I was meant to publish this article in January when I was back home in Cameroon, but due to a severe malaria that made me lose 10kg in a week I was unable to finish the article. So please bear with me and just read this like you were in January 2018.
With no doubt, I can say that 2017 has been an extraordinary year for our African artistes and their fans as they got to listen to new music from them and watch them perform across the globe. ‘Life is Eazi’ by Mr Eazi, ‘Sounds From the Other Side’ by Wizkid, ‘Tokooos’ by Fally Ipupa, ‘Love Original’ by Mr Leo and other incredible albums were released by artistes of this new generation who managed to impose themselves as our ambassadors by taking our music worldwide – a bit like Davido Music Worldwide – and are telling the world our stories. Although there is no word in English, French or Medumba to describe how I felt as 2017 ended, I don’t want to lay back and just feel satisfied about these achievements but want us to continue to strive for more greatness in 2018.
A milestone was set last year as Afrobeats and Urban African music stood out as global sounds and slowly started moving away from the “world music” box and the invisibility associated to its indigenousness. Yemi Alade managed to move crowds across the world – we are talking here of about 100 000 people – with her Mama Africa World Tour which was kicked off with a sold out concert in Paris (at Le Trianon) and ended in New York at the Playstation Theatre. Wizkid became the first Afrobeats artiste to sell out the Royal Albert Hall in London, a venue with a capacity of more than five thousand seats. The Wati-B label and Conglomerate managed by the Malian businessman and producer Dawala sold out the AccorHotels Arena in Paris – which can hold up to 20 000 people for concerts – for La Nuit Du Mali, an event organised to celebrate Mali’s 57th independence anniversary. Still in 2017, the One Africa Music Festival sold out concerts in London, New York and Dubai where they brought together Africa’s A-listers such as Flavour, Tiwa Savage, Victoria Kimani, Davido, Dj Maphorisa etc. as well as our diasporas and the Africa lovers established in those regions.
These series of successful events would not have been possible in my opinion without the active support of the African diaspora. By participating in the different concerts, the diaspora achieved three things.
Firstly, during these critical moments where Western leaders (DONALD TRUMP!) do not hesitate to regard Africans as citizens of “shithole countries”, fans who showed up at the various (historical) concerts proved that Africans too have superstars whose music can move crowds and influence people all over the world despite being cooked up in “shithole countries”. By showing up at the various concerts, the diaspora was also able to demonstrate that they have a considerable purchasing power when it comes to celebrating their culture and it should not be neglected by promoters and investors.
Secondly, the diaspora’s participation contributed in increasing African soft power across the world. By taking out some of their non-African friends to the show or by simply talking about the events on their social media accounts, people who knew little about our music and our cultures were exposed to content from Africa and learned a little bit more about us. This is why I called African artistes who toured abroad our ambassadors as through their music, it is possible to depict the societal and cultural changes going on within our different African communities.
Lastly, by attending the various concerts, the diaspora did not only show their support to artistes but also expressed their desire to see a sustainable African music industry. Attending these concerts was not necessarily a militant act for some, but supporting such events can also be interpreted as a way to show support to the whole African music industry in general (with its ecosystems) as having more of our artistes performing in high standard venues also means rightfully rewarding the chain of men and women behind the artistes that make up our growing music industry.
Now that we have set this milestone, what is next though? My conviction is that we need to exploit the exposure gained in 2017 to conquer the world with our sounds like the Americans did with Hip Hop, Rock and jazz. But for that to happen, artistes will have to be united and remain authentic, while on the other hand the fans, influencers and media will have to continue to show support.
Even though there’s a lot for us to celebrate, I personally think that beefs between our superstars do nothing else but harm our industry rather than building it. When I decided to launch this blog, I could have included gossip and celebrities’ news in my editorial line, but I chose not to because it wouldn’t have brought anything substantial to our growing music industry. I was very disappointed when Davido and Wizkid had a beef between mid-November and mid-December over which award was more prestigious: Wizkid’s Best African Act from AFRIMA (which is supposed to be Africa’s equivalent of a Grammy), or Davido’s Best African Act from MTV EMA. I won’t come back on the words that were exchanged as you can easily find them on Nigerian gossip blogs and websites, but I’d just like to make a single comment about the incident or rather ask a question. How do we as Africans expect people outside to treat us when we ourselves fail to give value to our local recognitions? Let’s preserve ourselves from such negative media attention which can easily destroy the hard work that has been done to reach thus far and prevent us from achieving more great things.
In 2018, I pray that our artistes stay authentic to their music and undistracted by the foreign attention that they are receiving. If you are an African artiste and intend to change your style just because you want to seduce an exotic audience: please don’t! As much as the idea might sound great and as much as you might have sufficient resources and contacts to make this happen, the truth is that your fan base has always been African and if you are where you are today it is because they are the ones pushing you so please don’t disappoint them. I will reiterate what I said earlier, by saying that the success of African artistes’ tours abroad (mainly in Europe and North America) is largely due to the support of the African diaspora. If you stay faithful to your genre and continue to make music using your signature, that is, the specificities for which you are known for such as the redundant use of a particular beat set/tempo, rap style or auto tune, don’t change or else you might lose your initial fan base.
In 2018, I pray that we in Africa get more opportunities to see our superstars perform. I’ve been in Accra for the past six months now, and I must admit that it hurts me a little when I hear that Davido, Wizkid, Maleek Berry, Tenor, Locko, Sarkodie, Olamide or even Yemi Alade have big dates in Europe but I am here in the motherland and I still haven’t seen them perform. I want to turn up too kra! (Ghanaian expression equivalent of “o” or “abi”) and I won’t lie that I’ve already thought of flying to London just to attend one of their concerts but reality hit me hard; man is a broke student and Accra weather is way too sweet for me to leave just for a concert taking place during winter!
Lastly, in 2018 I also pray that our A-listers will pay more attention to the streams they receive from Asia, and in particular Japan. A lot of data is coming out, and Japan often appears in the top 6 countries from which our A-listers get the most streams (Maleek Berry, and Mr Eazi can attest this). Please, explore this new opportunity and continue to make us proud!
// Side note, Davido and Wizkid made peace and we are loving the bromance they’ve been showing to us by tweeting to each other and performing at each other’s concert. I really hope that they are in studio cooking up something for us. If they do, it will definitely be the song the year or even better, the song of the decade!