The old saying: “Stay African, eat like an African, and live like an African” is inspirational. I can as well add “keep it African,” implying that stay original, keep your legacy running or appreciate everything that is African.
If you relate the above saying to our African music, we shall appreciate African songs, compositions, and other melodies. There are several genres of music today and they can all be worked out the African way, for example R’N’B, Hip hop, classics, raga, reggae among others.
Markedly, African music is grouped into traditional and urban African music. In traditional African music most of the focus is on Afro-centricity which was intended to carry strong communication and several teachings in society; it was not for the money but significantly for learning from it and majorly upholding the African culture. The aspiration for African music still exists though to a lesser degree.
The survival of contemporary African music is seen in Rwanda. Various music icons like Diplomat, Riderman, Jay-Polly among others have taken to Hip-Hop in the local “Kinyarwanda” language. That is what it means when someone says ‘keep it African’. Not forgetting an artist like “Matata” (RIP) who was an influential African music icon as well.
The success of preserving African music is successful in neighbouring East African countries where more nationals have taken the responsibility to uplift and promote their local talent. Take an example of Uganda where young icons like Navio, Juliana, the mighty Radio and Weasel, Tonix, Coco Finger among others have taken charge of the local entertainment scene in their country. These guys move crowds and their music is successful because they keep their originality by singing in their local language—Luganda with traits of modern beats mixed with local African rhythms.
Be it R’N’B, Hip Hop, Reggae, Raga, Blues or Jazz they keep it local and Africa. If they can, why not keep it Rwanda and African as well? African music has become obsessed with copying the western style of singing. Several young singers are unoriginal; they have become copycats and want to be like R.Kelly, Neyo or any other international artist. So many young talents in Africa have become “wanabes” (want to be like so and so).
Rwanda’s icons like Usher Junior do want to be like Lil Wayne, Diplomat is said to have adopted Snoop Doggy’s style in the U.S, Meddy was also said to work it out like Ne-Yo and Miss Jojo does not have to sing like Mariah Carey to be successful. As for the lyrics, due to doing it the western way, the message simply becomes dreadful; drugs, sex, violence is the content that is perceived cool, even in a cultural Rwanda where there is zero tolerance to the madness that surrounds these vices.
Rwanda’s musicians are doing a great job of breaking out in the entertainment scene; however, the most important thing that will take them heights is if we the Rwandan listeners have the pride to appreciate what they have to offer. Through support, sponsorship and promotion, they can go international.
In that case, why not take African music to the peak, making it better and original. That way new music that is unique is born and success will continue to build the African music industry. We need to go Pan African with our music.