Have foreign NAMA judges been beneficial?

Exposing local artists to an international judging standard was one of the core reasons MTC’s NAMAs’ organising committee imported foreign judges to the competition this year.
As a benefit, they also hoped that this would expose local artist to an international audience whilst serving as a motivating factor for them to step up their game.
With Channel O announcing the nominees for the award show taking place tonight, of which Namibians were glaringly missing, it appears only the opposite of MTC’s hopes is coming to pass.
MTC corporate communications practitioner John Ekongo explained, “The reason we brought in foreign judges was because when they go to the Channel O and MTV Base awards which they hope to win, they are not judged by Namibians, these judges have the experience to partake at an event like the NAMAs. We also wanted to eliminate the bias factor because we found ourselves recycling some of judges we used, and some complained that certain judges knew certain artists.”
He adds, “But another factor to that was that this could be an opportunity for Namibians to get their music out there when the judges hear them as they judge, and perhaps recommend them when they return to their countries.”
However, winner of most Disciplined Artist category at this year’s NAMAs Freeda, almost five months on, has as yet reaped the benefits. “I don’t know if it has worked. If it has helped others, I haven’t seen anything. It has just been me doing my own work,” she said, adding, “I don’t know how getting these judges from outside has improved the music industry locally.”
Meanwhile, winner of Best Collaboration at the NAMAs 2014, Kanibal says, “Well I haven’t really seen any direct blowback from the judges being internationals, but that’s not to say there wasn’t any. I don’t have access to all the information.
“To me though, all the positive feedback I have gotten from outside the country is from my own initiatives. Still, I applaud MTC’s vision.”
However, a previous winner and this year’s nominee for best Gospel, D-Naff, believes he may already be reaping benefits, a few months after the event.
“I have been nominated for the Kora awards and I’ll be going up against Rebecca Molope, and maybe it’s because of the judges being there that this happened. The event was supposed to happen this year but due to the Ebola concern, it has been moved to next year.”
He says it was a good imitative to scrap the sms voting system as those with airtime could just repeatedly vote for themselves. “I’ll also be performing at a commemoration event for Zambian artist Marvin B3 who died in car accident, and it’s not because my wife is Zambian,” he quipped.
The judges at the NAMAs this year include Jasmine Dotiwala, who erroneously described Namibia as having gained Independence from Germany in 1990 in a feature she wrote on her experience in the country.
Ekandjo says that adding international judges to their cast of local judges will remain the standard from here on out, but if local artists want to benefit from this move, it appears they would have to up their own game. “The NAMAs simply created opportunities for our artists to flourish and the onus would be up to the artist to grab those opportunities and take advatage of them,“ he says.