NEXT weekend sees the 12th National Arts Merit Awards Awards ceremony taking place.
This year, the glamourous awards ceremony has been moved to Bulawayo's Large City Hall. The
reasons behind this move to Bulawayo are not clear to me. Are we still experimenting with Nama, 12 years later?
The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe has come up with a significant contribution aimed at recognising the achievements of Zimbabwean artistes, with musicians being one category of such artistes.
The inaugural Nama was launched in February, 2002.
It was through this platform that for the first time in the history of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwean artistes, musicians in particular, were given the recognition that they deserved for outstanding achievements in their field.
Since 2002, Nama has conferred awards to outstanding musicians in categories which include:
- Outstanding Music Video
- Outstanding Musician/Group
- Best Selling Album
- Most Promising Musician/Group
- Outstanding Song of the Year.
- Outstanding Male Musician; and
- Outstanding Female Musician
Winners over the years have included well-known musicians and groups such as Thomas Mapfumo, Alick Macheso, Oliver Mtukudzi, Ivy Kombo, Shingisai Suluma, Simon Chimbetu, Charles Charamba, Sulumani Chimbetu, Tendai Mupfurutsa, Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave and a host of other musicians.
The ceremonies were held in Harare. For the first time in its history, the Nama ceremony this year will be held outside Harare.
Is this a good move or not? Should Nama have a permanent venue or not? These are the questions I pose to the reader.
I jokingly asked Nicholas Moyo, the National Arts Council's deputy director, whether the reason behind this move could be pressure from Cont Mhlanga, the Amakhosi director who could be too old and therefore too tired to travel all the way to Harare.
He simply laughed this off but could not give me a direct answer.
I know for certain that the "everything happens in Harare" syndrome is on every small town person's lips these days but I asked the opinions of several other people why the NACZ had made this move.
One respondent who would like to remain anonymous said: "Well, I think they get their instructions from the parent ministry. David Coltart is from Bulawayo and it's election time, so the good things from Harare must be brought to Bulawayo for his constituents to also taste."
Another simply said: "These small town people always have a chip on their shoulders."
I went on to say that we hope next year we won't get pressure from Masvingo, Gweru and Mutare to have Nama hosted in these towns.
By now, Nama should have a permanent venue. I have always liked to compare Nama with renowned institutions such as the Grammy Awards.
Grammy Awards have taken place in the same city and venue since 1959. The Grammy Awards, originally known as the Gramophone Awards, are accolades given for outstanding achievements in the music industry by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States of America.
The venue of the ceremony, since 1959, for 54 years now, has always been Staples Centre in Los Angeles, California.
Nominees to the Grammies each year have had to travel from as far afield as Florida, Chicago or New York at their own expense because this is a prestigious event where networking with the who is who in the music industry is a must for all involved. This only happens once a year.
I am not sure whether moving Nama to Bulawayo is a good idea. Here are my reasons:
Every year, Nama has complained that it is underfunded and often seeks corporate assistance.
The majority of winners and nominees each year are from Harare, so why bus them to Bulawayo and pay for their accommodation at Nama's expense?
This year, the audience will be different as the majority of the well-wishers will be Bulawayo residents who will be hoping that some of their heroes such as Khuxman, Jeys Marabini, Albert Nyathi and, of course, Cont Mhlanga will walk away with the awards.
These guys, if they have entered submissions for Nama, will obviously face stiff competition from Harare-based artistes.
Assuming that they have made submissions to be considered for this tear's Nama Awards, hot like fire and from Harare are Alick Macheso with his new "Kochekera" dance style, Oliver Mtukudzi, who is riding high with his latest album, "Sarawoga", Sulumani Chimbetu who recently released "Syllabus" with the controversial "Sean Timba" track, Winky D, Zimbabwe's dancehall icon, with "Life Yangu", Jah Prayzah of the "Gochi-Gochi" fame and the female artistes such as Plaxedes Wenyika, Hope Masike, Cindy Munyavi who are also coming strong with their releases, it is difficult to see how the Bulawayo artistes will bag these awards.
I am informed that there is also a Nama category created for the promoter of the year.
I know there are many music promoters in Bulawayo, but most of the so-called big concerts have been handled by Harare promoters. Again it is difficult to see how Bulawayo promoters will bag this one.
I am not a Hararean, but let's face it, Harare continues to be the Mecca of both live and recorded music.
The reason is simple.
Harare is the centre of economic activity. All decisions, political and economic, are made in Harare.
Some musicians realised this long ago and chose to stay close to the centre of activities.
This is why, although Don Gumbo was from Bulawayo, Ilanga was based in Harare. Dudu Manhenga is from Bulawayo, but again she is based in Harare.
Albert Nyathi, although he keeps his cows in Gwanda and visits them every now and again, is now based in Harare.
The list of musicians who have migrated to Harare from other parts of the country is endless. Harare, more than any other city in Zimbabwe, has viable outlets for live performances, recordings and networking.
This is the reason why I can categorically state that the anticipated nominees for this year's awards will hail from Harare.
So the move by Nama to move to Bulawayo, remains, in my face a farce.
Fred Zindi is a professor at the University of Zimbabwe. He is also a musician and an author of several books on music.