The twenty first century K’Naan, the former Somali refugee and hip-hop star might have acquired a superstar status in more than 15 countries. His song had an honorary play-out at the South Africa 2010 World Cup tournament. His recent collaborations with Nas and Damian Marley have also prompted a release in the UK. K’Naan forced by the Somali crisis to translate his natural human adaptableness, has used his singing skill to straddle the world.
As noted in the earlier African folk-song forms and styles: hymns, spirituals, field hollers, work songs, Rhythm, Blues and Soul from the 15th to Mid 19th Century African immigrants in North America were forced into slavery by the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade activities. Indeed, the African and African American acts in the Americas have been a potent force in world entertainment. Therefore, K’Naan an additional voice from Africa steadily indicates arts, media and entertainment traffic between the Africa and the rest of the world.
Whereas in the 60s Mariam Makeba, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Hugh and Masekela among others gained early recognition in the Western World, 50 years later, R. Kelly, renowned African-American Rhythm and Blues singer, recently collaborated with Nigeria’s Tu-Face Idibia in Hands across the World, for Airtel’s (Mobile Brand) ONE 8. This brought Ghana’s 4×4, Kenya’s Sassy Amani, DRC’s Fally Ipupa, Gabon’s Movaizhaleine, Tanzania’s Alikiba, Zambia’s JK and Uganda’s Navio together.
Of course, as cultural habits of artistes interact there is the tendency for an adjustment of the very fabric of African patterns. Otherwise how could plantation songs by African slaves in America have evolved into current global pop music culture; albeit altered by cultural ingredients from various communities? This is the reality in the African Diaspora, where cultural communities like Asian, Arabic and Latino among others co-exist.
Similarly, contemporary African visual arts, compared to traditional forms renowned for utilitarian objectives may be losing their spiritual essence which is an important governance utility.
Such loss is brought by the need for commercial successes, hence, easing some African nuances. All the same African arts, be it music or craft have continued to influence global arts. Alberto Giacometti and Pablo Picasso both European artists are known to have been influenced by African art forms. And really Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, which has straddled entertainment and cultural intellectualism, might yet indicate a bespoken impact of traversing African cultural nuances on global sensibilities.
Therefore, ignorance of the worth of Africa’s endowments in music and visual arts, among others would most likely spell commercial flop! How should Africa and its Diaspora take advantage of this intrinsic worth in African arts, media and entertainment?
In music, especially global demand in terms of approaches and synthesized products influence commercial innovations. Such have occurred in a fusion of many broad influences, with sustained and recognizable African music elements. Melodic, rhythmic and lyrical themes like in Hands across the World exposition need better connections between the Diaspora and Mother Continent. These connections should enhance commercial harvests. Meaning Diaspora channels should be disposed to causing structural correctness in the production and distribution of African arts and media entertainment.
Recently in October 2010, Africa-USA Chamber of Commerce empowered, Pan African Global Trade Conference at California State University, Dominquez Hills (CSDUH) is a motivation. It discussed Pan African bilateral cultural exchange. Nevertheless, the significant role arts, culture, education, humanitarian assistance and entertainment play in international trade and commerce. It also recognized the export of arts and entertainment as big business on local and global scales. Indeed, tourism which ordinary almost always involves arts and media entertainment was outlined as business facilitation.
Perhaps the success of Black Entertainment Television, broadcasting and publishing company primarily focused on the fact that African Diaspora demonstrates best practice.
Africa and Diaspora connections may also borrow business sense of early European recordings of African popular music. The success of Paul Simon’s ‘field work,’ so to say with his Graceland (1987) album, in collaboration with South African singing group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, demonstrates need for the exploration of a certain symbiosis between African and Diaspora cultural frontiers.
The results of such collaborations are not farfetched. A genre of music arts (world beat) had evolved in the mid-20th Century. Reggae have significantly influenced the fusion of rhythm and blues with the Jamaican ska and promoted by Jimmy Cliff among others given its Diaspora Africa Caribbean origins.
In Nigeria, juju musician, Sunny Ade with his Juju Music (1982), combined traditional African drums with electric guitars and synthesizers, to attract audience in the US and Europe.
It was a curtain raiser for Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour; DRC’s Papa Wemba, plus the South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
These symbiotic successes were expressed visions in continuous cultural diffusion. The market-niche driver for cultural brands is enhanced by today’s technology.
Technical enhancement enabled post-apartheid popularity of South-African Kwaito, a low-fidelity house-mix genre, sold out of car boots in the 1980s. Therefore, overlaid beats with raps in Zulu, Xhosa and broken township created a club music scene.
By 2008 SA’s DJ Mujava’s Township Funk, labeled under WARP records heat up the UK dance scene.
Obviously, a certain symbiosis exists in the arts and media entertainment industry between Africa and its Diaspora. The tool to enable harvest from this relationship will be a further exploration of technological applications.
The movie industry in Africa, characterized by the so-called Nigeria’s Nollywood volume, but of low quality could be moderated by Diaspora production techniques just like it keeps happening in music.