My last blog was about how vital it is to have a strong representation of African music, culture and style in the international music market and on UK/US charts. There is much to be said about how much room is there for African artists to fill up on the charts and I have strong opinions on whether there is an invisible but very real glass ceiling put in place to limit or ‘cap’ (if you will) the international success of artist of direct African heritage….but….alas those are thoughts for another post.
A friend recently asked me; ‘Why do artists never sing their songs in other languages for other countries?’ Though I did not tell this friend the value of what he or she (for his own protection) had highlighted, I spend a while thinking about this once I had given my answer.
I told my friend how back in the 90s artists such as Brandy, Boyz II Men and Brian McKnight would release Spanish versions of their album but its a practice that has now faded from current music.
What this had me thinking about was how there is a need to reintroduce or reemphasize the need for ‘translation’ in music. Each language (and country) has its own language, subtext, shorthand and nuances that are reflected in their local music and business and this must be considered when creating a product (in this case music) that you wish to be sold and ‘recognised’ on a global market.
Though music is an international language, felt and heard by all there are major and minor geographical differences to how music is made and presented. It is acceptable and standard in Zimbabwean music to have a 2 minute guitar solo opening your track, it is the norm in Nigerian music to have the vocals a couple of DBs higher than the instrumental and It is conventional to have the snare drum mixed at the same level as the vocals in native Ivorian music but, are these practices that can be digested by an audience in London, England or New York?
So how do you create music that translates the same in every country? and how do you make music that is accepted in the countries that are major for sales and chart positioning? … That my friend, is the secret to success.
Till next time,
Make your sound count.