MTV Africa Music Awards to Return in Virtual Form

The MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMA) will return in early 2021 for the first time in years amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the unit of ViacomCBS unveiled on Wednesday.

The music celebration, which last took place in 2016, will be put on as a virtual event on Feb. 20 in partnership with Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism and comes amid an expansion of original content at ViacomCBS’ African networks.

“In this pivotal year, the events that have happened all over the world have affected everyone, young people in particular, and their vision of the future,” Monde Twala, senior vp and general manager for ViacomCBS Networks Africa and peer lead, BET International, tells THR. “Over the years, the MAMA has demonstrated to have the power to inspire young people and unifying communities across the continent through music, which is the main reason why we decided to bring back the MAMA now. We want to inspire young people, unify them and give them much needed hope in one of the most difficult moments in history, connect them, and through this virtual innovation, we are confident that we will deliver positive change which can inspire critical conversations through music and culture.”

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Could the event become an annual one? “For now, we are focused on delivering the best event ever for the upcoming 2021 MAMA in partnership with the Uganda Ministry of Tourism, but we are committed to bringing this celebration to all our fans across the continent and internationally, as we believe this event is a testament of our long-standing commitment towards the young generation via the power of music,” Twala says. “MAMA has always been a celebration and recognition of African music, talent, and culture, and we would love to bring more MAMAs to the African continent.”

For the February return, the Uganda partnership will lead to the inclusion of the country’s capital in the seventh MAMA’s name: MTV Africa Music Awards Kampala 2021. The show will air across the continent on the MTV Base and MTV networks, featuring “vibrant performances from African and international artists and the show’s signature cross-genre and cross-border collaborations.” It will also air as a one-hour MAMA-themed MTV World Stage on MTV and BET international channels across “multiple” other continents.

The event will feature 20 award categories, including best song, best collaboration, best female,  best male, and the MAMA Generation Change Award. New honors this year will also include ones for the Alone Together Best Lockdown Performance, Best Fan Base, and Personality of the Year, which will “recognize outstanding personalities that have been at the forefront of culture on the continent during the year and include non-music stars” from the worlds of sports, celebrity, and industry. Nominees will be announced in December.

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Twala unveiled the news of the event with Craig Paterson, senior vp & general manager, ViacomCBS Networks Africa, and Uganda’s state minister for tourism Godfrey Kiwanda. MTV said the virtual approach “will allow us to involve a wider variety of international talent and collaborations than the MAMA has ever seen, ensuring that MAMA Kampala 2021 will go down in history.”

MTV has in the past touted the music event’s role as a vehicle for raising the profiles of African musicians via the brand’s global reach. The MTV Africa Music Awards were established in 2008 by MTV Networks Africa, now ViacomCBS Networks Africa, to celebrate popular contemporary music.

The 2008 and 2010 events took place in Nigeria, first in Abuja and then in Lagos. The 2009 event happened in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. After a three-year hiatus, the MAMA returned in 2014 in Durban, South Africa, which also hosted the 2015 edition. The most recent version in 2016 also happened in South Africa, but moved to Johannesburg.

The ViacomCBS brand said that the virtual event in February will also be dedicated to the youth of Africa. “With the MAMA, we aim to speak to the youth, the drivers of change in society, to hopefully inspire positivity and tolerance,” MTV Africa said. “Over the years we have helped to break borders, to give a voice to the people of the continent, to let talent shine, to tell African stories, to share our rhythms, and to open up the industry to the world.”

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ViacomCBS Networks International has been investing in original content in Africa, including BET Africa’s first daily drama from ViacomCBS International Studios, Isono, and BET Africa’s comedy Black Tax about a successful woman who grapples with issues affecting middle-class African people.

Isono, about a dysfunctional family and a heroic son standing up against “a powerful and evil matriarch,” has been driving ratings growth at BET Africa since its September launch, with the channel seeing a 124 percent ratings gain year-over-year, according to the firm. Video views of Isono, which features established and rising stars, have also reached more than 2.8 million on all social media platforms.

“The introduction of a telenovela format for the company in Africa is a significant investment into the local production industry,” ViacomCBS highlighted. With more than 200 episodes, it is the biggest production the company has ever done in the region.

The company’s other African originals include Lasizwe, Fake It Till You Make It, a reality show based on the life of YouTube sensation Lasizwe Dambuza, and a new season of BET Behind the Story, featuring discussions with politicians, and A-listers.

Overall, the company said it was excited to bring “fresh and new content,” both local and global programming, to its platforms in the region late in the year and in the first quarter of 2021.

ViacomCBS Networks Africa has also been featuring social responsibility campaigns, such as  #StopTheViolence in Nigeria, a recent Africa Day partnership with YouTube and Idris Elba who hosted an “Africa Day Benefit Concert at Home” together with the World Food Programme and UNICEF, as well as MTV Shuga, a social campaign focused on sexual health messaging, including HIV prevention.

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.

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