10 reasons you should (and shouldn't) care about the MAMAs

This year's MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAs) has come and gone, but artists and fans alike are still basking in the glow of that glamorous occasion. 

Wizkid was big winner at the 2016 MAMAs
Wizkid was big winner at the 2016 MAMAs

Ugandan singer Eddy Kenzo lost out on the night and took to Facebook to complain

Undeniably, the MAMAs is the continent's biggest night for pop artists. The stars gather; they get rewarded; the fans get entertained. If you need to know what's hot on the continent, then there's no better thermometer than the MAMAs.

If you want to know who has sent the fans dancing yearlong, put on your television set on award night. If you want a measure of musical artistry outside of pop, then you must look elsewhere.

Below are 5 reasons why you should care about the MAMAs and 5 why you shouldn't.

Why You should Care

5. You get to know who's hot: The MAMAs is a great place to see who has had hits over the past 12 months. The songs that have made people dance across the continent get their time in the spotlight and are often performed live. 

4. You see the biggest names: Artists recognise the reach of MTV, both across the continent and globally. Their management team probably clear up their artist's schedule to keep the date free. It is important to note that even when winning artists are absent, there is often a message recorded by said artists relayed via video.

3. Creative collabos: The MAMAs night brings up interesting partnerships between artists you probably wouldn't expect to work together. Several editions ago the MAMAs gave us 'Kiss Your Hand' by Wande Coal and R2Bees. What was essentially a freestyle tune, became a hit.

2. The sense of unity: On the night, all of the artists belong to all of the fans, irrespective of country or region. Wizkid, for example, may have snubbed Rwandan acts months ago, but when he performed 'Ojuelegba' at this year's edition, he belonged to Nigerians, Rwandans and whoever else was watching live or via television.

1. Reward for hard work: There are arguments always about who has won and who hasn't, but generally the guys who climb on that podium have put in some work during the preceding 12 months. 

Why You Shouldn’t Care Too Much

5. It is a commercial enterprise: MTV is a commercial entity. This means the business comes first; the show comes next and is linked to the business anyway. Art on any level is a distant consideration at the MAMAs. If the music cannot be seen to have a direct path to huge profit, then it doesn't get to the MAMAs. That is why the focus is on pop music.

4. It is an SA-Nigeria ceremony: The nature of entertainment on the continent puts a lot of power in the hands of South Africa and Nigeria. One has direct ties with the global music industry; the other has a huge population. Together they dominate the proceedings in culture. Together they dominate the MAMAs every year. Smaller countries have no real chance of crashing the party going on at the high table.

3. Artists to be considered must show on MTV Base: For a music award, the MAMAs put quite a premium on videos. And that is because the award is tied to a television channel. As one of its top-ranked officials said last year, "We don't feel comfortable judging music that doesn't show on our channel."

2. Elsewhere the MTV Awards are secondary: MTV was launched in 1981 in the US. The first MTV Video Music Award ceremony was held three years later. Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Madonna—all the big names—have several VMAs. Yet when accomplishments are noted, it is the Grammys first in line. Perhaps because it's a continent not a country like the US, Africa has no Grammy equivalent—the KORA Awards came close but may have damaged its own brand with controversy. The All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) is still young.

1. The MAMAs don't have a Best Album award: It may not be as dominant as it was, but the album remains relevant. In many cases, it holds the key to an artist's legacy. Because of the emphasis on videos, the MTV Africa Music Awards favours the single. A body of work takes time and gets no love from MTV. It is possible African acts see the MAMAs as a place for exposure, not artistic merit. Perhaps fans too should come to see it as such.



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