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MTV MAMAs: Are we still on?

Foiled? The MAMAs were here and then they were not.From the beginning when they were launched to happen in the country, the naysayers got busy. Now with postponed dates having gone past and the year-end closing in, Andrew Kaggwa and Isaac Ssejjombwe seek to see if the MAMAs had any future in Uganda.

Organisers of the MAMAs believe giving an international star to host an African show will have more people talking about the show.

The very first time the rumour mill started about Uganda hosting the MTV Africa Music Awards was mid-2019.

In a tweet on August 30, 2019, First Son Muhoozi Kainerugaba talked about Tupac’s death, his legacy and how he wished Uganda could honour him when they host the next MTV Africa Music Awards.

The tweet did not offer any details though. Word was that the organisers had approved the country’s bid to host the prestigious awards – meanwhile, there was nothing about the awards on both MTV Base, the African MTV channel and neither was there any communication on their social media platforms.

If the tweet had not come from the first son, the chances of it being dismissed were high.

At that time, it is said the organisers wanted the award gala staged in December 2019 but even in November of the same year, there wasn’t any form of communication from MTV or Viacom, the parent company. Thus, they did not happen.

They were then expected to happen in the first months of the next year. But the next year was 2020.

In November, however, through a virtual event taking place in Kampala and Johannesburg, the awards were officially launched. This was after a month of a promotional campaign that saw them scatter the letter M to the levels of it being unbecoming.

Uganda was going through a heated election that for many people, misunderstanding the letter M was easier than understanding it. But nevertheless, the confusion created the attention they needed.

Controversy

The awards were launched and a date for the show was announced – February 20, slightly a month after the presidential elections.

Of course many people questioned the date, knowing how the elections and the aftermath have been for years. They believed it was too early.

And they were right – for a country that was in a partial lockdown, a presidential election, everything was tense. With Bobi Wine in the mix, a musician, the MAMAs in Kampala were even more confusing, he is a musician that had not performed for nearly two years. Yet here, the government was trying to bring Africa’s biggest music night home.

In fact, this became the first front on which the awards were attacked both by local and international sympathisers of Bobi Wine.

At the beginning of December, almost two weeks after riots that started after Bobi Wine was arrested during his campaigns, the nominees of the MAMAs were announced.

Besides some people being unhappy with the nominations, things seemed pretty normal, the awards had somehow found a way of co-existing with the political times until the last days of December.

Two Nigerian artistes and both nominees came to Uganda for what was advertised as a brunch. It turned out to be a concert, taking place at a time when Ugandan artistes had not been performing for close to six months.

Tems and Omah Lay and their manager found themselves in a tight position, getting themselves arrested and just like that, Uganda, the host of the MTV MAMAs was receiving a hit from Nigerians, the country with the biggest number of nominations, for arresting two of their artistes that were also nominees.

It is safe to say the awards did not recover from this and the events that happened after that did not help. This included a six-day internet blackout. DJ Khaled’s announcement also did not help the situation.

The DJ-turned record producer was abused online for accepting to host an award show in a country where artistes were under arrest, the attacks were so many that he deleted his own tweet two days later.

In a communication to this newspaper almost two weeks after exclusively announcing DJ Khaled as the host, on February 5, the awards were indefinitely called off.

In February, this newspaper tried to find out how long the awards were going to be postponed, for different reasons.

The paper wanted to know if there would be a fresh voting process when the awards came back; if the nominees were not going to be overtaken by events and new music or in case they took longer than expected, and also if postponing the awards could eventually become a cancellation, especially if they decided to bring them back in 2022 or 2023.

“As you may know, you can’t have Tems or Omah Lay nominated for Best New Artiste at the 2022 MAMAs,” we argued.

However, the organisers maintained that:  “The MAMAs won’t be overtaken by events, the postponement of the 2021 edition did not mean it’s a cancellation, they are not happening in any other year but this.”

It is now five months since the MAMAs were postponed. By then, voting had already closed for the award show that was set to happen in 15 days, which means if they chose to happen next month, the nominees and winners will not change.

That would be fair, but also troublesome, the kind of trouble time creates. For instance at the time of nomination, Tems and Omah Lay were clear frontrunners for the Best New Artiste accolade, Zuchu and John Blaq were simply filling space.

Yet seven months into 2021, Zuchu has built a catalogue and a following that her fellow nominees could kill for. This means as opposed to February where she could have been a distant contender, she could be a deserving winner today, yet the February results say something else.

Refunding

The past few weeks saw the MAMAs make a comeback into the news, casually. It started with an ordinary tweet by one Ugandan asking about them and later there was rumour that Viacom had refunded the Ugandan government all the money they had paid. It is said it was at a tune of $3m (Shs11.1b).

However, while addressing journalists, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Doreen Katusiime, said the awards were pushed not because of politics but Covid-19.

“We had pushed it to March but still we couldn’t have them because the Covid-19 situation was still here. As you can see it keeps changing, when we were about to do it, another wave hit South Africa,” she says.

Her statement contradicts what we already knew about the award show. For instance, because of Covid-19, the MAMAs in Kampala were billed as the first virtual award ceremony in the African edition.

This means that most of the performances were going to be pre-recorded and later compiled into one meaningful award ceremony – why would an award show that was meant to be virtual get cancelled because of a virus it had tried to avoid by being virtual in the first place?

Plus, why would a wave in South Africa affect a show whose lead nominees and possible performers were coming to a totally different part of the continent.

In our earlier interviews, we had asked some of the organisers if they were postponing the shows to a time when they could have it live, and they had insisted it would still be a virtual show.  And it is also important to note that two months after the MAMAs were postponed because of Covid-19, on May 27, Viacom, the parent company of both MTV and MTV Base, put on an Africa Day celebration virtual concert featuring artistes from different parts of the continent.

Not even Covid-19 could stop the Africa Day celebrations, which begs the question, why can’t the MAMAs happen, considering they were going to be virtual anyway?

At the moment, different stakeholders insist the awards will happen at the right time, little is known about which. Will it be the ones they postponed or a whole different one?

Speaking to the agency that handles the MAMAs, they also haven’t gotten any feedback from Viacom.

“Currently no comment. Still waiting for the documents they promised.” We were told.

While talking to this newspaper earlier this year, Sheebah Karungi noted that she was happy for the nomination but like everyone, she preferred the show was live.

“There are different opportunities that may arise when the show is live, imagine having Burna Boy and WizKid around, that can’t leave our industry the same,” she said.

The mama journey

The MTV Africa Music Awards also known as the MAMAs were established in 2008 by MTV Networks Africa now Viacom International Media Networks Africa to celebrate the most popular contemporary music in Africa.

The awards started in 2008 at an event that took place in Abuja, Nigeria and were hosted by Trevor Nelson. The following year, Nairobi Kenya was the host city at the Moi International Sports Centre and were hosted by Wyclif Jean and Akon while in 2010, the awards went back to Nigeria, this time in Lagos at the Eko Expo Hall where Eve was the host.

After these three initial events, the show had a three-year hiatus, returning in 2014 and 2015 in Durban, South Africa at the ICC Durban Arena and hosted by Marlon Wayans and Anthony Anderson respectively.

In 2016, the MAMAs still happened in the South Africa at the Ticketpro Dome Johannesburg where Bonang Matheba, Yemi Alade and Nomzamo Mbatha hosted before they went for another long break of four years. They were supposed to happen again in Kampala this year but were postponed to a date that hasn’t yet been communicated.

P-Square from Nigeria are the leading recipients of the MTV MAMAs with five accolades shortly followed by D’Banj still from Nigeria while Wizkid has three.Nameless boosts of two awards from East Africa while Sauti Sol, Diamond Platinumz, Wahu and Amani each has one.

B2C

B2C- Listener’s choice

Our nomination happened at a very difficult time that we really didn’t benefit from it the way we were supposed to. We didn’t get the visibility we deserved. We were told the awards have been put on hold and we are optimistic they will come back because Uganda paid for them so it is up to the organisers to ensure that they happen in Uganda at the right time. Whether we get another shot when they return or not, B2C deserves to be nominated because our work speaks volumes. We had “Munda Awo” last time, we now have “Kiss You”, so there will be no excuse for not nominating us.

Pallaso – Listener’s choice

Getting this nomination was a great achievement for me as an artiste. It is a great platform because it has helped me build my brand but it has also affected the brand as well because five months down the road, they haven’t come out to tell us what is really happening. My credibility as an artiste is being affected. I didn’t use the nomination the way I was supposed to. The networking, the business opportunities were all affected but I hope they finish what they started. Whether I get a nomination or not when they return, the fans decide what I deserve. I only do my part as an artiste but I would like for them to be clear so that they earn the trust they deserve. I’m not against them but I can’t affiliate my brand to unpredictability.

Vinka: Best Ugandan Act

By the time of my nomination, I was pregnant but I performed at the virtual activation. The popularity the nomination gave me was huge but after that, I wasn’t that active anymore, musically. I couldn’t use the opportunities the nomination could have given me but I hope and pray they come back but they need to first sort out the nomination process because all the nominees are from the previous year. If they come back and give me a nomination, I wouldn’t be surprised because I make relevant music but again if I don’t get nominated, I wouldn’t be disappointed because with or without them, I do music for my fans.

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