Zimbabwe: Afro-Pop Stars Gaining Global Recognition

2019 has come to an end. It was hard to find the light switch this year with the deaths of Oliver Mtukudzi, Dorothy Masuka, Charles Mungoshi, Chartwell Dutiro, Mr Masasi and many other artistes whom we lost in Zimbabwe. Mtukudzi's biggest dream was to get a Grammy award for his music before he died. Unfortunately, this did not happen. We still keep our fingers crossed that this might happen posthumously.

However, there is no doubt that the year 2019 has ended very well for West African pop stars, especially for three young Nigerian millionnaires, Burna Boy (28), Wizkid (29) and Davido (27), who have all broken records by moving into mainstream global markets through their own efforts and also through collaborations with established artistes bringing over 50 million views on YouTube.

Collaborations with established Western artistes is not something new to West Africans. This started many years ago when Akon, a Senegalese, collaborated with Michael Jackson on the song Hold My Hand. That song went viral and had over 30 million views on YouTube.

Akon is also the first solo artist to hold both the number one and two spots simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 charts twice. He was listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the number one selling artiste for master ringtones in the world.

Alongside this, he also produced records mainly for artists on his respective labels, as well as for other artistes such as Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Lionel Richie, Sean Paul and Whitney Houston.

Forbes ranked Akon 80th (Power Rank) in Forbes Celebrity 100 in 2010 and fifth in 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa list, in 2011. Billboard ranked Akon number six on the list of Top Digital Songs Artistes of the decade.

No doubt, Nigerians, Burna Boy, Davido and Wizkid want to scale Akon's dizzy heights. The trick is in collaborating with bigger world stars.

I got to know about Nigerian star, Yemi Alade through Jah Prayzah. Before they did a song together, I did not know who she was. Understandably, she was reasonably big in Nigeria and Jah Prayzah had hopefully found a way of penetrating the Nigerian market.

Zimbabwean artistes on the whole are yet to make significant collaborations to reach those dizzy heights which Wizkid and company have made.

In 1992 the Bhundu Boys collaborated with Don Williams on his song You Are My Best Friend, but this did not get them very far because it was an old tune which had been previously released. The market had already been saturated.

In 2018, Jah Prayzah featured Jah Cure on Angel Lo, but this failed to make a global impact because Jah Prayzah and Jah Cure are not big names worldwide. The same goes for Winky D's collaboration on My Woman with Beenie Man. If Jah Cure and Beenie Man were bigger artistes, they would have elevated both Jah Prayzah and Winky D to higher levels.

Way back in 1978, Winston Hubert MacIntosh, better known as Peter Tosh, who had almost become world famous, did a collaboration with another world famous artiste, Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones in a song called You Better Walk, Don't Look Back. The song resulted in many white people worldwide appreciating reggae music. Needless to say that, it also brought untold wealth into Peter Tosh's coffers.

Wherever Afrobeats or Nigerian music is discussed in the world, one of the names likely to come up is Wizkid. His global chart-topping music is often cited as the reference point for African music.

Nigerian superstar, Wizkid and Beyonce collaborated on a song titled Brown Skin Girl, which was also used in the 2019 production of the film The Lion King. Wizkid and Beyonce's song goes something like this:

Brown Skin Girl

Your skin just like pearls

The best thing in the world

Never trade you for anybody else

Beyonce is well-known throughout the world and collaborating with Wizkid has no doubt elevated him to higher ground. Wizkid is making brilliant progress in his career. Born and raised in a middle-class Lagos district called Surulere, the talented artist has exploded in popularity in his home town and abroad with many international hits, including 2014's Ojuelegba.

Wizkid's name has appeared in a number of top awards, such as the MTV Europe Music Awards and MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMA). This year, the artiste became a darling of the West, securing collaborations with artistes like Chris Brown, Trey Songz and R. Kelly. He also secured a collaboration with Canadian hip-hop artiste, Drake. Together they did a song called One Dance, which has proved to be a phenomenal hit. He has performed in front of packed audiences in Europe and America at venues such as the O2 Arena and Maddison Square Gardens.

With energy at a high point, Wizkid always brings the curtain down with his hit Ojuelegba, the enchanting drums and biographical lyrics leading the crowds into sermon, showcasing both his and Afrobeats' continued ascent into the mainstream.

Another chart-topping Nigerian superstar is Davido who has also collaborated with Chris Brown in a song titled Blow My Mind whose lyrics begin with:

Blow my mind

And good time

Never waste your time

Never let you go

Talk down back-to-back

You are the best I know

Blow my mind, Blow my mind

Singer-songwriter and producer Davido has said that A Good Time was so called partly in acknowledgement of the current global appreciation for Nigerian pop music. The sound of Afrobeats is joyously ubiquitous, and Davido, who grew up between Nigeria and the United States, is one of its key players. This is a celebration, then: the release also follows the birth of his son, and the cover art features Davido, his father and a sculpture of his late mother.

His 2012 debut was criticised for a lack of variety, but here he pushes past that complaint with a broader array of sonic palettes beneath his gliding vocals.

He enlists international features from the likes of current R&B favourite Summer Walker, who adds her caramel vocals to the lithe D&G, and trap star Gunna offering choppy, melodic bars on the intense energy of Big Picture, alongside some standout moments from his Nigerian cohort including WurlD, Zlatan and Naira Marley.

At 17 tracks long, A Good Time can drift into sunshine-infused listlessness, but it's rescued by Davido's undeniable charisma and intricate understanding of warm, uplifting pop instrumentation.

Chris Brown has performed live on stage with Davido at his on-gong Indigoat tour in New York.

Davido, who recently did a collaboration with Chris Brown on the song Blow My Mind, did not stop at that, as the Indigoat tour performance, surely tells that they both have a lot of things to do together in music.

With the reaction and accolades of the fans when both superstars got to the stage, it was undoubtedly one of the best moments of stage performance in recent times.

Another award-winning Nigerian singer, Burna Boy (real name Damini Ogulu) has topped off a stellar music year in which he has won a string of awards and sold out venues across the globe. Now, at 28, he is one of Africa's most talked-about stars, sampled and featured by some of the world's biggest artists, including Beyonce.

He also won the Best International Act at the BET awards in June this year.

With collaborations with award-winning artists like Angelique Kidjo, Damian Marley and Lily Allen, Burna Boy has risen to prominence as the Afrobeats sound has also gained global recognition.

Is it not time now that Zimbabwean stars also rise to the same, if not higher, levels as the above three Nigerian musicians who all became millionnaires under the age of 30? They have to apply the same strategies as their African counterparts by forming partnerships with the world's biggest artistes.

Rumour has it that Jah Prayzah is determined to scale the same dizzy heights as Nigeria's millionnaire musicians such as Burna Boy, Davido and Wizkid and frantic efforts are being made to link up with Alicia Keys for a collaboration. I suggest his team should also try to network with the likes of Canadian Justin Bieber, John Legend, Ed Sheeran, Jay Z or Rihanna.

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