20-year-old Ghanaian-UK writer Joel Ryan posted a very thought-provoking essay on his music site, Spike UK Online, that has sparked discussion on the relationship between Africans and Black Americans.
While many artists of late, including J Cole, Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce, have come out with music and statements that unequivocally affirm their blackness and/or pride in their African heritage, very few actually travel to the continent to entertain. This is puzzling given that Africa is home to many major cities, and a humongous fan base for Black American artists.
Ryan artfully discusses this disconnect in his essay Unapologetically Black But Won’t Tour In Africa;
“Love all these American and even British artists using African influences in hair, clothes, music and more. It is so inspiring and makes me so proud to be black, so proud to be African and it really is changing the game. But when was the last time they went?
And no, I don’t mean when was the last time they gave money or the last time they went to Uganda to take pictures. I mean when was the last time they went to perform and really showcase their talent which Africa has so heavily influenced? Celebrities and artists who go on “world” tours only seem to go to western countries even when their musical production, choreography, lyrics and costume are heavily influenced by African countries. I’m really sorry guys but I’m afraid a date in South Africa doesn’t count- amazing as that is, it is the equivalent of saying ‘I ain’t racist, my best friend’s step-sister’s cousin is black’.
South Africa is an amazing country with so much history, influence and importance but there are 53 other countries in Africa. Going to one isn’t good enough and to be honest, it’s been a while since anyone big has even toured there.
I can’t get my head around it. I can imagine artists sitting there in a board meeting discussing dates and places and I don’t get how a whole continent can get missed out. A WHOLE CONTINENT. If you like your cornrow (Kim K Boxer-Braids), African print, afros and your negro nose, there are plenty of them in Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Angola, Tunisia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and many other countries.”
Ryan then points out that Africa holds many venues large enough to accommodate world tours and challenges the notion that safety concerns are prohibitive for travel around the continent. Finally, he highlights the few black artists (including Michael Jackson, Ciara, Chris Brown, and Michelle Williams) who have spent meaningful time performing in Africa.
Ryan was swiftly attacked by members of the ‘BeyHive’ who felt he was calling out Beyonce, to the point that he had added a disclaimer to his post explaining that he is a Beyonce fan, and has attended concerts of hers in the past. But he should not have to apologize in any way for starting such a meaningful dialogue.
Ladies what are your thoughts? You can read the full essay here.