Is Afrobeats stifling the advancement of other musical genres in Africa?

Following a concert at Ghana’s biggest stadium in Tema on 26 December 2021, Ghanian dancehall musician Shattawale boasted about how his tickets offered out, a feat he stated he managed devoid of the support of Nigerian musicians.

In a viral online video clip shared on social media, Shattawale reported: “Do you know that [the] the vast majority of folks in the Ghana music marketplace are fools? They told me that I will not be in a position to fill my stadium. I don’t glance up to any […] Nigerian artiste. I seem up to my admirers. […].”

This remark brought on responses from his Nigerian counterparts, together with Burna Boy who claimed on Instagram: “Pushing this agenda of separation between our beautiful African nations is a grave disservice to the generations coming after us. It goes from every thing I stand for as a male and as an unapologetic pan Africanist. As a result, if Shatta or everyone has a personalized trouble with me, I’m even now open to fighting 1 on a person and squashing it after…”

These kinds of exchanges reflect rigidity and rivalry in the Ghana/Nigeria tunes industries, which dates back from the golden age of higher existence in the 1960s to 2017 when Mr Eazi, a Nigerian musician, professed that the audio of Nigerian Afrobeats was affected by Ghanaian audio. He arrived less than hearth from his countrymen on social media. It is deserving to note that Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, now deceased, expressed equivalent sentiments in the 60s.

Individuals keep up a photo of Nigeria’s new music legend Fela Kuti at a night time present marking the conclude of a 7 days-prolonged celebration in his honour, in Lagos Oct 22, 2012. Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye

Politics of nationalism and xenophobia

Music, a possibly strong instrument for unification in Africa, has not been the rallying level to propagate the ideals of pan-Africanism on the continent. Alternatively, it has lent itself to the petty politics of nationalism and xenophobia.

In 2019, South African rapper AKA was accused of instigating xenophobic sentiments in a series of tweets just after his home region misplaced a football match to Nigeria in the course of the AFCON Quarterfinals. A cohort of Nigerian musicians – Ycee, MI Abaga, Tiwa Savage and Burna Boy – condemned the climbing spate of xenophobic attacks of Nigerians by South Africans.

In 2020, two rising Nigerian musicians, Omah Lay and Tems, were arrested in Uganda soon after performing at a live performance that police explained was contrary to Covid-19 legislation. Ugandan musicians, like Cindy Sanyu and Gravity Omutujju, experienced previously registered their displeasure about what they termed as ‘selective enforcement’ of Covid-19 procedures, which they reported enabled the Nigerian musicians to conduct. A further furore ensued on social media with posts affirming tensions in between Nigerian and Ugandan musicians.

In February 2021, Peckham-lifted Nigerian musician Naira Marley experienced his valentine live performance was cancelled 2 times in Buea, Cameroon. Nigerian musician-cum-journalist Joey Akan decried the incident as an attack on Nigerian new music. In a collection of tweets, he explained: “For months, there has been a growing anti-Nigerian motion, with quite a few disgruntled entertainers [from across the continent] contacting for a ban on Nigerian tunes.”

Venue to vent

These troubling studies from distinct African international locations strongly recommend that regional grassroots tunes industries believe that they are inconsistently matched to compete with the a lot more preferred music genres.

Nowadays, disgruntled regional musicians express their displeasure via channels readily available to them: from social media outbursts to petitions prepared by means of their community unions, and even actual physical protests.

All these three genres of African pop new music come from some of the most important music developing international locations in Africa.

Chief amid their problems on social media is the insularity of Nigeria’s listeners and the lack of aid of other African artists from their Nigerian counterparts. This is in stark contrast to the time period when Nigerians embraced songs from across the continent, these as the brass band styled highlife ET Mensah in the 1960s and the new wave of Awilo Logomba’s soukous in the early 2000s.

DJ Tarico, Focalistic and Amarae from Mozambique, South Africa and Ghana, respectively, also had their music get pleasure from weighty rotation in the Nigerian audio scene past calendar year.

One-guy protest

On 9 February 2022, Kenyan comedian and musician, Eric Omondi staged a one-man protest by locking himself in a glass box outside Parliament setting up in Nairobi. On the glass box, the terms ‘Play 75% Kenyan’ ended up created in bold. His was a campaign for Kenyan radio stations to raise their participate in of Kenyan audio from the recent 40%.

The modern day music scene in Kenya is dominated by West African Afrobeats, Tanzania’s Bongo Flava and South Africa’s Amapiano, although more mature listeners go on to take pleasure in the ageless Congolese Rhumba and American hip-hop.

Mombasa-born Makadem, a multi-genre musician who conducts substantial excursions inside of East Africa, has a contrary impression. “…all these a few genres of African pop new music come from some of the biggest tunes developing countries in Africa. […] Kenya is largely a shopper of superior Afropop music… Afropop however doesn’t surpass the appreciate for Congolese rhumba, right here permit by yourself Jamaican reggae! These two [have a] enormous [fan base] here.”

Makadem is on the other hand not enthused about Omondi’s protest to boost the radio quota of Kenyan audio.

“…the definition of Kenyan audio is twisted listed here […]. According to Nairobi, Kenyan music indicates Kenyan Afropop songs with international influences like R&B, hip-hop, reggae, Afrobeats. These are the acts whose new music is [referred to as] Kenyan songs and these are the artists at war with foreign pop new music dominance. In Kenya, we have ethnic or tribal pop songs, which is way even bigger than the former…” he tells The Africa Report.

However, Makadem agrees that his fellow Kenyan musicians are starting to be formidable. “Our nearby pop stars experience the pinch, but I see it building them start off to strategise for even larger much better regional written content than what they have been doing…”

Afrobeats’ phenomenal rise

Irrespective of the area politics all over impact, dominance and nomenclature of these audio genres, Afrobeats’ phenomenal increase to world wide reputation has been a resource of inspiration to other genres. Even so, Afrobeats’ ascent did not take place out of the blues, it required deliberate interventions.

In the early 2000s when Afrobeats was however in its infancy, American hip-hop ruled the Nigerian radio waves. Superstars like Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kanye West and 50 Cent regularly held massive concerts in Nigerian metropolitan areas. Neighborhood musicians ended up assembled into a roster of opening functions for these demonstrates.

American rapper 50 Cent headlined the 2004 version of the four-city live performance Star Mega Jam in Nigeria. Eedris Abdulkareem, a Nigerian rapper who broke out of the common boy band Treatments, protested the preferential cure specified to 50 Cent and his crew: they had been flown into the nation on very first-course tickets aboard a plane reserved for them. A actual physical fight broke out, which led to the untimely departure of 50 Cent and his crew from Nigeria, with the aid of the American embassy.

50 Cent bragged in his guide that he did not know anything at all about Nigeria and he was [still] supplied $4m to do the clearly show.

Jide Taiwo, a veteran new music journalist and writer of History Manufactured, displays on this incident 18 many years later on indicating he may well not agree with Eedris’ strategies, but he understands his frustrations. “…Eedris may possibly have been misguided in his shipping, but basically, what he was declaring was appropriate. 50 Cent bragged in his e-book that he did not know just about anything about Nigeria and he was [still] supplied $4m to do the clearly show. None of the Nigerian musicians [even got] N1m ($2,409).”

Dissenting African musicians have nevertheless to resort to physical violence like Eedris, but Taiwo believes that they could discover from the Afrobeat example. “…a whole lot of things occurred for Afrobeats to turn out to be well known. The music did not stop staying fantastic, we held tweaking and honing. We had telcom [telecommunication] and alcohol [beverage] models that needed to get to a youthful established of people and just utilised the songs as a car to force that. The NBC [Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation] directives that radio had to participate in about 60%-70% of Nigerian audio also [boosted this]. All of these transpired at the exact same period… It was an eventuality that the audio was heading to blow [become successful].”