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Fitting Africa into the musical map

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Tim Horwood is the Channel director of MTV Base Africa

Therese Owen

The MTV Africa Music Awards (Mamas) were always part of the MTVbase vision from the music channel’s inception in 2005.

The managing director of MTVbase, Alex Okosi, had a vision of promoting African music, not only across the continent, but throughout the world.

To this end he assembled a team of qualified people who shared the same ideals, including Tim Horwood (pictured).

Horwood is no stranger to television. Having grown up as a presenter on SABC1 and graduated to Channel O, he began working as a producer on music shows like Castle Loud with hosts Unathi and Stoan.

He takes up the story of the Mamas: “When I first started working at MTVbase, the African music scene was disparate.

“We believed that if we wanted to present Africa to the world we needed the continent to support the artists. At that time the only famous artists from Africa were world musicians like Angelique Kidjo, Salif Keita and Youssou N’Dour. We wanted to show the world that we have a young, urban, African youth culture.”

Horwood was sent on a whirlwind tour of 10 countries which highlighted their biggest artists, and put the tour together as a series. The idea was for music to cross borders, which would further strengthen the African music scene.

The next big problem was the quality of the videos.

“South Africa had decent videos, but the rest of the continent was shocking. We needed videos to stand with international videos.”

However, there were many arguments at the time that MTVbase was perpetuating US cultural imperialism.

Horwood agrees to a certain extent, but gives a valid counter argument: “We want to push African music to the world, which means better quality videos.”

What happened over the next few years was largely attributed to the channel’s strict stance on videos: videos improved.

“The next thing Nigeria just rocketed past South Africa and they had no big budgets.”

MTVbase had also decided to be pro-active with the perceived problem. It brought in top international video directors and held workshops across the continent.

In 2008 the channel decided it was ready for the first Mamas. They were held in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.

“Yeah, we all lost some years on that one,” says Horwood.

As an invited guest, it is safe to say it was one of the most frustrating and illogical experiences of my life, one I would only wish on my worst enemy.

The next year a successful Mamas took place in Nairobi, Kenya, before returning to Lagos, Nigeria, the following year.

For political reasons, the show took a break, and now it is set to take place in Durban.

The show will be watched by a record 500 million people around the globe because the event will be carried by more channels than ever before.

“We could have scaled it down, but we want to represent Africa,” says Horwood.

“We have not compromised. It is important that the show reflects the continent. This is a global celebration of African creativity.”

It will be hosted Marlon Wayans and feature performances by Kalawa Jazmee artists Mafikizolo, Professor, Oskido and Uhuru as well as Khuli Chana, all from South Africa.

There will also be performances by US artists Miguel, Trey Songz and French Montana and other big-name artists from Africa, including Davido.

The show will be broadcast live on MTVbase from the Durban ICC from 8pm on Saturday.


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