic, talk albums, hip-hop, reggae/dancehall and many other genres that exist in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, it is the awards with the greatest number of categories ever in Nigeria. Nigeria Music Awards (NMA) was another credible alternative to AMEN but it became very controversial.
STEPS TO ENTHRONING INTEGRITY
1. The time is now for our awards to have their own academy. The GRAMMY Awards has a Recording Academy which has been in existence since the commencement of the Awards. The recording industry’s most prestigious award, the GRAMMY, is presented annually by The Recording Academy. A GRAMMY is awarded by The Recording Academy’s voting membership to honor excellence in the recording arts and sciences. The annual GRAMMY Awards presentation brings together thousands of creative and technical professionals in the recording industry from all over the world. I remember Awards for Musical Excellence in Nigeria (AMEN) had an academy called Academy for Creative Arts in Nigeria (ACAN). I served as one of the judges in the last edition in 2007. I remembered the organizers gathered lots of music heads one sunny afternoon to vet the nominees since there was a crack in the academy
2. Where winners are most likely to emerge through a voting process, let’s declare the votes of the populace by publishing the voter’s log. The masses aren’t even sure their votes count anymore.
3. Awards organisers should also leave room for constructive criticism and suggestions to further strengthen the award to be better positioned just like the GRAMMY that welcomes contributions from every part of the world. The time is now to lay a solid foundation which will determine how far the awards will go even after the initiator quits the scene.
4. Aside publishing the voters log and forming an academy with respected music heads, awards organizers should try as much possible to organize workshop/seminars every year to improve on a certain aspect of the industry.
The organizers should try to institutionalize the events some more. For music videos awards, they can organize workshops that will serve as exposé for those that intend to be music video directors or other strata of the industry. They should do more than just staging awards but look for ways to better the industry every year.
5. There should be no reason for rivalry. A guitar has so many strings but they all make beautiful melody when played together.
6. Who are the judges? How do we get convinced that the initiators of the awards don’t have candidates? NMVA has done well by actually making known the judges of the award since inception and in 2009 and they piloted an on-line/transparent voting system powered by Gobbleabba. But there is so much more to be done. We do not know who the judges of some awards are because they have not made them known at any point in time neither do they have an academy.
The general concensus is that awards organizers should have a credible academy, always publish their voting logs, make known the criteria for each category and try as much as possible to be transparent in their procedures. Organize workshops which do not necessarily have to be held during the time frame of the awards. Leave sentiments out when deciding winners. Give music buffs the opportunity to see the awards as theirs. Let’s do these consistently for five years and see if many more people won’t change their opinion about awards in Nigeria. At that point, any of the artistes that lost in the category he/she believes he ought to have won wouldn’t critize since he believes in the process that produced the winner. Most of the artistes have developed a sudden tradition for boycotting award ceremonies because they feel they have been cheated at one point or the other. These should also be applicable to all other entertainment/talents awards in Nigeria.
Most importantly, the corporate bodies can do a lot more than their current efforts as part of their corporate/social responsibilities. It’s becoming more difficult by the day to get them to sponsor our major events/awards. While lauding MTN for their consistent support for Headies in the past, we wish to note too that more is desired. They can empower the organizers to do a lot more because of the big dreams of the initiators. As big as NMVA has become in the last seven years, they are yet to have a titled sponsor. The likes of; Delta, Hilton, Master Card, Waste Management, People, Harman International and Westwood One do sponsor GRAMMY Awards. Let the corporate bodies in Nigeria take a cue from this. Even Nokia that has made so much profit from Nigeria has done little or nothing in this regard. But the company is known to have sponsored the Grammy and other great events around the world.