radio africa

Radio en muziekindustrie

In Africa music has always been a kind of social commentary - a way to send messages from the people to the kings and chiefs, to criticize people and their nasty behavior, and to give good and wise advice. Radio did not arrive until the colonial period, and initially primarily European music could be heard. But the variation steadily increased, in part thanks to the local record industry in many countries, including Kenya and Congo.

After gaining independence, some governments prescribed for shorter or longer periods the type of music to be made in service of the new national interests. Radio was an important tool in that respect.
The strictest edicts were seen in Mali and Guinea, where French chansons were forbidden while new types of domestic music were stimulated. Cordes Anciennes, a record with beautiful kora melodies, was Mali's musical signature for many years. Guinea saw a period in which national orchestras blossomed as never before and as almost nowhere else in the world. The new music was constantly heard on the radio.

Now success is achieved through airplay on the commercial radio stations, in some countries with a budding music industry, like Mali and Senegal, affect the sale of cassettes in particular. On the down side, however, radio stations pay little notice to their obligation to pay royalties to the artists whose music they play. Like the studios, the stations are often owned by wealthy businessmen who believe the artist should be thankful that his or her music is even being played.

That is the reason why musicians with a bit of a name and money set up their own facilities: Youssou N'Dour and Baaba Maal in Dakar, Salif Keita in Bamako... The economic importance of music is evident to them, especially for their less well-known colleagues. If you want to survive you need an export market, with Westerners and Africans with money living abroad. Mali has even made music its number one export product, enabling groups and artists to remain afloat instead of being forced to become taxi drivers or hotel porters.

But a surprising phenomenon can be seen: Orchestre Boabab, Tinariwen, and many of the other African names that are great in the West have few if any fans in Africa. And the greatest pan-African hit of the past twenty years, Vulin 'dlela, a catchy tune by the now-deceased South African starlet Brenda Fassie, is virtually unknown among the lovers of African music in Europe.
But the West African mega hit is and always will be nothing more than a thoroughly commercial undertaking about a curvaceous young woman who never took notice of the simple gas station attendant until he became extremely wealthy by writing a hit song. Throw in a bit of drum computer, some synthesizer and a catchy tune - easy as cake. Premier Gaou by a quartet from Abidjan, Magic system, made the group's members filthy rich and the slick video clip even made it to MTV. The song can be heard everywhere in West Africa, but the "real" lovers in the West want to have nothing to do with it.



Cordes Anciennes on

Youssou N’Dour

Baaba Maal

Salif Keita


Brenda Fassie on Voice of Africa Radio

Magic System on RamDam