Johannesburg - Reggie Nkabinde felt the ire of many South African music fans last weekend when his record label, Mabala Noise, swept the Metro FM Awards.
The label’s artists took eight awards – in every category in which they were nominated – and Song of the Year winner Nasty C called Nkabinde up on stage when he accepted his gong, to boos from some in the audience.
What followed was an outcry from fans on radio stations and Twitter, who insisted the vote had been influenced by the fact that Nkabinde is also the ANC Youth League’s treasurer, and has political ties.
But, in an interview with City Press on Friday, Nkabinde was adamant that the claims were untrue, saying all his employees and their families voted for their nominees by SMS.
“We, our families and fans all voted. The reality is that you can’t buy awards or votes (within that) voting system,” he said.
However, he declined to reveal how much he spent on airtime for votes.
Last year, it was another politically connected player, Ambitiouz Entertainment, owned by Kgosi Mahumapelo, North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo’s younger brother, that dominated the Metro FM Awards.
Nkabinde, however, said the way one should view things was that Mabala and Ambitiouz were not competing with each other, but against “major record labels such as Universal and Sony Music”.
“Previously, Universal and Sony dominated the SA Music Awards. Nobody has ever insulted or questioned them. This really demoralised and killed the careers of the artists,” he said.
Nkabinde insisted that Nasty C deserved his four Metro awards because “we all know his journey”, and because “we have all danced to his hit, Hell Naw”.
He said it was sad that those who claim the awards are rigged make a noise on social media, but they don’t vote.
“When artists such as mbaqanga singer Simon ‘Mahlathini’ Nkabinde and pop star Brenda Fassie died poor, even though there were allegations that major record labels robbed them of their money, no political party questioned them [the record labels],” he said, referring to Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema’s allegation this week that Mabala Noise had “corrupted” the awards.
He said he taught his stars how to handle their money and to invest in business areas outside of music.
“Every time Mabala does something great, the EFF is the first to spread malicious rumours, and then South Africans follow. This is a political agenda. Is the problem Mabala Noise or Reggie, who is also a member of the ANC?” he asked.
“If the EFF has an issue, it must use the correct platform and not destroy other children’s careers for cheap politics.”
He continued: “Anyone who says I’m corrupt must prove and bring me the evidence. I’ve never been found guilty of corruption.”
Nkabinde insists that all he is doing is changing the lives of black artists in South Africa for the better.
Mabala Noise has 15 permanent staff and 22 musicians and actors signed to the label.
“Then people come and tarnish the image of a brand that is helping South Africans. It’s unacceptable,” Nkabinde fumed.
Mabala Noise was established in 2012 by Nkabinde and Bongani “DJ Bongz” Dlamini. At that time, it was called Emabalabala Entertainment, but business has only picked up in the past two years.
“We also struggled. It wasn’t easy to make it as a record label,” Nkabinde said.
In 2015, the well-connected Nkabinde hit the headlines with a lavish three-day 31st birthday bash. On the guest list at the R2 million party were actresses Nomzamo Mbatha and Jessica Nkosi, and musician DJ Sbu.
Nkabinde said he had always been passionate about music, and was known for his pantsula dance moves in his home town of Bekkersdal, Gauteng.
“I have an ear for music. That’s why every time an artist records, I make time to be in the studio,” he said.
But, one of Mabala Noise’s stars, Riky Rick, whose real name is Rikhado Makhado, sent out an angry tweet last Saturday night: “If niggaz can pay for these f***ing awards then my nigga I don’t want them...”
"If niggaz can pay for these fucking awards then my nigga I dont want them..." - RIKY RICK 2016— #STAYSHINING ?? (@rikyrickworld) February 25, 2017
He is said to be considering leaving the label because he is unhappy with how it is run. But Nkabinde denied this, saying: “He has never said anything to me. As far as I know, he still has a three-year contract with us.”
However, he admits that one can never satisfy an artist. All one can do is try to meet them half way.
“I don’t encourage all artists to always make public stunts, especially when they are not happy with something. They must rather take the legal route,” he said, adding that conflict between musicians and their labels was normal.
“All artists signed under Mabala Noise came to join the stable because we sold them a vision. Nasty C had an opportunity to be signed by Roc Nations Records, owned by US rapper Jay Z.
"Already two of our artists have collaborated with A-list international artists. We are trying to build a global footprint,” he said.
“We all choose different journeys. This is how I give back to an African child,” said Nkabinde.