The Digital Media / Music in Africa panel during the MUSIC section of very well-attended South By SouthWest Festival (a.k.a. SXSW) took place on March 15th at the Austin Convention Center.


In recent years numerous hot, new digital musicians, hip-hop artists, and DJs are emerging from across Africa, making a mark on the global music scene. Some are based on the continent some in Europe and North America. They reflect a new generation of socially networked artists who are just as comfortable in the tough neighborhoods of Africa's biggest cities as they are performing at elite nightclubs in London or European music festivals. They blend hip-hop, house, reggae and rock with various local musical traditions from around Africa. Some of the their music addresses prescient issues like political corruption, child soldiers, and HIV/AIDS. Some of it is rhythmic, wild dance music. This panel brought together musicians, DJs, video makers, and producers to discuss why some of the most creative digital music in the world is coming out of Africa and how African artists are working with new media.

Moderated by Rab Bakari with panel speakers Jesse Weaver Shipley and DJ Black. ELDee was not able to attend due to his daughter being born on the same day in Atlanta. (Congrats!)

Rab, DJ Black, Jesse and the audience discussed these topics below.

  1. [TECH] How has digital technology reshaped music on the African continent, specifically in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal and Nigeria; and what are the unique ways that digital technologies recording, editing, producing, are used in Africa?
  2. [VIDEO] How important are music videos; the music and what kinds of stories do they tell?
  3. [MUSIC] What have been the popular styles of music coming out of these African countries in the past ten years?
  4. [BIZ] How are these music and video production monetized? Can a person make a decent living from electronic-based music?
  5. [SOCIAL NETWORKING] How is social networking and the use of internet technology playing a role in reaching the masses of a continent containing 54 countries and hundreds of languages; and how can these styles of music and video be linked to North American audiences?

The panel was a COMPLETE success! We ended the day with a Barnes and Noble Pop-up store book signing for Jesse's book, "Living The Hiplife: Celebrity Entrepreneurship in Popular Ghanaian Music.

Then we attended the panel "The Promise land: Can Africa save the Music Business" moderated by Ngozi Odita with panelists Audu Maikori, Michael Ugwu and Ice Prince Zamani.

Then we partied just before sunrise in the cacophony of music genres of Austin Texas at South By SouthWest.