Just a little after the world (read America) caught up with our clannish day to day threads and hailed them as last season’s fashion phenomenon of tribal prints, it seems that while in Africa they also caught up with our music. Jumping straight into the Afrobeats bandwagon that ushered many into the New Year before we’d even begun to ask for royalties, the international music scene almost miraculously adopted this genre into the fabric of mainstream society. Well-known (American) Hip Hop musicians assumed the big brother role with big names like Kanye West and former correctional officer, Rick Ross respectively making cameo appearances and features on African acts D’banj and PSquare music videos. A move that’s catapulted their careers and the genre as a whole into the forefront of popular culture changing the face of music as we once knew it- a face that was once small and mediocre.
Now record deals and millions of Youtube views later (PSquares’ “Beautiful Onyinye” holds 9 million YouTube views and “Oliver Twist” is on 16 million) its more than clear that Africa holds the world’s attention and we are making them dance to our hip hop/dance-hall African rhythm. For the very first time in history the BET Awards, MTV Europe Awards, and the MOBOs have a Best African Act category and neighboring African countries are familiar with one another’s music as opposed to international content. After a long time of being solely viewed by international audiences in platforms such as Channel O; Aboki, Lira, Kuli Chana, Wizkid and Mo’ Cheddar finally have a shot at being house hold names all over the continent. Also on our list of firsts is Billboard, a premiere music business website and publication, who featured a story on the booming African music scene — a first for a major US publication.
According to Beyond the Music founder Colin Gayle (who was interviewed in the feature) in the last two years he says he’s watched the youth in Africa begin to embrace their own local music and culture and want more of it. “The opportunities are immense if we can start conversations between North America and Africa and build slowly,” he says. And converse we will at the Billboard Music Day with keynote speakers such as Deputy Editor of Billboard Yinka Adegoke, Marcus Glover, Briant Biggs of Rocnation and Spinlets’ Mark Redguard leading the conversation. Co-Chairing the event will be Obi Asika, Colin Gayle, and Chris Ubosi. With opportunities arising from all four corners of the globe for all African musicians alike this will be a worthwhile event to attend to maximize exposure on these platforms.
After years of listening to cookie-cutter mixtapes and watching musicians frantically try to be relevant, it seems that this new age of creativity that has given worldwide audiences a fresh new take on music. These Afrobeats have definitely redefined what it means to be an African artist on the international stage and the whole world is waiting for what’s going to happen next.
With that said, whether attending the Billboard Music Day event physically or watching the live stream — notepad in hand — be sure to check out these eight Afrobeats wonders on the circuit in the interim.