There is debate as to whether music is world’s biggest unifying factor. In Africa however, artistes remain clustered by regions: East, South or West. Musicians in regions such as West Africa have excelled in forming collaborations between artistes.
In Kenya, there is a sustained campaign for increased consumption of local music which is why time has come for industry players to stop the blame game and get new ideas on how musicians can be united, both in East Africa as well as in the wider African market. Some people have devised out-of-box ways to make this a reality. Some local artistes and TV shows are currently promoting collaborations between African singers.
Kenyan rapper Mejja of The Kansoul group says he always dreamt of forming a group because, ‘I never wanted to reach my career’s highest point alone’. The rapper, best known for the hit song 'Jana Kuliendaje', says: “To re-define myself, I joined forces with Madraxx and Kora. Whatever you do in life, you will move forward if you collaborate. Eastlands is my type of crown while Madtraxx’s is uptown. We have thus merged two audiences and we are gaining from it.”
Collaborations among artistes in Africa, as is the case world over, can be big business. Some will charge for collabos, as they are fondly referred to. But Coke Studio Africa is making it easier for artistes to unify at no fee. The show tasks each artiste every season to collaborate with another, and a house live band. Kenyan acts on the upcoming show include Sauti Sol, Wangechi, Juacali, Elani and Avril.
Juacali says: “Artistes should be ready for collaborations. And the concept is ever changing as new faces as well as sounds come. This has changed the way fans consume music. Collaborating gives one high chances of opening up new markets.”
The Kenyans will join a host of their colleagues from Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria and Mozambique. Ugandan musicians at the show include Jose Chameleon, Maurice Kirya and Juliana Kanyamozi while Tanzania is represented by Vanessa Mdee, Alikiba and Fid Q. Hernani Da Silva, Neyma and Dama Do Bling are from Mozambique while Nigeria has Ice Prince, Yemi Alade, Chidinma, 2 Face Idibia, Olamide and Flavour.
Wangechi says Coke Studio Africa has emerged as one of the best platforms to promote African talent .
“I believe it will help grow the Kenyan music as our artistes interact with their colleagues from the rest of African on one platform. This also gives fans a variety of music,” she said.
Grammy Award-nominated musician and producer Zwai Bala of South African Kwaito group TKZee is the show’s music director.
Local and international producers have guided and produced music mash-ups between the artistes – a new format of the show that will present Africa with essentially new songs.
The producers include Jaaz Odongo, Eric Musyoka and Kevin Provoke from Kenya, Cobhams Asuquo, Masterkraft and Chopstix from Nigeria, Owour Arunga from USA, Nahreel from Tanzania and Silvastone from the UK.
The show continues to push the collaboration agenda among African artistes. The new season will feature 28 top musicians from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and Nigeria. But whether such shows will serveto promoting collaborations among African artistes still remains to be seen. May be claims Kenyans are against Nigerian music in the local market will stop and everyone will realize all we need is space for local content within a balanced system that exposes them to diverse music.