Posts Tagged ‘Chris Bown’

An African musical award ceremony and an American train wreck

January 6, 2013

The Kora Awards (aka “The Koras”) are a celebration of African popular music. They were set up in 1994 to become the African counterpoint to the American Grammy Awards, showcasing the abundance of musical talent present on the continent. Spotlighting good, great, interesting, new, exciting and relevant talents from the continent: what could be better than that? I’ve done a fair bit of that myself, reporting on Ghanaian-American wordsmith Blitz The Ambassador, Ivorian rappers Nash and Priss K, new Guinean star Sia Tolno, the Krar Collective and many more. A great pleasure meeting all those stars – new and old. Long may it continue.

But I cannot possibly be alone in feeling astounded, astonished, gobsmacked to find that the Kora Awards have taken to inviting to their showcase evenings a guest of honour of…now, how shall I put this nicely…questionable artistic merit. For the Kora Awards 2012, held last month in a decidedly glamourous part of Abidjan (google “Hotel Ivoire” to get an idea), the organisers decided to invite a character with a planetarily recognised reputation as a human train wreck. Name? Chris Brown.

Who he? Glad you ask. Since 2005, he has been releasing, in increasing frequency, a series of forgettable r&b tunes (in and of itself an entirely forgettable genre) with titles such as Yo (Excuse me Miss), Beautiful People and Turn Up The Music.

The Koras have acquired form when it comes to this. Two years ago, they made the mistake of inviting another r&b artist, be it one with more discernible African roots. Name: Akon, son of renowned Senegalese percussion player Mor Thiam. He grew up in St. Louis (the one in the US) and has made a fortune recording the same tune about 38 times, each time with slightly different words. To his credit, he has an excellent stage presence and he really likes his country of origin. But Akon did not make it to the Awards either. Private jet supplied to fly him from Dakar to Ouagadougou while he was busy watching a wrestling match in the country’s biggest stadium. Er, by the way: he had already been paid, in full, according to the Senegalese press.

Alright, then. Back to Brown. His biggest and most enduring claim to fame has of course absolutely nothing to do with music. His name will be etched in history thanks to his encounter with a singularly annoying singing drone by the name of Rihanna. A few years ago she “sang” a grotesquely overproduced suicide-inducing dirge in her dead flat metallic “voice”, in which she endlessly repeated the word “ella” for no apparent reason. Since then, no-one has managed to delete her noise from public space.

What happens when two artistic non-entities, egos bloated to the size of Zeppelins, fed on the total absence of any reality check in their lives…what happens when these two meet? Something tediously predictable. In 2009 C&R had a verbal altercation in a car about an affair he allegedly was having, had had, was rekindling – whatever the heck it was. She hit him with her cellphone over the head and he retaliated disproportionally. He got jailed and vilified – richly deserved as far as I’m concerned. She should have gone to jail as well of course but she became, thanks to half a century of highly successful feminist bullying, a “victim” and a heroine for every girl under thirty. Don’t ask me why – it’s the law.

Anyway, back to the Kora Awards in Abidjan. What did our guest of honour desire in return for his uniquely particular contribution guaranteed to bring the tone of the award ceremony down to the level of MTV’s flagship series Jackass? Here goes: a private jet with only two pilots, as Monsieur claimed that four pilots would “interfere with his privacy”, two limos built in 2012, five state-of-the-art buses for his team. Oh and what the French so deliciously call “la bagatelle” of 1.14 million euros.

Astonishingly, the Kora organisers did NOT tell him to get lost. But Monsieur still could not be bothered to show up on time so, incredibly, the Awards Night was postponed by 24 hours, inconveniencing countless artists from across the continent, guests and of course, the organisers.

[Have a look at the Kora Awards site here]

Are these really the kind of guests to promote what the Kora Awards stand for? I submit: no. Brown et al are bellwethers par excellence for the brutal, ugly, relentless and irreversibly terminal decline of popular music in the English-speaking world. If the Kora Awards want to hold on to that old notion of highlighting African music talent (such as the excellent Chadian singer Mounira Mitchala, who won an award in Abidjan), it needs to return to quality and this will have a bearing on whom it invites to its Big Night.

Where I am writing this from, a very nice sea-terrace in Conakry, Guinea, I am currently treated to the latest crop of local popular music. Not all good, some awful, but quite a lot pretty damn excellent and none as humanly destructive as the noise emanating from the Kora Award main guest and his alleged girlfriend. By the way, both showed up in Abidjan together, so at least the fellow did not out-Akon Akon…

Lessons learnt, Kora Awards organisers? Next time, no more nonsensicalities from artists who have nothing of any value to contribute to the colossally rich African music scene? No more private jets, limos, insane amounts of money demands? Just the music, please. That will be more than enough. Let’s hope so.