1. Background _ the Zimdancehall Awards were started in 2013 by Phinias Mushayi. Nuff respect to the elder. He and his team put in a lot of work and effort to establish a more credible event that was embraced by all stakeholders. He personally invested resources in the initiative. After a few years, he took a break and allowed someone else to run the awards. After a year break, the former patron of the awards Oscar Pambuka revived the awards.
2. In my 2018 review, I touched on the Oscar Pambuka era.
3. Enter 2019, Blessing Hama also known as Blexs Gyver. Very ambitious but determined. Unknown to many the young man organized 95% of the awards by himself, yes he single-handedly managed the nominations, the publicity, event coordination, the fundraising and possibly he was the key player on the adjudication process too. I don’t want to shoot down his efforts. It’s commendable to see such drive and effort especially given the current economy but it will be folly to ignore the gross anomalies and not give some feedback. I will take a leaf from Marshall Shonhai’s approach to events reviews.
1. Nomination _ This is where everything that went wrong started. The foundation is the most important part of any structure. Phinias had laid a good foundation but the new organizer decided to build a makeshift structure on the side. They created a new Facebook page (ignoring the first two that were in existence) losing out on the already existing numbers. The new page sits on 3.7k. There was no website like in the past when the whole voting process was done on the site. The previous awards had up to around 30-40 categories but this time the number shot to 50.
2. The Nominees _The first stage lacked credibility and proper thought and organization, setting a bad precedent. However, what was strikingly odd about the awards was the number of culture vultures who were nominated. There was a category yemaBoss. Even on the promotional materials, these non-Zimdancehallers were more dominant. These are mainly people who have supported, financed or simply been name-dropped on songs because of their wealth and boss status. Most of them benefited more from the genre than the music did. Well, it’s a discussion for another day. – Having nominees selected by one person was a recipe for disaster.
3. Publicity _ the first promotional material that was released created a lot of doubt on the authenticity of the event. Some of the fliers contained watermarked Stock graphics and they were plain ugly. This created a negative conversation online. However, this was then fixed. – Communication for the event was very poor and still up to now the list of winners is not available on their social platforms.
4. Artists on the fliers _ having faces of artists on the fliers without getting their buy-in was a bad move. We saw several artists and their touts poking fun at the awards and some distancing themselves from the event. This sent a bad vibe to the general followers of the genre.
5. Build up _ the build-up to the awards was poor. The posts on social media lacked seriousness and gave a laissez-faire and mumbo-Jambo impression. The audience & media engagement was armature. People respect seriousness, professionalism, and credibility.
6. Date _ setting the event for Valentine was a wrong move. We know the mood on the day and artists will be performing or simply with their loved ones too and Zimdancehall is not really the valentine kind of vibe for those looking for intimate entertainment. Also in Chitungwiza, Ricky Fire was dropping his album which had several artists’ endorsements.
7. Venue _ The location was not so ideal given the biting economy. One needed 4 kombi rides to get to the venue and home and possibly a Taxi later since it was an evening event. A more central venue would have been better a choice.
8. Cancellation _ the organizer publicly indicated that the event was hanging in the balance a week before the date and made a call for help. The call was heeded 48hours before the awards by Teemak Promotions who gave the organizer the money he needed to do the event. This shot in the arm deserved more effort on the part of the organizers to make sure the event even with a small audience still went ahead with great execution.
9. Voting _ the voting process was done via Whatsapp. For 50 categories with each having an average of 5 and some even 9 nominees was likely going to be chaotic.
10. The Gong _ in the past the awards had a classy, glass gong then Oscar Pambuka introduced the certificate then the 2020 organizers had indicated a well-wisher would donate some stone-carved gongs but on the evening of the awards, artists walked away with A4 sized certificates.
11. The Event _ As the tradition in Zimbabwe, the event started late. The venue was almost empty and people started trickling in but the numbers fell far short of the mass support that embodies the movement. The event mimicked a kindergarten childs’ play event. There was no seriousness from the Dj, the MC and the few artists who performed. The Dj played predominantly international dancehall music and Afropop music. Even when Spyderman performed he sang a mix of Mavado, Busy Signal songs. The MC was a big yawn, uninspiring.
12. Artists Snub _ Most notable artists never attended except a few newcomers who basked in the glory of winning.
13. Updates _ There was a near media blackout on the event prior to the awards and during the event. If it wasn’t of Vokal (who provided the live coverage), Vokal was representing one nominee but still made to pay to gain entry.
14. Pomp and fanfare _ The general mood around the awards could be a big reflection on the dynamics within the genre. Zimdancehall is still big but not as huge as before. Well, this is a subject for another day.
15. Post the awards _ The conversation online gives a clear thumbs down on the recent awards. Yes the effort was commendable to bring back the awards but like Nico Abote said, „Organisers in the arts and events sector in Zim should consider downscaling, or postponing events if they can not execute them to a level of excellence.“ I hope Blexs does not feel discouraged after the last night non-event but takes notes and time to rectify the anomalies and engage other professionals, past organizers and get some advice. He has a great desire but all that will be futile if the results are dismal.
16. Other Awards _ I didn’t exhaust all the points but I hope awards organizers take a thing or two. We have had too much of the bad vibe around awards apart from the Bulawayo Arts Awards who have kept the bar high nationally. Maybe like Asaph said the Vibe is correct.
By the way, we won an award…… #Earground _ Best Publisher award _Until next time, the plot thickens.