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Bringing African music to the world, one playlist at a time – Ebro Darden, Global Head of Editorial for R&B and Hip Hop at Apple Music

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African music has had a lot of gains globally in recent times. Afrobeats, largely fronted by Nigerian artists, has been rising fast in the last decade. The phenomenon first took off in the United Kingdom within the Ghanaian and Nigerian communities, spreading across Europe; and has gradually trickled into the North America music space.

A lot of African artists have been working hard to justify our inclusion into the global music scene, with some artists going all out to collaborate with American stars. When Dbanj, through some association to Kanye West’s Good Music, released his smash hit ‘Oliver Twist’ it peaked at number nine on the UK Singles Chart.

Things started to look even better for African music, when some global music stars started to feature African acts on their projects, perhaps as a result of big global music corporations like Sony Music and Universal Music signing some African acts.

To that end, we saw Drake feature Wizkid on the Billboard topping and award-winning song, ‘One Dance’ which opened a new window of opportunity for African music to shine.  Wizkid has since had major collaborations with the likes of Chris Brown, Drake, Ty Dolla Sign, Major Lazer, Trey Songz and many others.

Davido’s ‘hit song, Fall’ also caught fire around the world, setting some records on global charts. In 2019, ‘Fall’ made it on the Billboard Top 100 R&B/Hip-Hop charts as well as the US Top 40 Urban Radio songs.

In 2017, Ed Sheeran took a bold step to collaborate with Fuse ODG and Ghanaian producer, Killbeat on a number of songs including ‘Bibia Be Ye Ye’ off his Grammy-winning album, ‘Divide’.  In fact, Ed Sheeran even sang in Twi on that record.  In 2019 Beyoncé curated an album for ‘The Lion King’ featuring African musicians and producers.

For African music to continue to grow around the world there is the need to make the music accessible and available to music lovers around the world and platforms such as Apple Music are playing a vital role in that.  Apple Music is doing more than just giving an opportunity for African artists to make money from their talent; a lot of efforts are also going on in promoting African music and artists to other territories.

I spoke to Ebro Darden, a veteran American hip-hop radio presenter, on these gains and how to take it even further among other things.  As Global Head of Editorial for R&B and Hip Hop for Apple Music and host of its global radio station, Beats 1, Ebro Darden brings the sounds of the streets of New York City to the rest of the world.

Speaking of his experiences from his few visits to Ghana, Ebro comments: “ I have good relations with Sarkodie, Stonebwoy, Kwasi Arthur and a host of artists from there. It’s a great scene. I have not spent a lot of time in the northern part like Tamale and Kumasi. But there is a lot of positive vibes in Ghana, a lot of support for local music, and a lot of opportunity for growth also!” 

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On the role of Apple Music in bringing Ghanaian or African music closer to the world, Ebro believes putting the spotlight on our talents is a step in the right direction.

“We are listening to music and interfacing with artists, trying to figure out ways to get their songs exposure inside Apple Music; as well as finding opportunities where we can feature artists from other places around the globe on the North America side.   We also feature playlists from different places. So hypothetically speaking there is ‘Rap Life’ which is North American but there is also a version in South Africa, which is a hybridized playlist which features artists from South Africa that have achieved a high up chart position and regional profile of success.” 

‘Rap Life’ is a weekly show and ongoing companion to Apple Music’s marquee global hip-hop playlist of the same name, hosted by Ebro. It features the latest additions to the playlist, but it’s also a vital extended conversation about the culture and how artists and their songs are shaping the state of rap today. ‘Rap Life’ with Ebro Darden airs every Friday at 1:00p EST / 10:00a PST.

With his visits to Ghana and other parts of Africa, and his experience with the music and culture of the continent, Ebro is happy with the growth of African music and opines that with the right mentality and relationships, a lot more could happen for African artists and music.  He spoke of the challenges, the successes and the need to build on them.

“The biggest challenge is language. If the music is mostly English, it is easier to get it to translate and have success on the North America side. Interestingly, since it’s been happening in the last four or five years, we have been asserting and featuring music in the hip-hop genre and R&B genre pages inside Apple Music and trying to get people exposed to the music and the artists.  

“It also becomes a regional thing; so in New York City or Atlanta where there are larger African populations, we see more consumption of music from those regions. When you break outside other regions in the US where the African population is a little smaller, you start to see people not responding to the music. So it all just takes time. It is all about consistency over an extended period of time and creating opportunity for people to interface and learn about the artists and the culture, and also learn and feel the music, as well as keep communication lines open.”

Ebro believes collaborations between African and American artists are a great way of bridging the gap but he is fully aware that a lot hinges on individuality and the ability to build meaningful brand presence and relationships.

“Personally, as a fan of music from around the world I don’t like hearing artists try to conform their sounds to other sounds just to get popular.  One of the great things happening now is that when you hear the music coming from Africa it sounds like it is organic and from the region, and it is not trying to be something it is not.  Music is so important to black folks worldwide culturally. It is part of our identity, it is how we share stories, and it is a part of us.  So seeing artists not have to conform to gain popularity is a step in the right direction.

“Collaborations between African and American artists is a sure way to go; both with Americans and Caribbean Americans. It is all about relationships and it depends on the artists. I am sure as you gain popularity in Africa and people are talking about you in parties in America where your music is being played, it is obviously easier to collaborate. It’s not like any American artist can reach out to Chris Brown in the DM for a collaboration and Chris Brown would jump on the song. It’s all about notoriety and reaching a certain level of success. Ultimately it has to make sense.”

Apple Music is poised to bring African music closer to Africans and the rest of the world. With constant innovation and opening up of the world to one another, the possibilities are endless. Ebro concludes that there is a need to build and improve on current successes and trends.

I’m just looking forward to artists being able to put their music out and be themselves, and being able to create and collaborate. I am hoping that we are seeing now can continue. I just hope that we get more of this upliftment of African music, African artists and a connection of African people across the globe.”

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Psalm Adjetefio “TT” blames current predicament on his ex-wife

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Veteran  Ghanaian actor, Psalm Adjetefio, popularly known as T.T, has disclosed that all the mishaps in his life are as a result of his ex-wife. (more…)

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Shatta Wale receives birthday shout out from Beyoncé

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Self-acclaimed “King of Dancehall”, Shatta Wale has received a special birthday shout out from the Queen Bee herself, Beyoncé. (more…)

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Finance Minister urges Ghanaians to venture into entrepreneurship as gov’t payroll is full

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The Minister of Finance Ken Ofori-Atta has revealed that the government’s payroll is full, therefore, the youth must venture into entrepreneurship to boost the economy. (more…)

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Showcasing Ghana To The Rest Of Africa: Alphonse Menyo’s First Short Film “Perceptions” Has Been Selected For Afriff!!!!

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From the stables of Nkuluziza Film Productions comes yet another production which has been selected to be screened at the biggest showcase for African films and filmmakers, AFRIFF! Being produced and directed by Alphonse Menyo, “Perceptions” seeks to break the stereotypes many of which have been created through Western film images of Africa. “Perceptions” is the only Ghanaian short film to have been selected to be screened at the 10th Africa International Film Festival which is scheduled to take place from 7th-13th November, 2021 in Lagos, Nigeria.

 

The director, Alphonse Menyo manages to successfully display Ghana in the beautiful cinematography which seeks to promote the culture and values of Ghanaians to the rest of Africa. The director believes that most people in the society remained unfulfilled in life due to their acceptance to live in another man’s world rather than pursuing their dreams. “Perceptions” seeks to artistically portray the relevance of pursuing after true happiness.

 

Alphonse Menyo is a Ghanaian born actor/filmmaker and his passion and determination led him to achievements such as Best Actor nomination in the 2020 AMAA Awards, winner of the Best Actor in the 2019 Ghana Movie Awards and the Best Actor at the 2018 Fickn Film Festival. Some of his notable productions include Gold Coast Lounge, Utopia, Black Rose, Freetown among others.

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“Tonight your father dies a hero” – Funny Face shared disturbing message to family and friends

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Ghanaian actor Funny Face’s recent relapse has taken a drastic turn and it does not look funny anymore. (more…)

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Black Shines Brightest: Guinness Lights Up Kumasi with its Bright House Experience

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Kumasi came to a virtual standstill as a star-studded line up of the biggest culture change makers in the country and region came together to thrill guests at the Guinness Bright House Experience held at the Golden Bean Hotel.

The Bright House Experience, a fundamental part of the Guinness Black Shines Brightest campaign, is a model bar which will serve as a cultural space and a hub for people to connect and energize each other with creativity, inspiration and, of course, a cold bottle of Guinness.

Graced by several celebrities, media influencers, culture makers and industry partners, the launch of the Guinness Bright House Experience in Kumasi was the melting pot for the celebrations of talent and achievements.

The Bright House Experience started with performances from some of the top Kumerica artistes who set the tone, with guests screaming for more at each performance.

Camidoh, Wendy Shey, Strongman, Mr. Drew and AMG Business Beyond Kontrol rapper, Medikal dropped hit song after hit song getting patrons gyrating and singing in unison as they performed.

With all the exciting performances, the crowd had lots of energy to jive along with Incredible Zigi, Face of the Black Shines Brightest Campaign. He showed off his dance skills with his Afrozig crew to a variety of songs and eventually taught the audience the viral dance to the theme song for the campaign.

The Bright House Experience will see Guinness working closely with bars across the country, to show the company’s commitment to partnering with its customers and consumers for the best lived experiences when enjoying a cold bottle of Guinness. These bars will also appear in Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale.

One of Ghana’s best reggae selectors, African Child kept the momentum on as he engaged the crowd with his ‘Kumoo’ hit song.

The next stop for the Guinness Bright House Experience is Tamale where consumers will get to feel and enjoy the Black Shines Brightest campaign.

 

About Black Shines Brightest

Guinness ‘Black Shines Brightest’ is a new Pan African campaign celebrating the iconic black liquid enjoyed all over the continent for over a century. This exciting new campaign is inspired by the bold and unique black beer of Guinness stout and brings together passionate and creative individuals to celebrate the spirit of Guinness and its home across African markets.

Energetic and empowering, the campaign celebrates individuals coming together, fizzing with optimism, creativity and potential.  The ambition of this exciting new campaign is to make Guinness the most magnetic brand in culture, by championing new talent and all those people making waves in culture.

 

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