Palm-wine music, Highlife, Mbalax, Jújù and many others go to Africa just as the Blues, Rock, Pop, Kayōkyoku, Reggae and Country belong to music genres outside our African continent. Music does a lot, it goes forward to influence all, regardless of culture, sect, religion, nation and philosophy. In fact, some atheists have commented on their love for the musical strings of religion. In his TED talk “Atheism 2.0“, Alain de Botton made mention of factions in atheism who frowned at religion for its doctrines but on the other side admired religion for its work in arts.
“I’m interested in the kind of constituency that thinks something along these lines: that thinks, ‘I can’t believe in any of this stuff. I can’t believe in the doctrines. I don’t think these doctrines are right. But,’ a very important but, I love Christmas carols. I really like the art of Mantegna. I really like looking at old churches. I really like turning the pages of the Old Testament.” he said.
Speaking on Global popular music, how authentic is the statement, Africa has had a long way to go in most of its era? The Grammys is one of the best avenues to consider if one needs to measure how far African music has gone due to its global outlook in awarding artistes. Unfortunately, African winners do not exceed 10 ever since the once called Gramophone awards met its inception on May 4, 1959. On the few, Angélique Kidjo (from Benin with 2 grammys), Ladysmith Black Mambazo (South African group with 4 grammys), Ali Farka Touré (Malian singer with 2 grammys), the Soweto Gospel Choir (South African choir with 2 grammys), Youssou N’Dour (from Senegal with a grammy), Wouter Kellerman (South African flutist with a grammy) and finally Tinariwen (Group from Mali also with a grammy)
The BET Awards’ International Act category has however given numerous African artistes credit for their work. Now, the problem with African music staying on top is that it has to compete with works from other global artistes from the west. To be viewed or listened to on international television or radio, music should be recognised. Thus, the only way for African music to be recognised by all will be through the screens of influential tv such as BET, MTV. Competition means a better way of presenting our music so as to attract the world. Marketing authentic African music by inculcating certain traits of other continental music so as to make it musically edible for all could be a way to get us there. This however, does not suggest that one should overly extricate segments of African roots with the aim of meeting global standards. Being different in our music is what makes us unique and we should never trade that for western culture.
Sarkodie is doing just what is needed to get African music on the stage of global greatness. The point is, highlife work by Daddy Lumba, Nana Tuffour, Bessa Simmons, Akosua Agyepong, Amakye Dede, Blackbeat of Ghana, Paulina Oduro, Ebo Taylor, Koo Nimo, Ewurama, Dr. Paa Bobo, Nana Ampadu etc did not receive high international recognition not because they were of no quality. The difference to that of songs by Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, Psy etc is the success in meeting the appeals of pop culture.
How is the Ghanaian rapper marketing Africa well?
In MARY, his first live album dedicated to his late grandmother who passed in 2012, there is a fusion of highlife music with rap. Sarkodie is however not the first to start this. In the 1980s, Senegalese rappers like M.C. Solaar, Positive Black Soul, and Lida mixed rap with local music, Mbalax. This is where the difference comes in. Local music has been considered to be music for old generations (archaic) in the ears of many African youth who have undergone the benefits of western media. This gradually declined the strength of the local genres from the 90s to present. Revival has been all what Africa needed and thats what artistes like Sarkodie have done. If only, artistes who tend to fuse our roots in music with what the international audience admire are promoted, we will have two benefits. The first, selling our unique style to the multifaceted world and secondly, meeting international standards without killing what we have. Albums like Mary gives hope to Africa’s heritage. They do not tell a single story, the single story of paleolithic culture. Rather they make the world aware of how talented Africans could be. We are looking forward to a time where African genres will not only be recorded in localities, but under giant record labels like Capitol, Sony, Arista and Motown.
The album features son of the legendary, Kwadwo Akwaboah (member of Mariots International Band). Little Akwaboah wrote 8 out of 11 songs on MARY. Efya with her soulful tone, Pat Thomas, thus highlife legendary with the golden voice, Obrafour one of Ghana’s early rappers, Chase and Mugeez were needed elements. MARY is still one of the best African work in music in a very long time. The fusion of rap with original african tunes sells our culture well. Sarkodie has made Highlife attractive to the many youths who are more rooted into the music of the west. Thanks to Efya, Chase, Obrafour, Pat Thomas, Mugeez and Akwaboah for aiding and adding more African value to the album. Respect, Sarkodie. Now, there is no doubt about your undisputable talent.
Achaab Daniel Abalansa
Facebook: Achaab_dan GH