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Musicians from Uganda, Cape Verde Big Winners at Kora All-African Music Awards - 2003-12-08

All roads led to Johannesburg over the weekend where Africa's top music prizes, the Kora All-African Music Awards, were awarded. The top solo prizes went to musicians from Uganda and Cape Verde.

George Okudi from Uganda won the best African Male Artist of the year. The prize couldn't have gone to a more appreciative recipient. "I have won the main award for Uganda and this is very important, for the nation and for me," he says.

Suzanna from Cape Verde was voted Best Female artist. The tiny Atlantic Ocean Island is no stranger to Africa's highest music awards. An internationally famous barefoot diva, Cesaria Evora, had won the Kora several times in the past.

The Kora All-Africa Music Awards, named after the west African string instrument, the Kora, are the African equivalent of the Grammys.

The awards are the brainchild of Ernest Adjovi, a native of Benin but now resident in South Africa, and have been held in South Africa every year since their inception in 1996.

Mr. Adjovi says much as he would like to move the ceremony, which honors African music excellence, to other countries on the continent, for the time being, the ceremony is staying in South Africa. "South Africa's got everything that we need to make an event that all Africa will be proud of. I am talking about equipment, know-how and resources which really we don't have in Africa and to move the event just for the sake of moving I don't think that is the right thing to do," he says.

The awards are telecast live to a global audience of millions. This year more than a hundred nominees vied for the prize in 27 categories. The winner in most categories is chosen by a panel of judges. But the best Male and Female Artists are picked by the television viewers who call in during the show.

The music of Zimbabwe's Oliver Mtukudzi who walked away with two miniature koras for the Best Southern African Male Artist Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award. Previous winners of the Lifetime Award, which is not restricted to music, went to former South African President Nelson Mandela and late Nigerian Afrobeat star Fela Kuti.

Contenders for the Kora prize must submit a video clip of their released work to the jury, which is a hurdle for many gifted musicians. With the lack of a music industry in most African countries, many musicians simply are unable to enter.

A country that has been there from day one is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A regular winner from that country is Koffi Olomide. He was on hand to accept the Best African Group award with his band Quartier Latin and they gave the audience a dose of their infectious Congolese dance music.