SOUNDTRACK: Winstone Antonio

IT is that time of the year when artistes will be honoured for their creativity and the work they would have put in during the course of the year — be it for excellence shown in albums or singles, videos and collaborations as well as music promoters who would have contributed positively to the sector.

As the awards season is upon us, several hip-hop artistes and other relevant stakeholders will be honoured at this year’s edition of the flip-flop Awards set for Wood Sensation located at LongCheng Plaza in Belvedere, Harare.

Hopefully the awards will reclaim their integrity both to the winners and fans so as to bring value not only to the artiste but the sector as a whole.

While in other countries music awards have been hailed, rewarding music creativity locally has been a subject of intense debate such that many have lost interest in the awards after claiming favouritism landed undeserving cases at the top.

Marred with a lot of controversy, many of the local music awards such as the Zimdancehall and the hip hop awards are considered not to be a true reflection of what would have transpired throughout the year.

Concerns over bias and vote rigging have always taken centre stage at most of the music awards. The controversy has always been drawn on both the awards were artistes are required to submit their works or where winners are determined through public votes.

During awards won through votes, some claim there is always a secret hand manipulating the votes. They probably ignore that not popularity on the streets, social media or even the amount of airplay they receive on radio would determine the winner, but the votes.

The annual Radio Zimbabwe Coca-Cola 2017 Top 50 and the ZBC-TV Coke Top 50 videos competitions held on New Year’s Eve meant to reward local musicians as well as provide them with avenues to exhibit their talent are among the platforms that have also stirred heated debate.

Some music lovers and artistes’ managers who are ignorant about how the competition’s selection criterion is structured have always cried foul over the results feeling their artistes would have been robbed.

My conversation with some of the prominent arts critics such as Plot Mhako and Benjamin Nyandoro at different intervals points to the need of a paradigm shift in organising the awards.

Music critic Mhako said most local awards platforms lack integrity and transparency.

“It seems there is an appetite by organisers to self-award, award friends or simply ignore due processes in the nomination adjudication process. Some of the anomalies are too glaring to ignore. It must be known who are the people involved in the processes, their credentials and the awards criteria must be well written down to allay any doubt,” he said.

“I think this has been the major reason, but also artistes and the general public don’t take any result other than their preferred win as legit. It’s a culture that also needs to shift.”

Former National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) director Elvas Mari said lack of proper structures from the awarding organisers might contribute to the controversy over the acceptance of the awards by the public.

“For a public activity there must be a prosper structure of the awarding board or organisers that helps in connecting the artistes from the lower structure to the higher structures.
This makes things to happen and helps in bringing confidence to the public about the acceptance of the awards,” he said.

“The information on who to award should come from a lower sector that is well connected to the other top structures such that whether they is or no mistake it will be a result of a collective effort of a well-structured awarding board.”

Arts critic Fred Zindi said the issue of awards is a complex one as it is clouded with politics.

“Diversity in recognition awards should demonstrate the organisers or even the society’s commitment to equity. Most selection committees strive for fairness when selecting award winners however, unconscious associations or assumptions – the phenomenon known as implicit bias – can unintentionally influence judgment,” he said.

“There is a difference between being a good musician or song and a popular one. Judges must choose the criteria on which their judgment is based.”

Let the best be recognised for their creativity.