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South Africans Are Trying to Figure Out Why Nigerian Musicians Prosper More Globally Compared to Their SA Counterparts

South Africans want answers.

The release of Burna Boy's latest album, aptly titled African Giant, has opened a rather robust conversation on South African Twitter. The Nigerian star's album isn't only great, but it boasts features from US superstars Future, YG, Jorjia Smith and Jeremih and Damian Marley among African icons such as M.anifest and Angelique Kidjo. This is becoming a norm for Nigerian artists. For instance, Davido dropped a single featuring Chris Brown on the same day. Wizkid is on Jeezy's 2017 album Pressure. The Nigerian popstar's Sounds From The Other Side project featured the likes of Trey Songz, Drake, Major Lazer and Ty Dolla $ign.

South Africa, which also has one of the biggest music industries on the continent, has had a reasonable number of contemporary artists rubbing shoulders with US superstars and get a bit of shine. From Nasty C's collaborations with French Montana, A$AP Ferg, and upcoming ones with No I.D. and T.I., to Cassper Nyovest working with Black Thought, The Game, Talib Kweli and many others, South Africa has refused to get left behind. There are plenty other examples, including Saudi, Sjava, Yugen Blakrok and Babes Wodumo appearing on the Black Panther soundtrack last year, and recently Busiswa and Moonchild Sanelly appearing on the Lion King one, curated by Beyoncé.


But, beyond collaborations and notable brief moments, Naija artists are a thing in the US and the UK. Compared to recent South African ones, Nigerian artists have released albums that get serious recognition worldwide.

In the last few days, South Africans on Twitter have been scratching their heads, wondering just what it is that Nigerians get right that they don't. The reasons have varied, from how Nigerians make "authentic" African music, to how South African artists aren't united.

Read: It Will Take More Than an 'Authentic African Sound' for South African Artists to Blow Up Globally

The frustrations come from the fact that, in the 70s, 80s and going into the 90s, South Africa had a reasonable number of internationally recognized musicians—think of the likes of Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba (alongside Fela Kuti of course). Masekela even managed to score a Billboard chart topper with "Grazing in the Grass" in July 1968. Nigerians, are however, frequenting similar platforms in present day more than South Africans, and in larger numbers than their contemporary South African counterparts.

Last year, when we interviewed Kiddominant, he told us he felt Afrobeats would be mainstream in the US "in three years" (he wasn't far off). We asked him why he thought Nigerian artists have a tendency to succeed globally. His answer was:

"I think, as Nigerians, we work 10 times harder than the average African. Trust me, it's in our DNA, we are hustlers, man. So it's the extra mile artists are going pushing their music. And also the fact that in places like the UK and the States, the population of Nigerians there is very high. So we share our music with people around us, eventually it spreads out."

Below are some tweets from South Africans (and Nigerians) trying to make sense of just why SA artists aren't as big as Naija artists globally.








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Photo courtesy of CNOA

These Colombian Civil Rights Activists Are Fighting to Make Sure Afro-Colombians are Counted in the Census

When 30 percent of Colombia's Black citizens disappeared from the data overnight, a group of Afro-Colombian activists demanded an explanation.

It was the end of 2019 when various Black organizations protested in front of the census bureau—The National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (DANE)—in Bogotá, Colombia to show their dissatisfaction about what they called a "statistical genocide" of the black population. The census data, published that year, showed 2.9 million people, only 6 percent of the total population of the country, was counted as "Afro-Colombian," "Raizal," and "Palenquero"—the various terms identifying black Colombians.

For many years, Afro-Colombians have been considered the second largest ethno-racial group in the country. Regionally, Colombia has long been considered the country with the second highest number of Afro-descendants after Brazil, according to a civil society report.

Why did the population of Afro-Colombians drop so drastically?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists protesting erasure of Afro-descendants in front of the census bureau.

Last year, a crowd of activists gathered in Bogota to protest what they saw as erasure of Black communities in the Colombian census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

In the latest national census report from 2018/2019, there appeared to be a 30.8 percent reduction of the overall group of people that identified as Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquero, as compared to the 2005. After this controversial report, an Afro-Colombian civil rights organization known as the National Conference of Afro Colombian Organizations (CNOA), officially urged DANE to explain the big undercounting of the black population.

This wasn't a small fight. Representatives who hold the special seats of Afro-Colombians in Colombia's congress asked the census bureau to attend a political control debate at the House of Representatives in November 2019 to deliver an accountability report. "The main goal of doing a political debate was to demand DANE to give us a strong reason about the mistaken data in the last census in regard to the Afro population," said Ariel Palacios, an activist and a member of CNOA.

At the debate, the state released an updated census data report saying that, almost 10 percent of the Colombian population—4.6 million people out of 50.3 million—considers themselves Afro-Colombians or other ethnicities (like Raizal, and Palenquero). But despite DANE trying to confirm the accuracy and reliability on the latest census report it was clear that, for a variety of reasons, Black people were missed by the census. The state argued that their main obstacles with data collection were related to the difficulties of the self-recognition question, as well as security reasons that didn't allow them to access certain regions. They also admitted to a lack of training, logistics and an overall lack of success in the way the data collectors conducted the census.

How could they have counted Black populations better?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists playing drums in front of the census bureau.

Drummers performing during a protest against the Colombian census bureau's erasure of Afro-Colombians from the 2018 census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

These arguments were not reasonable for the civil rights activists, partially because the state failed to properly partner with Afro-organizations like CNOA to conduct or facilitate extensive informational campaigns about the self-identification questions.

"CNOA has worked on self-recognition and visibility campaigns among the Afro community and this census ignored our work," says priest Emigdio Cuesta-Pino, the executive secretary of CNOA. Palacios also thinks that the majority of Afro-Colombians are aware of their identity "we self-identify because we know there is a public political debate and we know that there is a lack of investment on public policies."

That's why it is not enough to leave the statistical data to the official census bureau to ensure that Afro-Colombian communities are fully counted in the country. And the civil rights activists knows that. They made a big splash in the national media and achieved visibility in the international community.

Thanks to The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights organization, Palacios traveled to D.C to meet with Race and Equality institution and a Democratic Congressman. "We called for a meeting with representative Hank Johnson to talk about the implementation of Colombia's peace accords from an Afro-Colombian perspective but also to address the gross undercounts of its black population," says Palacios.

For the activists at CNOA, the statistical visibility of the Black population is one of their battles. They have fought for Afro population recognition for almost two decades. "Since the very beginning CNOA has worked on the census issue as one of our main commitments within the statistical visibility of the Afro-Colombian people," says priest Cuesta-Pina. Behind this civil organization are 270 local associations, who work for their rights and collective interests.

The activists want to raise awareness on identity. Because according to Palacios, "In Colombia, there is missing an identity debate—we don't know what we are. They [the census bureau] ask if we are black, or if we are Afro-Colombians. But what are the others being asked? If they are white, mestizo or indigenous?" Palacios believes that for "CNOA this debate is pending, and also it is relevant to know which is the character of this nation."

Afro-Colombian Populations and the Coronavirus

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists use mock coffins and statistics to protest erasure of Afro-descendants

Colombian civil-rights activist insist that undercounting Afro-descendants can have a real impact on the health of Afro-Colombian communities, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

Even though the state recently "agreed with to give us a detailed census report" and make a different projection with the micro data, says Palacios, now with the Covid-19 emergency, CNOA and the government has suspended all meetings with them, including cancelling a second congressional debate and the expert round table meeting to analyze the data.

Unfortunately, it is exactly in situations like the Covid-19 emergency where data analysis and an accurate census report would have been useful. According to the professor and PhD in Sociology Edgar Benítez from Center for Afro Diasporic Studies—CEAF, "Now it is required to provide a reliable and timely information on how the contagion pattern will spread in those predominantly Afro regions in the country and what is the institutional capacity in those places to face it," says Benítez.

He adds that this information is "critical at the moment because the institutional capacity is not up to provide it at the current situation". That's why the Center for Afro Diasporic Studies plans to work with DANE information from the last census. According to Benítez, "We are thinking of making comparisons at the municipal level with the information reported in the 2018 Quality of Life Survey, in order to have a robust and extensive database as possible on the demographic, economic and social conditions of the black, afro, Raizal and Palenquera population in Colombia."









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