Currently, the world is fixated with the tone of the new infectious sounds of Afrobeats, a growing music movement that has struck a chord with young West African musicians living on the continent and those in the diaspora. Afrobeats involves the combination of elements of West African musical styles with American jazz, soul and funk influences, with a focus on chanted vocals, complex intersecting rhythms, and percussion.
Afrobeats musicians, from Ghana, Nigeria and the rest of Africa at the moment have the attention of the world for the distinctive sound. As some people have argued, it is time for these African musicians to leverage on the current wave to establish themselves, the genre and achieve mainstream success.
Will that be a walk in the park for these young musicians? I recently had a conversation with music and arts advocate, Afrobeats pioneer, and African-American entrepreneur who has worked with several Afrobeats musicians, Richardine Bartee.
Based in the New York City Metropolitan Area, Richardine Bartee is an exceptional manager and communicator who has devoted her life to editing, creating content, managing brands and using her talents in the tech startup world for over a decade. Her specialties are social media, marketing communications, artist and repertoire, event production, copyediting and copywriting. Born and raised in Queens, New York, her childhood dream was to be an author in the children’s literature space.
Richardine is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Grungecake, an occasional, momentous collection of stories and reviews. Grungecake also functions as a magazine, imprint, and creative agency. She also serves as the Content Director for DUKE CONCEPT, an artist management and touring company.
Miss Bartee describes herself as “a young woman of intention and purpose, who did not allow the insecurities and limitations of others, to dictate or deter her future and also not a product of her environment.”
I enquired what she will say to African musicians when provided with the opportunity to engage them on the processes to scale into the next level of their musical careers and eventually achieve mainstream attention in the United States and around the world.
“I will tell an African musician looking for mainstream attention in the United States to strike whilst you are hot. When you are hot, you have fans. Your fans will be there for you at all times and it is a great tool to use. It is also important for them to know they have a relatable story to tell,” she revealed.
She added that “I will urge African musicians to spend the time to market themselves in their respective regions, so that they can become attractive to the United States market and key players in the space around the world.
Also, when you get the yes from the US mainstream media, do not keep them waiting and you need to take it very serious. They are busy and have hundreds to thousands of other people reaching out to them for what you want. You aren’t special until you make yourself interesting enough for the US audience to care for more than 15 seconds. We have a lot going on as a nation so it is best to make it easy for us and it might work out,” she emphasized.
As someone pushing ‘Afro’ music in the United States, she revealed that as per industry standards, it hasn’t been that easy and glamorous as it might be perceived. It comes with its own unique set of challenges which ought to be dealt with at every point.
“I embrace challenges. I am a young tactful Black woman in America, so to be seen. I have to find creative ways to exist like other people in this land. I am a smart person, genuine, patient, inclusive and respectful, and I believe it is what contributes to my success. The genre is so new and America, as a media juggernaut, is finally allowing more Afrocentric themes to enter the mainstream space,” she highlighted.
She further stated that “I have to put on my teacher’s hat to explain what the musical styles are, the importance of supporting global superstars now and early investment. And that’s not without having to create unique angles that must correlate with current US mainstream coverage. It is something that I look forward to every day. It is part of my life’s purpose.
Recounting some of the highlights of her work, she mentioned that “It has been magical. I’ve been able to get African Dancehall star Shatta Wale and Jamaican Dancehall artiste Spice on Essence’s The Playlist, a weekly column by Kevito Clark. I got Oxlade his first billboard in Times Square, New York City. I’ve also secured placements for many songs by African artists on radio stations in New York State and California.”
Rounding up the conversation, she revealed her medium and long term plans are for business. “It is only to remain consistent, and do my best for myself and the people I get to collaborate with and push. It will also be nice to be able to work with more artists and business people in Europe, South America, Africa, Australia, Asia, and even Antarctica. I want the challenge,” she declared.