Today in #TheLagosReview

Universal Music Africa Signs Kenyan Afro-Pop band Sauti Sol

Universal Music Africa (UMA), a division of Universal Music Group (UMG), has signed Kenyan Afro-Pop band, Sauti Sol to an exclusive recording agreement.

The Kenyan Afro-Pop band is comprised of vocalists Bien-Aimé Baraza, Willis Chimano, Savara Mudigi and guitarist, Polycarp Otieno.

The agreement will give the band access to UMG’s global network around the world and will allow greater opportunity for the band to reach new audiences globally, whilst continuing to satisfy and excite their dedicated fanbase with bold, creative campaigns that will engage a new generation of fans throughout Africa.

Having toured successfully across Africa, the US, Europe and Australia, the chart-topping band has received the recognition and respect of both their fans and the industry, taking home international awards including, BET Awards, an MTV EMA for Best African Act and MTV AFRICA Award for Best African Group.

Sipho Dlamini, MD of UMG South Africa & Sub-Saharan Africa enthused:

We are delighted to announce our partnership with Sauti Sol, one of the most innovative and creative groups to have broken through from Africa in recent years. Universal Music Africa is dedicated to helping the best African music talent reach new audiences around the world and we are excited to welcome them to our global UMG family.

We look forward to working together with them to ensure they are able to authentically celebrate Africa through music and to help introduce their unique blend Afro-pop to new listeners everywhere.

Call for projects: Digital Lab Africa 2020

Digital Lab Africa (DLA) is calling on artists, producers, designers, startups, collectives, students and entrepreneurs to apply for its programmes in France.

Zimbabwe’s Marvin Madyara was a winner of Digital Lab Africa’s accelerator programme for digital music in 2019.
The call is open to anyone from sub-Saharan Africa with an innovative project in the following categories: music, digital art, immersive realities, video game and animation.

The objective of DLA is to provide a springboard to creators and to make their project happen with the support of leading French and sub-Saharan companies in the creative industries.

Music category

The music category is open to any entrepreneurs in the music industry (booking agencies, artist managers, producers, festival programmer, concert venue or club manages). The objective of the incubation programme is to support structures in the music distribution sector (festivals, venues, tour producers, event planner) and provide them with all the tools and knowledge to understand the entire value chain of the music industry.

Successful applicants will get the following:

Three-week residency at Hôtel 71 by Arty Farty (France) including mentorship, training and coaching from 19 May to 7 June.
Networking at Les Nuits Sonores and European Labevent (France).
DLA Bootcamp X Fak’ugesi with the whole DLA cohort (September 2020).
Selected participants will get:

A workspace.
Return economy international travel and local transport.
Accommodation to stay in France and South Africa.
Per diems rates at approximately €30 ($33).
Accreditation for Les Nuits Sonores, European Lab and Fak’ugesi.

Pitch deck/presentation document of the artist’s activity (PDF, PowerPoint or Word).
A short video pitch (two to three minutes) explaining your activity and why you want to be part of the DLA Mentorship and Incubation programme. Watch video pitch by previous edition applicants here.
A resume/curriculum vitae of the applicant and description of the company represented.
A picture (.jpeg) of the applicant.
Interested creatives should complete this form and send the entry materials via email to

The application deadline is 1 March.

Creatives who are interested in applying for digital art, immersive realities, video game and animation categories can view the original call here.

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Top SA artists to perform at VIVOnation fest 2020

The organisers of VIVOnation music and lifestyle festival have announced the line-up ahead of the much-anticipated event at the Container Yard in City Deep, Johannesburg, on 4 and 5 April.

South African rapper Nadia Nakai will perform at VIVOnaton 2020.
The third edition of the festival will feature top South African artists Nasty C, Samthing Soweto, Nadia Nakai, Lady Zamar, Busiswa, Shekhinah, DJ Maphorisa and Kabza De Small.

Rappers Nadia Nakai and Nasty C and house artist Lady Zamar will perform on 4 April while Busiswa, Shekhinah, DJ Maphorisa, Samthing Soweto and Kabza De Small will entertain fans a day later.

VIVOnation said more artists would be added to the roster in the coming weeks.

“Music has always been South Africa’s 12th official language and continues to play an important role in shaping Mzansi’s pop culture,” Volkswagen brand head Martina Biene said.

“VIVOnation 2020 promises to be more than just a music festival but a movement that brings South Africans together – going to the culture and celebrating the creatives, makers, game-changers and pioneers who are the freedom seekers and embody what it means to live Uncontained. This year’s installation will be a one of a kind creative festival that brings different artists, multiple stages and unique experiences to VIVOnation.”

The organisers said the festival would feature three stages, a unique driving experience around the VIVO Track and a vibrant mixture of food, fashion and fun.

About VIVOnation

VIVOnation is two-day cultural music and lifestyle festival that is designed to celebrate creators. The event is courtesy of Volkswagen South Africa and intends to transform the Container Yard into a multi-layered festival of varied experiences.

Tickets to the event are available here.

For more information, visit the VIVOnation official website.

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Wyclef Jean Raises $25 Million To Fund Music Publishing Services.

Wyclef Jean is giving back and his latest charitable donation arrives, courtesy of his efforts to raise $25 million dollars in funding to Carnival World Music Group, which aims to support artists in developing countries seeking publishing and distribution support.Carnival World Music Group, which aims to ensure artists in developing countrys have publishing and dustribution

In his new interview with Forbes, the industry titan, 50, detailed his cultural ties with his native Haiti and his belief that the Afrobeats genre will continue to be a steady influence for western culture. Jean, who is “almost 100% Nigerian,” as per his DNA ancestry test, and his music have always been influenced by Haitian and African roots. Back in 2004, he made his first trip to Africa to perform with Fela Kuti’s son, Femi Kuti, and sequentially released a track called “Diallo” in memory of Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old Guinean immigrant who was shot 19 times by four New York City policemen. It was a smash and impacted his fandom in Africa. Since then, he’s travelled to the continent over 75 times, working with local talent, more specifically, Nigerian recording artists such as D’Banj and 2Face Idibia.

For Carnival World Music Group, the venture will help songwriters, producers and the like in developing regions have access to publishing and distribution. “The demand for music from Africa and other developing regions is growing and these creatives deserve to be part of the international marketplace,” he said. “There is a need for them to have open access to global publishing and distribution options that protect their rights and ensure that they are fairly paid. This initiative not only introduces and launches new talent but helps creatives around the world thrive in their careers.”

“Like all good things, creating a form of music from its roots takes time,” he explained. “You can’t talk about western popular culture today without talking about Africa; from the dance styles to the music, African inspiration is there.

Barzakh Festival: South Africa’s BCUC hope to show their ‘magic’ in debut UAE performance.

Over the course of four years, NYU Abu Dhabi’s Barzakh Festival has showcased an international array of bands that surprised, dazzled and made us reconsider any ideas we had about certain genres.

This year’s iteration, to be held at the university’s arts centre tomorrow, will continue to push the envelope with half a dozen genre-bending bands hailing from various regions including the Arab world, Europe, South America and South Africa.

When it comes to the last, Johannesburg’s BCUC (short for Bantu Continued Uhuru Consciousness) is a band you don’t want to miss. The ensemble are a riot of styles as they fuse modern funk and hip-hop with various indigenous music from Africa.

The music is not meant to be merely listened to, says commanding frontman Nkosi Zithulele – it is more of an experience.

“This is why we always love playing live. This is really where you will find us at our best and know what we are about,” he says. “We come from a country that has a rich musical heritage. That can be a joy or a burden sometimes. But we love to expose new listeners to South African music and show some of the magic it has.”

Since forming in 2016, the Soweto group have built a firm following both at home and abroad for incendiary live shows that channel the kinetic excitement of a punk show – and the soul and fervour of a religious ceremony.

It is part of the band’s twin aims of making people dance and raising their consciousness.

“I do have to clarify something about that, because we are not talking about black consciousness, which is what many people refer to as the work of [anti-apartheid activist] Steve Biko,” Nkosi says.

We come from a country that has a rich musical heritage. That can be a joy or a burden sometimes

“What we are talking about is more related to human consciousness because we are living in a time now in South Africa where it is not just about being black and white.”

Instead, the issues BCUC discuss in their songs are more complex than racial segregation. Nkosi says the growing class divide in South Africa meant the band took a more a universal approach to their songwriting.

“When you are writing about the struggle of class it is more difficult and messier because class knows no colour,” he says. “The hardest part about it is that while I am out there saying my truth, I also don’t want it to come across as being disrespectful to our elders. This is because they are some of the leaders that we are talking about in the songs and I don’t want to ever forget that it is also these people who fought and gave us our liberation and freedom in South Africa.”

BCUC managed to capture all that inherent tension, rage and levity in their latest and third album, The Healing. Limited to three tracks (two of them longer than 15 minutes) the band eschew traditional song structure to focus on rhythm and movement.

As a result, the songs take on a fierce and trance-like quality that recalls African musical genres such as Moroccan Gnawa and Nigeria’s Afrobeat. The latter’s style is all over pulsating tracks such as Sikhulekile, which features Femi Kuti, the son of the late Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.

While BCUC are aware of the styles they are playing with, Nkosi says they are not interested in merging genres such as jazz, funk or rock.

“All of the music that we are playing, I feel that it comes it from the same source,” Nkosi says. “Now we are looking forward to showing you that in Abu Dhabi.”

Also performing at Barzakh
The Barzakh Festival is fast becoming the region’s best world music gathering. The fourth edition will be in full festival mode with six live performances taking place nightly across three separate stages at the NYU Abu Arts Centre. In addition to South Africa’s BCUC, here are five other bands to check as part of the festival.

Shuddering bass meets rhythms from North Africa. Ammar 808 is the stage name of Tunisian and Belgian producer Sofyann Ben Youssef, whose work offers a dark and futuristic twist on modern Arabic music.

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Reading Africa at the 51st Cairo International Book Fair

With the slogan “Egypt, Africa, Cultural diversity”, the black continent is at the core of many events and activities at the 51st Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF, 22 January-5 February).

One year after Egypt was chosen to lead the African Union for 10 months, Senegal was selected as the guest of honor with a programme that includes plenty of activities in addition to Senegalese publications in Arabic and in French.

Major Senegalese intellectuals and cultural figures have been invited to participate including minister of culture Abdoulaye Diop, who made a short visit to Cairo during the opening on which he met with the Egyptian minister of culture Enas Abdel Dayem and other high ranking cultural figures. He described choosing Senegal as a guest of honor as a “great choice that reflects the depth of Egyptian-Senegalese relations on the cultural, diplomatic, political, and religious level”.

Diop also mentioned that the plan was to reflect the diversity of the Senegalese arts and culture in a range of publications in French and Arabic. “The Senegalese programme in the Cairo Book Fair aims to exploring and reflect the similarities between the two countries’ cultures.”

During his meeting with Abdel Dayem, Diop talked about an initiative to establish an Egyptian cultural centre in Senegal where Egyptian researchers would be welcome to study on the Senegalese art and culture. He also mentioned a cultural exchange where Senegalese researchers and expertise would visit Egypt to explore its ancient civilisation. Both parties agreed on choosing Egypt as the guest of honor at the 2021 Dakar International Book Fair.

The Senegalese pavilion in the Book Fair has a variety of fiction and nonfiction books by the most prominent Senegalese writers including the acclaimed Senegalese poet and Sufi thinker Ibrahim Niass (1900–1975) and the novelist Aboubacar Ndiaye.

Prominent Senegalese figures are also celebrated in this year’s book fair including the late Cheikh Anta Diop (1923-1986) who was chosen as the African Idol for all African countries. Diop was a Senegalese historian, anthropologist, physicist and politician who studied the human race’s origins and pre-colonial African culture. Egyptology was among his areas of interest and he was one of the earliest African scholars to spread interest in ancient Egypt to a wider African context.

The CIBF is also celebrating Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906-2001), the Senegalese poet, politician, and cultural theorist who, for two decades, served as the first president of Senegal. A seminar was organised to explore Senghor’s life and achievements, attended by Egyptian and Senegalese writers. The seminar also explored his influence on the idea of an African identity based on understanding the others’ cultures. Senghor was popular in post-colonial Africa, favoring the maintenance of close ties with France and the western world. The participants also reflected on Senghor as one of the prominent poets of the continent. His poetry was widely acclaimed as in 1978 he was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca, among many other honours he received. He is regarded by many as one of the most important African intellectuals of the 20th century.

Among the participants in the seminar is the Senegalese writer, poet and civil servant Hamidou Sall.

The Senegalese programme also includes other seminars: “A look at Senegalese Literature in Arabic”, “Senegalese Literature in French: the Legacy and Directions”, and “Senegalese Literature in the Local Languages”.

Celebrating cultural diversity on the African continent, a new prize was initiated this year for the best book about Africa which went to the prominent professor and writer Dr Awatef Abdel Rahman for her book Journalism and the African Media.

Several seminars and activities were also organised to discuss the horizons of African-Egyptian dialogue: “Arab African Cultural Diplomacy”, “African Culture: Reality and Expectations”, “The Reality and Challenges of African Unity”, “Women and Youth in Africa: A Pioneering History”, “Investment and Development in Africa: Future Visions”, “International Cooperation and Democracy Constants”, “African Literature: Linguistic Diversity and Identity Constants”, “Cultural Resources and Diverse Civilisation”, “Natural Resources and the Horizons of Development and Industry”, “African Security: the Imperative of Cooperation and Reconstruction Strategies”, “Climate, Energy and Future Challenges”, and “Integration Policies: the Africa that We Want”.

A series of seminars entitled “Africa in a Book” was organised for the first time to discuss books on different topics in Africa by writers from all over the world.

Among the African cultural figures invited to this year’s CIBF is Ndileka Mandela, the granddaughter of the prominent African Leader Nelson Mandela. Ndileka, a social activist and former nurse, and the head of the Thembekile Mandela Foundation in South Africa, was the guest of an open discussion with the audience.

12 African ambassadors in Egypt are invited to participate in a daily event organised in the Youth of Africa Hall where youth initiatives are to be announced in an open discussion with the audience.

The 51st Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF) at its new venue, New Cairo’s Egypt’s International Exhibitions Centre (EIEC), runs has a record number of 900 publishers representing 38 countries, and 41 vendors of used books, housed in 808 wings. This year’s Person of the Fair is the renowned Egyptian geographer Gamal Hemdan (1928-1993).
*A version of this article appears in print in the 30 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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