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Photo: Kobi Williamz

A Smiling Macron Wants To Make France Africa's Best Friend, But at What Cost?

The charismatic French President came through to Fela Kuti's temple, played some drums, gave a speech, and potentially lit a fire.

The characteristic smell of weed was missing from the the New Afrikan Shrine, Tuesday. On regular evenings in the home of Afrobeat, built in honor of Nigerian cultural icon Fela Kuti, young men stroll up and down the street, seeking to convert tourists and visitors into buyers for their products. But today was different.

Emmanuel Macron, the President of the French Republic was on his way.

The young President of France, the poster boy for business friendly centrism, swept into Nigeria on June 3, 2018, where he sealed an agreement between Nigeria and France to carry out projects in Lagos, Kano and Ogun states at the cost of $475 million. First stop was in Abuja, the Federal Capital of the country, where the standard photo-ops and press releases were done and disseminated. But for young creatives in Lagos, State, the hub of the music, fashion, and movie industries, the agenda was different.

The cultural extravaganza at the New Afrika Shrine saw President Macron joined by 200 VIP guests and 250 journalists, who packed the hallowed music venue, home of Femi Kuti and his world-famous band. On the night, the legendary musician, and son of Fela, performed a show-stopping set, bringing Macron up for the finale, in what is the first time in the Shrine's history that a serving President has graced the stage.

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Exploring Diddy's Obsession With Fela Kuti

Diddy's been posting about his love for Fela all over the internet.

Great men are obsessed with many things; Their money, the power that comes with it, the endless options they possess to alter and improve their human experience, and above all the feeling of invincibility that wealth and power provides.

But they are also obsessed with one more thing, which interests them more than anything else: Other great men. Great men follow each other, congregate in each other's presence, learn from themselves, make each other their business, and above all, consume their products. The same way Diddy is obsessed with Fela's music.

Diddy loves Fela Anikulakpo Kuti. The pioneer of the afrobeat genre, Fela is regarded as the father of modern Nigerian music, due to elements of his art constituting easy raw materials for today's generation of musicians. He was famous for his political activism during the country's era of military dictatorships, and his the expansive themes of his music preached for black pride, black emancipation, and most importantly black excellence.

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The Politics of the Nigerian Music Industry

Dissecting the tension between the older "gatekeepers" and newer artists in the Nigeria.

"It feels like I am working, but I can't enter the inner cycle of the music industry," says Dimeji (not his real name). He is a 27-year-old singer based in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital and music hub, where thousands of musicians hustle daily in the search for opportunities for their careers.

"Everyone needs to know someone to get a leg in, and the industry is all about relationships. I'm tired men," he despondently declares as we sit in a roadside restaurant in Victoria Island. Victor isn't the only hopeful artist with that feeling. There is an unspoken consensus about the Nigerian music industry that the scene is ruled by a political circle of powerful people, who control key affairs and opportunities within the space. They are regarded as both gatekeepers and chess masters, dictating the pace of movement, who rises and falls, who is blacklisted, and who receives a fair share of favours, deals and endorsements.

On Saturday, May 5, 2018, the country's most prestigious music award ceremony—The Headies—was held, in Lagos, with winners in the 25 categories. The aftermath of the awards saw a backlash on social media from viewers and music enthusiasts who believe that the recipients of key awards were undeserving of their trophies, citing industry and tribal politics as the reason why they carried home accolades.

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