Demand for homegrown contemporary music is sweeping Africa and driving a creative boom in an industry otherwise battered by falling CD sales and rampant piracy.
A recent study of the entertainment sector by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) accountants showed rapid earnings growth in many African countries, fuelled largely by live performances by local artists.
“Consumers are increasingly wanting local content,” Vicki Myburgh, a PwC director who conducted the study released last month, told AFP.
“The Nigerian music market… will (soon) grow at nearly 13 percent annually, which is a fantastic rate.”
This weekend, African talent will be celebrated in Johannesburg at the annual MTV Africa awards set up in 2008 to recognize those “who have made the most impact on African music and youth culture”.
Contenders for the artist of the year category are Nigerian afro-pop stars Yemi Alade and Wizkid, South African afro-house DJ Black Coffee, Kenyan singer Sauti Sol and Diamond, from Tanzania.
The increasingly prestigious awards tap into the continent’s fast-growing youth market and its expanding consumer base, with Africa’s total population, projected to jump to two billion by 2050.
A few decades ago traditional African folk music dominated the industry, but the trend has shifted.
Now, driven by a hunger for local tunes rather than output from the pop hubs of the US and Europe, African artists are mixing traditional African beats with new rhythms to produce cross-genre sounds.
“It’s the local content that’s going to drive growth,” Myburgh said.
“The one sector that has done particularly well over the last five years is live music. It goes to show what people want – they are prepared to pay a huge amount to go and watch a live concert.”
In contrast, piracy hollows out sales volumes.
“There’s lot of music being heard but not necessarily being paid for,” she added.
Nevertheless, in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, revenue from the music industry grew an estimated four-fold in the two years up to 2015, according to PwC.
The growth streak is forecast to continue, despite the country slipping into recession recently due to low oil prices.
Kenya is also forecast for a strong growth, at about 9.3 percent a year between now and 2020.
And African musicians are not only appealing to domestic consumers but also generating more interest abroad through tours and collaborations with big international names.
“The African music scene has been very dynamic,” said Claire Henoque, music promoter and owner of France-based Tour-makers.
“What is so attractive is the ability of African musicians to blend with other music genres.”
‘Breaking down boundaries’
Young artists like Black Coffee, Nigeria’s D-Banj, Don Jazzy and Tiwa Savage are now taking over from veterans such as Youssou Ndour and Hugh Masekela to clinch deals and work with Western performers such as US rapper Jay Z.
“We see a lot of African artists now performing and touring overseas,” Leo Manne, vice president of music channel Trace-TV Southern Africa, told AFP.
“And now you see the influence of African music in American music – listen to (Canadian rapper) Drake.
“African music will always influence global music. When the slave ships left Africa they left with the drum beat that continues to travel the world.”
Saturday night’s ceremony, hosted by South African comedian and US television star Trevor Noah, will be broadcast live across the continent, with US hip hop superstar Future also due to perform.
“Africa’s music industry is thriving and growing,” said Alex Okosi, senior vice president of Viacom International Media Networks Africa, which runs the MTV Awards.
“The growth is being driven by innovative artists that are breaking down boundaries and reaching Africa’s enormous youth population through their music.”