Queen of Afro-pop Yemi Alade and rapper Big Star flew the African flag at the international Midem music conference in Cannes, France.
Midem, the international B2B music event for key players from the music ecosystem, ran from last Tuesday to Friday, and saw thousands of international music professionals engaging in panel discussions on issues facing the industry.
As part of the Worldwide Village programme called “African Forum”, Alade was among the few artists from Africa to represent the continent and raise pressing matters faced by musicians such as Black Coffee, AKA, Big Star and Davido.
The forum followed a series of industry meetings across four African countries - Ivory Coast, Nigeria, South Africa and Republic of the Congo - to support the structuring of the African music industry and develop sustainable business models for African labels and artists to boost African music on a local and international scale.
The Star caught up with Alade before she jetted off to France. She had just performed with legendary artists Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Salif Keita at the annual Bushfire Festival, celebrating Africa Month.
She said the experience was all about learning from others.
“It is such an exciting time to be an artist, especially in Africa, where there are so many talented and creative musicians breaking boundaries and whose music travels throughout the world,” said the Nigerian Afro-pop megastar.
Alade said she was ready to learn and share. “Every day we learn, and I am learning. It’s like going to school for a few days,” she said.
“There are still many challenges, and to take it to the next level, we need to come together and work on strengthening and structuring our music business in Africa.
“I’m happy to be part of the Midem African Forum and hope that sharing my experience as an artist will highlight the immense opportunities for African artists, not only on the continent, but globally,” she added.
Her hit single Johnny has set a record for over 85 million views on YouTube, making it the most-watched video from an African artist.
“Representing Africa is a huge deal for me,” Alade said. She promised that this year, the airwaves were going to blast with new music.
“I just released new music with a song How I feel. It’s different from what you will expect from Yemi Alade. It’s exciting,” she said.
For Big Star, whose real name is Tumelo Rakumako, travelling to France for the first time was a life-changing experience since his win on local reality show The Hustle.
“This performance was an eye and mind opener for me.
“It really showed me how small-minded I was thinking about my life and career And the conference put things into perspective on what I want for my music.
“As an artist, I didn’t get what Midem was before I went there.
“We got to meet many industry giants,” he said.
Big Star remarked that it was difficult to retain the African sound in hip-hop because it had been associated with the West.
He added: “There is a modern African story that they haven’t heard.
“There is a lot that people are going to see change in my career. I think we really need to start telling our African stories a whole lot more.
“The world is celebrating Africa, with the gqom from Durban and Afrobeats with Wizkid.”