Pearl of Africa Music (PAM) awards: Political construction of popular music in Uganda
Asaasira, Anita Desire
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In this dissertation, I examine how the politics of competition in the Pearl of Africa Music (PAM) Awards, an annual music competition, have contributed to the construction of popular music in Uganda. I examine how the politics of competition are performed between the musicians, sponsors, producers, PAM Awards Organizing Committee, judges, audiences and the media and how this relationship participates in the construction of popular music in Uganda. I discuss the politics involved in the organization and execution processes of PAM Awards as well as how this politics participate in constructing what is considered popular music in Uganda. This study was inspired by the fact that while the politics of competition in the music industry is as old as the music itself, and has indeed had an influence on what music the society consumes, scholars in ethnomusicology and popular music studies are yet to articulate the role of competition in defining popular music. Antonio Gramsci‘s theory of hegemony helps to explain how power is performed between musicians, producers, judges, PAM Awards committee, media, audience and sponsors. In this power play, the PAM Awards committee, judges, sponsors and to some extent, the media, and audience are in the dominant position and the competing musicians and producers are the subordinates. However, as Gramci posits, this hegemonic relationship is not stable; coercion, intimidation and resistance, as both the dominant and subordinate struggle to remain in control, define it. Given the fact that power relations can be best studied through acquiring the opinions of the dominant and subordinates, this dissertation is based on descriptive qualitative data. The data was collected from five categories of informants namely: producers (studio producers and musicians), consumers (audiences), distributors (media) judges, sponsors, and the PAM Awards organizing committee, who were selected using snowball, random and purposive sampling techniques. To gather data for this study, I employed a variety of tools because each of the tools if used on its own has limitations and these include: 1) interviews; 2) participant observation; 3) focused group discussions; 4) library research; 5) media; and 6) photography and audio recording. This research has revealed that the politics during and after the PAM Awards contribute to the construction of the popular of music in Uganda. During the processes of categorization, nomination, voting and judging, not only the competitors, but also their supporters, lay strategies to win the Awards. One of the major strategies is to sponsor more airplay of the competing songs so that more members of the audience and potential future sponsors hear them. The Awarding ceremony is not only a time to declare who has won, but also presents the competing music as music which should be considered as representing what is popular of the music in Uganda. Indeed, as discussed in the Chapter 5, all participants in this competition get a representation in the charts of what is popular music in Uganda at least for a month after the PAM Awards. Given the scope of this research, however, there are areas that are important for scholarly research, that I never handled. I recommend, therefore, a future study on how the PAM awards have impacted the production, dissemination and consumption of popular music in Uganda. I also recommend a comparative study of PAM Awards and other upcoming music competitions like the DIVA Awards in Uganda.