As the 9th Annual South-South Music Awards (SSMA) approaches, being slated for the 3rd of December 2017 in Benin-city as announced by its organizers, It has become necessary to put down this article to celebrate and give kudos to an awards ceremony that has survived 9 years of trying to bring to fore, the entertainment industry and its major players from the south-south region of Nigeria and of course the man and the people behind this great event. The award ceremony this year moves from its traditional home of the Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre to a new venue, the Ekinadose Events Hall of the prestigious Rhandeki Gold Hotel in GRA, Benin-City.
The SSMA is a production of Lockdown Entertainment and for the last 8 years, they have produced what is hugely considered as the biggest, most respected and most coveted entertainment award ceremony in the south-south region of Nigeria under the leadership of a greatly under-celebrated entertainment icon in Nigeria Mr. Andy Bello. The use of the word ‘under celebrated’ here is intentional and only those who play or have played within the industry in the south-south may be able to relate to my choice of description, while considering the intensity of work and resources that it takes to put together an event of such magnitude and survive 8years in an environment though filled with a lot of talents, lack certain basic knowledge, tools and media attention for enhanced professionalism in the industry. The SSMA in some of its past editions have also been victim of these challenges but Mr. Andy Bello with almost no corporate brand sponsorships over the years has managed to hold it together, making the SSMA become a strong enough launch pad for many of the biggest Nigerian artistes thriving today who are of south-south origin.
Even though it has contributed the largest number of artistes to the Nigerian music industry and indeed the whole entertainment industry eco-system, the South-South entertainment industry remains largely underrated and uncelebrated for its contributions into the Nigerian creative industry hallmarks. This may have been hugely due to poor documentation of culture when it mattered the most and so most of these stories may be lost forever if they are not told and keep getting retold. This is not a tribal, ethnic or politically oriented piece but in contrast to the tag for which the average Niger-Delta youth is known for as a ‘militant’ or potential criminal element, the Nigerian music industry must begin to appreciate the role a platform like the SSMA has played in trying to put the region in good light through highlighting, celebrating and projecting the potentials of the south-south creative industry and its largely untapped market.
From Benin-City in early 2000s up until now, stars like Kaha, Sanchez, Maleke, Cyrus Tha Virus, Rhymzo, Oriri who gave us the love song ‘Sisi Eko’, Yung Hanz and lately Johnny Drille all scored national hit songs in their respective genres while still based in Benin with little or no real pro distribution channels or strategy. New stars like John NetworQ, Esbee, Steven Tones, KOD, Kasope, L’Presido, Lato, Okal, and Ryan are some of the artistes currently dominating the airwaves in the city and beyond. The industry in Warri these days is also popping with ol’Gees like Erigga and relatively new comers like Shuun Bebe, T-west, the rapper PayPer Corleone who is currently raving up from Bayelsa and Young Stunna from the Port-Harcourt industry. All these are positive individuals with stories that never get told enough by the mainstream media, therefore those in the region need to begin telling their own stories.
The SSMA for it’s legacy so far is one award which every past alumni of the awards should be proud to include in their stories because for the most, it was their first ever career award(s) or recognition. Artistes like Timaya, Harry Songs, Erigga Cynthia Morgan, Waje, Yung Hanz, Yung 6ix, Orezi, Oritsefemi, JMartins and many more top Nigerian artistes from within and outside the region have all been past winners of this prestigious music awards.
One highlight of the SSMA I’m personally looking forward to this year is the Cyphers. In the last one year I’ve been able to learn about a whole lot of young rappers who can actually rap and it will be interesting to hear what bars they’d bring to the mic. Another high interest will be on who wins the coveted ‘Best New Artiste’ award category which has been announced to carry a cash reward of N500, 000, courtesy of the Cynthia Morgan Foundation to support new artistes coming up to fund their elementary careers. The rapper Yung Hanz picked up the award in 2010 with his smash hit ‘Display’ which was produced by Ray X and another rapper KOD picked up the same award in 2015 after dropping his debut ‘Keen Ode Delivery’ album. This is also hoping that more privileged music enthusiasts can replicate this gesture for other categories while calling on those with the resources to invest in the industry thereby putting a halt to this continuous exodus of the region’s best talents just before their prime.
––– Written by Hezy Odoh (@FAMEMAKER_)