As the AfroRepublik festival graces London’s O2 Arena this weekend (May 26), its organisers believe African music and artists could be on the verge of an international breakthrough akin to reggae or hip-hop.
According to those behind the seven-strong bill, such has been the growth in the scene recently that a watershed moment could be on the cards thanks to the success of artists like Wizkid – Nigerian singer-songwriter Ayodeji Balogun – who headlines.
“I’ve always said Wizkid is as important to Africa as Bob Marley was to the West Indies,” Dumi Oburota, founder of clothing brand turned label and management company Disturbing London, told Music Week of the impact these artists are having beyond their home markets.
Not only can the influence of African pop and Afrobeat be felt on emerging UK acts such as J Hus, Kojo Funds, Yxng Bane and Not3s, but the artists themselves are making a direct impact on audiences themselves thanks to the internet and streaming.
AfroRepublik is almost like the Switzerland of Africa, a neutral ground, every act is as big as each other, this is a place where they unite to spread the culture and the scene
“DIY culture has sped up the desire and made it more desirable to invest in for the western record labels,” Oburota said. “Major players like Wizkid and Davido have almost taken control of brand Africa and made it more desirable for people that probably didn’t know about it.”
Evidence of this includes Wizkid selling out the Royal Albert Hall last year, which was a direct precursor for the Live Nation-promoted AfroRepublik festival at the O2, which Oburota believes will help the scene take another step forward.
“AfroRepublik is almost like the Switzerland of Africa, a neutral ground, every act is as big as each other, this is a place where they unite to spread the culture and the scene,” he suggested.
“It’s all about the culture, bridging the gap with the western world and Africa, so brand Africa is key.”
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[Words: Paul Stokes]