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Coachella 2019: Why Burna Boy & Mr Eazi Are The Right Artists to Bring Afrobeats to the World

With Wizkid's no show at Coachella 2018, Burna and Eazi are next in line to lead Africa's takeover of global pop music

Last year, African music fans had their hopes dashed when Wizkid failed to show up for his slot at Coachella, the world's most prestigious music festival. Many shared their frustrations.

For many, seeing the continent's biggest star on the main stage was proof that African culture was taking over even the most exclusive spaces. As Africans, we believe that our art can compete for the highest honour and is deserving of the highest acclaim. We fight for our own, and shoot down voices that appear to discredit our growth. But Wizkid failed us when he failed to get on to that plane. And Africans made it known.

This year, we have a double shot representation with Burna Boy and Mr Eazi. Both musicians are scheduled for Coachella's second weekend in April. Africans who make the trip there will have an extra dose of their culture being served in a space that has long eluded them. When we scream "Afrobeats to the world," we aren't just referring to shows predominantly packed with Africans in the diaspora. We want the music to permeate spaces like these, and grow our cultural influence. Where's a bigger stage then than Coachella? Point us there. We want it all!


While Burna Boy and Mr Eazi are two of Africa's most prominent artists, it's their peers, Wizkid and Davido, who are generally regarded as the acts with the best chance of breaking into non-traditional afrobeats spaces. This is changing. Burna Boy and Mr Eazi make music that isn't overtly pop but heavy on fusion. They've also been strategic in pushing African art beyond the continent.

In the last two years, Mr Eazi has gone from selling phones in a Lagos market to moving his life and business to London leading many to call him the smartest musician on the continent. His 2017 deal with Apple Music to push his first mixtape, Life is Eazi Volume 1: Accra to Lagos, ensured that he was given prime placements on the music giant, with his art seeded into heavy streaming playlists. He also was a beneficiary of a performance spot on The Late Late Show with James Corden, a partnership with Diplo and Major Lazer. By the time he released his sophomore project, Life Is Eazi Vol. 2: Lagos to London, he already had ground in the UK.

Burna Boy carried his music into the UK on the back of a deal with Atlantic Records. After years of shooting below his weight, he cleaned up his act at the end of 2017 and started the new year as a man reborn. Ditching the controversies that had previously held him back from living his best life, he pushed through with one of the best albums to be released in 2018. That project was targeted and marketed in the UK and Europe, with two collaborations with Lilly Allen, and key partnerships and media coverage. The quality of the music did the rest. By the end of the year, he had become Africa's most meteoric music story of the year.

His growth was fast enough to convince him that Coachella should rate him higher than they did in the flyer for the show because, as he put it, he is an "African Giant." When taken to task for his behaviour, he went on Instagram and said" he represents a whole generation of SOLID African CREATIVES GOING Global. Not the soft, low self-esteem Africans with the slave mentality." He also referred to Nigerians as "unprogressive fools."


But for all our optimism as 'Giants of Africa," we are still underdogs in global pop spaces. We are yet to prove that while we have the numbers back home, our music hasn't gathered enough cultural momentum in Europe and the U.S. to become a huge force. Coachella ratings are about who has the highest clout and fandom in the US. African Giants are working hard but they don't yet have the numbers to seek headline spots at a concert that isn't organised for them.

"Coachella considers three things—social media presence, record sales, and what the most popular kind of music is at the time'' concert organizer, Paul Tollet explained in a 2017 interview with New Yorker. "We have so many arguments over font sizes [on the poster]. I literally have gone to the mat over one point size. Sounds like a small thing in the great scheme of life. But, as it relates to these bands, it's huge."

This is a win for African pop music. Irrespective of his feelings, Burna Boy has no justification to launch his selfish activism because a platform is embracing our culture. It's cause for celebration. Sincere, celebration. Burna Boy and Mr Eazi aren't just going on stage to perform for a huge crowd. They carry the love, hope and support of millions of Africans who are just happy that our dreams are finally becoming a reality. In April, we will rise and come out to support. For those who can't travel, livestream channels will be clung to for dear life. This is a win for everyone, and we will celebrate it together. We are all African Giants. Coachella, let's rise!

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Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Rema, image courtesy of the artist.

Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Rema, Teni & More Win Big at 2020 Soundcity MVP Awards

Check out the complete list of 2020 winners.

The Soundcity MVP Awards, the annual award show that recognizes the best and biggest in African music, took place over the weekend at the Eko Convention Centre in Lagos, Nigeria. Some of the biggest names in African entertainment took home awards.

The show was hosted by South African star Bonang Matheba and featured performances from Diamond Platnumz, Tekno, Tiwa Savage, Stonebwoy and more.

The big winner of the night was none other than Burna Boy, who took home the award for African Artiste of the Year for the second time, the first time being in 2018 in which his mother, Bose Ogulu gave us that memorable acceptance speech warning us "to expect more madness." He also won Song of the Year for "Killin Dem," as well as Best Male MVP.

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University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

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Photo: Ben Depp.

Watch Yilian Canizares & Paul Beaubrun's Beautiful Video For 'Noyé'

"Cuba and Haiti come together to share the love and heritage of our deep rooted culture and spirituality."

Yilian Canizares and Paul Beaubrun connect for the serene "Noyé," one of the highlights from Canizares' latest album, Erzulie.

The Cuban singer and Haitian artist are now sharing the new Arnaud Robert-directed music video for the single, which we're premiering here today.

"Noyé is a song that comes from our roots," Yilian Canizares tells OkayAfrica. "Inspired by the energy of love. The same love that kept Africa's legacy alive in the hearts of Haiti and Cuba. We wanted to do a stripped down version of only the essential pieces from a musical point of view. Something raw and beautiful where our souls would be naked."

The striking music video follows Canizares and Beaubrun to the waters of New Orleans, the universal Creole capital, where they sing and float until meeting on the Mississippi River.

"Noyé is a cry of love from children of African descent," says Paul Beaubrun. "Cuba and Haiti come together to share the love and heritage of our deep rooted culture and spirituality."

Watch the new music video for "Noyé" below.

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