Building the African Music Infrastructure

A prominent female African DJ releases new tools for music creators

If you ask around in the Afro-academia community, a lot of people will talk to you about infrastructure. You may have also heard the words “systemic” or “societal” — there’s an understanding that when it comes to overhauling and decolonizing, to creating the new African narrative, we have a lot of work to do in creating, abolishing, and updating infrastructure.

Infrastructure is more than just buildings or roads. It is the system which allows you to excel and succeed. Without this system in place, it’s hard to get ahead. If the system was designed for a specific category of people — for English speakers, for example, in academia or computer science — it can be very hard for people that are not in that category to excel and succeed.

I have always deeply respected people that build and create infrastructure. Instead of being the one who receives glory, the famous star, the perceived genius, they are the people who create the system that allows the geniuses to thrive. We are excited about startups like Uber, or famous musicians and actors. We are much less excited by the government researchers who invented GPS, which makes Uber possible, for example, or the managers and industry people who surround musicians and actors. Without the people who enable others, who either create or are a part of the infrastructure, nothing happens (or at least, the task at hand becomes very, very difficult).

This long preamble is all to say that though it may not sound as sexy as a hot new single or an exciting new music video, Kehinde A.O. (otherwise known as DJ SoupaModel) is releasing new tools for making Afrobeats music!

“The cats out! #Afrobeats By DJ SoupaModel. Set to launch the first EVER #Afrobeats AU & VST music making plugin for Music Producers & Beatmakers with @studiolinked on EVERY DAW. This provides hundreds of afro vocal runs across africa, from nigeria, ghana, to south african chants, coupled with authentic afro percussions, highlife guitars, piano, bass, loops and more! I do the unconventional! While everyone is releasing music, I’ll give you the tools to create it. Got it? Welcome to the takeover. 10 steps ahead. Every music creator can now produce AFROBEATS! Real Afrobeats. Took a while. Now it’s here. Africa, i SAID I GOTCHU‼️ I’m a BUSINESS MEHN. Pacesetter. Trendsetter. I’m first for a reason🤷‍♀️Released September 2019.”

The plugins that music creatives use in production and editing determine the final sound of the track, and previously, producers might have to go out of their way to sample or record beats that have African style. With the plugins that Kehinde developed with Studio Linked, producing African music will be easier, more seamless, and more accessible.

This is infrastructure for African music.

Furthermore, this infrastructure is particularly important for up-and-coming artists, who may not have the backing of huge record labels or giant fan bases. As African music culture evolves, we want not only the Wizkids and the Burna Boys of the world to be known — we want the smaller artists to have breakout success too, like Joeboy’s “Baby” or Nonso Amadi’s “Tonight”. We want to penetrate the global culture; we want to be ubiquitous, and above all, we want to be unapologetically African. We want those stories about a kid in Durban making tracks in his room creating a viral gqom hit, or a girl in Accra singing into her phone and later touring across Asia. The success of these “little guys” will be the true measure of the successful elevation of African music on the global stage, and in turn, the true explosion of the modern African renaissance.

As I’m fond of saying on this blog, music is never just music — it is the ambassador of an entire culture.

The fact that Kehinde/DJ SoupaModel is a female DJ adds another layer of nuance to this whole conversation — we know for a fact that women have a hard time in the African music industry, or just in African industry and society in general. Even MC BankyW said this, on stage, at the One Africa NYC music fest, and that’s why the people I stan the hardest (Teniola Apate, Sho Madjozi, Babes Wodumo) are the female artists. Going forward in the new African narrative, let’s leave behind the things that did not serve us well — patriarchy, subordination, hate, elitism. Let’s move forward by lifting each other up.

Let’s build infrastructure that includes everyone, that is created with the input of those very people.

This August, the anniversary of the first slaves arriving in the United States in 1619, I am thinking about how, soon, there will be room for all of us to have a seat at the table. We can thank DJ SoupaModel for being part of the squad that will take us there.

MIT grad, robotics engineer, mixed. A place I write.

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