The third Pearl of Africa Music Awards ceremony, in every sense of the word, turned out to be dissimilar from what we have come to expect.
Firstly, the awards were held at Lugogo Cricket Oval instead of the usual Speke Resort, Munyonyo.
Organisers say they wanted to keep them as close to the city centre as possible â€” good thinking.
Secondly, whereas the previous two awards ceremonies were graced by the Nnabagereka of Buganda, Sylvia Nagginda as chief guest, she was conspicuously absent this time (imagine the consternation of the trigger-happy paparazzi).
Then, the Ruperalias were not at hand to flaunt the sh5m dummy cheque.
We had a guest artiste â€” South African singer/producer Chicco Twala. Like the previous two before him, he was South African but unlike his forerunners, Chicco did not perform! He gave us a teaser of I Need Some Money, but that was just about it.
He seemed too much in a hurry to present the Best Female Award and leave. He will never know just how disappointed we were.
Then, this time we had two stages (a pleasant surprise if you asked us). There was something pleasurable about being taken by surprise when it came to guessing which stage an artiste would perform on. In fact, the first award recipient of the night â€” General Mega Dee was so baffled he dashed to one stage while the award presenter, Gordon Wavamunno waited on the other in utter amusement.
It took the intervention of PAM chairman Isaac Mulindwa himself to sort the situation out.
However, for some reason, we did not have the ensemble of notable society presenters we have been used to.
This year made for the worst lot of them with some barely able to wait for the video clips, let alone get the artistesâ€™ name right.
Organisers might want to consider orienting award presenters. It would also be â€˜politically correctâ€™ to leave PAM Award Committee members out of award presentations.
Unlike last year when we had a myriad of MCs, there were only two pairs this time â€” Ronnie â€˜Mitchâ€™ Egwang (KFM) and Seanice Kacungira (Sanyu FM) on one stage and Leila Kachapiro (CBS FM) and Jean Nakacwa (Radio Simbaâ€™s Mukyala Neighbour) on the other.
The latter were supposed to be the overt slapstick complement to the former, but excelled more in their flamboyant dress sense while Mitch and Seanice didnâ€™t mix right. But if it is any consolation, the (characteristic) sound glitches, did not help their â€˜marriageâ€™ either. Yet, the two pairs managed to keep the show afloat nonetheless.
But the biggest difference with this yearâ€™s awards came by way of the Artsite of the Year â€” the most coveted of the 27 awards given out that night. It carried a cash prize of sh10m; double that of the previous two awards.
Mesach Semakula was unable to hide his excitement when he was announced the overall artiste, upstaging reigning champion for the past two years, Jose Chameleone. It was the biggest upset of the ceremony. Chameleone, who had earlier won Afro Beat Single (for Kipepeo) and Afro Beat Artiste, did not attend the function citing a sick child for an alibi.
Semakula also took home the Best Live Single for the immensely popular Sigwe Onsimila and the closely contested Best Male Artiste awards. He beat Bebe Cool, Ragga Dee and Jose Chameleone to the latter, an award that carried a sh3.5m reward. Bearing in mind that each ordinary award carried a cash prize of sh1m, Semakula left sh14.5m richer.
But the night did not entirely belong to Semakula. Almost equally sharing the spotlight was Julianna Kanyomoozi who won four awards â€” all that she was nominated for! She was named Best Female Artiste, Best R&B Artiste and Song of The Year (Maama Mbire with Bobi Wine) and Best R&B Single for Nabikoowa. She took home sh6m in cash prizes. As she aptly remarked on receiving her Best R&B Single award, â€œ2005 is my (Julianna Kanyomooziâ€™s) year!â€
Father Anthony Musaala, the dancing Catholic priest took everyone by surprise by sweeping all the Gospel Awards and left us all breathless with his high-energy performance in a cassock, accompanied by army of back-up singers.
Then there were the long overdue winners. Fred Sebatta, after missing out for the past two years, finally won the Best Kadongo Kamu Single for Kilimanjaro as did Lyrical G who won Best Hip-Hop Artiste.
General Mega Deeâ€™s underrated contribution to Kisoga music was also recognised with the Eastern Artiste of The Year award while Bobi Wine got on to the PAM Awards podium to receive an award for the first ever! Annet Nandujja and her Planets also let off a sigh of relief after waiting three years to get an award as did (to a limited extent) Blu*3, Loketo Lee and Sweet Kid who won for Best Video, Northern Artiste of the Year and Best New Artiste respectively.
Although their victory was contentious in some quarters, Eagles Production Band were only too pleased to finally get the Best Live Band while Afrigo Bandâ€™s final recognition with the Life Time Achievement Award was well deserved by any measure.
Semakula, Julianna shine at PAM Awards