‘Move Afrika’ was initially launched by the grandson of Nelson Mandela, Kweku, as a means of “promoting health and equity, defending our planet, and creating jobs and economic opportunity” through the power of live music and bringing some of the largest touring artists to Africa.
Kweku Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela, discussed how his late grandfather’s series of concerts to raise awareness for HIV was the inspiration behind “Moving Afrika,” a five-year project to establish an annual music tour in Africa as a means of “promoting health and equity, defending our planet, and creating jobs and economic opportunity,” according to reports.
“If you look at some of the largest touring artists in the world, oftentimes their world tours are missing the African continent all together, or in certain cases they come and do one-off shows. We feel there is a great need for us to bring a robust touring circuit to the continent,” Mandela said.
Mandela is also the chief vision officer for Global Citizen, the advocacy organization behind the Moving Afrika project. Their first gig took place last Wednesday in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, and was headlined by Kendrick Lamar. The event was held in the biggest indoor venue in east Africa, the 10,000-seat BK Arena. Mandela is hoping that this will be the first of many major concerts in the Moving Afrika project.
“We are putting a marker in the sand around live touring events and showcasing the creative economy on the African continent – you’re talking about the world’s youngest population, over 700 million people with the median age of 19.”
Besides just Kendrick Lamar, huge east African artists also took to the stage, including Bruce Melodie from Rwanda. Melodie’s song ‘When She’s Around’ became a huge hit when it was remixed by Jamaican star Shaggy. Singer-songwriter Zuchi from Tanzania also performed.
The stage set and design was created by local artists from Rwanda’s NGO Nyamirambo Women’s Center. The creatives behind the designs made “contemporary interpretations of traditional Kitenge fabrics and Agaseke peace baskets,” according to reports from the Guardian.
Mandela discussed how many musicians from Africa have become internationally renowned, “but now we have a new generation, and it’s so essential that they have a live tour event playing as part of that.”
“If you look not even five years back, often African music would be classified as ‘world music’. The fact that it’s been able to create two or three distinct African genres, which are now part of popular culture, goes to show the talent that lies here, and it’s just going to grow.”
Mandela went on to discuss how young artists from Ghana, Morocco, Kenya, Benin, and Mali “are breaking the norms of what we think when we think about African music.”
Melodie also discussed the positive energy of the event and the special feeling of performing he had as a local artist.
“It’s a great opportunity for me as a local artist being here. Shaggy had listened to the original version by chance and then he liked it, so we did something like a remix. It’s a good song and people like it here in Africa. Afrobeats is taking over right now,” he said.
“[The music scene in Rwanda is growing] because we have so many artists here, but we also have a government which understands music,” Melodie stated.
Sherrie Silver is the talented award-winning choreographer who worked with 40 performers for the event.
“The entertainment industry is such a large economic engine and Africa must be a fully participating member. We cannot just showcase our talent, we must benefit and reward from it as well. This is about real impact, and having young creatives honing their talents, while also lifting themselves and their families out of poverty,” she said.
Hugh Evans, the co-founder of Global Citizen spoke on the importance of Move Afrika and its future: “For too long, western media giants have based the world’s biggest entertainment properties on African culture, but have not invested in its local entertainment and creative economy.
Over the next few years, Move Afrika will pave the way for a world-class entertainment industry that will drive local investment and economic opportunity, and open up a path for more artists to tour Africa.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.