The PAMs also brought the red carpet experience home to Ugandans, and photographs over the years show the evolution of the dress code.
Many countries in the world have what is referred to as ‘award season', and it's always a big deal in the entertainment industry. But Uganda is different that way, we don't have a real awards season; and even though they are all kinds of awards making the rounds, there's nothing to really get excited about.
But there was a time when every time October and November rolled around, and we all got excited because it was time for the PAM Awards, again. There is no question that the Pearl of Africa Music Awards are the biggest awards event we have ever had, but there was always a controversy brewing at every stage.
When they started out in 2003, there were claims that Isaac Mulindwa and company had ‘stolen' the idea from two young entrepreneurs, but then no one has a copyright on awards, as evidence by the many copycat ones that sprung up after the PAMs. Anyone remember Harry Sagara's Golden Pen awards? I bet he doesn't, either.
For all their faults and problems, and they were legion, the PAMs brought much needed respectability to the industry. Peers recognised peers, the public followed suit, and any winner would almost be guaranteed a positive turn in their fortunes.
The PAMs also brought the red carpet experience home to Ugandans, and photographs over the years show the evolution of the dress code. From the mostly casual in the early years, guest would increasingly become more formal, and fewer of them seemed to be afraid to step on the actual red carpet.
The first year they were held in Munyonyo, then the place to go for major events, including Miss Uganda. They would later shift to Shimoni (after the school had been demolished and nothing was happening there), and in later years then to the new UMA exhibition hall. The hall was so new then that there were no washrooms, and the acoustics were terrible.
The awards initially came with sh5m prize money for the big categories, but in its later years this was not forthcoming, and there is still talk that some winners have never received their prize money, up to now.
The PAMs also had running problems with the categories, for example in 2003 the Obsessions were declared winners of the Best Hip Hop group, to cries of derision. The fact that the eagles Production was categorised as a band was always in contention, then in 2008 Bebe Cool won both Ragga and Reggae Artists of the Year, for the same music.
Did the PAMs try to grow too large too quickly? They tried to spread nation-wide, hosting regional launches, regional prize winners. Did they try to milk too much out of it?
There is a common belief in Uganda that once a business project becomes even remotely successful, somehow the partners start falling out. It happened to the PAMs too, and the 2009 events was scuppered when one-time partner Gordon Wavamunno took the others to court. There was also talk of problems with the URA.
2008 was both the best of the PAMs, but also saw signs of their demise. Juliana Kanyomozi became the first female to win Artiste of the Year award, and we also saw the Goodlyfe crew, Mozey Radio and Weasel TV, burst on the scene, winning Song of the Year with ‘Nakudata'.
Judith Babirye won Best Gospel Artiste in 2006 for the song ‘Beera Nange', but famously refused to be part of it, citing ‘un-Godly' activities. She would later change her mind (along with husbands) however, and performed at the 2010 event.
The 2010 event showed signs that the end was nigh, with none of the nominees for Artiste of the Year showing up. Bebe Cool, the eventual winner, was in the US receiving treatment after being shot by a policeman. The others nominees, Radio and Weasel, Jose Chameleone, and Bobi Wine also were a no show.
We last saw the PAMs in 2011, with Iryn Namubiru becoming the second female to win Artiste of the Yea. Other winners over the year were Jose Chameleone (2003/4), Mesach Ssemakula (2005), Bobi Wine (2006), Ronald Mayinja (2007) Juliana Kanyomozi (2008), and Bebe Cool (2010).
The PAMs may not be around anymore, but thanks for the glorious ride, Isaac Mulindwa and company.