Facts is: the Nigerian entertainment industry is the undisputed giant in Africa. Nollywood alone contributed over 660 million dollars to the GDP of Nigeria last year. The music industry stands as the most vibrant in the continent as a result of the 100% Naija approach by Nigerian music consumers and media outlets. Nigerian artists are the regular awardees of continental awards like the MTV Africa Music Awards and the AFRIMA. Nigeria’s cultural influence in Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia, Malawi, Ghana and other Anglophone African countries is so startling that an average fan of African entertainment in any of the aforementioned countries would get star struck if they see a Ramsey Noah, BBN’s Laycon or a Rema in any of their events. Suffice it to say that, since the past two decades, Nigerian creators have taken the lead in capturing the eyes and ears of Sub-saharan Africans as regards entertainment.
But the dominance of Nigerians in the African entertainment scene seems to bring about a zero sum game scenario, as a win for Nigerian film-makers, actors, comedians, and artists equals a loss for the creative industry practitioners of the countries where they hold sway. These practitioners have expressed their frustration on being sidelined by their own countrymen, as they watch in envy, the looming dominance of Nigerian content in their country. These are some African countries where that creative insecurity is being expressed.
Kenya use to have a vibrant music scene in the late 90s and the early 2000s when the iconic Nairobi based label, Ogopa Djs, brought legendary artists like Nyashinski (who was then a member of East Africa’s hottest rap group, Kleptomaniax), Nameless and more. The popular genre in that era was Kapuka, which is a genre of indigenous Kenyan hip hop.
From 2008 onwards the country witnessed a sharp decline in music production and an influx of South African and Nigerian music. At this period, a D Banj or the P Square duo could easily sell out the biggest concert venues in Nairobi. This trend continued to the 2010s and till date, Kenyan artists can not command the same star power as a Davido or Wizkid in Kenya. Since it is a known fact that contemporary African musicians depend largely on touring as a primary source of income, Kenyan artists (with exception of Sauti Soul) were barely surviving. A Wizkid gets payed around a 100 to 150 thousand dollars for a show, while the domestic artists would have to be content with a few thousands of Kenyan Shillings!
In 2015 Kenyan musicians came together as the Kenyan Musician Movement (KENAM) to protest bitterly against the dominance of Nigerian Afro-fusion and Tanzanian Bongo Flava music on Kenyan airwaves. Their actions were fruitless, as a Joeboy was yet hotter on Kenyan music charts than a Kenyan veteran like King Kaka in 2019. Lately, Kenyans artists like Sauti Soul and Otile Brown are seeing the light in collaborating with Nigerian artists like Burna Boy and Kiss Daniel. As the old saying goes, “if you can’t beat them, you join them”.
The Ugandan artists were always faced with the dominance of foreign music in their country. In the late 90s, it was the Congo Ndombolo sound and American pop and hip hop that completely took over their radio and television airtime.Today in Uganda, the most streamed African songs on major platforms like Apple Music and YouTube are 80 percent Nigerian.
Although some Ugandan artists like Sheeba and Big Trill made a considerable wave in the West African region, Nigerian artists have been the pop idols in the hearts of Ugandan teenage music lovers. The buzz built around a Wizkid concert will make a Bebe Cool’s (arguably the biggest artists in Uganda) concert seem like some kiddies birthday party! Ugandan artists often cling to the idea that collaborating with successful Nigerian artists like Patoranking and Skales will give them an edge in the West African market, but that often proved abortive as the audience in this region is flooded with too much catchy Nigerian content to listen to what an East African has to offer.
In December of last year, the Omah Lay and Tems incident was a clear indication of how Ugandan artists felt about the supposed hijacking of their concert scene by Nigerians. The two budding Nigerian artists where arrested on account of violating Ugandan Covid-19 regulations, even though the events organisers and artists were cleared by the Ugandan police before the event took place. The Ugandan artists were right to complain about Omah Lay and Tems performing at concerts amidst Covid-19 restrictions, but targeting their aggression at the two artists instead of the authorities, is an evidence of accumulated jealousy untamed. Even the postponed virtual MTV Africa Music Awards scheduled to hold in Kampala, had Nigerian names all over the nomination lists.
Between the larger French speaking Cameroon and the Southern Anglophone Cameroon, the music creatives in the South seem to be the disgruntled ones as regards the reception of their music within their own region and the country at large. French Cameroonian artsits like Salatiel are the torch bearers of Cameroon music in Africa, while their Anglophone counterparts contend with the intense dominance of Nigerian Afropop in their environment. Just like in Kenya, some Cameroonian entertainers recently embarked on a social media campaign in favour of increasing Cameroonian content on TV and radio and higher concert rates for Cameroonian artists. Some unguided radicals among them even called for the outright ban of Nigerian music as a pragmatic step to grow the domestic music scene.
Most Cameroonian lovers of Naija Afropop update their playlists with songs gotten from free download blog sites and also stream their favourite Nigerian music videos on YouTube, regardless of the cost of data. With this music consumption pattern in place, the ban or reduction of Nigerian music in the Cameroonian environment will be determined entirely by the consumers, since radio and TV stations only follow up with the popular demand in order to maximize advertising income.
Some artists in countries like Ghana and Zambia have expressed concerns over the overt dominance of Nigerian music in their country and the continent as a whole. In Ghana the implementation of the 80-20 airplay formula in favour of Ghana music, has been in contention since 2009.
Are these artists right to resist the dominance of Nigerian music in their country? Are their actions driven by emotions rather than logic? Drop a comment on what you think about all this in the comment section.
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