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Wizkid at Gidi Fest 2018. Photo: Tej/Gidi Culture Festival.

Call Us by Our Name: Stop Using "Afrobeats"

Op-Ed: To retain ownership of our culture we must insist on labelling popular African music correctly

To name something is to claim ownership. And with the Western music industry's long tradition of appropriation, ownership of Africa's latest export is something Africans on the continent cannot risk losing.

Currently, "Afrobeats" is used as a catch-all term for all popular music emerging from the African continent. The "Rise of Afrobeats" as numerous publications have coined the movement, has been marked by high profile features beginning with Wizkid on "One Dance," followed by a flurry of big record label signings stateside and more recently, interest from streaming giant Spotify, in the form of its recently announced Afro Hub section.

At last summer's BET Awards, Davido took to the stage to receive an award for Best International Act, beating out U.K. artists Stormzy and J Hus. After years of boycotting by past African winners, who were subjected to receiving BET awards backstage and in one instance even sharing an award, Davido's televised acceptance speech served as confirmation that African pop music was here to stay. But as the infectious music and vibrant artists behind it continue to gain global visibility, it is critical that Africans on the continent take the reins in steering its narrative. This begins by abandoning the "Afrobeats" label and appropriately naming the vastly different musical genres it refers to.

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Op-Ed
Photo: Lizzie Farida.

Op-Ed: Why Is the Kenyan Music Industry So Behind?

"In Kenya we have yet to have that kind of financial and moral support as a country," Fena Gitu.

It's a fundamental question, one that many discerning music-obsessed individuals have asked four rounds deep at 2AM on a throbbing Nairobi dance floor: why is Kenyan music so behind?

Not in the musical sense, that boat holds no water. Kenyan artists, while they definitely have a different sound, can go punch for punch for any other African industry—I'll happily meet any naysayers outside. The problem is that they're not getting paid for it. So what lies at the root of this problem, why do the two other major 'hub' countries in Africa, that of South Africa and Nigeria, outstrip Kenya's industry by such a wide margin? A 2016 report from Price Waterhouse Cooper shows the two former industries trending upwards, growing, outside of population size. The Kenyan growth is visually dampened.

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