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Inside the Trace Awards ceremony

 Diamond, Yemi Alade and Davido.

When Diamond Platnumz's name was called out as the winner of the Best Artiste East Africa, the arena anxiously waited for his entry.

When two minutes went by, the award presenters were in an awkward situation as anxiety and murmurs swept through the BK Arena in Kigali, Rwanda.

Two hours before this, videos of Diamond jetting into the city on a private jet in the company of family members and his team had made the rounds.

The Tanzanian star had missed the red carpet, which was ruled by Nigerian rivals Davido, Rema, Yemi Alade and 2Face as well as the adorable Nomcebo Zikode.

His Tanzanian counterparts Zuchu and Jux were also on the red carpet, as were their Kenyan neighbours Nadia Mukami and Janet.

With no Diamond in sight, the awards ceremony moved on.

However, five minutes later, Diamond stormed the stage with his dance troupe, to his 'Achii' hit song featuring Koffi Olomide, to thunderous applause. Simba had announced his arrivaL, his footwork well choreographed and vocals exuberantly sentimental.

As he switched on to his latest single, 'Shu', an infectious Amapiano track featuring Chley, everyone got onto their feet.

The high notes

From the grand arrivals, glitz fashion showdown on the red carpet, surprise upsets and triumphs the awards were making a buzz.

It wasn't just a first in Eastern Africa, the coming together of over 50 artistes from across the world in an event broadcasted to millions across the globe, was a new high in the continental showbiz industry.

The awards showcased the excellence and diversity of Afro-centric music from the continent and the diaspora.

Competing in 26 award categories were African and Afro-inspired artistes from more than 30 countries in Africa, South America, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and Europe.

Afrobeat, Dancehall, Hip-Hop, Afro-pop, Mbalax, Amapiano, Zouk, Kizomba, Genge, Coupe Decale, Bongo Flava, Soukous, Gospel, Rap, Rai, Kompa, R&B, and Rumba tunes blended as Kigali played host to the three-day affair. Here, showbiz giants proved their prowess with emerging stars threatening the status quo.

"Tonight has been a triumphant demonstration of the power and creativity of African and African-origin artistes. All the nominees and performers at the Trace Awards underlined exactly why African contemporary music has become a global phenomenon," Olivier Laouchez, Chairman and Co-Founder of Trace, said.

The organisation and execution left no room for failure after an entire week of on-ground crew working on logistics.

A compulsory dressing rehearsal for all performers had been conducted a day before, with another taking place that Saturday morning.

From there the performance running order was not to be altered neither was any performer allowed to change the cued choice of song.

The major stars were chauffeured in state-of-the-art rides.

On the red carpet, egos were stroked and humility tested with some of the stars commanding their security teams not to allow any chance for their allocated interviews.

Davido who wore a striking diamond beaded outfit played it down when the Press challenged him to say if he was the biggest music legend in Africa.

His team formed a ring barrier around him and when he walked into the arena, he ignored the VIP allocated seats only opting to sit among the crowd.

He was joined by Rema and 2Face, forming a Nigerian clique that easily took the focus from the central VIP area reserved for only 100 people.

Singing beauty Yemi Alade and the Nomcebo Zikode, of the chart-breaking 2019 'Jerusalema' song were the toast of the hour.

Kenya's Nadia Mukami and Janet Otieno were also splendid on the red carpet.

With security beefed and the arena filled to capacity, at exactly 7pm, doors closed and lights deemed as the hosts of the night, Afrobeat legend D'Banj and Angolan supermodel Maria Borges took the stage.

The winners

It was a big night for Nigerian stars Davido and Rema, who won two awards each, with Nigeria proving why it is the force to reckon with when it comes to African music.

Davido took home the prizes for Best Male, and shared Best Collaboration with South Africa's Musa Keys for 'Unavailable'.

Rema scored in the Global African Artiste, and Song of the Year categories, with 'Calm Down'.

'Love Damini' by Burna Boy, also from Nigeria, took the prize for Best Album and Vivian Chidid received the plaudits for Best Female.

Rema - whose single ,Calm Down, with Selena Gomez set a new record as African song of all time after a record 57 weeks on the Billboard - praised his team, fans and media houses for accepting his music.

"This is the biggest award (ceremony) I have ever attended in the continent. I thank all the radio and TV stations from the East, South and North for playing my songs," he said.


Before going on stage to receive his awards, Davido made an electrifying performance of 'Unavailable' with the fast-rising Musa Keys. who also made a big statement with a double win.

The only artiste to perform twice during the ceremony, an impressive Diamond Platnumz left no doubt why he is the East Africa king, winning Best Artiste at the expense of Kenya's Nadia Mukami and other regional stars.

Bruce Melodie was the locals' darling winning the Best Rwandan Artiste category.

Ivory Coast's Didi B took home the silverware for Best Artiste Africa - Francophone, while his fellow countrymen KS Bloom and Tam Sir scored in the Best Gospel Artiste, and Best Producer categories, respectively. Lisandro Cuxi was named Best Artist Africa - Lusophone.

Recognising his long and storied music career, Nigeria's 2Face took home the prize for Lifetime Achievement.

"It is amazing to be here at such a moment. It is amazing to see how African music has grown and how African stars are taking over. This one is for Africa," 2Face said.

Rutshelle Guillance was named Best Artiste - Caribbean, while Goulam triumphed as Best Artiste - Indian Ocean, and Dystinct won Best Artiste - North Africa.

Yemi Alade's hit 'Baddie' took home the prize for Best Video.

Mr Eazi, took home a special ChangeMarker award for his philanthropic work. British rapper Central Cee triumphed as Best Artiste - UK, while Tayc took home the trophy for Best Artiste - France and Belgium.

Ludmilla was awarded the trophy for Best Artiste - Brazil, and Michael Brun from Haitia was named Best DJ.

Joining Rema in the recognition of the Best Global African Artiste was Nomcobe Zikode, whose 'Jerusalema' collabo made history by going worldwide and garnering over a billion views.

Besides the celebrated stars, Musa Keys gave a good account for himself with his performance. The crowd loved him and during his performance with Davido, he seemed to give the Nigerian icon a run for his money.

Speaking to Pulse Magazine after the ceremony, Nadia Mukami regretted her choice of song, 'Kai Wangu', a mellow song dedicated to son Haseeb Kai.

"I feel that I have let my people down and I am sorry. I would have done better. I have learned the hard lessons and will do better next time," Nadia said.

"I was the only woman who had been nominated in my category and I am happy that I competed well," Janet Otieno, the other Kenyan nominee at the awards said.

 Nadia Mukami [Instagram]

Khaligragh Jones, who had been listed in a late entry category, was a no-show.

Dull moments

But the ceremony was not short of a few dull moments.

Some of the performances, especially by artistes from the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean could not match the energy Eastern Africans are used to.

D'Banj and Maria Borges also struggled to find onstage chemistry and for the best part of the show. Maria didn't sound her best.

"It was my first time hosting," Maria, whose fashion stood out, told Pulse Magazine the following day when we met at a fashion show specially set aside to celebrate designers who supported the event.

Diamond and his Tanzanian team led by his heartthrob Zuchu did not join the after-party held at Shooters Club, one of the leading party clubs in Kigali.

By the time Davido showed up at the club, there was near stampede as bouncers turned back hundreds citing security issues and claiming that it was too late for admission.

Ordinarily, the party night in Kigali ends at 11pm... that hour when Nairobi is just starting the turn-up.

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