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Nigerians clinch five prizes at MTV Africa Music awards

Nigerian artists won five awards at the second MTV Africa Music Awards – known as the MAMAs – held in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, October 10

Home country favourite Nameless saw his brand of Afro-flavoured hip-hop earn him the best male artist nod as well as the listener’s choice award, a category that recognizes the biggest radio hits of the year and underscores the enduring popularity of radio across the continent.

Another hip-hop artist, Nigeria’s M.I., also made a big impact on the awards, clinching the best new act and best hip-hop MAMAs during the event held at the Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani, Kenya.

The popularity of African hip-hop was further reinforced when multiple South African Music Award winner HHP took home the MAMA for best video for “Mpitse,” a cut off his 2008 album “Acceptance Speech Re-written” (EMI, 2008).

Nigerian urban singer and songwriter D’Banj put in another strong showing in 2009, adding artist of the year to his awards haul, which includes a trio of MAMAs from the debut event in 2008 and best African Act at the 2007 MTV Europe Music Awards.

2FACE won best R&B while duo P-Square took home best group, both adding to Nigeria’s five MAMAs tally this year.

Other winners included Ghana’s Samini who put dancehall firmly on the map with a win for best performer and South Africa’s indie rock outfit Zebra & Giraffe, who won best alternative, beating out competition from Coldplay and Green Day in these public-voted awards.

The lack of international winners in the trio of categories where they featured – best alternative, best R&B and best hip-hop – reinforced the MAMAs Afro-centric flavour and MTV Networks International’s chairman and chief executive Bill Roedy’s claim that the awards are a “celebration of Africa music and African culture.”

“The roots of all music can be traced back to Africa,” the President of MTV Networks International told a press conference the day before the MAMAs. “The MAMAs provide a global platform to promote and expose African music around the world.”

This sentiment was echoed by host Wyclef Jean who spoke about his Haitian family’s roots in Benin, West Africa during the press conference. Unlike the 2008 MAMAs, which featured the Game, Flo Rida and Kelly Rowland, Wyclef Jean and Senegalese-born U.S. star Akon were the only international performers and both made a point of emphasising their connections to the continent on-stage.

There were a series of collaborative performances from artists including South Africans HHP, Zebra & Giraffe, neo-soul singer Lira and hip-hop star, Da LES; Kenyans Amani, Wahu and Nameless, and Nigeria’s R&B singer, 2Face. Highlights included a tribute to MAMA legend award winner, South Africa’s reggae star Lucky Dube who was murdered in 2007.

Wyclef, Nameless and Samini performed a version of Jean’s “Lucky Dube,” which he wrote in tribute to the slain reggae artist and first debuted in Africa during a December 2008 show in Johannesburg. Akon led winners and performers in a version of Michael Jackson’ “Wanna Be Starting Something” in the show’s finale.

Jean proved an effective host, injecting the 2009 MAMAs with an infectious energy that hit the mark with the 4 000 people in the stadium and regularly saw him going off-script – including ending a press-ups competition with Akon.

The MTV Africa Music Awards with Zain 2009 and What Went Down shows will broadcast across Africa on MTV base (DStv Channel 322), and on terrestrial partners AIT (Nigeria), Citizen TV (Kenya), RTGA (DRC), STV (Nigeria), TBC 1 (Tanzania), TV3 (Ghana), WBS (Uganda), SLBS (Sierra Leone) and ZNBC (Zambia) from Oct. 17 2009.

It will subsequently air on all MTV networks around the world, including MTV2 in the USA, MTV Networks Africa has stated.

Co-sponsor for this year’s awards was Zain, a leading emerging markets telecommunications company that also sponsored the 2008 event. Dr Saad Al Barrak, CEO of Zain said the evening confirmed the huge talent that Africa possesses.

 “Much of what we listen to today has its roots in this great continent,” he said. “I cannot emphasize strongly enough what a privilege it is for Zain to lend its name to such an event and, in doing keeping alive the flame of Africa’s cultural consciousness.”