Channel O Awards: Nigeria’s Rude Awakening

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Ever since the inception of the Channel O awards in 2003 with the Spirit Of Africa edition, Nigerian artistes have consistently come out top. Although in the first three years, it was largely a showcase of South African, Nigerian and Ghanaian acts. The Channel O awards gained mass appeal  in 2006 due to increased ratings around the continent and hence became a big deal. Channel O, at the time was the only syndicated Music channel in the African continent and awarding artistes from a mass of countries is definitely a cosign to take to the bank. The Channel O awards is also truly AFRICAN. All through the years, their slogans have been built around the theme of African unity. The Channel O Awards is arguably the apex award show in Africa. I have a personal issue with the MTV MAMA’S giving more stage and face time to acts from outside the continent. After all they don’t even televise our celebrated winners at their awards. BET hands out the African awards during sound-check. The MOBO’s recently announced F– USE ODG’s Best African Act Award during the red carpet segment.

The Channel O Awards has no foreign artiste and is truly a showcase of African Music through the year in review.

The 2006 debut of the Award show came at a fairly good time for Nigeria. As an industry, there was a plethora of Nigerian acts excelling against the odds. That year, 9 awards went to Nigerian acts: the most of any country. Mode 9 signed to Question Mark was in his prime, winning three awards, a huge victory for a Nigerian rapper till today. Tu Face, D’banj, Darey Art Alade, Lagbaja and Weird MC also took awards that year. From that year, Nigeria consistently had a stronghold on awards night. D’ Banj, Naeto C and Banky W have also hosted the awards at stages.

This year, Nigeria’s shortcomings as an industry were exposed by the lack of awards. I never include the Most Gifted West category in my analysis as all the songs nominated tend to Nigerian anyway. This year only Tiwa Savage and Kcee came away with Awards. Two… just two. Through out my familiarity with the award show, this is the worst performance I can recall. Whilst the Nigerian scene gets lost in it’s own bubble,the rest of Africa seems to have awakened and put in place proper structures.

The South African music industry is in a period of boom and this has led to an influx of major labels like Sony, Universal and Capitol introducing African operations working out of South Africa. Musically, their songs are of international standard but still maintain the South African sound and this year was a testament to the creditable quality of music with rapper Cassper Nyovest emerging as the star of the night.

A lesson Nigerians can take from South Africans is that Quality matters. The Nigerian music scene is being pushed more by the producers who make the epic sounds we move to. Not a lot of artistes take time to invest in quality lyrics or mixing and mastering.There’s fantastic music coming out from Nigeria and it showed in the performances. Tiwa Savage, Patoranking, Davido, Olamide, Lil Kesh, Emmy Gee and Phyno all got stage time. Those sounds can undoubtedly move any crowd so it was no surprise that we had numerous performance slots. But the poor return of awards is a signal.

One may wonder why our premier acts like Davido, Wizkid, P Square and Ice Prince didn’t clinch any awards. Rap as a genre was victorious this year, a testament to Africa’s growing acceptance of the genre. Cassper Nyovest and AKA who have released quality rap music with international standard branding were victorious. Our Nigerian rappers may have gotten some parts right however, majority of them can do better lyrically. In fact the hottest rappers in Nigeria have mainly indigenous sounds. A practical example is Ice Prince’s ‘N Word’ with AKA. I love Ice Prince but AKA’s stellar bars were too decimated his not particularly complex “I live in Ogudu/ My house no too far” type bars.

I don’t know why Davido didn’t clinch an award but he has had a stellar year so can be excused. Wizkid though, has had a lukewarm year by his standards. He dropped tonnes of material but they are characterized as similar sounding tracks accompanied by a range of low quality videos. He rounded up the year with a loosely fitting album with sub par songs. Matters similar to Wizkid’s plague the Nigerian industry. Most artistes have failed to adopt a structure and focus on the right values and that should not suffice.  At the top level, the margins of error are slim and our best acts are undermined by the structural flaws. In South Africa, the industry equips multi genre acts to blossom into commercial success. Examples being Mafikizolo, Mi Casa, Dr Professor and so on. South Africa’s structure has birthed a fantastic house music scene which is gaining popularity worldwide. Their rock music scene is also doing well.

This year our shortcomings caught up with us, and we did not get the kudos we are used to. There is great music being made in Nigeria, and to compete with the diversity of Africa, it must be mirrored in our music. We have to develop a  structure to propel the quality and beauty in our music. On a local scale we are doing great, but if we have always felt like the biggest in Africa (which I have), the Channel O Awards was a much needed  awakening.