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Poor outing at MAMA

By Ayeni Adekunle
P-Square at MAMA
P-Square at MAMA

This weekend, when you watch the maiden edition of MTV's Africa Music Awards on the network's channels across the world, you'll see a display of glamour, pomp and razzmatazz. You'll see a beautiful stage, screaming fans, well-lit dome, and deafening megawatts of sound. You'll see images that'll portray the November 22, 2008 show as the 'event of the year', and MTV's ultimate benefit to Africa.

But, be warned: don't be deceived. The MAMA you'll be watching is an edited version; worked on for days by MTV editors who have been busy cutting and pasting, boosting sound levels, and deleting rushes that may make the multi-million dollar event look anything below excellence.

Truth is, the real MTV Africa music award, which held at the Velodrome, Abuja last Saturday, was nothing to write home about. In spite of big-budget sponsorship from Zain, a team of foreign technical crew, a standard facility – the Velodrome – and the huge experience of the MTV team, the two-hour event was marred by myriad technical deficiencies, poor logistics, disastrous protocol and other factors too profound to be overlooked.

The organisers provided transportation and accommodation for all nominees and select media; there was a proper media gallery, and the stage backdrop was beautiful. Then there were exciting live collaborations most guests were seeing for the first time on the continent: HHP hitting the stage to duet with Asa; Cassette, Jua Cali, Naeto C and Ikechukwu doing a joint set; and Kelly Rowland frolicking on stage with D'Banj.

Unfortunately, guests, most of whom had paid between N5,000 and N25,000 to see the show live could not help but bite their fingers throughout the night. To start with, the beauty of the entire night was lost, as all the speakers appeared to have been on mute mode. From the moment when comedian, I go Dye, opened the show, to when MTV jockey, Sizwe showed up to introduce the night's host – Trevor Nelson – the sound was absolutely inaudible, the dome acoustics in terrible shape.

For most guests who had struggled to get into the hall, with no place to sit, the poor sound made matters worse, and instead of getting into the mood for an exciting evening, many were seen busy complaining, checking their VIP invites again, to confirm the terms and conditions attached to their tickets.

And, while a home-grown compere would have been equipped to calm tempers and attempt to save a show heading for disaster, MTV's Trevor Nelson failed to have a firm grip on the pulse of the night – the MTV top gun did not understand the system, the people, the culture, and as such, failed to generate interactions that could have upped the tempo of the show.

But Nelson was not the only one who did not understand the system. MAMA's protocol officers (bouncers, bodyguards, ushers and uniformed security) either did not pass the orientation test, or they were not made to go through any: president of Silverbird group, Ben Murray-Bruce whose TV station, Silverbird, has a strategic broadcast partnership with MTV base was standing throughout the show, in the popular arena, having found no space in the VIP.

His son Jonathan, who came with a date, was in the same situation. Ovation Publisher, Dele Momodu, who attended the event with his son, was standing for nearly an hour, until he found an unoccupied seat in an area reserved for nominees. The editor of a weekend national newspaper was rough-handled and prevented from entering through the VIP entrance, despite having been invited to Abuja by the organisers. N25,000 ticket guests who had 'reserved seating' guarantee were standing throughout the show. An Abuja-based housewife, Nnenna Umenyi, was trembling with anger when she showed e- Punch her ticket during the event. She was sitting on her friend's lap, on a seat vacated for them by a 'gentleman'.

But when soccer star, Jay Jay Okocha, and former beauty queen, Munachi Abii, announced the night's first winner, the mood changed momentarily. It was crowd-pleaser, D'Banj, that recieved the first prize for 'best African act'. The announcement was the first in a series of winnings that'll go well with the crowd. Ikechukwu was awarded 'best video'; 9ice, 'best hip hop', Naeto C, 'best new act'; Wahu, 'best female'; Dbanj, 'best male'. Other winners include Alicia Keys, 'best R&B; Seether, 'best alternative; Jozi, 'best live performer and P-square, 'best group'. Afrobeat giant Fela Kuti, who died 11 years ago was honoured with a MAMA legends award. His kids Yeni and Seun Kuti jokingly remarked that they 'won't be taking the award to him yet,'' as they received the plaque on his behalf.

Rich in concept, performance content, and armed with a credible list of winners, the event would have been a hit with guests, if the organisers at least solved the sound issue even half way through the night. General Manager MTV Networks Africa, Alex Okosi, did not respond to e-Punch enquiries sent to his official e-mail address. But Director of Communications for MTV, Alison Reid, assured us, ''Alex and I are working on your replies, but he has only got in from Nigeria today (Thursday), so please bear with us for a bit longer.'' She was yet to get back to us as at press time.