MLMA 2021: MY REVIEW
By: Dounard Bondo
On the 20th of November, people turned out for the 2021 edition of the MTN Liberia Music Awards (MLMA). Over the last couple of years, the MLMA has not only established itself as arguably the biggest award ceremony for Liberian music, but it has also become an exhibition for Liberian fashion and pop culture.
With this theme of “music for the culture”, this year’s edition of the award came with its own challenges. This year saw the introduction of a new host after three incredible years of Rickslyn Myers hosting. Additionally, two of the hottest artistes of the year – Kpanto and MC Caro- are out of the country on an international tour in America.
It goes without saying that the Liberia Music Award body and Echo House Liberia – the event organizers- should be applauded for raising the bar and turning out quality award shows annually. However, in comparison with previous editions of the award ceremony, this year’s edition was underwhelming in this writer’s opinion.
It has to be said that the interpretation of the theme into fashion was beautiful to see, especially in the YGLS and Bloh Kon Dalor pieces (shout out to the BAE TU skirt from BKD). In this writer’s opinion, Milton Klechee had the best performance costume in line with the theme of the show. The stage, live band and lighting were also very good.
Some musical performances were also very good. HipCo artiste Christoph’s performance was a strong contender for performance of the night as he took the audience on a nostalgic journey through his old records. The performance represented Christoph’s triumph and comeback over the numerous challenges he faced this year.
However, the best performance in the opinion of this writer was that of Afropop artiste Teddyride. His vocals, transitions and synergy with the live band were nothing short of beautiful. Kobazzie and the Liberia youth orchestra also had stellar performances. With the theme being “music for the culture”, Soul Fresh’s performance was important, seeing as the duo are among the pioneers of Liberian hipco culture.
Other notable performances include tribute covers of Miatta Fahnbulleh, and the solo performance of Candace Cooper, winner of the 2021 MTN Yello Star singing competition. However, while the first half of her performance was nothing short of amazing, she would need more training on mic control. In contrast, her second song choice was indicative of a failure on the part of her team’s branding and A&R (artiste & Repertoire).
The MLMA 2021 did not come without some issues. The unavailability of Kpanto and MC Caro – two of the biggest stars of the year – resulted in an overcompensation by the organizers that resulted into too many filler acts that took time unnecessarily. For example, the opening set included forgettable performances from a dance crew and the audience was introduced to a “ballerina” that didn’t dance ballet, but did contemporary dance.
The hosts and the sound quality team could have also done better in the execution of their roles. Despite having the best performance costume, sound quality meant that viewers couldn’t hear Milton Klechee throughout his performance as the sound from the DJ drowned his voice. BeenieKing BS2’s decision to switch from live band to DJ also saw his voice being drowned out by the DJ set. The spacing of the show could also be significantly better, but the worst fail of the show was time management.
Despite the ticket saying the red carpet starts by 5 PM, the show didn’t start till it was past 9:00. Bad time management saw the show coming to an end at around 2:30 AM to a hall where 80 percent of attendees had left. Additionally, Eric Geso, who was touted as the performer of the night, could only perform for one-minute as time was far spent.
The set for Miatta Fahnbulleh, who won the lifetime achievement award, was unnecessarily long. The set included covers to three of her songs, with each taking around 5 minutes. She then performed 2 of her songs, and a duet with Emmanuel Shaw that seemed unplanned as the hosts were standing on stage throughout the performance. The performance was unnecessarily long and saw many attendees leave.
This year’s award saw Kpanto sweeping six awards. This sweep is indicative of the awesome year Kpanto has had, dropping hit records and a good album. A. Fordoe, the brain behind most of Kpanto’s production, also won producer of the year after losing out on it last year.
In the opinion of this writer, the award process was free and fair with deserving winners in all categories. However, this writer believes that Brownskin’s track with Teni did not deserve a nomination for collaboration of the year. While it is not commonplace to see Liberian artistes featuring international pop stars, this writer believes that having an international popstar on your record should not be enough to earn a nomination, as the track nominated isn’t as popular.
In conclusion, I would advise organizers to better manage time. However, absent bad time management, the organizers did a good job in the execution of the 2021 MTN Liberia Music Awards (MLMA).