Letta Mbulu and Caiphus Semenya will be the first lifetime recipients of the Saafma awards.

Johannesburg - Legendary musical couple Letta Mbulu and Caiphus Semenya will again make history on Saturday when they become the first lifetime recipients of the inaugural South African Afro Music Awards (Saafma).

The Saafmas are an inaugural music awards event to recognise and honour musical greats, especially in the Afro music genre, over the past 21 years.

Launched in Sandton in July by music promoter and businessman China Mpololo and CSun’s Holdings, the Saafmas will be held during a glamorous gala dinner at the Birchwood Conference Centre in Boksburg on Saturday.

The evening’s music director will be Robbie Malinga.

In recognition of their immense contribution to music and the South African liberation struggle, Unisa bestowed honorary doctorate degrees on Mbulu and Semenya in 2013. A first in Unisa history, Mbulu and Semenya received a Doctor of Literature and Philosophy (honoris causa) and a Doctor of Musicology (honoris causa) respectively during the graduation ceremony in October 2013.

Mpololo said the awards will have 20 categories, including a Public Favourite Song of Democracy category.

“We will actually recognise our legends and current Afro musicians from South Africa and Africa because many musicians have not been recognised at home, while other countries have acknowledged their contribution to our Afro music heritage.

“We are proud as South Africans that we have stars such as Bra Hugh (Masekela), uTata Caiphus (Semenya) and Mama Letta (Mbulu), Jonas Gwangwa and many more, whose music contributed up to 80 percent of the Afro music genre. They are not getting the recognition on radio stations’ playlists,” he said.

The Saafmas will also celebrate new, young talents.

Some of the emerging talent who will perform on the night include East London-born Vuyani Mtshikana, otherwise known as Veesoul, and others who will perform the music of legends such as Stimela and the Mahotella Queens.

He said the judges will be experts from the industry, top journalists, producers, music compilers and television and radio executives.

“The only category to be decided by the public will be the Public Favourite Song of Democracy,” Mpololo said.

The categories of the awards include Best Afro Male, Best Legendary Afro Male, Best Afro Female, Best Legendary Afro Female, Best Afro Selling Album, Best Afro Rising Star, Best Afro Group, Best Afro Live DVD, Best Afro Journalist/Photographer and Chairman’s Special Award.

“No tickets will be sold for the event as only invited guests will be accommodated,” said Mpololo.

“We expect guests from all walks of life, including politicians, business executives, our generous sponsors and many of our legends.”

The event is supported by Proudly SA, the National Heritage Council, the Department of Arts and Culture and Brand It.

The Sunday Independent