Of African music artists collaborating with bigger artists. What’s the rush?

Guys….I’m a bit (Ok! extremely if I’m being honest) late on this particular post. However, I feel obliged to talk about Willy Paul, who doesn’t seem too happy with Harmonize, who was featured on his “PiliPili” remix.

 

Through a recent Instagram post, Willy Paul implied that Harmonize  wasn’t being supportive enough of their recent music collaboration.

Just a few days ago, Harmonize dropped his own Kwangaru video that features Diamond . Boy have they both been going ham on promoting it on social media! On the other hand, Harmonize has had just 5 posts on his Instagram page promoting the Willy Paul collaboration, which has ultimately been overshadowed by Kwangaru’s promotion.

Based on the Willy Paul Instagram post, if the collaboration was Harmonize’s way of supporting him, then he ought to have helped in getting word out there about the song, way more than he went out of his way to do.

A while back, I did a post on music artists collaborating with bigger stars for the sake of expanding their horizons. Besides having to pay for such collaborations (unless otherwise agreed), very few “big stars” actually go out of their way to promote such music collaborations. Worse even, very few collaborations of this type make for good music.

I’m not sure if it’s an issue of time, which poses a challenge to the artistes or that the “smaller” artists are intimidated, failing to deliver on their part and sometimes having this rub off on the more established artist. Or perhaps the established artist may not  like some of the elements of the song but doesn’t want to come across as a “know it all” and therefore choosing to remain silent and just doing the damn music.

Maybe I am wrong, maybe I haven’t listened to enough good music but (and this is my opinion, do not come for me) I know just a handful of songs by an upcoming or even established artist featuring a bigger artist with a bigger fan base that was actually genuinely incredible music. I’m talking about music that I actually fell in love with because it was good music with a great concept and even better execution, captivating beats, well thought of lyrics and undeniable chemistry between the artists featured. Now this is contrary to me liking the idea of Davido working with Meek Mill  or trying to convince myself that I like Marry You just because I like Diamond and Ne-Yo as artists.

I agree with Willy Paul in the sense that if a bigger artist agrees to collaborate with a less established artist, then they should commit 100% to it.  They may have been paid for the collaboration and think of it as just a business transaction but if you do not believe in the song that you are to be featured in, you might as well  decline to it. Perhaps even ask for a different song with a different feel by the same artist to be featured in. It makes no sense for one to accept to be  featured in a song that they don’t like and therefore decide not to promote it as much as they would their own song or even a song that they like.

However, Kenya does have our very own gospel singers among others Daddy Owen, Mercy Masika, Eunice Njeri and Mr Vee who are beyond talented. And even if collaborations with secular artists,  which seems to be the route that Willy Paul is now taking, there are among others Khaligraph JonesFena Gitu, King Kaka and MDQ to work with, before moving onto collaborating with artists from neighboring countries.

But then again, who said you need a collaboration with a bigger artist or any other artist for that matter to get your name out there? A good jam is a good jam. No one really cares who sings on it.

What do you think?

Let me know via the comments section below.

 

 

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Diamond’s Wasafi TV plays Ali Kiba’s Songs. Is it worth talking about?

Diaamond and Ali Kiba
Left: Diamond Platnumz, Right: Ali Kiba (Image source: WEB)

As you have probably already heard, Diamond Platnumz‘  highly anticipated TV station,  Wasafi finally went on air. While it’s such a great milestone especially for the Tanzanian Music Industry, let’s talk about what apparently seems to be the more “pressing issue”, which is Ali Kiba‘s songs being played on the station.

Now just in case you don’t know, for the longest time, Diamond and Ali Kiba have been considered by their fans,  to be “music rivals”, with each claiming the “King of Bongo Flava” title.

During a recent interview on Tanzania’s Times FM , Diamond Platnumz  talked about his relationship with Ali Kiba, clarifying that they did not have any beef, that they were both cool with each other and that if the opportunity arises, he did not mind working with Ali Kiba. Diamond actually attributed the “alleged beef” between him and his fellow artist to fans, who have constantly pit them against each other, despite each of them having a unique style of music and fanbase. According to him, such pitting has sometimes gotten into their heads, creating a rift, but one that really is baseless. Diamond concluded on the issue by saying that he did not stand to gain from beef with Ali Kiba and vice versa.

Something else that should be noted is that Diamond has time and time again stated that his intention of having a TV station was to provide an equal platform for every Tanzanian artist. It’s therefore beyond me that people are shocked that Ali Kiba’s songs are playing on Wasafi TV. (Petty much!!!)

We have such pressing issues in the African Music Industry as a whole and even tougher unique challenges faced by artists in different countries, it’s absurd how obsessed we are with the trivial. Just towards the end of last year, we had about 13 songs by local artists in Tanzania including Diamond’s Hallelujah , Waka  and Jux’ Uzuri Wako  banned over what was described as them “being obscene”. A clear limit if not kill of creativity. In a recent interview, Diamond made clear that his “A Boy from Tandale” album was launched in Nairobi because he lacked an appropriate venue for the launch to take place in Tanzania.

It’s about time we start having discussions around real issues such as these and trying to figure out possible solutions for an even better musical environment for artists to thrive. Anything other than that is meaningless talk.

I applaud Diamond’s gesture and maturity for providing an equal platform for his “competitor” and hope for other artists to be able to learn from him but come on people! There are far much more pressing issues within Africa’s music Industry that we should be trying to find solutions for.

What do you think?

Happy weekend!

Dogo Janja’s latest music video: Creative or plain cringy?

Hey!

I know! I know! It’s been quite a while since I posted and much as I would like to use the lame old “I was busy” excuse, I won’t. I should be committed and disciplined enough to write regularly.

That aside, a lot has happened in Africa’s the music scene since I last posted including;  Di’ja giving birth to her second child (can you believe it?), Willy Paul revealed that he had upcoming collaborations with Vanessa Mdee, Harmonize, Ben Pol  and even Morgan Heritage and A.Y married the love of his life.

But that’s not why I’m writing today. Tanzania’s Dogo Janja recently dropped his latest music video, Wayu Wayu and boy has it been stirring some serious controversy!

 

On the video, Dogo plays several roles, which isn’t an issue or anything new, except for the part where he is also his own video vixen. Now this did not sit well with some of his fans, considering he has a wig on,  his face beat for the gods and is dressed as a woman. In an interview, Dogo attributed the video concept to expressing his creative freedom. And you would think that after that explanation people would leave him alone and just enjoy the song, right?….Yeah…not happening. (At least not any time soon)

Think about it though, besides being creative, this could actually be one of the smartest  moves Dogo has made as an artist. The video has been trending in Tanzania since it’s release and everyone is talking about it. Granted, it’s not all positive talk,  but it has created interest and attracted views from people that might have otherwise never known about it’s existence.

One of the most important factors that contribute to success in the creative industry is being different. That’s the only way you get to stand out. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. You have to offer something that no one else in the industry is offering.

I don’t know about you but I’m not mad at Dogo for taking such a huge risk. (Though I don’t know how I would feel about it if i was his wife, but she did his make up herself so who am I to talk…?) We actually need more creatives and especially music artists that will push the boundaries. At the end of the day, it’s not really art if it can’t spark conversations like this.

Let me know on the comments section what you think about the video. Is it creative or plain cringy?

Of African artists paying for music collaborations with international stars; Diamond shares his experience

You’ve probably heard that artists pay for collaborations, especially when it’s an upcoming artist (or even one that’s trying to widen their fan base), collaborating with an already established artist. This is because of the value added to a song with the already established artist, who also brings in their wide fan base, adding exposure to the song. What an artist will be paid for a collaboration is dependent on them and how they negotiate for it, but it’s some good money for sure. Now when it’s an African artist collaborating with an international star, the figures could even run into millions. Case in point,it’s alleged that M.I Abaga paid $50, 000 to Nas, for him to deliver a verse (just a verse, not two) on his song.

 

However, during an interview with Dizzim Online, Diamond revealed that he hasn’t paid for any of his collaborations with artists from the U.S. This includes Ne-Yo, Rick Ross  (which is yet to be released officially) and Omarion, (we are also still waiting on this one to drop).

I’ve seen such big stars jumping on a track by a less known artist or even an artist that is already popular but trying to widen their fan base. I have to be real, most are not always the best of works from either of the artists. Most are mere business transactions, where an artist was paid for a collaboration and just has to deliver for the sake of avoiding a lawsuit.

I want to be real for a minute. I loved PSquare. I admired their contribution to Nigeria’s Music industry. However, I wasn’t such a fan of their collaboration with Rick Ross. Not that it was a whack song, some people loved it, but I felt that they had done better songs on their own, just like Rick Ross has as well. I might be wrong, but that’s my honest opinion.

From Diamond, I think we should learn to build our own brands for ourselves, to a point where other artists are able to appreciate our work and even want to work with us at no cost.

Collaborations should be a smart move with intention. I watched an interview on Vanessa Mdee (can’t really remember on which platform), on which she says that she does not charge for international interviews conventionally, but instead has an agreement with an artist to earn royalties for the collaboration.

I hope for a music industry that will not just have artists collaborating for the sake of being associated with big names, but because of adding value to what they already have to offer the music industry.

 

Panamusiq Label entrance into the South

IMG_2126c
South African Artist; Serati

 

With the signing of South African upcoming artist Serati, Panamusiq closes its circle and is now representing music acts from the key regions of Sub-Saharan Africa: East, Central, West and South.
Serati Maseko is a singer, songwriter, guitar player, blogger and model. She hails from Alexandra Township. Serati has previously lived in the UK where she did her high school. For two years she studied music and piano, which was her first love.
It was in the UK where her musical awakening took place, going through many different phases of musical interest.

Coming back to South Africa, playing the guitar became her outlet for songwriting. She began writing poetry and took up vocal training. Her primary instrument is her voice, and that is where her strength lies, followed by her songwriting. Her first recorded song “Hurt So Good” was release in original and remix version. The latter features Gino Brown and it’s an house remix.
Serati has performed at such events as Rhythm and Poetry, Ram Jam, Word N Sound, My First Time Art Exhibition, The Annual Soweto Camp Festival 2016, The Bannister Hotel’s Basement Sessions, Wolves Café and Winnies Soul and Jazz Restaurant.
Artists who have influenced her singing and writing style include Tracy Chapman, Miriam Makeba, Lauryn Hill and Sade. Her sound can be described as Folk-Afro Soul, with vocals influenced by American soul artists of old, and her story telling, folk-like songwriting style.

5 Lessons to learn from the Creme de la Creme of Kenya’s Entertainment Industry

How-to-flourish-in-the-entertainment-industry-in-Kenya-right-from-scratch
Picture source: Web

 

Last night, Kenyans were treated to one of the most insightful conversations about the entertainment industry in the country, with the Creme de la Creme of the industry. This was on KTN News‘ Bottom Line, hosted by Yusuf Ibrahim. On the panel was Dan Aceda -one of Kenya’s most respected music artists, Sauti Sol‘s manager Marek Fuchs and Laugh Industry‘s Kennedy Waudo.

I took a few notes on what I thought were meaningful lessons worth sharing, especially with music artists.

  1. Music artists need to have a clear business sense of their art in order to be able survive in the industry. Treat music like you would any other type of business you immerse yourself in.
  2. There’s a great opportunity for Kenyan artists to create a unique edge by incorporating our classic Kenyan sounds.
  3. You cannot penetrate an external market such as Nigeria by trying to do what their artists are doing already. Your success in that foreign market is impossible without essential roots, which for your case is the Kenyan culture.
  4. We need more competition in the music industry. That way, people are motivated and challenged enough creatively. So even when it’s that Hip Hop beef between Femi One and Njeri, if that’s what it takes to have artists putting in all that they have for great content that will have them emerge as winners, then so be it. (I’m not sure if I agree on this one though)
  5. In this day and age, you can’t just be an artist. You need to be an all round entertainer. Build that with social media, your performances and general lifestyle.

 

Beyond anything else, aim to satisfy your audience, to a point that they yearn to see more of you. That way, you can negotiate for higher rates. I really hope that this is a first of such conversations and that we can bring in more stake holders for an all rounded conversation that will lead to industry growth.

Of Musical Supremacy Battles in Ghana

Not so long ago, Reefer Tym claimed to be better than Sarkodie. In his own words…

 

Rison
Rison- U.S Based Ghanaian Artist (Picture source: Web) 

It’s barely been two weeks since that claim was made. And now, Ghanaian- Nigerian singer Rison thinks that he sings better than Fuse ODG, an English recording artist who is also of Ghanaian descent. During a phone conversation with Razzonline.com, Rison was asked if he believes that he is currently doing better than Fuse OGD (*eyes rolling* why would you even ask that), to which he responded,

“Oh Yes. I sing better than Fuse ODG. If I am able to get a hardworking management team like what Fuse is having, I will be the best musician ever to be produced in our part of the world. Just compare our songs and be the judge. When it comes to high notes, am simply the best.”

Here’s the thing; God blesses us in such diverse ways, even for us who share talents, which is what sets each one of us apart. Otherwise, we would have all music artists sounding the same- which would be extremely boring. (Music wouldn’t be something I’d be interested in- if that was the case). And as my friend Sarah (@sara_zombi) says, music shouldn’t be about becoming the next thing. Artists should work to build their own craft.

Plus, your talent and effort as an artist counts the most. Everything else including a great management team can be acquired later. But first things first, prove your worth with just your talent. Make the best artist manager in town want to work with you because they are sure that with your talent and the skill that they have to offer, you can be an undeniable force together. It’s that simple.

Can we have artists that focus primarily on doing great music (which is their actual job) and then letting music lovers decide whose better (not that we care if you have great music. But because you want to be ranked…why not)?

Here’s the take home though;

But just in case you have never heard of Rison…

 

What do you think?

Drop me a comment below.

STL’s Unconventional International Music Success

 

Kenya’s Stella Mwangi’s (STL) “Work” was chosen to be the official trailer soundtrack to the movie “A BadMoms Christmas”, which will hit theaters on November 3rd. The girl hasn’t even recovered from the song being used as the campaign theme soundtrack for Tommy Hilfiger’s Summer/ Spring line 2017. Or the same song being featured on BET‘s hit series Being Mary Jane‘s Season 4. Did I mention it being the official theme song for Reebok Classics ‘Free Your Style” 2017 campaign?…And that the beats to her song “Set it off” was also featured on the second season of HBO‘s TV Series “Insecure“? (I know! I’m jealous too).

With piracy being the major challenge that it is for artists, there’s very little hope (if any) left for album sales as a source or revenue. Those that are a step ahead are exploring alternative ways to earn from their music. In Nigeria, ring-back tones are making Nigerian artists millionaires. In Tanzania and Uganda, local artists plan for self titled concerts where they are the main acts and fans actually show up. Some of these concerts are even sold out. Try that in Kenya and tell me how it goes. No, actually- don’t. (I’d hate to be the reason for your career misfortunes.) Unless there’s an international act headlining the concert, you can only depend on a few family members and a handful of friends to show up. (And maybe your friends’ friends’- who have probably been promised free booze or a free to and from ride home). It could be a cultural thing- where we just don’t have it in us to support our very own or maybe I am wrong- (which I honestly hope I am).

If STL’s international success this year is anything to go by, it’s about time Kenyan artists start exploring different avenues to earn from their music. We’ve had endless battles between artists and MCSK over “insulting” royalties .While the system needs a change, artists need to be creative and open enough to see what else  can earn them what they deserve. What really works for you as an individual? (Because hey! just because Avril was a brand ambassador to Oriflame doesn’t guarantee that you will score a brand endorsement deal yourself. Or because Diamond Platnumz has a “Peanuts” business you can succeed by launching your own).

If you are an artist reading this, you’re a creative, I will leave it to you.

 

 

Of Dancehall music in Africa; Imposters or Risk Takers?

 

RootEye
Picture source: http://www.ghanaclass.com

 

According to pioneering Ghanian Dancehall artist Root Eye, Ghanian artists claiming to be doing pure Dancehall music are in fact doing Afro- Dancehall (basically Urban African Music inspired by Dancehall Music) .

Root Eye said that there have to be certain crucial elements present in a song,  for it to qualify to be labelled as Dancehall, which Ghanaian artists aren’t keen on as they even speak fake patois. He however commended Ghanian Dancehall artist Shatta Wale for his work, but advised him to work on his sound as he had greater potential.

Whether what Root Eye says is true or not is debatable. And honestly,  this is a subject that I wouldn’t be in a position to argue on, considering I do not have an in depth understanding of Dancehall music, and the aspects that contribute it to be labeled as such. However, I do know of a few Dancehall artists from Ghana and beyond (of course within Africa- refer to my blog name :-)) – including Stonebwoy, Samini, Patoranking, Cynthia Morgan, Redsan and Wyre.

My question is this; what’s wrong with music that is inspired from something that is foreign? Different artists have different inspirations. Those that understand the music business even better use such inspirations to guide their creations into something that is uniquely theirs. If it gives you an edge over what everyone else is doing, then why not? A perfect example is Ole Themba by Tanzania’s Linah, that was inspired by Contemporary South African Music and creatively fused with Bongo Flava.

Just don’t forget who you are and what makes you unique while being inspired (in whatever it is that you do).

 

My top 5 picks; Best African Rappers

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I think spitting rhymes was one of those things that our forefathers did just after a hunting session, as they carried the day’s meal home. Seriously, think about it…”Yoh! My name is Onkule the great, the man in charge of today’s fate, cause all I do is catch that prey and  make sure that my fam is fed”(drops mic)…  no?

I don’t know about you but I would personally rather listen to an artist that sings or raps  in a language that I don’t understand, but has me getting at least 70% of the words (or at least have me thinking that I am getting it). That for me is way better than someone who sings/ raps in a language that I understand and yet never making sense of what exactly they are singing/ rapping about.

While there are plenty of African Hip Hop artists that I would have on my list, these ones have consistently proven themselves over time, with a unique style that makes them uncontested pace setters.

K.O

k-o-image-courtesy-of-ctvibes-com
K.O (Image courtesy of ctvibes.com)

 

He defines his music as Skhanda Music.  Simply put, “vernacular poetry over authentic South African Hip- Hop beats that are driven by traditional elements.” 

 

Besides being effortlessly smooth with his lyrics, K.O is one of the very few artists that  I wouldn’t care as much to listen to, because I wouldn’t understand what he would be going on and on about (considering he often raps in his native language).  And yet still, I find myself straining to get his flow.  They say that music is a universal language, but it takes an exceptionally talented artist to wow a foreign audience.

 

 

King Kaka

king-kaka-image-courtesy-of-eventsupdatesa.files.wordpress.com
King Kaka (Image courtesy of bursarts.wordpress.com)

 

To be honest, when he first started out, I knew he was good but did not think he would last long in Kenya’s rap scene.

For me, King Kaka lacked that “umph” that made other top rappers in the country (at that point in time) successful.

He has however proven me wrong over and over again and I am glad he did. His poetic style fused with his being a great story teller more than anything else makes him the timeless rapper that would have me tirelessly listen to him all day, any day.

 

 

 

Muthoni Drummer Queen

MDQ sought to explore Hip Hop upon realization that she had a lot to say and this was the only genre she could use to express herself with as many words as possible, unlike with singing whose structure is limiting

 

mdq-image-courtesy-of-mx3-ch
MDQ (Image courtesy of mx3.ch)

She is bold and embraces her art fully for what it is- a platform to explore and discover. Creativity has a whole new meaning thanks to MDQ, who isn’t just about having great lyrical flow, but making sense with every dropped bar. Certainly a refreshing approach to a genre that was initially used purely reserved for entertainment, especially in Kenya.

Sarkodie

sarkodie-image-courtesy-of-ghanamusicbank-com

Best International Act in the African category at the 2012 BET Awards,  Sarkodie has got to be one of the best all time rappers of Africa.

He often raps in his native language (which again would have me thinking I could be doing something more meaningful with my life other than trying to figure out what he could possibly be rapping about).

However, his commanding presence leaves me no choice than to stop whatever it is that I am doing and to pay attention. And here is the thing about Sarkodie,  I cannot count the number of times after listening to him I’ve thought “Darn! that was so good I have to listen to it again.”- that ladies and gentlemen is a powerful artist.

 

Joh Makini

joh-makini-image-courtesy-of-musicians4africa-com
Joh Makini (Image courtesy of musiciansforafrica.com)

 

I can’t think of anyone’s lyrics that are as fresh and well thought like Joh Makini’s .

He unlike most modern day rappers does conscious music other than strive to be musically correct or sell hype, which constantly has him on my radar and looking forward to what he would have to offer next.

A Hip Hop pioneer that has remained true to what attracted people to his style of music, he doesn’t call himself a Swahili rap king for nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

Did your best African rappers make it to my list?

Vote or/and drop me a comment below and let me know.