Dancing with the Diaspora

The Kora All African Music awards ceremony

Shrouded in secrecy and tainted by controversy, the Kora All African Award Ceremony has moved to Namibia in a last-ditch attempt to become recognised and relevant with an event that is struggling to take place.

The Kora award ceremony launched in the midst of the African Renaissance ideology of the mid to late nineties. With endorsement by international icons such as Nelson Mandela and Michael Jackson, the award ceremony (held annually in Sun City) immediately became a strong initiative in bringing African musicians together and celebrating their achievements.

However the Kora award ceremony lost its direction and credibility. From 2001 to 2004, the ceremony was shifted from Sun City to Sandton. In 2005, the KZN provincial government (already host of the successful Durban International Film Festival) offered to host the ceremony and contributed R50M. The money was wasted on poor organisation and broken promises. And even though the event took place it was a devastating failure.

South Africa withdrew its support completely. The South African Kora company was wound up, and a new Kora office/company was registered in Abidjan that continued to try and sell the event around Africa. In 2008 the ceremony was funded by Nigeria, but never took place, causing government to lose $7.5M. Only two Kora award ceremonies have taken place in the last ten years, Burkina Faso 2010 and Cote D'Ivoire 2012.

In an email response to questions regarding this controversial track record, founding director, Benin business entrepreneur Ernest Adjovi wrote, “We have settled legally with each of these parties, and have the documentation to that effect. We are aware that it is human nature to focus on scandal, but cannot allow that to shift our focus and in the interests of promoting the music industry, have made the decision to soldier on.” 

After a failed attempt to host the ceremony in 2014 in South Africa, Adjovi approached Haige Geingob, president of Namibia, friend and patron of the Kora award ceremony. Namibia agreed to host the 2015 award ceremony. The award ceremony was postponed to 2016 to be integrated with the Namibian Independence day celebrations of March 21 st . Namibia agreed to allocate free infrastructural support; such as Air Namibia, Windhoek Country Club and Namibian Broadcasting Company.

Despite Minister of Tourism Pohamba Shifeta stating in the Namibian Sun newspaper in 2015, “Government does not have a budget for the event,” the Namibian ministry was reportedly pushed into a corner by the Kora event and have now paid over US$1.5 million. This is still not enough money for Adjovi. He wants a further $5M to host the event, or it will not take place and their initial investment will disappear.

Clive Morris Productions of South Africa, producer of the Johannesburg Kora events has been engaged to produce the Namibian event. Judges for the event include Namibian Eino-John Max of NASCAM ( Namibian Society of Composer and Authors of Music. )

140 musicians across 26 different award categories have been nominated to compete for the total purse of $2M, with a highest prize of $1M for the best artist in Africa. The award categories are defined largely by region, which has created criticism and suspicion as it opens up the gap for dominance by the recording industry that already promote their artists through national award ceremonies. Adjovi confirmed this. He said, “We are guided, in our nominations, by the product we receive from the industry.” 

Powerhouse Nigeria tops the nominees list with twelve, South Africa has eleven. Namibia, and Uganda have eight nominations each. The ancient musical regions of Africa have the least amount of nominees. Mali has one nominee and Senegal, home of the kora instrument, only two!

The dominance of the awards and the prize money are reserved for popular music and mainstream recording companies. A big player in the kora awards is Sony music international, which together with South African producers RockStar4000 was host of the Tshwane Municipality sponsored Dinokeng Tribe One festival, which defrauded taxpayers of R65M.

For artists outside of the major recording stables, acquiring the Kora prize money has required legal action in the past. There are a number of controversial reports and complaints. To this, Adjovi gave a long and disguised response. He said, “Our office has a strict policy of not contacting artists directly, to ensure integrity of relationships between the award ceremony and artistic community.”

The Kora award ceremony is a television show. Adjovi believes his event reaches 1 billion viewers worldwide and is therefore worth $1B. These are highly inflated figures, because the likelihood of an event taking place is questionable and if it does the event will not run smoothly. Artists and headline acts tend to no longer pitch.

Just like television killed the radio star thirty years ago, the internet is killing the television star. I believe a Kora award is not worth the paper it is written on and the award ceremony is a dumbing down of the music of the African continent, a strategy that Hugh Tracey identified as early as the 1930's, he called it “making Americans of us all.”

Details : The Kora award ceremony was scheduled to take place at the Windhoek Country Club in Namibia on 20 March 2016 and to be broadcast on SoundcityTV Africa, – Channel 327 on DSTV.

South African nominees: Naima Kay nominated in Most Promising Female Artist, AKA  nominated in Best Male Artist, Southern Africa, Moneoa and Busiswa nominated in Best Female Artist Southern Africa, Rebecca Malope nominated in Best Female Artist – Spiritual Music, Simply Chrysolite nominated in Best Group – Spiritual Music, The Soil nominated in Best Album of the Year, Yvonne Chaka Chaka nominated for Legendary Award, K.O nominated in Best Hip-Hop Artist, Mi Casa nominated in Best Urban Music Artist, Mafikizolo nominated in Best Collaboration

Namibian Nominees: Ees nominated in Best Album of the Year, The Dogg nominated in Best Collaboration, D-Naff nominated in Best Male-Spiritual Music, VM-Six nominated in Best Group-Spiritual Music , Sally nominated in Best Urban Music, Elize Dentlinger nominated in Best Female Southern Africa, Gazza nominated in Best Male Southern Africa and Erna Chimu nominated in Best Traditional Female Artist of Africa.


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