In addition to blessing us with tech innovations like social media, the information age has made the world ridiculously smaller. Nowhere is this concept more prevalent, at the moment, than in the entertainment industry. What once was an anomaly (of sorts) is now commonplace in artists looking to improve branding & expand their international presence by reaching new audiences overseas.
Entering in a picture – that was once almost exclusively dominated by collaborations with European & Latin musicians – is the African market. Under the “Afro” umbrella, musicians from “the motherland” are dominating the international music scene. Afro music commences with the historic AfroBeat genre, a traditional/contemporary sound pioneered by legendary Nigerian singer & instrumentalist Fela Kuti. His influence gave birth to hugely popular subcategories in AfroBeats, modern variations of AfroPop and even Afro&B (see OgaSilachi), to name a few.
Not only is this eclectic sound popular within the continent of Africa (and its 1 billion inhabitants), it’s also sending waves through Europe – namely United Kingdom. The advent of social media has allowed for artists like Wizkid and Davido to become less dependent on the ‘mainstream’ route to success; instead allowing them to leverage digital platforms to reach their fans directly and amass huge followings in the process.
Insert North America’s elite.
Contrary to popular opinion, domestic artists – from the fairly new, like Fetty Wap to the fairly established, like Drake – benefit greatly from the association with these international stars. As the opportunities for music monetization continue to dry up, with album revenue at a stand still, touring and merchandise income become an artist’s best bet to cash in! By teaming up with the hottest acts overseas, artists in America put themselves in great situations to become global icons and acquire new audiences that allow them to earn big.
African musicians reap dividends as well, from this unity, in the form of validity and sense of respectability from the masses. Without a certain acceptance from influencers within the states, it’s hard for these musicians to truly break through, realizing global star potential.
I spoke at length with Sarkodie, the Ghana-based hip hop/hip-life star dubbed Africa’s best emcee and a leader of the continent’s ‘new school’ of sound. Sarkodie says the recent cultural fusion is due to artists looking to create beyond their “comfort zone”, in addition to the mutual benefit of discovering new markets.
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