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Let music Blossom

25 April 2013
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People have already said and written so much about last week’s Namibia Annual Music Awards (NAMAs) but we won’t let that prevent us from also throwing our two-cents worth in.

 

The general verdict on the awards ceremony has not been very flattering – particularly the comments about the main sponsor MTC.

We have no intention of coming to the defence of MTC. MTC and Tim Ekandjo are big boys and can no doubt defend themselves well enough.

Furthermore, we would be the last ones to try to deprive anyone of their democratic right to voice their opinion.

Nevertheless, it is important that we keep things in perspective.

Yes, there were blunders, endless technical glitches and the presenters were not as polished or professional as one would expect at the highlight of the country’s annual entertainment calendar.

Somewhat absurdly, we tend to judge our own music awards against the yardstick of the SAMAs and the Kora Awards and even more unrealistically the Grammys, Emmys, Golden Globes and the Oscars.

The fact is that controversies and blunders often mar even these mega million dollar awards ceremonies.

That audiences often have to endure excruciating embarrassment at awards ceremonies seems to have become part of the deal.

Artists make long teary speeches thanking everyone even remotely related to them – including their dog – and presenters make off jokes.

People make too much of the fact that presenter Maria Nepembe seems to have suffered a sudden attack of stage fright.

They forget that even big-name Hollywood celebrities like Debra Messing of Will & Grace are actually painfully shy and sometimes freeze when confronted with a large live audience.

We should in fact congratulate her for having had the guts to take on the assignment when many less courageous people would have turned and run.

We tend to forget how young our local music industry is. We will call it an industry for practical purposes, even though many doubt whether artists can make a living as full-time musicians in this country.

Some of us can still remember the industry in its infancy, when we had to listen to god-awful out of tune, off-key and amateurish efforts played on cheap Casio keyboards bought from the local OK Furniture store.

However, even that represented a major step forward because these pioneers gave birth to a form of local popular music where none existed before.

The colonial authorities largely suppressed creative expression in the form of popular music.

They restricted pre-independence local musicians to either traditional music or playing cover versions of what they deemed politically acceptable South African or international hits.

For those of us who grew up in that era, there was no such thing as local music and all that most of us knew was South African music and American soul or R&B music.

We therefore, watch with amazement when we see what our young musicians of today have achieved.

The standard of composition, lyricism, musicality and quality of production has grown by leaps and bounds in the short space of 15 years.

While some complain that, much of local music is still very derivative and tends to draw heavily on South African kwaito, other regional influences or western music, every journey starts with a single step.

It’s a process and eventually we will reach a stage when we can say we have a genuinely original and truly Namibian form of popular music.

The fact that we have artists like Ees and Shishani and this year’s Best Newcomer and Best Female Artist of the Year Blossom who produce music almost comparable to that of the best anywhere in the world is truly astounding.

Similarly, the NAMAs are not the SAMAs, Kora Awards or the Grammys yet, but then why do we expect them to be. Everything is a process, and we will reach that level eventually.

We don’t even realise the debt of gratitude we owe to our young musicians and the NAMAs.

Slowly but surely they have helped us find ourselves, find each other and shape a common Namibian identity that centres on our love for their music.

They have played an important role in breaking down ethnic, language and regional barriers.

You don’t have to be Oshiwambo, Otjiherero or Damara-speaking to enjoy Gazza’s, the Dogg’s, Big Ben’s or Tate Buti’s music.

Therefore, the criticism of last weekend’s NAMAs is perhaps a little bit too harsh.

Congratulations once again to this year’s Best Male Artist Mushe and Best Female Artists Blossom as well as all the other award winners.

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WINDHOEK OBSERVER

The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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