Why The Headies remains essential to Nigerian pop culture

Posted on December 08 2016 , at 03:35 pm
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  • No other show has captured the zeitgeist of Nigerian entertainment like The Headies has done.

Ayo Animashaun, Executive Producer of The Headies Awards
Ayo Animashaun, Executive Producer of The Headies Awards

The Headies Awards (formerly known as Hip Hop World Awards) is not the first awards show in Nigeria. Before it there had been FAME Awards that went out with the 20th century; there was the PMAN Nigeria Music Awards that was more trouble than it was worth, and a bunch of other awards organized by soft sell journals.

Outside the country, there was Channel O Awards in South Africa, which Nigerians dominated, as well as KORA Awards for West Africa that had a lot of money thrown at it by the organizers.

However, none of these awards shows has captured the zeitgeist of Nigerian pop culture like The Headies has done.

The first edition was done at a defining period in Nigerian entertainment: our starlets were becoming stars in their own right and our music was heard all over the world. But there was no platform to reward these new generation of superstars. We had seen how these things were done abroad – at least Baba Keke and D1 used to attend the Grammy Awards and record clips for the rest of us to enjoy.

Hip Hop World Magazine was the first body to attempt to recreate the glamour and excitement associated with awards shows. The first edition – never mind the cliche – was the first of its kind. Red carpets, limousines and an arena that seemed custom made for it were what HipHop World Awards delivered in 2006. It truly was a ‘revolution’ as the tag went. Who can forget the enthralling Dbanj and Don Jazzy performance of that year?

Dbanj-and-Don-Jazzy-performing-the-Hip-Hop-World-Awards.Photo-Artistnaijafile
Don Jazzy and Dbanj on stage

Since then it has been an annual gathering of Nigeria’s best and brightest stars. It is the highlight of the entertainment year, with fans and artistes themselves looking forward to it. Thankfully the organizers realized few years ago that ‘Hip Hop World’ didn’t quite cover the entirety of Nigerian music; thus, the name was changed.

No other platform has come close to presenting an entertainment event on the scale that The Headies has, either in terms of consistency or quality of the event production or even the reputation of the faculty that determines who wins, and there have been more than a few that have tried and given up.

The 2016 edition will be the 11th year The Headies has taken place. That alone has put the show on a pedestal that no other can reach. In a country that nothing is guaranteed to be there next year, eleven years is a mighty long time to do one thing continuously. Not only has it been around for long, it has gotten better with each edition. It is even fascinating that you can sit at home and watch the proceedings via HipTV, run by the owners of The Headies.

The prize isn’t too shabby either: the 4 kilogram, 21 carat gold plated plaque has been coveted by all artistes. That’s why some artistes get belligerent when they do not win like Psquare in 2010, Burna Boy in 2013, and Olamide in 2015. In addition, a car prize comes with the ‘Next Rated’ category which makes it the second most keenly desired prize, after the ‘Artiste of the Year’.

Wizkid, Next Rated winner in 2011
Wizkid, Next Rated winner in 2011

The wide acceptance and longevity of The Headies Awards have not made it immune to criticism; the nominations and winners have been criticized from time to time. Add to that the cursed Nigerian factor of never commencing the show on time.

Perhaps that is what sets it apart – in spite of the several issues that crop up year after year, the organizers of the show continue to pump funds into the show annually – because all of the above do not diminish from the importance of The Headies to the Nigerian entertainment scene. The flak does not take away the necessity of a platform like The Headies.

For a generation that has had to create its own music, its own industry and its own reward system, The Headies is not just a jamboree. It validates the existence of our pop culture. The importance of the awards show succeeds the day’s glamour or the glitz of the venue. It says more for urban Nigerian pop culture than it does for anything else. There is validation for entertainers, one that is native to Nigeria, almost comparable to anything else in the world and one that does not need to be a boon of international television companies.

There might be a day in Nigeria where Eko Hotel won’t need generators. There might be a time that Nigerians will be nominated in standard categories at the Grammys (not the mishmash labelled ‘World Music’). There even could be a time in the future that awards shows won’t be necessary. But that day is not today. Until that such time, some of us will be in the hall, applauding the resilience and triumph of the Nigerian spirit as exemplified by The Headies.

 

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