The MOBO Awards take over Liverpool tonight. Fifteen Years after being started by Kanya King the question continually arises; are they still relevant? Well I feel the answer is all tied up in the name.
The MOBO (Music of Black Origin) Awards were started in 1995 by Kanya King to represent and celebrate the fantastic music being made at the time which was largely ignored by the more mainstream award ceremonies such as The BRITs. They did for almost a decade serve to represent great music and artists the other awards ceremonies in the UK were overlooked.
However, something happened a few years ago, Grime and Urban (man I hate that word) started to pay and MOBO became mainstream.
When naming the awards, MOBO was provocative yet. It both resonated with a section of music lovers who felt their songs were being unrepresented and also reflected the political mood in the United Kingdom at the time, with Black people feeling extremely marginalised, especially in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence murder a few years before.
You could argue the name was a little defeatist. MOBO music will never hit the mainstream and become the status quo. It will never dominate the charts so we need an awards ceremony to reflect this.
However, fast-forward 15 years and MOBO music and artists have done just that. The Tinnie Tempah’s, JLS’ and Tinchy Stryders picking up awards tonight will be the same Tinnie Tempah’s, JLS’ and Tinchy Stryders walking away with BRIT Awards in February.
If the awards we called something else, less about genre and more about championing great non-mainstream music (as I believe Kanya’s first intentions were) it would have made them still very very relevant. As MOBO music is mainstream, the MOBO awards nomination list now practically mirrors that of every other mainstream awards ceremony; so what is the point?
Are the MOBO Awards still relevant? I think the jury remains out because awards are great things to win and especially for artists new in to their career’s winning a MOBO is an extreme confidence boost. However if the awards ceremony was really to champion MOBO music shunned by the mainstream media, then not only the nomination lists, but the winners should be dominated by those talented artist who continue to be shunned by the mainstream.
Then again, how much of tonight’s winners’ music remains MOBO instead of traditional pop? Well that’s a whole ‘nother blog post!