Kora awards in peril

There are very few artistes in Africa who have not been helped on their way to the top by the Kora awards. Musicians of all genres who have made it to the top in the last decade; from hip-hop to reggae, R’n’B to Jazz, pop to Afro, they owe something to the Kora awards. Apart from exposing African talent to the wider world audience, the awards are also a tribute to artistes of African stock for their contribution to music.

Since inception in 1994, the awards have succeeded in bringing world-wide recognition of African artistes and those in the Diaspora.

World renowned artistes like Salif Keita, Youssou N’dour, Hugh Masekela, Judith Sephuma, Oliver Mtukudzi, Koffi Olomide, Papa Wemba, Cesaria Evora and others will acknowledge they have gained much from the awards. Unfortunately like most good things, despite its high rating on the African continent, the Kora Awards coffers seem to have run dry.

The awards which are held annually will not be held this year for the first time in 11 years. Word going around is that The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government and Kora boss, Ernest Coovi Adjovi are involved in a legal battle to recover millions of taxpayer’s money.

The money was used by the province to sponsor the event last year after the traditional sponsors pulled-out. Against that, the provincial government decided to bail out the Kora organisers. As the situation stands right now, unless the KZN government recoups the money, or Adjovi agrees to stage the event, the Kora could become history.

Although it is alleged that he plans to take the Kora to Nigeria , Adjovi and the KZN provincial government signed an agreement last year for the premier event to be in the province for four consecutive years.

However, KZN provincial government later took action against Adjovi after it failed to recover R20m from him which led to the courts granting permission to freeze the Kora company account, in which there was only R200,000. It was also discovered that Adjovi and the Kora Company also had no fixed assets to offset the credit. KZN MEC for Finance, Zweli Mkhize, said: “Negotiations with Kora representatives and lawyers are ongoing, with a view to jointly finding a way to ensure the continued staging of the event in this province.” We were disappointed to learn that Adjovi is indeed attempting to stage the event outside of KZN. “At this stage, unfortunately, it looks unlikely that the event will be staged in KZN in future ‘ almost certainly not this year.” If indeed the future of the internationally acclaimed awards show is hanging in the balance, thousands of young talented African artistes waiting to blossom out of Africa’s womb onto the international scene will have to seek alternative avenues to do so.

Almost, if not all countries on the continent, have largely benefited from the ceremony which is broadcast live in the USA , Europe and across Africa .

Ask Sunny Neji known fondly as Mr. Fantastic reputed to be Nigeria’s best male vocalist about the significance of the Kora Awards. The Kora is my most prized possession. I have invested and worked hard and I feel I am being rewarded. I was nominated as the best West African male artiste category last year and I won. The award is like a reward for hard work, commitment and dedication. The KORA award happens to be the biggest award in Africa . And if you are nominated and go to win, then you should be happy and feel very well rewarded, said Sunny.

Even new comers like Nigerian 2Face whose fame catapulted to dizzying heights with the release of his album Face to Face which picked up a Kora as Africa’s revelation of the year have benefited from the awards. His pot of honey continued to drip as he won Best African Act at the MTV Europe Awards, Best male video and Best African video at the Channel O Video Awards for his now famous track “My African Queen”. Hip Hop World Awards gave him a Special recognition Award early this year.

In a country like Zambia where the only awards recognizing excellence in music are the out-of-sorts Ngoma Awards, to be nominated for the Kora is a very big deal.

Although the country has seen local artistes like TY2, Joe ‘the Ambassador’ Chibangu, Maureen Lilanda, Jordan Katembula (JK), Jane Osborne, Shatel, jazz maestro Uncle Rex, Sista D, Ras Willie and Congolese gospel singer resident in Zambia Jojo Mwanganza, nominated, it was the nomination of Marsha Moyo and St Michael (now renamed Maiko Zulu) that caused the most excitement, both for different reasons.

Blessed with a seductive voice, Marsha who is currently sizzling with her new album The Fine Print was a 2003 Kora nominee for best female artiste, best African artiste and revelation of the year for her debut album Dark Child.The following year, her hard work on Women Celebrated earned her nominees for best female artiste in Southern Africa and best African video.Although Marsha did not bag the awards the nominations earned her international recognition and was the appreciation of her music by local music enthusiasts.

Marsha is now an international name and was the first recording artiste to have performed at the only 7 star hotel in the world, Burj-al-arab in Dubai. Her videos are shown on MTV Networks, Trace TV France, Channel O, CNN, Voice of America and SABC.

However, one artiste who won’t be dropping any tears is Maiko Zulu, formerly known as St. Michael who suffered public ridicule and humiliation after when he was awarded with a Kora at the 2003 awards ceremony but was unceremoniously told he was not the winner.Although viewers heard the muffled name of St Michael being announced as winner by former South African First Lady Graca Machel, they did not see the artiste get on stage.But the following morning, the artiste disembarked from the plane, carrying the prestigious relic “Kora”.However, the organizers had this to say: “Timing during the live broadcast was critical as the results were announced in the closing minutes. Initially it was thought that St Michael Zulu of Zambia , who scored the second highest number in the best male African artiste category, had won but this was later corrected by the organisers.” The Kora was won by rhumba artiste Werrason. Perhaps as a consolation St Michael still has the Kora relic.

With the controversy, music fans will be watching with keen interest how the Kora controversy pans out.

October 2006
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