Feature Opinion

In Review: MTV Africa Music Awards 2014

On Saturday the 7th of June, 400 million people tuned into the MTV African Music Awards (MAMAs) at the ICC Arena in Durban.

Phew, 400 million. That’s a lot of eyes of Africa dontcha think? Well, at least Marlon Wayans gave them their money’s worth. [Insert manic laughter here]

400 million people tuned in to see your host, Marlon Wayans, mispronounce the name of the province he was in. Never mind the fact that he made absolutely no effort to learn the full names of the presenters, simply dropping surnames he couldn’t wrap his tongue around. Mad props to Minnie DLA-MI-NI who came out and schooled the crowd on her surname when clearly, others couldn’t, even though THEY’RE GETTING PAID TO DO SO. Here’s a handy tip, next year maybe get somebody from the host country to MC? Just a thought. Man, it really blows when Trevor Noah isn’t available.

Now as much as I despised Marlon Wayans butchering names and cultures (we’ll get to that in a bit) left right and centre, the ceremony was, to its credit, punctuated with some striking performances. A time lapse tribute to the late Nelson Mandela from crazy talented street artist Rasty (who was also nominated for Absolut’s “Transform Today” award but lost to Nigeria’s Clarence Peters) was set against SA diva, Simphiwe Dana’s lullaby-like vocals, accompanied solely by an electric guitarist.

Legends Lady Smith Black Mambazo did a crazy mash-up of popular SA songs (‘Y-tjukutja’, ‘Xigubu’ etc.), giving them their signature acapella spin. Add to that the statuesque performance prowess of “Best Female” winner from Nigeria, Tiwa Savage and the boundless energy and entertaining choreography of SA group, Uhuru and we’re finally getting somewhere. Pity the low standard of production and sound has a hand in screwing up some keys moments in the ceremony. Thank god everyone already knew the words to that DJ Clock track because nobody could hear what the lead singer of Beatenberg was on about.

Oh sweet lawd, it’s Marlon Wayans again, this time in multiple pre-recorded skits. On the skits, Billboard reported: “He charmed the audience with video clips of himself portraying a clueless American reporter who stereotyped African talent during staged interviews, which were interspersed throughout the event. As the show progressed, so did Wayans’ knowledge of Africa, providing a funny, yet cultural touch to the event.” No. A million times NO NO NO. As far as I am concerned, skits like this are not funny and they’re definitely not entertaining. I find that all they do is further enforce the stereotypes and mindsets that they seek to invert or dispel. Taking off your shoes and pants because you want to be “closer to the ground” and make the person you’re interviewing feel “more at home”, is not funny. Unless I’ve missed something here. Pretty possible as by this time I was drinking to forget.

In other news, turns out weed and bunny chows aren’t the only good things to come outta Durban as Gangs Of Ballet took home “Best Alternative” but, despite being from Durban, only had one member there. Side note: GOB being in the “Best Alternative” category is almost as ridiculous as Goldfish winning for “Best Pop”.

Listen, the show wasn’t all bad, I’m just frustrated because Africa has more than proven itself on an international stage, to be rich and diverse in the field of arts and culture, with countries like Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana producing artists that have made strides to become global superstars. So why the hell are we still so content with being portrayed as primitive and uneducated?