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The Problem With Afrocentric Musicians Who Don’t Tour Africa


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Being an African and a music fan is disheartening, amongst other things. The biggest point of contention is how often we get to see our favourite international acts visit if they even do come. For most artists/bands, while still problematic, they still get a pass because a band like Radiohead hasn’t tried to create some solidarity with Africa (That I’m aware of). The problem arises when African-American artists, create albums that are Pro-Black and have direct influence from Africa, yet announce tours for these albums that don’t involve African countries

Yes, most of these artist’s target market is an African-American audience but much of the imagery shared in albums such as Beyonce’s Lemonade and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly have resonated through the minds and souls of multitudes of African diaspora and Africans themselves. Indie artists can be absolved from this but Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar do actually have the social and economic capital to pull off a tour to Africa.

Much of Kendrick Lamar’s tour de force To Pimp a Butterfly was explicitly inspired by his visit to South Africa in 2014. Lamar had said himself with regards to his visit to South Africa in 2014 “Going out there really inspired me. I wrote a lot of records out there. Just going to South Africa and being able to move around out there like I did. That was a turning point.” The song ‘How Much a Dollar Cost’ was written around his experience with a beggar while at a petrol station in Johannesburg. When asked about the concept of the song ‘Complexion’, Lamar said: “This concept came from South Africa and I saw all these different colours speaking a beautiful language.” Don’t get me wrong, having an international artist and legend such as Kendrick being inspired by my country and its people gives me a strong sense of solidarity and joy. I’ll forever admire Kendrick for this but I was disheartened when realising that none of his subsequent tours have involved him returning to the country that rooted the seed that grew into his Grammy award-winning masterpiece.

Beyonce’s Lemonade was an unabashed, stellar celebration of the experience and existence of the Black Womyn. The accompanying hour-long HBO special (special being an understatement) features a poem by Somali-writer Warsan Shire woven through its narrative, body art from Nigerian-born artist Laolu Senbanjo can be seen in the video for ‘Sorry’, the video also combines cultural extracts from the Yoruba tribe in West Africa. Much like Kendrick, the inclusion of African cultures is commendable and hailed, but does it really mean anything if her Formation ‘World’ Tour doesn’t feature an African country, yet features more than just a few shows in Europe?

To extract things from African cultures and then proceeding to not actively share the fruit of that influence with its place of origin treads tauntingly on the line of cultural appropriation. The saying goes: Actions speak louder than words. So does any artist with the appropriate capital that is influenced by African arts, embodies a Pro-Black and Afrocentric rhetoric have the right to do so if they don’t tour Africa frequently?

No, not really. Being influenced by a certain culture, extracting its influence, fusing it with your music and then regurgitating it to Non-African audiences whilst still claiming solidarity with our cultures forfeits the authenticity of your Afrocentric-ness. In theory, Pro-Black should mean a rebellion against White supremacy, to actively fight against systems that continually see the degradation and dehumanisation of Black and Brown people. Actively performing music and other art forms that are influenced by our cultures further everywhere except our homes entrenches the idea that firstly, Africans aren’t worthy or developed enough for superstars and that not even these Artists who claim to be in solidarity with us, don’t care us. Being neglected and isolated and treated as the ‘other’ is a common African reality, but the pinch is more painful when it comes from those who’ve claimed they love you.

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