Emerging musical talent in Kenya and six other African countries now have an exciting opportunity to launch their careers on an international platform that has been set up by one of the continent’s most influential young artists.
Nigerian Afropop star Mr Eazi was in Nairobi last week to launch a new initiative called ‘Empawa’ to uncover up-and-coming artistes, provide them with resources and exposure to launch their careers.
The self-described music entrepreneur knows all about rising to the very top of the music business. He is among a generation of Nigerian artists including Wizkid, Davido and Tekno who in the last five years have turned the spotlight on contemporary African music also referred to as Afrobeats.
Eazi has partnered with top artistes, producers and other music industry professionals, to equip the most promising talent with industry knowledge, contacts and funds to enable them achieve their full potential.
Empawa is open to artistes from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana, and Zimbabwe. Artists have until December 15 to post their videos singing either cover versions or original songs via Instagram using the hashtag ‘Empawa’. These videos will be evaluated and assessed by Eazi and a team of music industry experts, producers, and artists, DJs and promoters, that he has selected from his network in the specific countries. About 100 artistes will then be picked to receive a grant of Sh300,000 to produce 100 music videos with a production crew across Africa.
“All it took for me to start my career was a video that cost me $1,000,” says Eazi.
“It is a career that has allowed me to tour the world, own a business and employ over 100 people,” he adds.
“There is no reason why artists on the streets of Nairobi should not get involved in the programme because all they require is to shoot a video on a mobile phone showcasing their talent and post it on Instagram.”
Out of the 100 finalists, 10 will be selected to fly to South Africa for a three-week incubator programme led by Mr Eazi with English pop star Raye and renowned producer Diplo of Major Lazer. The 10 finalists will also record their music and shoot their videos with a professional film crew.
“Besides the producers working on the music, I will have lawyers teaching the artists about legal aspects of the music business and financial managers showing them how to turn the talent into a business,” says Eazi.
The very final list of two artistes will be selected from the 10 to perform at the 2019 edition of the annual ‘Ghana Party in the Park’ in the UK.
Eazi says his success in turning his love for music into a thriving enterprise should be an inspiration to any artiste who is enrolling for the programme.
“Just imagine if we have 20 Kenyan artists who employ 100 people directly or indirectly and the additional value of transporting Kenyan music to the world,” says Mr Eazi.
In the last two years, he has funded videos for four artist.
Eazi whose real name is Oluwatosin Oluwole Ajibade has gained global attention with his Banku music (named after a popular Ghanaian dish), a fusion that combines high-life from Ghana with Nigerian chord patterns and dance-hall.
He was influenced by Ghanaian music while attending university in Kumasi and had his first major international hit with the single “Skin Tight” in 2015. He has since grown in stature thanks to hit songs like “Leg Over”, which was remixed by Diplo of Major Lazer, and “Tilapia”.
Eazi has just released his latest mixtape “Life Is Eazi, Vol. 2 Lagos to London” which he is also promoting at the same time as the Empawa project.
Last year, he was the first African artist named as the Apple Music “Up Next” Artist, which uses the music-streaming platform to expose a rising artist every month to its millions of subscribers.
He says investing in the next generation of African musicians, gives strength and visibility to the movement of Africa music, through the sheer force of numbers.
“Jamaican dance-hall, for example, didn’t become popular because of one artist but there was a movement of artists that propelled the music,” he says.
“The bigger the collective of quality Africa artists, the bigger the music business will become.”