Best Gospel Artist winner, Babo Ngcobo performing at the Crown Gospel Awards PICTURE: Buhle Mbonambi

The 11th SABC Crown Gospel Awards took place on Sunday at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC.  Founded by Zanele Mbokazi's World Gospel Powerhouse, the awards have grown to become a major event on the entertainment calendar, celebrating some of the best voices in the music industry.

Here's what we loved about Sunday night's awards ceremony.

The Hosts

While the show was billed as Pearl Modiadie co-hosting with Lawrence Maleka, it was mostly Pearl's show, with features by Lawrence. Pearl, hosting the awards for the second time, proved why she walked away with the DStv Mzansi Viewer's Choice award for presenting- she was in her element last night. She and Lawrence have great chemistry and while the script sometimes forced them to do embarrassing things, they did it with gusto and heart and they weren't self-conscious about it. They should come back next year. 

SABC Crown Gospel Award hosts, Lawrence Maleka and Pearl Modiadie PICTURE: Buhle Mbonambi

The Performances

So gospel singers are known for their powerful voices (well, most of them anyway) and last night did not disappoint. Sure, the sound problems nearly messed up a lot of performances, but most artists shone. 

Khaya Mthethwa and Oasis Worship, Babo Ngcobo, Ayanda Ntanzi, Mmatema Moremi with Swazi Dlamini and Brian Temba, Living Rock and Mawat all impressed, showing off their vocal prowess and how to command the stage like a pro. Mawat literally leaving the stage and standing on VIP guest's chairs during the dying seconds of his performance was the gutsiest thing I have seen at these awards afterwards. 

The Stage

World class. It was beautiful from all angles and it must have been great on TV, too. That's when you know that serious attention was paid in planning the awards to make sure they look great both to the audience at the ICC and the viewers at home. The lighting was really good, while the use of pyrotechnics and fire during some performances was a good move. We saw this during Babo Ngcobo and Mawat's performances. They also made full use of the stage, which some artists forget to do. 

The Presenters

You know how awkward it is sometimes when you find that people didn't go to rehearsals and therefore they look bad when speaking ahead of giving out awards? There was little of that at the Crowns, which we can really commend them for making sure that everyone looked polished. Though it was weird seeing people read from their keycards rather than the autocue, maybe it is the right decision to have these notes on the cards instead of pulling a Vuyo Dabula... 

Here's what left us confused... 

The Sound

So bad. There were times we couldn't hear the hosts speak and we were in the venue, so I can't imagine what it was like for viewers at home. There are two important things for any production that can either make or break it- the lighting and the sound. The sound was terrible and nearly sabotaged many performances. The backing vocalists sounded so bad, too. 

The Red Carpet

In shambles! It was a real mess and so disorganised. Media could barely take shots of the gospel music fraternity, TV personalities and other guests. It was like a free for all and there was nobody manning the red carpet and directing people where to go. 

We have attended red carpet events everywhere and we know that it's always effective to have members of the press cordoned off on both sides of the carpet,  to allow the celebrities to walk without anybody being in their way, while also allowing the photographers to take great images. And to make matters worse, the minute a famous face got to the carpet, an overzealous producer from the SABC would come and grab them, not even giving photographers a chance to take images of the celebrities. 

Ayanda Ncwane arriving at the Crown Gospel Awards PICTURE: Buhle Mbonambi

Our verdict...

The Crowns are in the second digits and we expect them to be more polished. They are getting there and we see the growth. We loved how they made sure they had all the people who had the best and popular gospel songs present. The performance line-up featured multigenerational acts to appeal to the genre's wide audience. They have a whole year to assemble a great production team to make sure these awards are of a high standard, especially when it comes to the sound issues. 

And yes, they were better than the SA Music Awards.