Two Nigerian singers won top awards Saturday as MTV held its first-ever music award program for Africa, with acts from across the continent being nominated for prizes. Nigerian singer D’banj won the artist of the year award, while his compatriot, Naeto C, took the laurels for the best new African act, it was announced at the ceremony in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Winners were selected by fans sending text messages, said Alison Reid, a spokeswoman for MTV Networks Africa. Africa has long featured a vibrant music scene, but artists have had difficulties breaking into overseas markets. Famous African artists include Senegal’s Youssou N’dour, Nigerian legend Fela Kuti and South African impresario Miriam Makeba, who died this month. MTV hopes the awards can offer the artists more exposure and celebrate the continent’s artistry. Performers from South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Gabon and others also were nominated. Songs by D’banj and Naeto C, both male, are all but ubiquitous on the radio in Nigeria, Africa’s most-populous nation of 140 million people. African music is highly varied, reflecting myriad tastes in the vast continent. Included across the many genres are call-and-response chanting and heavy drumming, drawing on pre-colonial modes of communication among villages. Since independence movements swept the continent in the 1960s, African music also has increasingly been open to outside influence, incorporating salsa rhythms, rock beats and, increasingly, hip hop and R&B styles. Many of the new Nigerian acts nominated Saturday feature heavy beats pioneered by American rappers and hip-hop artists. The lyrics often reflect the desire of many Nigerians to escape poverty and corrupt governance. There was a cameo appearance by US rapper The Game, who gave a brief medley of his hit songs. There were also performances by the rapper’s compatriots Flo-rida, and Kelly Rowland. Other live acts included Seun Kuti, 9ice, as well as HHP from South Africa, but it was the assortment collaborations that stole the show. HHP came back on stage to join Nigerian singing sensation Asa on her song Jailer, and Rowland performed alongside D’banj. But the biggest fusion was that of South African rockers Cassette, Kenyan rapper Jua Cali, and Ikechukwu and Naeto C. American R&B singer Alicia Keys gave a video acceptance speech for winning the best R&B award, as did South African band Seether, who won the best alternative award. MTV’s regional music channel MTV Base now reaches almost 50 million African viewers in 48 countries through a network of pay-per-view services and partnerships with domestic channels. Source: AP/MTV Base
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