Africa: Ade Bantu, Music In Africa go to northern Nigeria
The music industry of northern Nigerian has traditionally been removed from the south’s more internationally visible industry. Now one project is working on bringing the north closer to the audience of the south.
“We are targeting professional musicians in the north, so first and foremost, the project is to help artists professionalise their careers so they can see the possibility of touring beyond performing regionally,” says Ade Bantu, who as founder of the NGO Planet Heart Foundation is spearheading the project.
To that end, the project, which is realised in partnership with the Music In Africa Foundation’s MIAConnects initiative, will help northern Nigerian artists with electronic press kits (EPKs), technical riders and all things that come in handy for grant applications and establishing contact with international festivals.
Bantu says a series of workshops involving musicians primarily in Kaduna and Kano will help participants think “out of the box in terms of performance strategy”. The aim, in this case, is to prevent an overreliance on corporate endorsements. “You guys need to be more hands-on about it,” he says, a statement that can be seen as the project’s creed.
“These artists need to use social media more. We can get them to subscribe to the Music In Africa newsletter, which is tailored for professional musicians. So you can know this is where I can apply for a grant, where you can answer an open call for a festival. I will guide them step by step and they can take PDFs home showing how to write a biography, design a stage plan, the use of hi-res images and more.”
Pictures from the first of the workshops surfaced on social media this week. Some showed Bantu in lecture mode, a different pose compared to his more familiar self on the Afropolitan Vibes stage in Lagos. The next time he climbs that stage, part of his duties will be to introduce a northern Nigerian act to the crowd at Muri Okunola Park in Victoria Island.
Part of the project involves artists auditioning for a talent-hunt programme from which the best performer will get a chance to entertain the Afropolitan Vibes audience. Five slots will be filled from the auditions and will join five pre-selected acts chosen to represent the genres of hip hop, R&B, gospel and traditional music. This process will be repeated in Kaduna and Kano and the best overall act will get the chance to perform in Lagos.
“There is a northern hip hop scene that the majority of us are not aware of in the south,” Bantu says. “There is a hip hop show on a northern TV station that is popular in Cameroon, in Chad. There is a huge population that speaks Hausa, which might be the lingua franca of West Africa in terms of numbers. So it’s high time we engage.”
If the winning talent doesn’t quite gell with the Afropolitan aesthetic, Bantu has a plan. “There are other platforms we can use. It is important that we don’t set the bar too high. We just need to expose them to what is happening here and it will ignite something.”
As with many areas in Nigeria, the north is fragmented ethnically and religiously, often bringing about conflict. Bantu is aware of these divisions but will the project tackle the differences directly?
“We are bringing all of them together,” he says. “We are not only targeting artists from Sabon Gari in Kano or in Kaduna but the fact that we are cutting across the board—Hausa rappers, people whose parents are predominantly from the north, people whose parents are from the south—is a statement. Some of these people with parents from other states are being denied the right to be citizens of these places.
“I think the crisis can only be addressed when it is faced head-on and music is never shy of confrontation and dialogue,” he continues. “None of these artists are advocates for apartheid. They just try to navigate a very volatile terrain that is highly combustive. A lot of people are surprised that I am going to the north to give this workshop, but I am also going there to learn.”
By In-house Nigeria