The notion that Gwamba is a contemporary afro-pop artist never crossed the mind of many; even fewer were people who remembered hip-hop musician Phyzix is still performing. That is, until nominations for the second Music Malawi Awards (Mumas) were announced a few months ago.
Just like last year, the nominations of the second edition of the newly rebranded Muma Awards were not without controversy.
Artists who have been dormant and not released any album or hit song in the year 2014 found their names on the nominations list, leaving some artists who had recoded without hope of getting an accolade.
It has been ages since Phyzix, for instance,was a poster boy for Malawian hip-hop but his name found a spot on the nominations list for 2015.
Why did the organisers of the event opt to award some artists that were not active and categorise the awards the way they did?
Bright Sonani, who is public relations and communications manager for the awards, said in the reggae category they decided to mix groups and solo artists because there are few groups in the category which would mean giving an advantage to some players.
“There are only Soul Raiders and Black Missionaries as reggae groups, so we decided to mix them because that would only be the fair way of doing this,” said Sonani.
On the afro-pop category, Sonani argued that pop represents popular music, hence some songs that do not really have a specific clear-cut genre fall into that category.
“Pop can only be a genre once the music is popular. That is where we get the idea of pop music,” he said.
On the query that some musicians have been nominated despite their dormancy in the music industry, Sonani said there were various elements the organisers were looking for in the nominees.
“We were looking for things like popularity on social media, the hype they create on their shows, the number of downloads on youtube and malawi-music.com and all that summed up gave us those artists,” he argued.
However, Alinane Mphande, a music lecturer in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts at Chancellor College, feels the organisers should have clarified what they look for in the artists.
“The organisers of the Muma Awards need to rethink their categorisation. Sometimes genres like afro-pop are so edgy that organisers need to be careful when categorising. I find Dan Lu and Lucius Banda more befitting the afro-pop genre than Gwamba and Piksy but it depends on whether the artist views himself as a hip-hop artist or as an afro-pop artist,” said Mphande.
She clarified that afro-pop is a genre of popular music which is distinguished by the fusion of African music elements with western pop genres.
“However, the lines in music have become blurred, so there is need for the organisers to come with categories that are more specific,” she said.
She said there might be no problem mixing bands and solo artists in the categories because the industry is still small.
“There is also a problem when judges choose to award artists that have been dormant in the industry as that doesn’t do well to the growth of the industry. It is failing to recognise new talent. Annual awards should focus on those that have been active that year,” said Mphande.
She, however, said award categorisation always has room for errors but cautioned the judges to work on redefining their categories next time.
The second edition of the Music Malawi Awards takes place at the Bingu International Conference Centre in Lilongwe on February 27, 2015.
The awards, organised by MediaCorp Limited and Trocadero Consulting in partnership with the Musicians Union of Malawi, act as a platform for honouring achievements in the local music industry and supporting local musicians to realise their full potential.
For this year’s event, organisers of the Lake of Stars Music Festival are acting as the official technical partner in the organisation and staging of the show.