So the 17th annual South African Music Awards took place at Monte Casino at the weekend. The weekend festivities were split into two nights. The Friday night awards focused on honouring the technical awards. Things like Best Producer, Best Album packaging as well as some of the “less mainstream” awards. On Saturday night the big awards were to be handed out during the live broadcast on SABC 1. So the yellow carpet was rolled out ahead of the broadcast, where presenters, performers and nominees all strutted their stuff in their designer attire, chatting to media and basically just being part of the festivities. Sounds good right? Well it wasn’t all that smooth sailing, let me tell you that much.
On arrival at Monte Casino, I parked my car without any hassles, took my equipment and headed up to the SAMA dome. The SAMA dome was erected especially for the event and lets just say it looked awesome. I knew I was heading in that direction, but there were no signs to the yellow carpet, which is where all the stars would be arriving, posing. You know what them celebs do. When in doubt, ask. So I asked the security guards where to go, seeing as though they should know the venue and all. Nope they had no clue, so the guessing game began. En route to the where I believe the carpet would be, I bumped into a bunch of other media guests who were also seemingly lost. We’re ushered to the media area, which is on the other side of the dome, where we’re met by one of the PR reps. She tells us that the yellow carpet is actually where we came in. So off we head, back to that area. The yellow carpet was tiny and stashed away in the corner of the Heineken marquee. Hardly glamorous I’d say and it’s quite small but we’ll make do. I just keep thinking that from previous experience of covering such an event, the stars all tend to arrive at the last hour and this results in one big bottleneck. So perhaps it could’ve been a bit longer and in a more exclusive area? That’s why I think.
The yellow carpet was fun. I interviewed the likes of Somizi, Shashi Naidoo, Loyiso, Nothende, The Arrows, Theo Kgosinkwe and many many more. It was madness but again when the pushing and shoving starts, my years of waterpolo experience come in handy. The murmurs from media guest and stars alike are present in the tent, in Monte and all over. People aren’t happy about how late they got their invites, their accreditation etc. I’m one of them. I love SA music and I think it’s grown in leaps and bounds over the years, so to be apart of this weekend is something I love. Having said that I got my accreditation email notification on Thursday morning. Up to that point I thought I wouldn’t be going and I’d made peace with the fact that I probably wasn’t going to be accredited to cover the event, so I made plans. I believe that is what happened to many people hence the fact the venue was rather quiet on Friday night I’m told. What was with the delay? If there was an issue, surely we would’ve been told? Things happen, we know they do. So just tell us what’s going on and lets go from there. It would help with planning etc. Check out my video from the yellow carpet here.
So after about an hour and a half of yellow carpet festivities, everyone is quickly ushered into their respective areas. My battery is pretty low, so I think it’ll be fine to charge the camera in order to do more interviews with winners etc. Guests, performers etc go into the Dome and we go to the media area (a marquee just outside the dome). It has a coffee stand with water and coke on offer. That’s all. There are no plug points or Internet access points, which I find bizarre for a media tent. People need to file their pictures and stories. Surely the events management company would have thought about this when putting on an award ceremony of this nature? In previous years the media areas have been quite cozy to say the least; buffet style food, drinks and snacks. One on one areas for interviews as well as a press conference style set up. That worked really well in the past, why not stick to a formula that works?
Two of my friends and industry colleagues who were supposed to be seated in the venue came stomping into the media area shortly after the awards started and they were not in good spirits. They were told to move out of their seats because several government representatives hadn’t been allocated seats? SAY WHAT? What a joke! Seriously. Tim actually bought his ticket. I hope he gets refunded for that. Then I’d heard several other reports from twitter and from colleagues that people wanted to stand and as a result they were blocking the cameras. Think an amateur pirated movie and that’s what I’m told the broadcast looked like at the beginning. The events company/ RISA/ sponsors should’ve made more of an effort to control this. Get the people in quickly, shut off the yellow carpet action half an hour before the live broadcast. Seat all your guests, which includes ministers and paying guests. In that way you wont have camera men getting irritable and annoyed with people who are in their shots.
I’m also told that choreographer and dancer Somizi pissed off gospel singer Rebecca Molope, so much so she just bounced I’m told. When it was time for her to present an award, she was MIA. Oy vey. A lot of people were complaining about RGB host Phat Joe and how not so good he was. I can’t comment on that because I didn’t see him to be honest. On the up side, Bonang looked beautiful when I saw her in her many Gert Johan Coetzee dresses and I’m told that as always she was brilliant. I know this is an SABC broadcast event, but to have a separate yellow carpet for RGB (so I’m told) is somewhat conceited and arrogant in my opinion. The yellow (red carpet) is where all the buzz happens. All the media guests get to interact with one another and the stars. While it does get a little crazy at times, admittedly, you get more from being apart of that rather than isolating yourself from the rest of the group. It also caused a bit of confusion with the guests because how are they to know that there is yet another yellow carpet. You don’t see E! Entertainment rolling out their very own red carpet at the Grammys and the Oscars, so seriously, it really doesn’t have to be done in South Africa. So next year, organisers you must JBS and tell them to be on the yellow carpet.
So after getting cold and hungry sitting in the marquee, I eventually decided it was time for me to go. Throughout the whole experience I was surprisingly calm, but I thought I should share my thoughts on this year’s SAMAs with you all. If this is supposed to the Grammys of SA, then we have a long way to go. Transparency is key and right from the word go we were all left guessing as to whether the awards were actually going to happen this year, let alone be at Sun City/ Monte, be sponsored by MTN etc etc. It was an utter shambles and instead of getting irritable, I just cringed more to be honest. “Oh no that didn’t just happen” “Really did that just happen” etc. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Lets pull it together next year from a production, events perspective and actually really celebrate our artists and their fantastic achievements in music. They deserve to be treated like superstars over a weekend like this, not have their phones stolen outside the after-party venue on the Monte premises. To everyone involved, I feel it’s time you go back to the drawing board and get organised for SAMA 18.