Wizkid is back on top! | Here are 5 takeaways from the 2016 MAMAs

by Sola Fasasi

Another MAMAs has come and gone. It is, easily, the continent’s biggest music festival – and as always, it captured the attention of young Africans (or at least those of them in Ghana and South Africa).

Here are 5 takeaways from the successful (by many standards, at least) hosting of the MTV Africa Music Awards 2016.

Wizkid back on top

Remember when Wizkid was in a battle with Davido and Olamide for supremacy in Nigeria’s music space? Us neither. This year, quality collaborations with Drake on ‘One Dance’ – which later became the most streamed song of all time on Spotify – and with South Africans DJ Maphorisa and Emtee got him four awards at the MAMAs, including Artist of the Year.

There is now the feeling that Wizkid will be the first Nigerian artist to win a Grammy. At this rate, it is hard to bet against it.

Trevor Noah’s absence is Bonang Matheba’s gain

Trevor Noah dramatically pulled out of hosting the MAMAs at the last minute due to respiratory issues, and while you could feel the disappointment of the Daily Show’s host in his message to fans, it opened the door to a triple combo of girl power in the form of Bonang Matheba, ably supported by Nomzamo Mbatha and Yemi Alade.

Bonang co-hosted the 10th anniversary of another African event, The Future Awards Africa last December with Darey. Yes, she brought her A-game on.

Cassper Nyovest said it best:

Another star is validated.

Yemi Alade’s rebranding pays off

She was criticised for it at the time – but who random-critics-on-Twitter-who-haven’t-done-big-things-before don epp?

Yemi Alade’s decision to focus heavily on African themes in her music, branding herself explicitly as ‘Mama Africa’ in the process, has paid off handsomely to the extent that she was a secondary beneficiary of Trevor Noah’s absence, co-hosting with Bonang Matheba and Nomzamo Mbatha.

She also won ‘Best Female’ for the second year in a row, and used her acceptance speech to take a stand on gender issues, and take a swipe at President Muhammadu Buhari’s ‘the other room’ comments.

In which she confirmed that she is a girl whose head is there.

Nigeria and SA dominated, but is that a good thing?

Of the 14 music awards, Nigerian and South African artists won a combined 9, with two of the other 5 being explicitly targeted at French and Portuguese speaking countries.

The MAMAs are currently decided by votes, which makes it a popularity contest skewed toward larger and more connected countries like Nigeria and South Africa. It is true that Nigerian music especially is widely played across the continent, but the MAMAs would gain significantly from enlarging the space to include the best music from other countries.

And the one that concerns us: When will the MAMAs return to Nigeria?

Since the return of the MAMAs in 2014, the awards have been held in Durban (twice) and now Johannesburg. The quality of those events, from the lighting, stage design, sound, and the organisation of the event itself was crisp and something approaching the standard necessary for an event that is tagged as Africa’s answer to the Grammy Awards.

You will remember of course that The Voice Nigeria was shot… in South Africa.

The reasons are simple: Just as Nigeria doesn’t truly have global-standard studios, your dear country does not have an obvious counterpart to Joburg’s Ticket Pro Dome or Durban’s International Conference Center. In 2008, the Abuja Velodrome hosted it, and Eko Hotel & Suites hosted in 2010, both as a compromise rather than an option.

And the insanely expensive Eko Convention Centre is the most equipped event platform in the country.

The point here is this: there is no push from anyone in government to see that Lagos or Abuja hosts the MAMAs for the first time since 2010. Alex Okosi said as much back in August when Johannesburg was announced as the host city.

“MTV Base at its core has been showcasing Nigerian talent globally. We have staged two MAMAS here and we want to hold more, but we need to get support.”

An event like the MAMAs is drawing an ever-increasing level of attention, and any city that hosts it is likely to reap the benefits – economic, social, cultural. And the validation for audiences and a creative community desperately needing it.

2017 cometh.


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