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The Headies: Where Do We Go From Here?

If we’ve lost the soul of what we’re doing, what is it supposed to represent?

The Headies, Nigeria’s premier music award show, hosted its 15th event on September 4th, 2022. To crown this milestone year, the event was taken out of the shores of Nigeria to Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta, USA. Several important guests were in attendance, as is customary at shows like this. Unfortunately, the show didn’t live up to its billing and turned out to be an event that was, at best, difficult to watch.

Before I continue, I must make something clear. We need the Headies. As Afrobeats takes several steps in an upward trajectory, all artists can’t make that jump from nation’s pride to global stardom. It is important to recognize, appreciate and pay homage to those internally who have and continue to make art that stands the test of time, by representing everything it means to be Nigerian — to be African. But, with ceremonies like the one last Sunday, important aspects of our culture will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Let us highlight a few things. While not all Headies shows have been bad, there has always been room for improvement concerning the show’s production. The reason behind the decision to take the Headies away from home soil was said to nurture the growing relationship between the Nigerian and American music industries. It was also to bridge gaps in structural lapses which (strangely) couldn’t be resolved in Nigeria. The excuses were accepted on the condition that it would birth a better experience. It didn’t, and the rising question seeks answers to why an award show by Nigerians, for Nigerians was held in a land that isn’t ours, littered with people with little to no knowledge about our culture.

Anthony Anderson, known popularly as Dre on the US comedy series Black-ish was enlisted to host the show alongside Osas Ighodaro. While he may be good at what he does, his performance on stage did not show that. In addition to some cheeky (read: insensitive) comments about Nigerians and the show itself, he was disconnected from most things related to Afrobeats and particularly Nigerian culture. If we are to hold events like this on foreign soil, the least we can do is hire people who know what they’re talking about.

It rubbed off wrong on those of us watching at home. Other things had a similar effect on us, from the bleeding sound coming out of the speakers while our artists performed to the event’s scrambled stream. Despite Nigeria’s deficiencies, we have been able to host top-level events with big budgets, good curation, and detailed execution. The budget for the Headies was presumably massive and the idea was great, but its product left a little more to be desired.

Sure, we could cut the producers some slack as it was the first attempt to give a Nigerian event a more pan-Atlantic outlook, so they are bound to make errors. They wanted it to gain traction and indeed, it did. On paper, it would count as a masterstroke. It is great that Afrobeats broke the barriers of our continent, but at what point do we stop feeling the need to gain validation from our foreign counterparts? How do we strike the balance of retaining our essence and improving our craft while expanding for a wider reach?

To these foreigners, The Headies would serve as a metric to judge the internal state of things in our industry, our country, and our culture. The comments of Osas Ighodaro’s co-host highlighted a face of contempt covered in a thin veil of respect that was only present as a matter of courtesy for his big reputation and the presumably equal-sized cheque he received for the evening. Tributes were given to Akon and Wyclef Jean but unfortunately, none for Sound Sultan in the first Headies after his death, especially as there is a running joke about the resemblance of his head to the Headie award. If we’ve lost the soul of what we’re doing, what is it supposed to represent?

Featured Image Credit: The Headies

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