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16th Annual SAMA Nominees – Various

2010-04-12 09:40

And on one level it is. Kwaito rubs hips with house; hip-hop segues into rock; Afrikaans pop nestles snugly alongside Afro-pop and gospel. So, as the marketing tag line suggests, "The Nominees has something for every music taste – literally!", right?

Wrong. R&B, jazz, maskandi and all other traditional African music fans are going to be disappointed. And there's another, perhaps more insidious, selection blunder. Why exclude nominated artists making waves internationally such as the Blk Jks, Farryl Purkiss, and Dear Reader? Or critical favourites back at home like Black Hotels and Laurie Levine? Cynics might be tempeted to read this as some kind of major label disenfranchisement conspiracy. Maybe it is.

But the reality is when it comes to corporate label compilations, it's all about licensing. Does it make financial sense to fork out fees for 'alternative' acts with niche audiences, minor hits and negligible sales figures? Maybe if you're an NPO. But if you're a major label taking your marketing cues from the multi-platinum selling Grammy Nominees album franchise then you celebrate those huge, gold and platinum selling hits.

And hits don't get much bigger than Big Nuz's "Umlilo". The KZN kwaito kingpins kick start the SAMA Nominee celebrations with their retro-futuristic reanimation of '94-era Trompies techno (just listen to "Siyagajima") and big pimping pantsula BEE boasts that should earn Afrotainment's poster boys that prestigious "MTN Record of the Year Award".

They've got some stiff competition though. Thandiswa Mazwai's "Ingoma" is one of the sexiest bedroom ballads you'll hear any year. Having Bra Hugh Masekela guesting on trumpet doesn't hurt either. Meanwhile, both Black Coffee's upwardly mobile Afro groove excursion "Juju" (featuring Zakes Bantwini) and Rhythmic Elements' percolated funky house floor filler "Lesson Number 1" are superb snapshots of just why Mzansi house is capturing the hearts and hips on dancefloors in Soweto and Sandton. And while "Best Newcomer" nominee Culoe De Song's "Webaba" may be a dark deep house horse, the soul he mainlines onto the dancefloor courtesy of maskandi Mama Busi Mhlongo is not to be dismissed.

Cool, but what about The Parlotones' hook-laden modern rock lighter-waiver "Push Me to the Floor"? And Malaika's classy adult contemporary Afro-pop hit "Mmatswale"? Both good songs, but are they great? Even the most partisan fan should admit that both acts have had better, more ground-breaking singles in previous years. As have Muthaland Crunksters Jozi, whose "Party Time" is reduced to a "Best Remix" battle with Lira's "Believer". Hearing Jazzworx give last year's Sama Queen a colour-by-numbers, autotuned makeover doesn't do Lira any favours though, that's for sure.

And speaking of favours, just why the compilers have deemed a pair of pop nominees as being representative of an increasingly eclectic and creative category like Afrikaans remains a mystery. Dewald or Nicholis Louw might well knick the trophy from say Lianie May or Snotkop, but the absence of prime time nominees such as Bok van Blerk, Chris Chameleon, Kurt Darren and Die Radio Kalahari Orkes speaks volumes. Suffice to say that none of the aforementioned artists are signed to major labels. Stiil, the inclusion of "Alternative Afrikaans" nominees Die Heuwels Fantasies' "Sonrotse" (feat Francois Van Coke) - signed to independent label, Supra Familias - is an aptly 'alternative' antidote to the sequenced Afrikaans pop fluff of the Louws.

Thankfully there are few selection misfires with the rest of the nominees. HHP and JR's "Show Dem" is a hip-hop slam dunk. As are killer comebacks from TKZee ("Viva Pantsula") and Afrocentric-soul duo Blk Sonshine ("Nkosi" featuring MXO and Tumi). And a special thumbs up goes out to aKING who've put that 2009 SAMA-snub for Dutch Courage behind them and penned a damn fine rock ballad in "You & I". Better than previous "Best Rock" winners The Parlotones or Cassette?

Hmm, what do you think?

Given the diverse range of genres and artists showcased on this compilation, it's tempting to trot out the cliches. It's tempting to rhapsodise about how this selection of 19 of the 'hottest' hits on this year's South Africa Music Award Nominee list is a representative reflection of our Rainbow Nation.

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