- May has been a very exciting month with a variety of music events and performances taking place online to celebrate Africa Month.
- The discussions among leading industry players have centered around the phenomenal growth of African music genres in the last decade.
May has been a very exciting month with a variety of music events and performances taking place online to celebrate Africa Month.
The online performances this month have been headlined by Kenya’s Sauti Sol with songs from their latest album ‘Midnight Train’, Sho Modjozi from South Africa showcasing songs from her recent EP ‘What a Life’ and a live stream by highly rated Nigerian Afrobeats star Fireboy from the album ‘Apollo.’
The discussions among leading industry players have centered around the phenomenal growth of African music genres in the last decade, exemplified by the international success of Afrobeats, fronted by popular Nigerian acts like Wizkid, Yemi Alade, Burna Boy, and Davido.
Some of the most influential personalities in African music, from performers to record company executives, DJs and bloggers have been sharing their opinions and experiences on the growth and impact that Afrobeats is having worldwide, the rise of music streaming on the continent and the opportunities this transformation in consumption habits presents to the industry.
“Back in the day when you heard African music getting international recognition it needed to have come via a European and American artist as Ladysmith Black Mambazo rode on the back of Paul Simon's Graceland album,” says Tuma Basa, the YouTube Director of Black Music and Culture Music.
“We don’t have to depend on a Peter Gabriel or a Paul Simon, but instead today’s stars like Burna Boy are springing up authentically and establishing themselves on an international platform,” says Tuma. He and others are agreed that the success of Nigerian star Burna Boy in winning a Grammy Award this year creates international exposure and access to opportunities for other African acts.
Such success on the biggest global music stage means that the novelty that has traditionally been attached to African music under the World Music category will soon be a thing of the past.
Tuma says the popularity of YouTube as a platform for fans and artists, happened by default, first as a channel of contact between artists and their fanbase and on the continent, by-passing the traditional radio and TV.
“Today, along with music streaming, YouTube is a major revenue stream, offering a sustainable model and enabling re-investment in the infrastructure of music on the continent,” he says.
He points out that milestones such as Yemi Alade “Johnny” getting 100 million views made YouTube and similar platforms give attention to African music in ways that they had not hitherto.
The investment by record company labels in African markets is driven by the abundant talent across Africa and the economic indicators on the continent, says Temi Adeniji, director of Warner Music South Africa.
She says it is positive to see the current competition among the different streaming platforms that have launched in the African market, from the largest streaming company in the world, Spotify to Audiomack which is now available in 54 countries in Africa.
Tuma however says the impact of Covid-19 has clawed back some of the major developments in the growth of African music.
“Getting back to Ground Zero means that post-Covid 19, artists and the industry will have to start all over again,” says Tuma.
“The pandemic has ironically enabled a newer generation of artists, like Afrobeat stars Rema and Oxlade to be heard because of the space that has emerged,” says Remi Burgz, a radio presenter who champions African music genres in the UK.
“Afrobeats has taken the world by storm and the more the world opens up, Burna Boy wins a Grammy, and the attention of the world turns to Africa,” says Eddie Kadi, who is a British entertainer from DRC.
Similarly, he says, Amapaino is lifting South African music and attracting other African musicians who want to get a piece of the pie through collaboration.
He warns that the music industry across Africa should not be too obsessed with labels and categories but should also let the music grow organically.
Ghanaian star Stonebwoy says the same strategy that has been successful for Afrobeats should be replicated to help the growth of other African genres.
Each genre has a spearhead whose profile should be exploited to carry along other artists to say ‘here we are, there is more of us,” he says.
Tuma Basa says there is much more opportunity for growth and is advocating more cross-linguistic collaborations.
“When Innos’ B from the DRC sings in Lingala and Diamond Platnumz in Kiswahili and the video gets 100 million views, then the music crosses barriers in ways that were not previously possible.”