Not many music lovers in Africa will forget where they were in 2005 when Tuface’s monster hit ‘African Queen’ debuted as the first music video to be played on MTV Base’s franchise on the continent. I am one of those who remember the moment vividly. And it is impossible to forget the exhilarating reactions that heralded the arrival of Afrobeats on the global stage.
The euphoria was not misplaced. Before that holy grail moment, the spread of urban music in Africa had largely been restricted to the confines of the continent due to broadcast stations’ limited reach.
A vast broadcast capacity propelled African Queen to reach over 1.3 million global audiences within a few hours of its debut on MTV Base Africa, and other local music videos quickly followed, spurring the renaissance of Afrobeats as a front running music genre in the world.
Consequently, Afrobeats, as a prominent music genre today, has many offshoots, with a more inclusive Afropop genre-leading African artists’ dominance on the global stage.
It has been nearly two decades since that historic moment in the Afrobeats’ journey to global acceptance. What has changed? How has Africa capitalised on this exposure? How has Afrobeats fared? And what role does MTV Base Africa, a Paramount Africa franchise, continue to play to create international exposure for pop-culture globally?
Since urban music in Africa began to penetrate a global market, the rise of Afrobeats and Amapiano has been phenomenal. Not many people would have envisaged the heights Afrobeats and its offshoots have attained in less than two decades, considering the peculiar challenges that faced the music industry 20 years ago. Interestingly, the rise of the genre has been financially and critically rewarding.
In Nigeria, which has one of the biggest music industries in Africa, for instance, an annual growth rate of 13.4 percent in total revenue generation was recorded in 2021 to reach $73m, indicating a staggering increase from a $39m total in 2016.
Such is the magnitude of the growth of the African music landscape that revenues from consumer spending on recorded music hit $43 million and $19 million in Nigeria and Kenya, respectively, in 2020, according to PwC.
African music stars have also climbed the biggest stages in the world to receive music’s highest honours. Burna Boy and Wizkid have won the coveted Grammy Awards plaque.
Burna Boy, in 2022, became the first African artist to headline Madison Square Garden in New York. Davido, TiwaSavage, Sarkodie, Nasty C, Tems, Cassper Nyovest, Fireboy, Major League, DJz, Rema, Tems, and many more have also rocked the biggest arenas and appeared on Billboard charts.
Global music superstars – Drake, Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj, and many others have, in different capacities, incorporated the Afrobeats and recently Amapiano sound into their music, with Beyoncegoing as far as making an Afrobeats album. Collaborations with international acts have even become a norm these days.
It is worth pointing out that throughout these groundbreaking achievements by African artists, MTV Base Africa has remained a resolute driver in propelling the rise of Afropop, continuing its mission to ‘showcase Africa to the world’.
As it was with Tuface (now 2Baba) nearly two decades ago, the music channel is responsible for thrusting and unearthing new music talents to global stardom through its unmatched coverage of the Afropop and Afro-dance genres.
Over a decade ago, at a time when it was a tough ask for African artists with little to no label backing to fund their music videos, MTV Base’s belief in the urban music coming out of the continent included sponsorship of high-quality music video shoots for some artists who lacked the financial wherewithal.
And before Burna Boy and Wizkid conquered the Grammys, MTV Base Africa, through MAMA Awards, presented African acts with the biggest pathway to superstardom. The BET Awards, MTV EMA and Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards allParamount Africa franchise, has continued to provide African artists with similar honours in acknowledgement of their music.
Today, MTV Base Africa has intensified and expanded its exaltation of Afropop music to include a recently launched Africa Day celebration dedicated to giving talented emerging artists on the continent exposure. With this, the music channel is further inspiring a global acceptance of music out of Africa.
A rich lineup of music offerings on the channel such as the MTV Base Musicology, Yanos and Hip hop also continues to play a critical role in making African music even more appealing. In-depth discussions about different aspects of the continent’s music landscape offer audiences a deeper understanding of the industry and how such modalities impact the music the world currently enjoys.
Indeed, as we celebrate World Music Day, it is important to reflect on how far we’ve come in pushing Afropop and dance genres from relative obscurity and marginalisation on the global stage to becoming a force to reckon with. This will inspire us to evaluate the true strength and direction of the African music landscape and showcasing the next big wave.
There is no doubt, by all indications and projections, that African artists flying the flag of Afrobeats and its spinoffs – Afropop, Afrofusion, Afroemo and other sub-Afro genres like Gqom and Amapiano – are poised for greatness.
It is an exciting time to know that Paramount Africa and MTV Base Africa are will continue to be the music industry’s trusted ally driving the Afro music genres to conquer more uncharted territories. Happy World Music Day!
* Twala is Senior Vice-President and General Manager for Paramount Africa and Peer Lead, BET International.
In Nigeria, which has one of the biggest music industries in Africa, for instance, an annual growth rate of 13.4 percent in total revenue generation was recorded in 2021 to reach $73m, indicating a staggering increase from a $39m total in 2016