by Wilfred Okiche
The 4th Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards, held Saturday night at the Eko Hotel and suites, Lagos state had moments that made inspired laughter, tears and cringes.
As with previous years, the entire shindig can be summarised with a glass half-full-half-empty analogy. Cool points can be awarded the organisers for starting off early, managing a credible organising system and gathering all the A-list stars in one hall for the fourth consecutive year. Or crucial marks can be subtracted for that mic that wasn’t placed properly, the best overall movie win for Dry or the tacky behaviour of the winners.
But we aren’t here for any of that.
Of concern are the musical moments. The show kicked off with a generic song and dance by the Star Art Dance Company. Tanzanian Ali Kiba gave a decent account of himself and kept things on a hopeful note with his lively performance. There seemed to be nowhere to go but up.
Until Yemi Alade happened.
The Nigerian pop songstress who scored an unexpected smash hit with her feel good single Johnny has set about rebranding herself as some sort of Mama Africa, thanks in no small part to a considerable continent wide following. The AMVCAs which are really a Nigerian affair masquerading as an all comers club looked like the perfect platform for Alade to test the viability of this weird new campaign of hers.
With her bevy of choir robed dancers,- soon giving way to leopard print wearing comics,- and legs that stretched from here to Malawi, Alade only proved that if she was mother of anything, it was the juvenile acts parading as singers who terrorise stages across Nigeria, screaming out bits of their pre-recorded hit singles. On this same stage last year, Davido had represented them unashamedly. Alade only fared slightly better than Davido. Actually far better if truth be told, but Davido is such a low standard for anyone to want to be compared with.
Yes Alade can sing circles around many of her contemporaries- male and female- and yes, she has been known to put up live performances that leave audiences slack jawed, but at Saturday’s event, for some reasons, she did neither.
The Yemi Alade discography is in urgent need of an intervention but it is hard to see how this can arrive before the late March release of the sophomore album. Post Johnny, Alade has coasted along on retreads and rejigs of the same formula that birthed that monster single. Each successive single she has released has been worse than the last, reaching a nadir with the inane chanting of Sugar but her celebrity profile has continued to soar.
Last night’s performance exposed the hollowness of the new Yemi Alade brand. Both songs (Na Gode and an untitled track about true love costing mega bucks,) were basic, reaching for a generic mass appeal but landing without hitting target. They played like they were poorly constructed, shoddily arranged and despite Alade’s energetic, albeit screechy delivery, just wouldn’t find life. If her plan was to drum up support for her new album, the uninventively titled Mama Africa (The Diary of an African woman), it is indeed unlikely that anyone in Kenya or Zimbabwe watching the event would sit up to take note of the arrival of a major talent.
But that is exactly what the South African soul singer/songwriter, Zonke Dikana pulled off without trying as hard. Assisted only by the live band and making it seem so easy, Dikana used her big voice to seduce the entire continent with her sparkling rendition of her two singles, Reach it and SOS. Her material was top notch and the performance dripped with soul and heart. She may have been unknown in these parts prior but the confident way Zonke Dikana sang her way into the hearts of music lovers was reminiscent of Efya’s star making performance of My Life at the inaugural AMVCAs in 2013.
The biggest star on the bill was highlife sensation Flavour and he fared better than Miss Alade up to the point that his material was more familiar than hers.
Belting out the crowd pleasing Ada ada, followed shortly by the disposable Sexy Rosey, Mr N’abania kept his clothes on but was lively enough to get some of the ladies dancing. He got his response alright, but the real MVP came almost unheralded, all the way from South Africa.
And she does not claim to be mother of anything.
This article first appeared on 360nobs.