By Reagan Ssempijja
Yesterday was the finale of the two-day Janzi Awards ceremony held at Kololo Independence Grounds. Yes, a two-day awards ceremony, probably the first of its kind in the history of Uganda’s arts industry.
To try and understand these awards better, one needs to go not so far back – just over a month ago, when the official launch of the first Janzi Awards was held at the Independence Monument in Kampala.
Quickly birthed from Gulu, under Operation Wealth Creation, from the concept of the Janzi music instrument by Janzi Band’s Ssewa Ssewa, the organisers went on to rush through the whole process, holding a nomination event barely two weeks after the official launch.
This raised concern about the whole process, but regardless, the nominations went on and in just two more weeks, the awards ceremony took place.
On day one, Saturday, the pomp, glitz and glamour was everything to die for. In fact, if you had any doubts about how the event would be pulled off, what Steve Jean’s Fenon Events did with the whole setup would be enough to allay your fears. You can also say the majority of the invited guests understood the weight of the event, so they tried to match up that weight through their outfits.
The show actually evoked some nostalgia about how a typical arts event used to be before COVID-19 set in, two years ago. With entertainment from comedians Mad Rat and Chiko, Uncle Mark, and a couple of musicians performing on stage, it’s safe to say that day one raised the bar a little high for day two.
Winners like Charles Peter Mayiga for Best Nonfiction Writer, Jimmy Spire Ssentongo for Outstanding Cartoonist, Habby K for Best Entertainment Reporter and Julius Kyazze for Best Talent Manager were the highlights of the day one awards.
Here comes Day Two of the awards…
However, day two offered an even more entertaining show, with drama on and offstage.
Again, the stage, lighting, sound and red carpet were what everyone expected of Fenon Events. Okay, power went off for over 20 minutes, but in this republic, such small things can pass.
The band, however, had issues. Something was loudly not right with whatever they were playing. In fact, when Fred Ssebatta was performing Omuddugavu, you could clearly notice that the band had not rehearsed with him at all. With confusion in his eyes as he struggled to keep up with their uncoordinated tempo, it was obvious that a lot was wrong. To the ardent Ssebatta and Kadongo Kamu fans, what happened was a disservice.
Talking about Kadongo Kamu, a section of the artistes chose to take over the show with drama both on and off stage. This all unfolded towards the end of Gerald Kiweewa’s Bannansi group performance on stage, when some guy donning a white jumper invaded the stage and immediately picked up a fight with Kiweewa and other group members shouting, “You stole our money! You stole our money.”
To those watching from the back, this looked like the usual Kadongo Kamu stage gimmicks, until the insults, punches and kicks spilled over to the VIP section.
“Security, security, please intervene,” Collins Emeka, one of the hosts, called for help.
The show, however, moved on shortly thereafter with more awards being given out. Worth noting, too, was that an event of that billing had more representatives than actual nominees.
At some point, Isaac Rucci, the main host of the show, would go straight to asking, “can we have a representative to pick this award?” without even asking whether the winner was around. It was that obvious.
Does this speak to the rushed preparations for the awards, that the nominees were not notified in time? One can safely argue like that.
When Fred Ssebatta was performing Omuddugavu, you could clearly notice that the band had not rehearsed with him at all. With confusion in his eyes as he struggled to keep up with their uncoordinated tempo, it was obvious that a lot was wrong
Away from the drama, the event had some really interesting performances, with the band showing some improvement from earlier on. Feffe Bussi, Karole Kasita, Zex Bilangilangi and Sheebah Karungi put up short, but energetic shows.
Day two categories were mainly for the film and music sections of art, with winners like Azawi for Outstanding Album of the Year, Liam Voice for Outstanding vocalist of the Year, Usama Mukwaya for Best Film Producer, Loukman Ali for Best Director, Housen Mushema for Best Actor and Ray G for Western artist of the year, among others. Pia Pounds’ Tupaate took the Song of the Year award.
There were also some legendary recognitions, with Mowzey Radio taking the Outstanding Legendary musician award, beating Maddox Sematimba and Jose Chameleone.
Moses Matovu of the Afrigo Band bagged the Lifetime Achievement award, presented to him by Hope Mukasa, another respected figure in Uganda’s music industry.
Pallaso closed the night with his Artist of the Year award and a sensational performance.