Trace TV’s Inaugural Award Celebrates Black Excellence In Africa & The Diaspora

Mark your calendars: October 20 and October 22

In August, global multimedia platform TRACE unveiled a 26-category nomination list for its inaugural Trace Awards & Festival, billed to take place between October 20 and October 22 at the BK Arena in Kigali, Rwanda. The list consists of artists from more than thirty countries in Africa, South America, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and Europe. The awards, which are intended to celebrate the diversity and brilliance of Afro-centric music, revolve around genres such as Afrobeat, Afrobeats, Dancehall, Hip-Hop, R&B, Rap, Amapiano, Gospel, Soukous, Mbalax, Zouk, Kizomba, Genge, Coupé Décalé, Bongo Flava, Rai, Kompa and Rumba. The Trace Awards & Festival is also in celebration of the company’s 20th anniversary. 

“The reason [for Trace Awards & Festival] is because there’s too much happening with our culture,” says Sam Onyemelukwe, CEO of TRACE Naija. “[The genres] Afrobeats, Amapiano [and] the artists are going crazy. The music is getting worldwide and yet there was no real, credible global African celebration of that. And we knew that we were the right brand to do that because we’re in a hundred and eighty countries, we are in every country on the continent and pretty much every country where Africans live around the world.”

Birthed in 2003, TRACE has instituted itself as an integral player in the celebration of Afrocentric cultures through music and entertainment. Its audience number reaches over 350 million people with about 100 TV, radio and digital channels across Africa, France, the UK, the USA/Canada, Brazil, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean. Through its in-house development, production, financing, media, digital, distribution and branding capabilities, the company has partnered with both emerging and established talents to push the culture, connecting Black people from the African continent to the diaspora and vice versa.

Onyemelukwe opines that the longevity of the TRACE brand is rooted in its consistency in delivering high quality. “[We are] consistently ahead of what’s happening and consistently part of the cultural conversation around our evolving African music and culture, with Afrobeats at the forefront,” he says. “We’re lucky to have maintained a special place in the entertainment industry and I think it’s by consistently being right there at the nexus of music and culture right across Africa, across the diaspora with Afrobeats at the forefront.”

The categories on the nominations list are open to the general public for voting. Some of the categories include Best Male Artist, Best Newcomer, Best Gospel Artist, Best Producer, Best Music Video, Best Collaboration and Best Artist (in Anglophone Africa, Francophone, Lusophone, Rwanda, France & Belgium, UK, the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Brazil and North Africa) and features the likes of Burna Boy, Davido, Wizkid, Fally Ipupa, DJ Maphorisa, Asake, Rema, Ayra Starr, Black Sherif, Popcaan, Diamond Platnumz, Kabza De Small,  Stormzy, Libianca, Juls, Tiwa Savage, Kel–P, Blxckie, Headie One, Pabi Cooper, Suspect 95, Shenseea, Central Cee and Headie One, among others.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Trace Awards & Festival 2023 (@traceawardsandfestival)

There are also the relatively new categories of Best Dancer and Best DJ. In the boom of African music, dancers and DJs are usually relegated to the background but TRACE notes their contributions and importance to the music ecosystem. “It’s crucial that the entire music industry and everything that comes along with it is carried along,” says Onyemelukwe. “For years, those of us working, observing and being involved in the music and entertainment industry have tried to highlight the ecosystem around the entertainment industry because it’s not just the artist on stage, the artist on stage is just the face of the brand. [It’s important] that we recognise all of those that work around the industry that may not be on the stage singing the song.”

The three-day Trace Awards & Festival will comprise activities surrounding music, food and tourism. There will be an opening party on Friday (October 20), followed by business and political debates as well as a songwriting workshop organised in collaboration with EMPIRE and the Sunday Are-founded Smart Music Nation. There will also be a section for food and fashion vendors to exhibit their wares. The awards ceremony will take place on Saturday (October 21), with Davido, Rema and Tiwa Savage confirmed to perform. Then on Sunday (October 22), there will be a special Gospel concert, which will be headlined by the Soweto Gospel Choir. Attendees are also encouraged to take advantage of the travel packages by visiting zoos and safaris and tour the city of Kigali throughout the week of the event.

The choice of Kigali as a venue, Onyemelukwe reveals, is due to Rwanda’s enabling environment for business and tourism; he terms it a mutually beneficial relationship between TRACE and Rwanda. “The BK Arena is unbelievably beautiful, very well built and designed,” he says. “You can get around [Kigali] easily. No traffic. No police harassing you. Look, it’s visa on arrival at no fee for any African Commonwealth country in the African Union. When you get to the airport, you sail through in less than five minutes from getting off the plane to collecting your bags. [The Rwandan government has] made a perfect home for us to do an incredible award.” Some of the partners for the Trace Awards & Festival include Visit Rwanda, RwandAir and the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA).

The Trace Awards & Festival, following the company’s ethos of celebrating Black people in Africa and the diaspora, bears witness to the connectivity of music and its power to cut through the borders of culture, language and geography. Artists from the UK, Brazil, France (as well as the regions of Réunion, Martinique, Mayotte, Guadeloupe and French Guiana), Jamaica, Haiti cohabit with their peers from Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Algeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Senegal, Kenya, DR Congo, Swaziland, Uganda, Tanzania, Cape Verde, Madagascar and Comoros.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Trace Awards & Festival 2023 (@traceawardsandfestival)

“It’s important [that the categories touch on a wide range of countries] because I think everybody recognises in different ways the power of music overall but [also] the fact that the roots of African music—even before we can talk of Afrobeats—over decades and centuries is so powerful,” Onyemelukwe says. “Even Hip-Hop and R&B [that] we consider American is rooted in something that we bring to the world. So I think making that connection for us is crucial. [Also], we are aligning these awards with the Millennium Development Goals [as] we work closely with the African Union.”

The voting process for the Trace Awards & Festival is still open. Music lovers are encouraged to visit the dedicated page for the awards and cast their votes. Tickets are also available for purchase via HustleSasa. The Trace Awards & Festival is primed to be a regular occurrence as the company is keen to keep tabs on the latest happenings within the music and entertainment industries. Onyemelukwe, who served as the commercial lead and co-executive producer of the Trace Awards & Festival, hopes a win for any of the artists nominated is equivalent to the effect of a Grammy nod—as regards increases in an artist’s performance fees and their streaming revenues.

“I don’t want this award to just be a fun, nice event. I want this to truly have an impact on the industry,” he says. “I want this to make all of those business leaders and investors and global organisations, especially African organisations, to say ‘Wow.’ I want it to have a financial and immediate impact on the ecosystem and I want it to have a wider impact on continuing to further the incredible work our artists have done in improving the perception of Africa around the world.”

Featured image credits/NATIVE