Nyasa Music Awards (NMA) 2017 are just three days away. There are several reasons I am excited about this. But let me highlight two of them: First, the organizers completely won my mind into the awards when they lined up Joseph Nkasa as one of the performers. Second, after all the egos we normally witness in Urban music, after the night, we will get to know Who is Who.
I have looked at the nominations from NMA’s Facebook page. There have been objections from fans especially with the omission of other prominent Urban music artists like Saint, Jay Jay Cee and Lady Pace. But not dwelling on that, a look at the nominations gives an impression that the judges did their best. And here is my prediction on all the categories.
BEST VIDEO: This is probably the easiest to category to make a prediction on. Tay Grin’s ‘Chipapapa’ with Nigeria’s RnB legend, 2 Baba, will win the award. Zani Challe had a great video as well with ‘Single Tonight’, featuring Nigeria’s Patoranking. I personally wish she could have won the category, but she will not be strong enough to deal with Nyau King’s mojo. Dan Lu and K Cee’s ‘Sweet Banana’ was probably the most overrated song last year, and so was the video. Malinga Mafia should not even think of it.
BEST SINGLE: This is the most difficult category to make a prediction on. All the four nominated songs had their good share of popularity. But the competition will be between ‘Kanda’ by Tay Grin featuring Sonye & Orenzi and ‘Single Tonight’ by Zani Challe featuring Patoranking. Blaze and Ril B had a moment as well with ‘Mwini Zinthu’, but not anymore. Faith Mussa once again showed his creativity with ‘Mdidi’, but it did not reach the level of the other songs it is competing with. Again, sorry for Zani Challe, Tay Grin will step over her and win the category.
BEST LIVE ACT: Faith Mussa and his guitar are good on stage, Tay Grin is Urban music’s greatest showman, Theo Thomson had one of the best live acts during his ‘White Elephant’ album launch. But I cannot imagine them beating the Black Missionaries in this category. For more than a decade the band has been the most active with new music and shows. Each of their shows feels fresh and in all these years they have managed to win the hearts of the people in their performances. It is not even a matter of asking, Black Missionaries will win this category.
BEST CLUB DJ: Let me admit this unfortunate fact, Malawi music does not make rounds in our clubs. It is usually music from Nigeria and South Africa. For the love of music in Malawi, if I would go out to my favorite places and get to hear a DJ playing music from Malawi that often, I would have made an effort to know the man behind the spinning table. But when you hear Nigerian and South African songs in our clubs, it is business as usual. As far as club music is concerned for me, it is more about the music and not the DJ. This is the only category I have left open. I will be fine with whoever wins it.
BEST RADIO DJ: Kenny Klips and Joy Nathu will tussle for this category. Thanks to Randy Martins and Panther Rix for participating. Kenny Klips has probably been the ‘bad boy’ radio DJ for years. We had to get used to his honest music assessment for years. No one can question his passionate connection with Urban music. But it is now time for Joy Nathu. His ‘Made in Malawi’ radio program continues to unearth new talent and give platform for many. His work with artists and fine radio presentation has given Urban music a new narrative. He should easily win the category.
BEST DUO / GROUP: The competition will be between Black Missionaries and the Great Angels Choir. Street Fame and Home Grown, it has been a pleasure knowing you. The awards have been tailored towards Urban music. This will be the reason the Great Angels Choir will find it a challenge to make an appeal to the voters. They have been one of the consistent groups on the scene. I wish they could win the category. It is their only nomination. But they are competing against a giant.
BEST AFRO POP: Piksy will win this category. Dan Lu has been one of the fastest rising Urban music artists. He has made some strategic moves and collaborations that have propelled his career. But I have always looked at him as the black sheep of Urban music. Look at his Facebook page, ‘I am Dan Lu’, the few ‘Likes’ and Comments he gets in his posts. There is a story in that. Sir Patricks is my favorite in this category. He has one of the most powerful voices and his music always comes out matured. But Piksy has been the most consistent artist of all. He has intelligently worked on his brand, taking himself several steps higher than whoever will come second. Hilco, your moment is coming.
BEST FEMALE ARTIST: I have known Bianca because of the awards. Miracle Chinga has my grace. The sudden death of her mother, probably the most talented gospel music lyricist Malawi will ever again have, has been the reason I want her to succeed in her music endeavor. She has the voice, the passion and the looks, but she has been unfortunate to be nominated together with Zani Challe and Sangie. I wish Ritaa had replaced Bianca. The category could have been interesting. Zani Challe for me has been poster girl for female Urban artists. And let me reveal that I voted for her in all categories. I wish she could at least win this category, but Sangie has simply been too good and Zani Challe is yet to penetrate the Malawian market. While knowing that she may not win all her nominations, I voted for her as statement of how I would like music in Malawi to be. Sangie may have won the battle, but Zani Challe is winning the war.
BEST MALE ARTIST: When Gwamba went into gospel music I wrote an article that wondered if that was going to be his rise or fall. His first single as a gospel artist, ‘Better’, gave me an answer: The man was going to rise, even further. A year on, he has maintained himself as one of the hottest rappers in Malawi. Tay Grin has not been good enough as an artist. Patience Namadingo is probably the weakest link in this category. He is competing against established names. Theo Thomson’s challenge for this category is that he has never invested in curving a ‘down-to-earth’ relationship with his fans.
BEST ACOUSTIC ARTIST: Thanks for the awards, now I know there is a Malala in Malawi. Agorosso should not even think of winning this category. He is in a strange land. The competition is between Faith Mussa and Patience Namadingo. Personally, I do not like Faith Mussa. I think he tries too hard and music does not come out from him with a flow. That is the upper hand Patience Namadingo has over him. He has the voice and one of the best acoustic stage performances on the land. His recent charity activity, raising money for Cancer children, although not intended, has also been a good Public Relations stunt for him. The response from the general public is enough to tell how much he has won the grace of people.
BEST PRODUCER: How about we have Stich Fray instead of the Dare Devils? The Dare Devils are the genius minds that pioneered the present sound of Urban music. They may have produced some of the biggest songs in the genre, but Stitch Fray is presently more versatile and complete. Sonye is that producer who goes quiet, but when he has made an appearance, everyone feels his presence. But winning an award rests on a continual sign of presence of which he lacks. BFB has been one of the main music drivers. But he has not been better than DJ Sley. He has worked and created big artists. Tay Grin’s ‘Chipapapa’ says it all. It will be an easy night for him.
BEST SECULAR ARTIST: The ‘beef’ and arguments that characterize Urban music makes it easy for one to make a choice in moments like awards. But ‘secular music’ lacks that. It has a humble character, and as such, you would never hear people arguing on who is best among Lucius Banda, Skeffa Chimoto, Lulu and Smacks. Lucius Banda has had a distinct career since 1993. Twenty four years on since first album, he is still getting Awards nominations and maintaining a most-sought-after artist status. Skeffa Chimoto is leading the new generation. He is consistent and has an unquestionable character and quality. Lulu is probably the most complete artist in Malawi, presently. He can play every instrument and has a good voice. Smacks is like Sonye, he appears spontaneously. Such a hard choice to make. But I give it to Skeffa Chimoto.
BEST REGGAE ARTIST: This category conspired to give Anthony Makondetsa an easy ride to glory. Stich Fray has been good, Trumale has lost his steam, together with his music label, Nd’Efeyo Entertainment. King Chambiecco is probably the most overrated reggae artist in Malawi. But this vote is not only about performance. The ability to woo fans will also determine the categories. Makondetsa has not been good at that. But besides that he has been active in both performances and new music. From his first album, ‘Tisatengeke’ in1999, to his recent, ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’ two years ago, he has kept on justifying why he was once nominated ‘Best Music Composer’ in 2003 music awards. In 2017, he is still too good.
BEST NEW COMER: Purple C has a potential international breakthrough. Tsar Leo will have to try hard to impress most people. He has a team that does good Public Relations for him, but does not deliver from the booth. Charisma should thank Desiigner’s ‘Panda’ and that toilet seat photoshoot for this nomination. Ril B had people on his side when he was on a rift with Blaze over ‘Mwini Zinthu. The song may have fade, but the composition of this category has given him an upper hand. If artists like Jay Jay Cee or Ritaa were nominated, it could not have been his night.
BEST GOSPEL ARTIST: Surprisingly, with all his talent and music intelligence, Faith Mussa is the least for this category. Gwamba and Suffix sounds the same. It takes a moment for one to determine who is who when listening to either of them. But that matters less. Gwamba may have turned to gospel music, but his ways are far from convincing fans that he is a gospel artist, and giving him this category will be like a lie. Suffix needs to work a bit harder and longer to get noticed for an award like this. That leaves Patience Namadingo for the category. He has been too good, recently. He deserves the award, and he will.
BEST R n B ARTIST: Bucci must forget about the award. He works hard and tries to make a breakthrough. He thought going to Nd’Efeyo Entertainment will be a positive path for his career. It has proved otherwise. Kelvin Sings is making a good mark. But these awards have unfortunately come earlier for him. Theo Thomson is the godfather of R n B music in Malawi, currently, but as already noted, he lacks a common touch with his fans. Kell Kay has been the most noticed as far as this category is concerned. He understands his voice well and consistently makes good music out of it. He too will have an easy night.
BEST HIP HOP ARTIST: Gwamba, Suffix, Martse and Fredokiss; I look at it as a category with the best nominations. Gwamba is making an impact and has a good brand, and Suffix is a humble and innocent rapper on a fast rise. But Martse and Fredokiss are closer to the award than them. Such a difficult choice to make. Martse may possess a good flow, but his message betrays him when compared to Fredokiss. His competitor has a message that always comes down to people. He calls himself Ghetto King Kong. He sings for the Ghetto. And that in itself is enough to make a connection with fans. But if there is a category I feel my choice will end up being wrong, this should be it.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: This is the only category with five nominations. In case the judges had a difficult time to come up with the best four, Barry One’s ‘Maso Atseguka’ should have been out. Talk of the most authoritative rap voice in Malawi, Phyzix should be the one. But ‘Captain Long John’ does not make the grade. ‘Flawless Heart’ from Malinga Mafia elevated him to poster boy status of Dance Hall in Malawi. But still falls from the award by a distance. The competition for this category is between Theo Thomson’s ‘White Elephant’ and Gwamba’s ‘Jesus Is My Boss’. All along Theo has been criticized for not having a common touch with fans. He only delivers from the studio. Gwamba showed a great career improvement with his album. But in this category, his work cannot compete with that of Theo. Great voice. Excellent stage moves. Futuristic. That is what separates the two.
About the writer: Wonderful Mkhutche is a professional speech writer, a political scientist and a manuscript editor and developer.