This week’s ‘African Voices’ on CNN International reports from Nigeria and Rwanda, exploring the style and impact of African music in those countries.
The programme meets two musicians drawing upon different eras of African music, and discovers that the melodies coming out of Africa are as varied as the continent itself.
In Lagos, Nigeria, ‘African Voices’ meets Ade Bantu, an award winning musician who has had hits in both Africa and Europe. Outside of music, Bantu is also a film-maker, business owner and political activist.
‘African Voices’ joins Bantu in the Ogba neighbourhood of the city, where he was exposed to several diverse cultures, classes and influences growing up.
Bantu explains to the programme: “Coming back here is always very emotional to me… the whole idea about this neighbourhood was actually to integrate the emerging middle class with the working class folks.”
‘African Voices’ discovers how Bantu was exposed to even more cultures as a teenager, when his family moved from Nigeria to Germany. It was during this period that Bantu started to make music, and sought to integrate a purely African sound from the beginning.
Bantu tells the programme: “Growing up in Europe, I was forced to move beyond a Nigerian, to become an African, and to understand that I’m part of a greater struggle, a greater story.”
Since starting his band in the late 1990s, Bantu and his group have found great success through their pan-African sound. The group’s breakout song, ‘Nzogbu’, equally offered a platform for Bantu to incorporate more political and social statements into their music.
‘Africa Voices’ hears how a wave of racially motivated attacks in Germany in 2000, specifically the death of a young father, led to Bantu and his group writing the song ‘Adriano: The Final Warning’. Written from a son’s perspective, the song quickly became an anti-racism anthem.
Bantu explains the meaning of the song to ‘African Voices’, and why the reception to their political message was so significant: “I just wanted to tell this boy, you’re not alone… We’re not taking this anymore, we refuse to be victims. Then the song becomes this major hit and you’re performing in Berlin, in front of thousands of people… It was recognition with a purpose.”
Now based outside of Lagos, Bantu is involved in several different community programmes for young-people all over the continent, and still holds an alternative view of stardom: “It was all about community, community, community… I didn’t go into music because of the fame. I went into music because it was a passion, it was a calling.”
However, Bantu’s most ambitious and high-profile community project can be found at home in Lagos – a brand-new arts space, called Afropolitan Vibes, which provides free monthly concerts to the area.
The space was previously an old maximum security prison, but was refurbished by Bantu and a group of his friends, and spread by word of mouth. ‘African Voices’ learns that Afropolitan Vibes now offers a unique space for young Nigerians, where over a hundred artists have performed with Bantu over the last three years.
Bantu explains the development of his project to ‘African Voices’: “It’s been very, very organic, and I think that’s what it’s all about… I want to break the barriers in a very practical way.”
The programme learns how alongside the Afropolitan Vibes project, Bantu is in the process of recording a new album with his band.
Nonetheless, he shows no signs of slowing, as Bantu explains: “I want to leave behind a legacy… It’s not about the fame, it’s not about the money. I just want to look back and say whatever I did, I did with as much integrity as I could in that moment.”
In the same programme, ‘African Voices’ also meets one of Rwanda’s leading pop stars, Diana Teta, who has found musical success in a still-recovering nation. Born in Kenya, Teta moved to Rwanda shortly after the Rwandan Genocide.
Teta explains to the show that the experiences she faced growing up in a recovering nation ultimately impacted her music: “Being able to share what’s inside of me after seeing everything I saw…it really means a lot to me.”
‘Africa Voices’ reports that since beginning her career in 2012, Teta has combined an alternative pop music sensibility with traditional Rwandan music, and has found success without any formal training, a manager or record label.