Salax Awards: What exactly went wrong?

MORE than six years ago, most Rwandan artistes were excited to be on the Salax Awards nominees list. Many would embark on campaigns to solicit for votes to ensure they win at the award ceremony.
Singers Tom Close (L) and The Ben with their trophies at the 2009 Salax Awards. / File
Singers Tom Close (L) and The Ben with their trophies at the 2009 Salax Awards. / File

MORE than six years ago, most Rwandan artistes were excited to be on the Salax Awards nominees list. Many would embark on campaigns to solicit for votes to ensure they win at the award ceremony.

The winners would go on to proclaim how they are the best in a certain genre, while those who lost would let out their frustration online.

Eric Senderi, for example, would go an extra mile and make declarations and even proclaim himself ‘King of Afro-beat’, urging his competitors in the same category to address him as such. At some point, the awards were a source of ‘beef’ between artistes.

From its inception in 2008, Salax Awards established itself as the missing link that the country’s budding music industry needed.

The gala would be attended by the crème de la crème in the showbiz industry and artistes used the opportunity to showcase their sense of fashion.

However, at its peak, the annual awards descended into chaos—artistes started boycotting the awards, bickering among the organisers became the order of the day, and everything was on a downward trend. The public too lost faith.

In an interview with The New Times, Emma-Claudine Ntirenganya, the chairperson of Ikirezi Group which was the brain behind the awards, admitted the organisation of the awards reached a point where it was not sustainable, especially due to lack of sponsorship.

She, however, says that they hope to revive the awards in the near future if everything goes as planned.

“Salax awards have not disappeared. We gave it a pause to put a few things together. We are looking for sponsors to bring the awards back in the near future,” she said.

“We had predicted from the start that such a crisis was inevitable but we kept pushing. It was mainly due to lack of sponsorship. As soon as we get funds, we will definitely re-launch Salax,” she said.

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The awards. 

Ntirenganya added that they are already approaching potential sponsors.

Organisers even signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ with Kenyan company ‘Yes Africa’ to help them find sponsors but unfortunately funds were not coming in.

The fate of the Salax Awards was sealed by the launch of Primus Guma Guma Super Star by beverage manufacturer Bralirwa, with artistes now shifting their focus from the awards to the lucrative music competition.

According to the award organisers, artistes opted out of the Salax nominations to focus on PGGSS and this marked the beginning of the end of Salax.

Backed by a huge cash prize and logistical means to organise free concerts across the country, featuring all the best artistes, Salax was no match for Guma Guma, which easily became the favourite annual music competition.

Eventually, as all artistes put their eyes on Guma Guma and lost interest in Salax, coupled with lack of sponsors and squabbling; it was imminent that the event would take a hit.

An attempt to revive the awards in 2016 was met by controversy as artistes pulled out in numbers, citing personal commitments.

King James, Christopher, Knowless and Teta Diana all wrote to the organising committee that they were not available to attend the 2016 edition, which ended up being suspended in December.

Since then, the future of the awards became uncertain. Even to date, nobody can tell when the awards will return.

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Emma-Claudine Ntirenganya.

Plot to come back

Ntirenganya insists Salax Awards will bounce back stronger than ever, although she did not want to reveal the exact date or year they will re-launch.

“It is something we have to give time if we want to build the new face of Salax Awards, which we consider a unique brand in the local music industry,” Ntirenganya said, adding that to date, there is no music recognition platform that can match Salax.

Rapper Jay Polly, one of the artistes who scooped a Salax Award, says the demise of the awards left a huge gap in the music industry because it recognised and promoted quality.

“Winning a Salax Award was something every musician was looking forward to. This should be a time for investors to realise the opportunity and put their money in music,” he says.

“We see this in other countries like Nigeria where they get revenue from musicians because there is an investment in the industry,” Jay Polly says.

However, it remains to be seen when the awards will bounce back.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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