Chris Koney’s column: Music mogul, Smallgod, talks about African talents and music going global


At a rather young age, Smallgod discovered his love for creative arts and became a staunch music enthusiast, attending almost every rave, music concert and arts festival that mattered.

He was the life of any social gathering he attended and will show up in brands which he rocked religiously and in style. Interestingly, he knew all there was to know about urban mainstream trends across the various art forms.

Later, he transitioned into a music connoisseur, having acquired extensive industry knowledge from the history, theory, and production of the business of music alongside its accompanying elements. He is one of a kind with a unique approach to doing things; bubbly with an incomparable bravura and possesses an addictive personality.

He owes his exposure to diversity, different cultures and the arts at an early age to his exceptional upbringing between three countries – Ghana, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. However, his uniqueness partly comes from within, as exhibited through his actions and behaviours over the years.

Born Nana Appiasei, he is widely known in the art space as Smallgod, a music mogul distinguished by his departure from adhering to industry-established orders, and fulfilling the expectations placed on him by society. You can describe him as a free-thinking hippie who refuses to get a conventional job.

It was a good feeling catching up with the man who has dedicated a decade and half of his life working tirelessly on building bridges and connecting the dots in contemporary African music over the weekend at one of the best and most luxurious communities in the heart of the nation’s capital, East Legon.

Over the years, he has created a name for himself in the African music industry, working with several leading musicians on the continent and around the world. He continues to serve as a connector through his unconventional talent management style, and now focusing more attention on publishing.

In 2021, leveraging his vast experience, network and reach, Smallgod, in his bid to lead the charge of pan-Africanism through music, launched his debut album – ‘Building Bridges’. Through this project, he successfully connected musicians on the continent and those from the African diaspora.

Following the success of ‘Building Bridges’, he recently released a new project dubbed ‘Connecting The Dots’, which features current music heavyweights including Black Sherif, Ivorian Doll, Kwaku DMC and Vic Mensa, DJ Breezy, Headie One, Medikal, NSG, Darkovibes, MzVee, Terry Africa, Mugeez, and Boj.

African popular music is a growing market – both within the continent and outside Africa. International collaborations between renowned African musicians and other international musicians continue to contribute to the promotion of African musicians. Our conversation focussed on African music on the global stage, development of African talents, structures and the prominence of Nigerian music on the world stage.

However, this current success of the African popular music genre comes with a series of challenges. In most African countries, music piracy has a huge impact, minimising the income of the musicians and producers, which in some countries have led to the closing of music-related infrastructure like music studios.

However, piracy and illegal streaming might also help to make an artiste known. In this context, the challenge of digitalisation could be boon and bane – new paths in music consumption, like streaming and downloading, have the potential to provide a better legal framework, and encourage music consumers to pay for songs.

On the other hand, illegal download and distribution may again jeopardise revenues for artistes. Also related to this issue are challenges concerning copyrights, are the laws concerning the latter enforced and known by the persons concerned? Are collecting societies existing and operational? Do the artistes know about them, and how to use them to claim their rights? Are copyrights a support for musicians, a bureaucratic nuisance, or simply irrelevant? Or, from another perspective, does the Western concept of copyrights apply in African contexts, and if so, is it successfully implemented? And if not, what alternatives to the Western model may African societies offer?

Branding and lifestyle are vital in the music space, and Smallgod revealed that the Nigerians seem to understand it better and are taking it seriously. Hence, they invest so much in developing brands and lifestyles for their artistes. The imagery created makes it easier for the audience to identify and differentiate these brands and the luxurious lifestyle also contributes to the buzz around these artistes.

“For musicians, especially independent artistes, there is a lot of work; education that needs to be done, especially around working on their digital presence and getting their metadata right; and we all need to work together on this. It is important to work with trusted aggregators who can push the content and have masses of data that can help target fans and show where to focus on.

“In the process of developing talents, it is important to build a trusted team and be thorough with your business. To get your fees and publishing, it is important to get a lawyer to do your paperwork because you never know which record is going to be a hit. This makes it very important to embrace professionalism as well as finding innovative ways to operate.”

With the global growth of digital and streaming around the world, African culture and music is reaching new audiences everyday who want to see them to perform live. The growth of talents and the African music industry, both locally and internationally, will definitely impact the music business as a whole.

As one of the most influential personalities in the African music space, Smallgod expressed his commitment to continue empowering the new generation of African music executives while sharing his initiatives to structure and professionalise the local music industry and facilitate access to education on production, publishing and intellectual property rights.

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