African musicians from Fela Kuti down to the era of Dbanj have always toured with their music outside the shores of Africa, but in recent time, the rate has increased. In this article, we examine why it took this long for African artistes to increase the rate they tour Europe and America. We shall also look the factors that facilitated the increase in tour rate. So come with me.
Back in the day, there were various reasons why an African musician performed outside the continent. Sometimes it is for personal career advancement, at other times, for cultural representation, especially during cultural festivals that showcase the diversity of world music cultures, and at other times, it is for business – making profit. But whatever the reasons were, what is certain is that African artistes have always toured with their music outside Africa.
We must bear in mind also that that, the artistes who dared to tour outside of African continent were the ones that have made names for themselves locally and wanted to expand the reach of their music globally. In other words, the artiste must have a solid fan base in his/her home country in order to go internationally, more like charity beginning at home.
Now, African Musicians do not have much anxiety touring their own continent because of the similarities in musical tradition of African cultures. But touring out the continent brings international stage fright.
In recent time however– by that, we are focusing on the remarkable leaps African music has made between 2016-2018, it can be observed that the cultural pride and confidence level of African musicians have toppled. This is because, the reception of African music has increased tremendously. So much so that language, which seemed to be a barrier, has ceased to be. Now music has become the language itself. Igbo, Yoruba and Twi-speaking musicians, can tour with their music to America, UK, or Canada and they are sure to have a large audience of different cultural background attend their concerts.
Even while we decided to use the significant cultural events on African music scene between 2016-2018 as a point of departure, we are not unaware of the roles the experiences of preceding these years have played in bringing African music to where it currently is. For instance, the years when African musicians collaborated with foreign artistes which, although created a brief buzz and quietened, were significant to this progress.
Now, cast your mind back to the year 2008 when the world-acclaimed king of RnB, R. Kelly, was featured on 2baba’ song Flex. Do not forget immediately after that, in 2009 , American rapper Busta Rhymes was featured by a Nigerian music group called The Pulse, a group made up of six artistes, signed under Kennis Music at that time, on a song titled Sote. Let’s also look at the year 2011, when the West coast rapper, Snoop Dogg, who by the way recently released a Gospel Album, was referring to Nigerian musician Dbanj, as his Nephew on the remix of Dbanj’s song Mr. Endowed. All these moments made marked difference even though they seemed like fleeting moments.
Interestingly, all of these features have one thing in common. The featured artistes were all black American musicians who have made named internationally. Why did they feature on those songs back then, one wonders? Could it be that they were just making money off Nigerian artistes who were using the collaboration as crossover strategy? Could it be that these black Americans were trying to reconnecting to their African ancestry? Or were they also doing it for pure artistic reasons?
Whatsoever their reasons were, those collaborations were instrumental to getting African artistes in the face of international audiences due to the influence and artistic standing of these artistes.
The defining moment which however led to African music gaining astounding international reception occurred in middle of 2015, when the Canadian-American rapper, Drake, was featured on the song Ojuelegba by Nigerian popstar’s, Starboy WizKid. This initial collaboration would pave way for other Drake-Wizkid collaborations which didn’t just stop at creating mere media buzz but gone to become international hits, with one of such hits bagging Grammy nomination for WizKid. That was when the world began to talk about Afrobeat with fervor and enthusiasm, assessing it potentialities in the process.
But just as WizKid was still having the time of his life under the limelight, a new artist broke out, and his name? Mr.Eazi. Though relatively new to the music performance scene, he got accolades and recognition by Apple Music where he was crowned the Next Rated Artist for the months of April, 2017.
It now became obvious that, what kept African artiste from touring the world, was because of what I like to call the anxiety of acceptance. They were waiting for the right moment when the world will be fully ready to accept their unique musical identity. And as soon as African artistes saw the greenlight, they began to make their moves in the forms of tours and partnering with international music distribution companies, because the later helps African music to penetrate the corners of the earth where it hasn’t.
Davido toured UK this February 2018 with his 30billion Concert Tour. Olamide just finished touring Europe this March 2018 with his Olamide Culture Europe Tour. The former G- Worldwide artiste, Kiss Daniel is bracing up in May 2018 to tour five cities in Canada with his Kiss Daniel Canada Tour. The hiphop artist Phyno the Playmaker, also in may will be taking his Igbo rap on a tour he calls, The Pacman Europe Tour in May, 2018. And starting from the 15th of June, 2018, The Mavins Record artiste, Reekado Banks is also preparing to serve Europe with his The Party 2018 Europe Tour. The list is counting.
From all indications, the African artistes will be invading Europe and American concert venues and hopefully having a sold out shows all things being equal. Let’s keep our fingers cross to see if historic moments would emerge from this tours lined up. Although we have mentioned anxiety of acceptance as one reason why it has taken this long for African musicians to tour internationally, to fully capture the world our artistes must work to improve their artistry. Cultural uniqueness is no excuse for musical mediocrity.