Lessons from the SAMAs

Napoleon Nyanhi with Nhlanhla from Mafikizolo

Napoleon Nyanhi with Nhlanhla from Mafikizolo

Napoleon Nyanhi Own Correspondent
On April 28, I attended the 20th edition of the South African Music Awards held in Sun City, South Africa.  These are annual music awards organised by the recording industry of South Africa.
This was one of the most breathtaking events of my life not because of the dazzling performances but because of the meticulous manner in which the event was planned. After the event I was left with a mixture of feelings.

I felt both happy that I had just witnessed an outstanding event and sad that Zimbabwe has never pulled off an awards ceremony that is even half the standard of the SAMAs.

As I said my objective was to learn so I intentionally gathered data that could help event planners in Zimbabwe to move to higher levels of excellence.

Exposure is priceless
Most Zimbabwean’s in general have boxed themselves in and because of economic challenges; we only travel for necessities this has kept us stagnant and unprogressive. This shows when it comes to events. We seem to still have events that are fashioned in 80s style.

As I was sitting in the awards ceremony I wondered if any of the organisers or event planners for our local awards ever attend international awards to learn and research.

Event planners, please invest in yourselves by getting international exposure because by doing so you are also investing in the Zimbabwean events Industry.

Economic challenges are no excuse
I am sure anyone who watched the SAMAs on SABC 1 must have thought it was all money because of the glitz and glamour.

The truth is those awards are very well funded but they also had less resources to work with than they would have wanted because their title sponsor MTN pulled out just two months before the event.

In Zimbabwe it is difficult to find any sponsors at all but sometimes people will only want to be associated with something once they see your diligence and                                       excellence.

HIFA is a typical example where their sponsors are consistent and they deal with hundreds of requests from companies wanting to partner them for the festival every year.

That means the money is there in Zimbabwe, it is up to the event planners and organisers to get their act together and offer a product that will be irresistible for sponsors.

Let the professionals do the work
From talking to event organisers since my return, I found out that one of the major challenges in Zimbabwe is that corporates do not trust professional event planners.

They engage them to plan the event and then they still want to make every little decision.

Some organisations even have in-house event planners who will override every decision made by the external planner that would have been engaged.

This then defeats the purpose of someone being qualified in event management and investing in international exposure only to come home and submit to opinionated company executives who want things to be done the way they’ve always been done.

To the corporates I say engage the services of a reputable professional event planner then let them do their work!

Plan well in advance
Talking to the event manager, she told me that their company was engaged in November 2013 to organize the 2014 SAMAs.

Even though they organised the 2013 edition, they still had to compete with other companies that also wanted to do the event this year.

From November till February they were making artiste lists, performance scripts, stage plans, wardrobe plans, storyboards, presenter scripts, flow charts, venue set up etc.

They set up a house band for the event with the best musicians in South Africa (just an aside: The drummer was Zimbabwean Tino Damba aka Beatboy) and these musicians got their music sheets and tracks a month before the event for them to practice.

A week before the event, the organiser called the musicians, technicians, performers, presenters, camera people, sound people, décor people, lighting crews and everyone involved in the event and they were all put up in a hotel in Sun City for a week.

During that week they had intense rehearsals until the day of the awards.

I know a lot of this sounds expensive, well that’s because it is, but the principle of advance planning is the most important aspect.

Just sitting down in good time and making sure that every second in the two-hour event is accounted for. Nothing beats a well-planned event no matter how much money you throw at it.

Do not compromise on excellence
It is high time we stop tolerating shoddy events and start pushing for excellence.

If we don’t make a decision as a nation and as an industry, we will remain substandard in our thinking and execution.

None of the performers got on stage and started doing sound check and testing their instruments yet that’s something we always see on Zimbabwean concerts.

Everyone is standing there watching the band members tuning their guitars. No! We need to put our foot down.

Planners need to be strong and uncompromising, an event must move to keep the audience on their toes especially if it is a red carpet event.

On June 7, 2014 Durban hosts the MTV Music Awards at the Durban International Convention Centre.

I suggest that organisers of awards in Zimbabwe namely NAMA, Hip-hop awards, Zimdancehall awards and others aspiring to do events with excellence invest in travelling to Durban and take notes.

  • Napoleon Nyanhi aka DJ Napster is a presenter with Star FM
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