As far as celebrities go, Africa has seen its fair share of American star power. Music heavyweights such as Lady Gaga, Linkin Park, Usher and even the late, great Whitney Houston are all members of a globe trotting crew that have traveled to the motherland for sold out shows at one point or another. Joining that impressive roster on February 2nd will be Kanye West, the Chi-town rapper is set to headline a sold out, one night only gig in Johannesburg. For the most part, I love of the idea of stateside talent touring Africa. Any way you slice and dice it, it’s a good look. Whenever a huge celebrity travels anywhere in the world, especially in the Facebook/Twitter/Instagram age it’s an added tourism bonus. Plus, speaking from a fan perspective it’s an absolute dream to have your favorite artist right in your backyard.
While most South Africans are chomping at the bit anxiously awaiting Kanye’s arrival in Mzansi, I’ve had a mixed bag of emotions surrounding the influx of American artists touring the continent. Are African artists getting the short end of the stick? Melanie Ramjee an acclaimed publicist who has been on the forefront of bringing Trey Songz, Lil Wayne, Neyo and many more to South African shores confirms my suspicions. “Local artists are underpaid, while their international counterparts are paid high fees and get all their demands adhered to” she tells me.
This is the head splitting conundrum of bringing American artists to Africa. In my opinion, local artists should receive the same level of payment, respect and appreciation as their Western peers. It shouldn’t be an all or nothing scenario.
It is imperative that while we support the Rick Ross & Jay-Z’s of the world we should also support the Fally Ipupa and Flavour’s of Africa. If Nollywood (Nigerian version of Hollywood) can successfully monetize their multi-million dollar industry then there is a light at the end of the tunnel for local repertoire. Instead of illegally downloading our artists’ content, it is our responsibility to buy and support African content. Governments, corporate brands and promoters alike should also be willing or required to ensure that quality artists receive equal pay.
There is good news in all this though. Melanie says ”international artists are very keen to do collaborations with African artists these days and its great for Africa.” Remember when Chris Brown toured Lagos recently and brought out Nigerian rapper Wiz Kid during his set? Wouldn’t it be so dope if they did a track together? I’m absolutely certain that the future is closer than we can imagine.
Oh and a word to the wise for the next wave of American stars visiting Africa. Please stop posting pictures of yourself on safari or staged orphanage visits only. It’s so expected. Please wow us with your luxurious jets, swanky suites and genuine fan interaction. This is your opportunity to give the world a chance to see a more balanced view of Africa.
There is a reason why pop phenomenon Beyonce used dance moves from Mozambican kwaito dance group Tofo Tofo on her hit album “4.” Africa is the future. However it will not grow and flourish without being properly nourished. The onus is entirely on us. Are we up for the challenge?
Makho Ndlovu is a Zimbabwean born celebrity reporter and blogger based in New York City. You can follow her @MakhoNdlovu. To learn more about her, check out her personal blog Makho-Ndlovu.blogspot.com