Traditionally so called “world music” has had its followers in western countries, providing many African artists opportunities to tour other continents, yet remaining niche artists outside their home markets. Over years, numerous African artist that have made name all over world, Ali Farka Toure, Fela Kuti, Miriam Makeba, and Youssou N’Dour, to name few. Not mainstream, but still well recognised artists. These represent older generations of musicians, many of whom have passed away. They are being replaced by new generation of musicians, performing modern music styles. Most popular of them tend to come from Nigeria.
There have been a handful of African-born artists who have been topping world charts, likes of Sade or Akon, but these have been essentially western based musicians making western music.
Then there was the international hit “7 Seconds” that saw Youssou N’Dour collaborating with Neneh Cherry. Another remarkable African-flavored hit was Shakira’s Waka Waka (This Time for Africa), that our blog borrowed its name from.
But back to African continent, the latest decade or two have seen trends in African mainstream music shifting dramatically, thanks to emergence of new generation of musicians, born in the 80s and 90s. Most popular of them are now making impact beyond their home countries, across the continent, and in some cases even overseas.
Today’s African musicians are heavily influenced by hip hop, R&B, reggae and other “imported” music styles. There may be some African flavour left, but much less compared to their predecessors. While countries like South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and Senegal are all now producing artists having appeal across the continent, it is Nigerian music that has made most impact. Some of the most popular Nigerian musicians at the moment include 2Face Ibidia, D’banj, Davido, Iyanya, P-Square and Wizkid. Their style of music is sometimes called Naija music.
Notably, their popularity is not confined to African borders. The most successful international hit is probably the 2012 song “Oliver Twist” by D’banj that reached #9 on the UK singles chart, and rather oddly, number one in Romania! But music charts may not be the only measure of international success. Instead, Naija musicians provide danceable tunes best when played in bars and nightclubs. DJs just need to pick up this music!
D’Banj with his international hit “Oliver Twist”
Nowadays “black music” styles are dominating airplay around the globe, even African artists can take this as an advantage. However, global music scene is a highly competitive, only few will break through, it is even more difficult task for artists who come outside the US or UK. How a song becomes a global hit? Not only the song and artist must be appealing, but proper marketing, right timing are needed, and ultimately, great deal of luck. Producing one huge hit will no more guarantee years of success. Without follow-up hits, artists will soon fade to where they came from.
Some Nigerian musicians have already made it big, both in terms of fame and money, thanks to local markets. They have now caught the attention of major record labels, essential if they are to extend their success to international markets. That is not going to happen easily, but isn’t an impossible thought anymore.
“Shekini” by P-Square ruled dance floors across Africa last year