It was a special day last Sunday night as the anticipated AFRIMA event held with pomp and celebration. Present at the three-day event were industry captains, entertainment stakeholders from all over Africa, artistes, media etc. On the finale night which was the hugely anticipated awards, it was evident that it was to be an exceptional outing. Visible were artistes from all over Africa; from Kenya, South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria and so on, they turned up in numbers for the awards.
As nominees and winners were reeled out and announced, one realisation became clearly evident; Nigerian artistes, especially nominees and winners of various categories were not present. While Flavour sent his manager to collect his award, Fireboy sent a YBNL representative…Wizkid, who won the biggest award of the night as ‘Artiste of the Year’ didn’t show up nor send a video message. Someone would later come up stage to collect his last award for the night on behalf of ‘Wizkid FC’.
The award ceremony which was preceded by red carpet was electrified by many artistes with performances from Shanah, Patoranking, Makhadzi, Ruger, Zuchu, Ladipoe, Olakira, Chike, Blaq Diamond, Platini P, Calema, Remy Adan, Nomcebo of the Jerusalema fame, Zoe Modiga, Sorais Ramos, D’Banj, Cavemen and Aramide who rendered a song in honour of the late Sound Sultan and other music super stars that died in the year under review and during COVID-19 pandemic.
However, these actions by Nigerian artistes not showing up for a prestigious award such as AFRIMA, arguably one of the biggest platforms on the continent, which held in their home country, has elicited heated debate from stakeholders and fans, who feel that these artistes may be taking international award organisers, not just AFRIMA, for granted.
Same could be said about the Headies a few years ago, where many of the award winners didn’t show up. These actions have not gone unnoticed by fans and entertainment stakeholders who feel that a change of attitude was necessary from Nigerian musicians.
Toke Oloruntoba, a public relations manager, who attended the AFRIMA awards on Sunday, was visibly angry talking to Friday Treat about the issue. She said, “It is appalling to discover that many of the top Nigerian musicians were not around whereas their African counterparts chartered private jets to attend. It is becoming a trend for these musicians we hold in high esteem to miss events that they had been pre-informed about. For some, once they feel they might not win an award category, they decide not to come at all. For me, it’s the height of immaturity not to be able to even send a representative in case one eventually or surprisingly wins an award. Tonight, I expected more, seeing the huge investment that went into organising this award and the number of international musicians who are here in person. In fact, from attendance, this award shows that African and international artistes rate it highly. To see a legend like Koffi Olomide, DJ Moh Green who has over 70 international collaborations, among others, is inspiring”.
Another respondent, Chuks Okechukwu, a music investor, spoke about how Nigerian artistes may have declined attendance because of the ‘Hollywood rush’.
“The big names in the industry are eyeing Hollywood and rarely stay in Nigeria anymore. You find them in Atlanta and other American cities even when they are not booked for appearances. The focus is the American and international market. Wizkid is preparing to sell out the O2 Arena for three nights straight. Burna boy and many other top acts spend more time abroad now and this may be one of the reasons they were not around. However, just like Flavour sent representation, artistes must know their responsibilities and act accordingly whether they win the award or not”, he said.
The conversation also extended to how some of the artistes may think that Nigerian awards may not add much to them in terms of visibility, ratings, income or streams.
”We need to educate many of these guys in the music business too. Many may feel winning a Nigerian award may not increase their rates or streams anymore especially big ones. This belief makes them feel that they may not need the platforms any longer even though they may have needed it at some point in their careers. What I think many could have done is that asides sending representation if they could not attend, they should have encouraged other artistes who aspire to win such awards to be part of it. Even if for networking, seeing how their African counterparts, beseiged the event, upcoming artistes at least, should have made sure to attend in droves.
“I will also encourage award organisers as big as the Headies and AFRIMA awards to also find a way to sustain the momentum post-event so that the artistes know that they still get visibility and mileage beyond the main event”, Okechukwu said.
VJ Adams, who was one of the red carpet hosts spoke to Friday Treat, said that though the trend was rampant now, especially with the global acceptance of Afrobeats and Nigerian music, stressed the need for continuous engagement between all stakeholders to ensure that such hugely anticipated continental events get maximum collaboration.
“Many of the points raised are valid but every hand has to be on deck to make it work. If the organisers can find a strategy to get the artistes to commit better, it makes everything better. It is a problem we have to address because the Grammys which is like the biggest musical awards platform, has even people like Kanye West, who always criticises the awards, would always make sure to attend and be a part of it. The Grammys have remained one that everyone, no matter how many they might have won in the past, always want another because of the perception of value that they feel it adds to them. So, we have to find a way to create a value exchange system that favours everyone.
Speaking exclusively to Friday Treat, the organiser of the AFRIMA awards, Mr Mike Dada, said that the platform was set up to be bigger than any individual, which was why it collaborated with the African Union and other multinational organisations to deliver the best continental event yearly.
“That some artistes could not attend is not a problem and even understandable. Wizkid has, for instance, reached out and explained his reasons for being unavoidably absent. AFRIMA is set up in a way that it is bigger than any individual. We have many industry professionals working all year long to ensure that the awards platform is credible and all encompassing. If not for COVID-19, we usually hold three musical events yearly to continually engage the winning acts to give them the desired visibility and also to celebrate them. We will continue to do better because AFRIMA is here to stay. It has become an African sensation and we intend to keep it that way”, he said.