Mai Patai: Fair winner or not?

BY WINSTONE ANTONIO

THE National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) is under scrutiny following the 2019 edition of the annual National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) ceremony held last Saturday, amid claims of failure to honour creativity.

Trends in major local awards ceremonies have been worrisome, with unfortunate decisions of celebrating mediocrity frequently raising more questions than answers.

The same has also been witnessed in the annual Radio Zimbabwe Coca-Cola 2017 Top 50 and the ZBC TV Coke Top 50 Videos competitions held annually on every New Year’s eve.

The almost forgotten Gweru-based gospel singer, Respina “Mai Patai” Patai, scooped the viewers’ choice award ahead of top contenders like Winky D and Jah Prayzah.

Mai Patai, who once dominated the airwaves decades ago with her track Mazambara, before disappearing from the radar, only to resurface recently with the album Punish the Devil, bagged the award, torching off a storm, with several followers of showbiz matters questioning the objectivity of the adjudication process.

The viewers’ choice award gong was last year scooped by Ninja president, Winky D, but in a script that surprised many, dark horse Mai Patai emerged this year’s winner.

Without taking anything away from Mai Patai, it is unthinkable that she was more popular than Enzo Ishall or Obert Chari of the Mebo fame last year. The impression that one gets is that Mai Patai’s fans voted – and their numbers overwhelmed Jah Prayzah and Winky D’s.

It may now be necessary for the NACZ to avail the full results of the adjudication process to clear the air and dispel “rigging” claims.

If, indeed, it is a game of numbers, why have music promoters not been chasing Mai Patai’s signature in order to capitalise on her massive support? Maybe it’s a wake-up call for music promoters to probably organise three separate concerts, one for Mai Patai, another for Winky D and the other for Jah Prayzah and find out who draws the biggest crowd. Maybe this would put the debate to rest.

One way for the NACZ to protect its integrity and that of their awards is to engage a professional auditing firm to verify their results.

Of course, NACZ argues that winners are determined on the basis of votes and not just popularity on the streets or social media, including even the amount of airplay they receive on radio.

On the other hand, maybe critics must be reminded of Mai Patai’s claim when she returned from hibernation that it was her fans who had thrown her a lifeline as they had pooled resources together to rescue her music career, which was on the wane due to a number of challenges.

“I salute the fans for their unwavering support and initiatives they brought to help me revitalise my career after such a long break. Being quiet for almost a decade is not that easy and to still have such loyal fans that can stand by you is something that must be appreciated,” Mai Patai told NewsDay Life & Style last year at the relaunch of her music career.

Interestingly, at last year’s edition of the awards, the Kutonga Kwaro hitmaker outsmarted Enock “ExQ” Munhenga and Trevor Dongo to bag the outstanding male musician gong, which this year went to ExQ.

ExQ proved his dominance at this year’s awards by winning the outstanding album gong that was previously bagged by Jah Prayzah, with his once popular offering Kutonga Kwaro, which was sung like a national anthem under the “new political dispensation”.

For Winky D, his songs such as Kasong Kejecha and Parliament, have been interpreted to mean an attack on the status quo since they are laden with social commentary.

The Gafa hitmaker has, however, said he was not amused, adding it was difficult for an artiste to explore human rights themes in Zimbabwe without being labelled political.

As results released by Nama’s adjudicating panel on the viewers’ choice award indicate that it is the fans who determine whether or not their idols win, not just by enjoying the music, but by voting, let me join Mai Patai’s fans in also congratulating her for raising the bar.

•Feedback at wantonio@alphamedia.co.zw

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