The South African Music Awards (often simply the SAMAs) are the Recording Industry of South Africa's music industry awards, established in 1995. The ceremony is held in late-April or May every year, with the judging process starting in November of the previous year. The nominations are typically announced at the end of March. The winners receive a gold-plated statuette called a SAMA.
The show has mostly been held at the Super Bowl in Sun City, with the exception of three years, and broadcast live on national broadcaster, SABC. The ceremony features live performances as once-off collaborations by a selection of nominees. The SAMAs are considered the South African equivalent of the American Grammy Awards.
As of the 21st SAMAs, in 2015, there are a total of thirty-six categories awarded. These categories change from year to year to accommodate changes in music styles and changes in popularity of already existing genres. These generes include Adult Contemporary, Afrikaans, Classical, Dance, Faith, Jazz, Kwaito, Maskandi, Pop, Rap, Reggae, RnB, Rock, Soul and Traditional.
At times genres are grouped together into a single category based on their popularity amongst a certain demographic (e.g. Best Urban Artist nominees are often Hip Hop, African pop and Kwaito artists grouped together since these genres are popular amongst South Africans living in urban areas).
Top Five awards
These are the top five award categories of the SAMAs. They were first introduced at the ceremony in 1995, with exception of Album of the Year that was introduced in 2007.
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The winners of the following SAMAs are not chosen by a panel of judges:
- Record of the Year: Determined by a public vote, traditionally by SMS
Mobile download awards
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Eligibility and entry
As per the committee guidelines, only citizens and permanent residents of South Africa are eligible for a nomination.
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At the beginning of the adjudication process a Supervisory Committee is setup, It consists of two members from each of five “super genre” categories, which are Global Charts, Urban, Traditional, Technical and Jazz or Classical. This committee oversees the entire SAMA ceremony production process, along with the Steering, General Rules, and Vetting Committees. These committees are composed of unpaid volunteers from record companies and industry stakeholders. The judges are drawn from a wide spectrum to include journalists, critics, musicians, producers, and academics. There are five judges per genre category, based on the judge’s field of expertise. The judge’s anonymity is protected by the Steering committee, who ensure the judge’s do not influence each other. The entire adjudication process takes place between September and February, with the nominees announced in March.
The first phase takes place between late-September and December. The Steering Committee first determine the award categories, rules, and judging criteria for the entries. A panel of judges is elected and a call for entries takes place in November. The entries are vetted to comply with the committee rules, and genre guidelines.
In this genre category phase, the judges receive a copy of the entries (either an album and DVD) by the end of December. The entries are scored against the criteria set by the Steering Committee. The score cards are submitted online, along with recommendations for the Top Five category nominees. The Top Five categories are nominated from the same pool of entries. An electronic judging system calculates the results, which are then audited by an independent firm at the end of January.
This final phase of adjudication evaluates the Top Five categories. One judge from each genre category is selected to be part of the first round of voting. These judges select their top three entries, in their respective genres, taking into account the recommendations from other judges. The independent auditing firm ensures that a finalist in the Top Five has qualified for a nomination in their respective genre. Once the auditors have confirmed the Top Five finalist list, the last round of voting begins. All the judges participate in this round to determine the winners of each Top Five categories.
The first awards ceremony was in 1995, there have been 21 editions to date.
Arthur Mafokate on-stage defiance (1995)
At the 1st South African Music Awards, kwaito artist Arthur Mafokate performed a simulation of anal sex on a dancer. This was done as an act of defiance to the organisers, as he felt there was a need for a Kwaito Award. The following year the organiser introduced the award category.
Funky national anthem (1997)
It had been three years since the first democratic elections in South Africa and a new national anthem had been introduced at the beginning of the 1997. At the 3rd South African Music Awards, popular kwaito-group Boom Shaka decided to re-create the anthem in a "funky" on-stage performance, that later caused a "public blacklash".
Brenda Fassie demanding her award (2001)
Towards the end of the five-hour-long 7th South African Music Awards, Brenda Fassie accused a prominent journalist of being a homosexual - using the derogatory slang word moffie. She went on to further accuse him of destroying her with the articles he published. At an after-party, she was seen fighting with Mandoza and demanding that he hand over his award as it was "her award".
First Virtual Reality live broadcast (2016)
The SAMA22 was the first awards show to be broadcast live in its entirety in 360° video, with Virtual Reality made possible by Unreal Industries. 
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Kwaito group Trompies member and President of the South African Music Industry Council Eugene Mthethwa has confirmed the death of Kwaito star and actor Senyaka Kekana. The pair collaborated on each other’s albums. Mthethwa told the Mail & Guardian that Kekana was ill and passed away at his family home in the Vaal on Wednesday morning.
Both Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula and fellow Trompies member and producer Zynne “DJ Mahoota” Sibika first announced the news of Kekana’s death on social media. Sunday World reports quoted Mbalula saying: “This came as a shock, it came like a tsunami because we did not expect it as we never heard news of him being sick.”
According to Mthethwa, Senyaka was best known for his quirky, controversial and humorous lyrics and succeeded in reinventing his image and sound over the years. In 1986 he released a hip-hop album which featured the hit single Go Away.
Kekana “was the first artist to rap on a disco music, locally known as bubblegum music in the 80s”, says Mthethwa.
In April 2014 he opened his home to the M&G during a photoshoot for the article Freedom marches to kwaito’s drum. Kekana had his own recording studio in an extended room at his house. He was chirpy and welcoming; he attributed his talent to God and felt he had to share his talent with others.
His interests also included acting. He starred in the local comedy film Moruti wa Tsotsi, which was the story of a sketchy and fake priest. Responding to claims that Kekana was planning on releasing a new album, Mthethwa told M&G: “I hadn’t heard from him saying so but I am told that he was working on a new album.”
Trompies member Eugene Mthethwa says he last saw Kekana four weeks ago. “He was in high spirits; but he was always like that. Senyaka is one person who you wouldn’t find laying down feeling sorry for himself. He was one person who never stopped laughing and joking. He had a funny way of putting things across, and that is what I will remember him for.”
The creativity in Senyaka’s work was unmatched. He gave fans hits such as Chisa Mpama with DJ Walker, Romeo wa Nkolota, Satane-O-Maponapona and Fong Kong in 1998 under the name the Hunger Boyz. The Hunger Boyz duo consisted of Kekana and his childhood friend Kamazu. The song Fong Kong addressed counterfeit and low-quality items sold by Chinese shop owners in South Africa.
“We wrote this song as a protest against what the Chinese were doing to the black man,” Senyaka said in a 2010 M&G article.
“We were like, how could they come here and do this when we were hosting them so well. They would sell you takkies that were like rotting pieces of meat. In two weeks the things would just literally rot on your feet.” The word “fong kong”, which refers to fake items, has now become part of the South African colloquial language.
The Hunger Boyz project enabled Kekana to make the shift from hip hop to kwaito. “I believe that he is the founder of Kwaito. He maintained the prominence in that particular music post 1994,” says Mthethwa. “He probably started kwaito before time and when we revived it post 1994 he still continued to be relevant up until today.”