Music from Africa on World Stage

Music from the African Continent is playing a more crucial role on the international stage, according to music experts.

It is more relevant now than ever before in helping “inspire and influence” the world, they say.

Also, an accolade such as the Kora All Africa Awards, which reflects the diversity of music on the continent, is an important platform for talent.

One of South Africa’s leading musical exponents, Concord Nkabinde, says he feels his music speaks not only to Africa but to the world at large. “As an African musician I would like to think that my music speaks largely of whom I am and my interaction with the rest of the world. When I create music that represents my African-ness, I do not try to sound African.”

Nkabinde, a musician of long standing who recently facilitated and coordinated Standard Bank’s Joy of Jazz’s Geleza Kleva and Learn series of Johannesburg workshops, maintains his music is a natural process that carries his influences, and these include his Western influences, with aspirations to exist in a broader world as an African without being swallowed up by the world. “The general ‘voice’ of Africa towards inspiring and influencing the world is more relevant now than ever before, so is our music.”

Numerous African artists are successfully exploring the international scene with many of them creating “meaningful” art without becoming “big stars.”

The majority are on a ‘world music’ circuit that, although well supported, is not known in the mainstream, hence that possible sense of invisibility.

In global terms, however, there are few African music icons to compare with a Rihanna or a Justin Bieber.

Says Kevin Stuart of Break Out Management: “African artists are influential, highly respected, and loved for sure but not in any global phenomenon perspective.”

Says Nkabinde: “Many people might not know about these artists. I was recently in Sweden and Germany and was surprised to see how many South African music projects were on the road in Europe.

“I guess this is partly testimony to the fact that artists are beginning to learn what is important and what has to be prioritised. For many years the record labels put more emphasis in creating hype and not so much in developing sustainable careers. Artists, especially the independent ones, are learning to focus on ‘having a story to tell’ and on ‘positioning’ and they are succeeding.

Afro-pop duo Mafikizolo is a South African group making immense waves both here and abroad. Walking away with awards at both the SAMAs and the MTV Africa Awards, the act was also nominated in the Best International Act category at the BET awards in Los Angeles.

Group member Nhlanhla Nciza said: “We believe that African music is finally getting the recognition it deserves. We are just proud to be part of this history-making moment. We came back with a sound that is representative of Africa and we strongly believe that this is the reason the world is taking note.”

Mafikizolo like to see themselves as “among the best in Africa” by producing a sound that represents a Continent.

On the question of giving artists awards, those interviewed in the industry believe it’s important for artists to get recognition from the industry and its peers – and it can only have a positive effect on an artist’s career.

Concord Nkanbinde feels awards should be a way of acknowledging and encouraging artists who are showing great potential and producing meaningful work.

Asked if awards were important and if the Kora All Africa Awards fitted into the picture, Kevin Stuart, whose company deals with African musicians, says: “Yes, I think it shows we take our industry seriously. It’s been a good platform for African performers and I think it has a very important part to play in the African music context, as it is one of the only true Pan African Events that actually happens in Africa.”

Namibian artist and entrepreneur TouchyT believes in awards and feels the Kora All Africa awards is the “African Mother awards” because it levels the playing fields for all artists within the African Continent. “It creates a priceless marketing opportunity for any artist whether they are up-and-coming or have been in the game for a long time.”

She concedes that only a “handful” of artists ever make it onto the international scene and are not in a position to compete with such acts as Beyoncé and Rihanna. It’s sad, she adds, because these artists do not become brands. “The days of doing only music,” she says, “are long gone, hence the PR and marketing strategy has completely changed and African artists must join the world by eating what the Romans eat.”

TouchyT favours music awards. “They are important because those who give the awards appreciate and value an artist’s work and the fans get to see their favourite artists in person and performing. Also it helps artists to network while improving their skills to compete with the best in the game.”

Another international industry man is Takis, who is from Greece and has worked with many international DJs artists over the last five years. He is also a music producer, manages artists and is the President of African Sound Records .

He believes that having awards is key to a music community in that it recognises talent. He feels an award such Kora Awards needs support from everyone. “It can become a bigger and better awards event this year and will help reflect the diversity of the Continent again.”

Andrew Mitchley, COO of David Gresham Records, added that he feels not enough is done in South Africa to promote the significance of awards and the impact that the exposure can give to artists.

“With the Grammy awards, for example, many artists have launched their careers from this platform. The awards are really prestigious and the public take note of the winners, they participate by investing in the artists output, be it by buying their albums or supporting their concerts. Unfortunately in my experience in South Africa, we don’t get the same buy in from the public after the awards have come and gone. This is serious.”

Music journalist Munyaradzi Vomo says that as a concept the Kora Awards work but needs to get a higher profile and be more pronounced, especially when compared to other awards.

Asked how many artists from the African continent did he think made an impact on the international music scene, he replied that Nigerian star D’Banj, who is signed to Kanye West’s label Good Music, was big “Then you get the likes of South Africa’s Lira who have made some kind of breakthrough and has toured the US.”

He also sighted other South African musicians who have moved to international destinations such as The Parlotones who went to the US to work. “But this doesn’t say much until they have made it in the market place.”

Also noteworthy for their international invasion are such names as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and, of course, Mafikizolo.

Music from the African Continent can make an impact on world music and, in a nutshell, awards are important to both the public and artists alike.

Source:Peter Feldman|

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