March 28, 2023

Afrobeats & The Art Of The Remix

The strategies behind afropop collaborations

Mayuyuka Kaunda

With the recent surge in the popularity of Sub-Saharan music, it's fascinating to explore the strategies that African artists and their teams are using to promote the sounds of the region and advance the careers of its talents. From engaging with the audiences, experiential marketing and brand partnerships, African artists have employed several tailored strategies to expand their sound and grow their markets. One of the most effective tools in the afropop space has been the use of remixes - a tactic that has been around for a while but has been employed with great inventiveness, matching the unique melodies and rhythms of afrobeats. Let's take a closer look at the different types of remixes that African artists have crafted and the objectives behind their choices.


Over the years, "Afrobeats to the World" has been the main rallying cry from the continent. Nascent sounds such as sungura trap in Zimbabwe, gengetone in Kenya and Electro Shaabi in North Africa continue to emerge across Africa's regions, however, and have the potential for expansion as evinced by the meteoric rise of amapiano. When two distinct artists collaborate such as South African rapper Nasty C and Nigerian singer Bellah Shmurda, the resultant output is a sumptuous blend of addictive notes and quotable flows - and a sonic marriage that invariably brings the artists' fan bases together and creates an opportunity to simultaneously attract casual hip hop or afrobeats listeners.


The "Sete" remix was appropriately dubbed as "pan-African" by South African rapper K.O on Twitter, revealing an overt attempt to attract listeners from both West and East Africa. A song that has taken Southern Africa's charts by storm, "Sete" bares afrobeats elements that render it ready for export to other markets. Tapping Diamond Platnumz and Oxlade proved a no-brainer and illustrates how a remix is the most bulletproof way to enter new markets on the continent before using the resultant ubiquity as a launchpad to take over the rest of the world.


To take over the world artists tap those with a significant footprint and active support in the parts of the globe they'd like to explore. In addition to Fireboy DML turning the runaway hit "Peru" into a global staple through an Ed Sheeran-assisted remix; CKay's tactic of having multiple geo-specific remixes for "Love Nwantiti" has created a blueprint for other afropop artists to follow. The benefits of this remix approach are obvious as it widens an artitst's appeal and exposes them to new potential supporters.


Perhaps the most intriguing collaborations are those between artists upcoming and established. BNXN's breakthrough happened through a collaboration with Zlatan Ibile and a Burna Boy-stamped remix of "Lenu". These type of remixes are often mutually beneficial as both parties have access to fans across different age groups who may not have tuned in to each respective artist without the creative combination happening. At the heart of the considerations artists must keep in mind when collaborating on a remix are a range of metrics including their fans' ages, spending power, taste profiles and region of residence. Suffice to say, succesful remixes achieve better reach when the these considerations are catered for and the aforementioned strategies are combined. Fireboy DML gracing Madonna's "Frozen" remix, for instance, is a case study on how the cross-genre, cross-generational and cross-continental come together resulting in a song having a larger footprint and life cycle.

The best remixes thus combine multiple strategies depending on the artists' goals. Sometimes the charts are a consideration and other times touring is the objective. In some instances collaborating with a personal idol or satiating fans is reason enough for artists to craft a remix. In any event, African artists are employing remixes with an intentionality that bodes well for the future of the music industry on the continent.

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