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.

 

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Panamusiq Label entrance into the South

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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.

3 Recommendations that could help Ugandan artists gain relevance beyond Uganda’s boarders

ugandan-music-image-courtesy-ugblizz-com
Ugandan artists (Image courtesy of ugblizz.com)

I am a frustrated Ugandan Music Lover, tasked with a responsibility that really isn’t mine. While most African artists are investing in strategies that are having them known across the continent, most Ugandan artists have left the discovery of who they are and their music (and especially beyond their country’s boarders) to the very few interested people like myself.

Here are 3 recommendations that could help Ugandan artists gain relevance beyond the Pearl of Africa’s boarders and to catch up with the rest of African music doing oh- so well:

  1. Make relatable music

 

You have probably heard that music is a universal language that does not consider language nor comprehension: as long as it is good, people will listen. IT’S A BIG LIE…..Well…Maybe not entirely but here is the thing, people have to identify with music at whatever minimal level, in order to enjoy it. Be it the song’s message, a familiar beat or a few words that they can sing along to, it has to resonate with them. Take Nigerian AfroPop for example which most artists are doing in Nigerian Pidgin. You may not speak the language nor understand the entire song, but you can at least sing along to a few of the words. Eddy Kenzo may be singing in Luganda, but has made his music relevant outside Uganda through his incorporation of dance with a hint of comedy, which as you watch his music videos, retains your interest as an audience.

  1. Quality lacks substitute

You have no idea how disappointing it is to listen to an amazing audio to a song, only to search for its video then have a major brain freeze and voices in your head telling you how you should start spending your time more wisely because you are getting too old for such games. This is not to say that all Ugandan videos are unappealing (trust me, I have seen some of Sasha Vybz’ work and had to confirm if indeed it was a Ugandan Production) but it is time Ugandan artists start investing in better quality music videos. As an artist, have to have a good audio with an equally good video that your audience can enjoy watching while listening.

  1. Bank on content

I can safely say that Uganda’s Music Industry is amongst the most vibrant in the East African Region. Unfortunately though, this vibrance is more about hype/side shows than actual work. From nudes to cheap publicity stunts by artists, there is simply no dull moment in the Ugandan Music Industry (I use “dull” loosely). So artists are making headlines, but very few are doing so based on their music. Here is the truth: people wake up to equally (or even more) exciting gossip each new day, which means temporary relevance for you as an artist if you cannot keep up with the side shows.  You may therefore want to put in some actual work into your craft as an artist in order to survive the industry long enough.

 

5 Lessons artists can learn from Diamond Platinumz’ music career

  1. The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.

7 Years ago, no one thought of the possibility of Diamond being bigger than any other artist in Tanzania. While some artists are blessed enough to have a pretty face (no pun intended), sick dance moves or even wealth that has them at an advantage as they launch their music careers, Diamond only had a voice needed for what would pass for a good song. Yet, he still became the iconic figure that he is today for East Africa’s Music Industry.

Don’t put your dreams on hold as you wait for the “perfect life conditions”.

  1. Be true to who you are even as you try to attract a larger and more diverse audience.

Diamond has become an international artist by working with different artists from across Africa while remaining true to his sound and the reason why we fell in love with him as an artist.

The only person you should strive to be in an attempt to be successful is the best version of you.

  1. Consistency

It’s hard to keep track of just how many songs Diamond has done since he began his music career in 2009. Some have made for hit songs while some…..well, you only get to know of their existence when you search for his YouTube channel. As an artist, you only get better with song after song to perfect your art, make mistakes while you are at it and learn from them. Ensure that even with the emergence of equally talented artists each new day, you remain unforgettable.

  1. Build an undeniable respectable brand

Love him or hate him, Diamond has packaged himself in a way that many African artists have failed to do so. Even with his collaborations with such successful artists such as Flavour, Mafikizolo and Papa Wemba, he maintains an independent respectable brand that has managed to do so without riding on other people’s fame and success.

  1. There’s much more to a successful music career than talent

Listen, we have so many talented artists from Tanzania. Heck! From Africa Difference is that Diamond has invested in building a brand, with a proper strategy and marketing that makes him stand out.

“You can’t look at the competition and say you are going to do it better, you have to look at the competition  and say you are going to do it differently,” Steve Jobs.

 

The Bongo Music Take- Over

Tanzania's music duo Navy Kenzo
Tanzania’s music duo Navy Kenzo (Image courtesy of 2.bp.blogspot.com)

A few years ago, Kenyan music undoubtedly led the pack in the East African region. Yes, people did listen to Ugandan and Bongo Music, but with artists such as Redsan, Longombaz, E- Sir and Necessary Noize, the country had one hell of a vibrant and unshaken music industry. Flash- forward to 2016 and Tanzania has taken over in ways that make it almost impossible for other countries in the region to catch up.

Have you seen the quality of  music videos being put out there by Bongo artists?…. Just in case you haven’t noticed, most Tanzanian music videos are shot by A- List African music  directors among them Justin Campos, Nicky, Mike Ogike (aka God Father) and Meji Alabi. Their  demand for quality shot up so fast that at one point, most (if not all)  Tanzanian artists were shooting their videos in South Africa and even having their audios done there which in turn birthed a new Tanza/ S.A  sound.

In a recent interview on Ebru TV, Shetta (also known as Baba Kyla) revealed that Tanzanians only know of a few Kenyan artists, such as Sauti Sol, Jaguar and Prezzo. He went ahead to explain that in Tanzania, there is literally an artist in almost every house hold, leaving very little room for the accommodation of foreign music. Hence, the competition is very stiff among Tanzanian artists, forcing them to bring their A- Game, lest they be rendered worthless in the industry.  This has called for quality videos, investing in one’s brand as an artist and generally putting out good music, which are such important elements that play a major role in shaping their music.

Let’s face it; Tanzanians do know how to appreciate their own artists. Getting one million plus views on YouTube is such a common thing for Tanzanian artists that you may want to reconsider your entire music career if you are not hitting the six figure mark. The turn- out of their locals during their performances are insane (it’s typically what happens in a Kenyan concert featuring a Nigerian artist- and not just any artist, an A- list WizKid type of artist)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bG3MSa0P7w

Artists of the Swahili Speaking nation without a doubt know the value of investing in their brands, an aspect that is unfortunately not taken with the seriousness that it deserves in other parts of the region. Considering artists such as Diamond, Ali Kiba, Vanessa Mdee and Lady Jay Dee, you would understand how they have slowly created such great interest in their art beyond the East African Region. Talk of Diamond’s appointment as the official brand ambassador for DSTV and Ali Kiba’s recent signing with Sony Music Label, it is clear that well renowned brands trust them enough to have them represent their image within and outside the region.

During an interview on NTV’s the Trend,  Vanessa Mdee attributed the success of Tanzania’s music to its  structure that she revealed to be more disciplined with an entire lifestyle and culture in place, which guides artists.

Every other country in the region may have the right talent for their music industry but we can do with a few lessons from Tanzania, that will help elevate us as a continent to greater heights.

What other elements do you think have contributed to the success of Bongo music?