The National Arts Festival (NAF) has these awards where they shower arts journalists with certificates. That’s nice. However, the winners (in silver and gold ranks) are almost always reporting on the same square block of what is considered “art.”

And almost always absent from this roll call are the music journalists – particularly those who write about popular acts in this country. Or those who didn’t go to Rhodes but shine a light on artists by giving readers/listeners/viewers something different to the tabloid snapshot that so many think is the only thing “entertainment” reporting is about.

It’s great that the NAF Arts Journalism Awards are a thing. But I’ve learned that to be excluded does not mean you don’t exist.

Quick sidetrack: when I was a baby writer, I saw one of my music journalist heroes at some party inside the basement of the Alex Theatre and went over to talk to him. I don’t even remember what we were discussing but I do recall him waving a hand of dismissal in my face. Oh, nevermind, he was saying, I forgot that you are very mainstream. I thought I’d misheard him. Me? Mainstream? How when I was writing about all the rappers and comedians who are now famous but definitely weren’t back then? The child in me never forgot that. But now-me doesn’t shy away from the mainstream tag. You can write about famous people and make it dope – even if you’re not given an award for it.

So, it’s in that spirit that I present to you: the inaugural Mainstream As Fuck (MAF) Arts Journalism Awards. I don’t read/listen to/watch absolutely every arts feature/review etc that is in print or online (I’ll try next year) but the below are some of the things I remember reading and smiling or hearing and thinking: hm, that’s interesting.

And because I’m a music girl, the MAF Arts Journalism Awards concentrate on music. All the winners contributed something to the art of music journalism. If I’ve left anything or anyone out – please let me know. But miss me with debates.

The criteria for the MAF Arts Journalism Awards is simple: you’re dope and your subject isn’t some obscure artist that is only revered by the elite.

The MAF Arts Journalism Awards use the same categories as the NAF Awards – but Lifetime Achievement and Journalist of the Year have been left out (later for that). Plus every winner is gold status.  Keep your silver.

*drumroll, please, Dale.


awarded to a person or outlet who had a fresh approach allowing the audience to relive an event, an idea or body of work. [Granted, there are very few reviews in the mainstream but this thought-provoking piece starts off in the style of a review.]

WINNER: The conflict of being an Okmalumkoolkat fan, by Phil Chard –


awarded to the person or outlet that provided the entire country with exclusive footage of a news-making event.

WINNER: Black Coffee slaps AKA’s manager, by Zkhiphani


awarded to the person or outlet whose profile piece transported the audience into a nuanced look at a subject.

WINNER: The world is watching Nasty C and he knows it, by Sihle Mthembu


awarded to the person or outlet who used the audio or audiovisual to dig meaningfully into a celebrity’s views on the music industry.

WINNER: The Sobering Podcast episode 11 featuring Loot Love


awarded to the person or outlet that consistently captures the live performance space as well as the every day life of musicians. [This winner’s work was featured by an international mainstream publication, so there]

WINNER: Tseliso Monaheng

Organisational award:

awarded to the person who manages to organise themselves to care enough about providing compelling content despite the shade or overlooking of others.

WINNER: All of you who fit this description.

Special award for innovation and excellence:

awarded to the person or outlet that decided on a different approach/style to deliver a layered report on a subject. [Yes, the style isn’t new so not ‘innovation’ in that sense but the piece is put together excellently]

WINNER: Riky Rick’s escape to tha future, by Tseliso Monaheng

Link me to some of your favourite music-related reportage of 2016 in the comments!