Art & CultureMusic

How the global boom of African music is resonating with electronic artists in the diaspora

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In the early 2000s, there was a small, unassuming stall on the second floor balcony of Kampala’s Bugolobi market. Stocked with computers, scanners and other electronic devices, it was helmed by a young man who, for a small fee, provided digital services to the neighbourhood’s residents. Apart from his regular clientele, there was a contingent of pre-emptively homesick Ugandan migrants who, nearing the end of their trips back home, would ask this man to burn CDs of local music for them to take back to cities like London, Boston or Washington D.C.

The music on these CDs conjured up the equatorial nation’s warmth during winter, soundtracked gatherings with their countrymen and women, and educated their kids — born and raised “outside” — on the culture that their names and faces betrayed, but of which they had otherwise shaky connections to.

When requesting the CDs, if they weren’t specific about what they wanted — say, if they asked for whatever was on Ugandan radio — migrants might end up with a Rihanna or Sean Paul single, taking up precious space that could’ve gone to local artists; like Bobi Wine, Jose Chameleone or Blu 3. After a draining voyage across the ocean, the last thing they wanted to hear was Western radio fodder. They wanted to hear the African artists they could only hear “back home”.

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*The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.

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