Gbona: By BurnabBoy
Oppan Gangnam Style” by: Psy
The above lyrics — are verses of music from around the World — composed by artists whose songs are often rendered in colloquial English, and sometimes in dialects that an ordinary English listener will not easily understand. These songs and the collective genre that they embody have become the new symbols of contemporary music; hybridized, colloquial and different.
The Nigerian music artist, Burna boy appeals to tens of millions of listeners in Africa and around the World. His recent album, ‘African Giant’ was nominated for Grammy on top of many sold-out concerts in New York, London, Lagos, California and elsewhere. The singer has had appearances on prime TV shows such as: Jimmy Kimmel and Trevor Noah including hundreds of millions of hits on YouTube, and wins at award shows, such as the MTV Europe awards and others. Such a profile does not simply attest to Burna boy’s fame and global acceptance, it confirms the new place of contemporary music and its undercurrent of international tone and flows.
Oppa Gangnam style, sung by South Korea’s Psy was also a global hit from download records of 2012–2014 and combined YouTube hit of over 3 billion views. Both Burna boy and Psy’s musical flow represents the new trend of global popular music and how production and consumption has evolved between then and now. With the introduction of new genres produced by these artists and hundreds of others like them and their increasing acceptance by audience from around the World, it is arguable that the dominance of Western popular music and specifically the reign of American pop music is dead.
While Beyoncé and a host of American pop icons have remained the undisputed Kings and Queens of contemporary pop music; to say that American music is dead is to claim that Western cultural imperialism does not reign over contemporary international music anymore.
The decline of America’s domination in contemporary music has been underlined by the rise of globalisation, the emergence of new cultural genres and the influence of technology which aids in the creation and dissemination of new popular music. The awakening brought about by these emerging genres and artists arguably underscores the rising rejection of cultural imperialism through the acceptance of hybrid international music such as Afrobeats.
Considering the effect of technology, which is free and accessible to anyone with an internet connection anywhere in the World, the power of companies who once dominated music production and distribution has been reduced as almost anyone with access to the internet can make and distribute their music and reach a mass audience. Regardless of genre, artist, language, background, or country, platforms like YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify, Shazam and a host of others serve as the place for music creators from across the World to market their talent to billions of viewers and audience waiting to devour what’s new.
These music apps serve as the platform for musical distribution as was never possible in the age before digital technology, but they also enable fans and people from around the World to break traditional borders and barriers that once prevented them from discovering new music and exploring different cultures outside of their known cultural spheres. These technological platforms of music creation and distribution are, therefore, constituents in the facilitation and appropriation of the new flow of contemporary music.
Compared to traditional tools of mass music distribution such as radio and television, including the established method of belonging to music labels to create and distribute one’s music; YouTube and other technological platforms have torn down these boundaries, thus, this area, where production houses such as EMI, Universal and a host of others once flexed their power is now challenged by new and emerging technology.
It is also arguable that the new flow of contemporary international music have been influenced by the cultural renaissance that is taking place in non-Western countries, which calls into question the dominance of America on the global music industry. We see this phenomenon of cultural renaissance, for example, in the rise of African films, arts, food, technology and fashion.
With the attention that is being paid to the Nigerian fashion industry, for instance, as can be witnessed in the emergence of Lagos Fashion Week and throngs of international fashion shows and festivals in Lagos and other Nigerian cities, the growth of music and its acceptance among an increasing audience has followed the rise of fashion.
Similarly, Nollywood, the Nigeria film industry and its rising global audience has supported the growth of Nigerian music. According to the UNESCO office of Cultural Diversity Expressions: “Nigeria is an African cultural powerhouse and “Nollywood”, is the world’s second-largest film industry by volume. Nigeria’s music and fashion industries are leading Nigeria’s cultural exports”.
In this sense, Afrobeats, which embodies a collection of different musical genres from Africa; such as Afropop, Afrohall, Afro-fusion, Afrojuju, Afro-jazz, and similar ones have increasingly taken the attention of a global music audience beyond the sounds of Kanye West, Beyonce and American pop artists. In top charts and parties anywhere in the World, it is now common to hear names like Davido, Burna -Boy, Simi, Rema, Raekado and a host of Nigerian names who sing their genre of Afrobeat music.
The same cultural renaissance has been taking place in other countries and continents around the World, thus, helping to change the flows and dynamics of music creation and distribution. In the Middle East, the rise of Culture and Tourism is helping to encourage a rising tide of Islamic pop music. The fans of this musical genre are not only in the Middle East, millions of them also live in America, Europe and elsewhere. Sometimes, this genre of music features in charts that are sometimes played at parties, clubs and occasions that is not associated with the origin. The rise of Hybridity in the international music scene that Islamic pop, Nigerian music and other global fusion have brought to contemporary music scene all point towards the realisation that there is a new dimension of postcolonial culture in music and one that marks the fall of Cultural Hegemony, a sway that the American music industry has held since after the Second World War.
Another driver of the new flow of contemporary music is the phenomenon of multiculturalism that we see in western countries today which aids in the hybridisation of musical creation that help to challenge American pop. In Western countries — musical festivals, concerts and gigs are no longer simply designed for the consumption of — indigines as organisers must satisfy the cross-fertilisation and multicultural mixture of the audience.
We see this in cities like London and New York, where institutions that support the marketing and flow of music such as the British Library, the National Theatre, and the Radio City Music Hall, encourage a menu of multicultural musicians and give them space to reach a diversified British and American audience. Such act of exposing the public to new musical flows and performance — arguably constitutes an act of helping to discover new languages, meanings, music and cultures. Through the power of discovery within an artist’s mixed language, foreign accent, new tunes, local dialect, and striking melodies, fans are introduced to new genres of music beyond the traditional offering. All of this, especially during the last decade and a half has defined contemporary music and has contributed towards new musical flows.
In the next ten years, contemporary global music will become even more hybridized, fun and diverse but I dare say, that it would be the decade of the Afrobeats.