To a large extent, the gap between Nigerian artists and their foreign counterparts is continuously bridged by technology. Unlike the 1990s, various technological advancements led to the birth of platforms that increased the reach, visibility and influence of many local artists with global audiences.
These benefits, in turn, have also strongly dictated the texture of the afrobeats genre, fusing it with other genres to reflect a blend of authenticity marinated in global appeal. But more than that, it has given rise to partnerships with foreign creatives at all levels of mainstream music production, especially since the late 2010s and early 2020s.
Certainly, the role that these platforms play in bringing about these developments cannot be overstated, however, they are not all equal in terms of the possibilities they offer. Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music put musicians on the map, no doubt, but compared to the short-form Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok, they lack the viral factor.
Since TikTok’s explosion at the start of the pandemic, the app has become a haven for discovering talent that might have been lost in the cracks. In other cases, it revitalizes the essence of past hits through creators who cut and use the most catchy part of a musical piece to create a cover, incorporate a dance routine or simply act simply to attract attention. Warning. International artists like American rapper Doja Cat took great advantage of the platform when her song “Moo” went viral.
On March 3, 2021, Afrobeats star Adedamola Adefolahan, who performs under the moniker Fireboy DML, jumped on it and gave a viral TikTok remix of Madonna’s “Frozen.” The remixed sound from TikTok was produced by Canadian DJ/producer Sickick. It retains elements of the original song with a notable inclusion of synths and a modification of the singer’s voice for a more masculine sound.
A week after the release, the visuals for the DML version titled “Madonna Vs Sickick – Frozen (Fireboy DML Remix)” were uploaded to Youtube. It portrays Madonna as a matriarchal figure basking in the reverence accorded her by DML. Within three days, it racked up over 1.3 million views on YouTube.
Ordinarily, scoring a feature film with the 63-year-old, seven-time Grammy-winning actress is no small feat, even for an artist in the same space as her. But with a fluke powered by the ubiquity of the internet, Fireboy DML’s discography suddenly looked impressive.
Along the same lines, the viral sound of TikTok propelled Nigerian underground artist Bright Goya, otherwise known as Goya Menor, to international recognition. He achieved this fame after putting an energetic spin on the Nektunez amapiano remix of ‘Ameno’, a 1996 arrangement of orchestral songs by international new age music group Era.
While Fireboy DML and Goya bank on the nostalgia that accompanies hits from the past, other Nigerian artists have enjoyed similar exposure for their original work. For example, CKay’s “Love Nwantiti”.
“Love Nwantiti”, by all accounts, was a phenomenon. It had become a hit in neighboring African countries, with a few mentions on the international scene. But thanks to creators taking on a challenge, its status has changed, garnering over three million video covers as of September 2021. It also ranked #1 on the Shazam Global charts during the same time frame.
Tiktok makes it easier and cheaper to achieve fame. While this is a good thing, it effectively excludes gatekeepers (A&R, record labels, radio stations, retail stores, etc.) by neutralizing the power they wield.
From a different perspective, it can be said that the influence of the video-sharing app may be short-lived and is only related to the existence of the app; it faced banning in countries like India over national security concerns.
Granted, TikTok isn’t the only video sharing or hosting app influencing change in the music space, other outlets like Triller and US-based company Clash have been scrambling to grab a reasonable share. of the market. So, in other words, the influence of technology will be felt for a long time even after the release of TikTok. You may wonder how this is possible.
The answer lies in people. As long as they can easily access content, virality will remain a grassroots phenomenon because, unlike gatekeepers, the average creator or influencer doesn’t wield the restraining powers against artists, but they too want to build their grassroots of fans. It’s a win-win. The question now is: are the Guardians ready for this drastic change?