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Photo by A Kid Named Trav.

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!

News Brief

Prominent Zimbabwean Activist  Sheds Light on Current Crisis

Doug Coltart, a vocal activist and human rights lawyer based in Harare, speaks to Okayafrica about what's currently happening in Zimbabwe.

A few days ago, the Zimbabwean government issued a directive to major cellular network providers Econet and TelOne to disable the internet and all access to social media. The directive was an attempt to prevent any information from spreading outside the country's borders with regards to the nationwide protests which have led to the deaths of at least five people and the injury of at least twenty-five others.

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The front page of The New York Times on January 16, 2019

Kenyans Are Furious at the New York Times for Posting Photos of Terrorist Victims

After the the deadly attack on Tuesday, many are accusing the American newspaper of having a double standard on which dead bodies they allow into the paper

Is the New York Times guilty of a double standard when it comes to publishing images of dead bodies?

Kenyans, and others fed up with the coverage, took to social media in the hundreds to denounce a Times article that included an image of victims of Tuesday's Nairobi terrorist attack, bloodied from bullets, and lying hunched over their laptops, dead.

It has cause enough debate online to where the Times' incoming East Africa Bureau chief Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura felt the need to explain their photo policy, which is to show the dead only if their faces cannot be seen in the image. The photo in question fits the policy as the faces are facing away from the camera. She would later apologize before posting the official policy to her Twitter account. The photo remains up.

The Times' official response, as those tend to do online, has only created more anger. But unlike many unruly Twitter mobs, those responding to the official statement have a rather coherent message—"you wouldn't do this with photos of the American dead."

Some of the responses to the Times' official statement.

In a response to the controversy from the Poynter Institute, a typically astute observer of journalistic practice in the United States, they run through the typical American journalism school approach to publishing photos that might shock or offend. They write:

Should the Times have run the photo?
There is no easy answer.
The first question any news organization must ask when deciding to publish violent images is: WHY show it?
In other words, what is the news value? Does the public need to see such an image to fully grasp what happened? Does the public need to see such a photo to confirm or disprove the official account of the events?
An argument could be made that a writer's words could accurately describe the scene without being as disturbing as the image. In addition, when it comes to an act of terrorism, might publishing such a photo actually advance the cause of the terrorists, showing the damage they caused, thus fueling dread and panic?
Also this: The photo on the Times website came without warning. As a reader, you didn't know you were going to see a photo of dead people until you actually saw it.
Those are arguments to not run such a photo or, at least, warn readers of its graphic content.

While it's a fine analysis of when to show a violent image, it misses the central issue at play for those aggrieved by the Times' posting—that the American news-gaze values certain lives differently. Black, brown, foreign, poor—American journalism organizations, including the New York Times, cannot escape a base ethnocentrism in their coverage. It's so embedded into how these institutions operate, and the gap in understanding is so wide, that to much of the world, the Times' official response is laughably wrong at first glance.

"We take the same approach wherever in the world something like this happens--balancing the need for sensitivity and respect with our mission of showing the reality of these events"

And while there are examples from the Times that complicate this feeling, like these images of the dead in the terrorist attack in Nice, France, it doesn't discount the wider and correct feeling that the white victims of American mass shootings are treated differently than their African counterparts. And while there are complicated and systematic reasons for this which will always make discussing it difficult, to simply deny that different standards exist, does not increase the Times' credibility with Kenyans or the newspaper's growing online audience which will only become more vocal about how they're portrayed.

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Falz 'Moral Instruction'

The 10 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

The best music of the week featuring Falz, King Monada, Zlatan, Yemi Alade and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our Best Music of the Week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow OkayAfrica on Spotify and Apple Music to get immediate updates every week and read about some of our selections ahead.

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