The All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA), with the backing of the African Union, has grown to become arguably the biggest award show on the continent. It was incepted in 2014 and, over the years, has drawn comparison to the Grammys or the BET Awards, but for African artists.
It is a night where all of the continent’s biggest names gather in one room to receive their flowers and filltheir trophy cabinets; the winners flaunt their hauls all over social media, and the losers live to fight another day.
Case study 1: Tetu Shani
Kenya was a big winner at the 2021 AFRIMAs held in Lagos, Nigeria, with songstress Nikita Kering, boy groups Sauti Sol and Rash Band, as well as then 13-year-old singer Shanah Manjeru flying the country’s flag.
Kering scooped up two awards: ‘Best Female Artiste East Africa’ and ‘ Best Artist, Duo or Group in African RnB & Soul’; Sauti Sol ‘Best Group’ and Rash Band was christened ‘Best in African Rock’, while Manjeru became the youngest ever AFRIMA winner – and still remains so to date – after winning the ‘Best African Female Artiste in Inspirational Music’ category.
While the winners were enjoying their spoils, not so far off, their fellow Kenyan singer Tetu Shani – who had been nominated in the ‘Best Artiste, Duo, or Group in African Rock’ category but did not win – was cooking up a storm.
Tetu hit out at the award show citing a myriad of issues that made his stay in Nigeria during the period uncomfortable. These included poor communication between the organisers and artists, the alleged exclusion of artists from other African countries, as well as poor hospitality at the hotel where the nominees were put up.
According to the Kenyan folk singer, the letter AFRIMA had sent to him indicated that they would cover his flight, lodging, meals, and local transportation expenses, but he discovered that some of this wasn’t true.
1. This year I was nominated at the @AFRIMAWARDS and went to Lagos to attend the week of events leading up to the award ceremony. I would like to share honestly about my experience. Nominees haven't been provided with opportunities to provide feedback so I will use Twitter.December 1, 2021
“I’m highlighting these issues so that there can be improvement next year. Honor your nominees regardless of their country, provide for them, communicate with them, and protect them from disrespect,” Tetu tweeted in a thread.
Tetu Shani’s voice shot through the silence and was heard, even eliciting a response from the AFRIMA committee, but was there any improvement?
Case study 2: Noel Nderitu and Kevin Provoke
The award show organisers once more came under fire this year, when at least two Kenyan acts came out to express their displeasure with how things were being conducted.
Singer Noel Nderitu, a ‘Best Male Artiste in Africa Inspirational Music’ award nominee, and producer Kevin Provoke reiterated a few of the issues highlighted by Tetu Shani, going a step further to direct all their rage at one particular individual: Nigerian national Damian Okosun, who was reportedly tasked with coordinating East African nominees.
According to Nderitu, Okosun failed to communicate that the award show had been moved from 8-11 December 2022 to 12-15 January 2023; changes that he had to find out via social media.
He added that despite Okosun having formed a WhatsApp group for the nominees to faciliate communication, the organiser himself was usually missing, hence they were left in the dark over crucial details.
I’m supposed to be in Dakar for the Afrima Awards being held this Sunday. Instead I’m in Nairobi. Lemme share the reason why myself and other East African nominees aren’t there. I write this a day b4 award show, lest they say we are sore losers 😛— Noel Nderitu (@noelnderitu) January 14, 2023
The musician stated that since the day had come and gone with still no appearance by Okosun, he decided to reach out to three other AFRIMA officials, including Executive Producer Mike Dada, but all his efforts bore no fruit as they also did not respond.
“Question is, is AFRIMA disorganised or is there more at play? Are they actively redirecting funds meant to cater for hosting nominees into their own pockets? Is the African Union who sponsor them aware of this? Or is this just how they treat nominees from this region?” asked Nderitu.
Producer Provoke, on his part, added to the chorus: “Okosun Damian is one very disrespectful individual…I don’t know how African Union are still sponsoring this sham of an event with complains every year and same crap happening to East African artists.”
In its response to musician Tetu Shani’s claims in 2021, AFRIMA seemingly implied that his dissatisfaction was brought on by the fact that he actually did not win in the category he was nominated for. Nevertheless, they went ahead to offer an apology, promising to act on it.
1. Dear @tetushani, thank you for your feedback here. We acknowledge and appreciate your perspectives.December 1, 2021
The Africa Report reached out to Okosun for comment and his response on the issues raised by the Kenyan artists over the 2023 AFRIMA, and what they – as an organisation – are doing to keep future nominees at ease. Okosun initially dismissed the issues as “stale stories.” adding that “no one was maltreated.”
On Nderitu’s claim that tickets were not sent to them on time, Okosun said “it was due to logistic reasons beyond us,” adding that “I communicated to them,” contrary to the artist’s statement.
He added that AFRIMA is already exploring “different suggestions” on how to ensure nominees feel comfortable in future, but they “have not decided yet” on which exact policy to adopt.
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