Leza Awards, an annual glamorous red carpet event produced by 102.1 Sheger FM Leza Radio Show, honored best musical and film up comers of the year on Tuesday at the Hilton Addis hotel.
One of two awards in the Ethiopian entertainment industry, Leza takes the approach of the people’s choice awards by gathering votes from listeners and fans on the Leza website. This year was the 8th installment of the awards.
The first round of votes completed in September had selected the top nominees in the Best Movie, Best Actor and Actress of the year, Best TV Series, Best New Musical Artist, Best Music Album and Best Music Video of the year.
Fans continued to vote in the second, and final, round of the competition, finally leading to the awardees of the evening.
The evening started early enough with people in the entertainment industry glamorously trickled into the hotel and gracefully walked across the red carpet. Cameras flashed as fans rushed to take selfies with their favorite artists.
Stage actress, poet and radio personality Rediet Terefe hosted the evening. Her calm charm combined with her entertaining anecdotes describing nominees and presenters enlivened the night greatly.
Best Movie of the Year was awarded to Dingilu. Veteran actor Alemayehu Tadesse and Aziza Ahmed respectively won Best Actor and Best Actress for their role in Dingilu and Tihitina movies.
Best TV series of the Year went to Min Litazez, the highly popular social and political satire show, although it was temporary discontinued reportedly “to clear out some issues with hosting network Fana Broadcasting Corporation”.
Unsurprising to many in the room, Rophnan Nuri DJ, producer, singer and songwriter was the biggest winner of the evening clinching the Best New Artist of the Year category. Rophnan continued to steal the night receiving awards in the Best Album (Netsebrak/Reflection) and Best Single of the year (Chereka) categories. Audience applause did not die despite his multiple appearances on stage. Towards the end of the evening, he was the only awardee and celebrity surrounded by ‘phans’– as he’s been known to refer to them – that refused to leave his side without a picture.
“I’m happy our music industry is changing. People welcome new sounds. This is proof that they will listen if the music is made well.” Said Rophnan. One of his acceptance speeches urged young artists to utilize their smartphone, laptops and the internet to create new things.
Nhatti Man’s Yemejemeriaye New received the Best Music Video award.
Betty G, Rophnan, Merewa a cappella group and Zerubabel Hailu also graced the stage with lively performances.
Leza award also recognized songwriter Yilma Gebreab with a lifetime achievement award. Since the 1970s and 80s, Yilma has written thousands of songs to artists like Bizunesh Bekele, Aster Awoke, Ephrem Tamiru and Teddy Afro.
The evening integrated old and new schools of Ethiopian entertainers with artists that had begun their careers several decades ago presenting awards to the newer generation of artists. Many in attendance applauded this approach.
Birhanu Degafe, host of Leza musical Radio program and organizer of the award ceremony, insists that their mission has never been to replicate western award shows but instead to recognize local artists and link three generations of entertainers.
Strong camaraderie and recognition of each other’s talents was seen among the stars.
The free and unmonitored intermingling of celebrities with fans was evident that even though many of the steps the local entertainment industry is taking might lead to the celebrity worship/exploitation (as seen in the West), mutual respect and distinct elements of Ethiopian culture will take precedent.
Backstage, a dozen monitors run the complex sequence of sounds and light on stage. Organizing an event without many obvious hiccups was clearly due to the organizers and the many volunteers that have worked for months to make this award ceremony a reality. Leza will only get bigger and better in the years to come, Birhanu said.