Wizkid is back on top! | 5 takeaways from the MAMA awards in Johannesburg

Another MAMAs has come and gone. Here are 5 takeaways from the event.

Wizkid back on top: Remember when Wizkid was in a battle with Davido and Olamide for supremacy in Nigeria’s music space? Me 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 Future Awards 10th anniversary last December with Darey, and her excellence was on show once again on Saturday night.

Cassper Nyovest said it best:

Yemi Alade’s rebranding pays off: 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 Buhari’s ‘the other room’ comments. Savvy.

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.

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. Nigeria 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 hosted in 2010.

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.

2017 cometh.

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