Africa's countries are distinct entities, but their music is blending together
While people are told all the time not to think of all African countries as one entity, there's one instance where blurring the lines is accurate: popular culture, especially music.
It simply doesn't do to feed the romantic, ubuntu-loving, sitting-under-a-baobab notions my continent fellows in the diaspora sometimes to have, but it's hard not to wax poetic about Africa's ever-evolving popular culture. I'm from an Anglophone country, so I'm cut off from a lot of the Zouk and Coupe Decale stuff in Cote D'Ivoire and Senegal; I'm circa early '90s on Congolese music; and Angolan hip-hop sometimes bypasses me. Kenya, Ghana, and South Africa are within my orbit, and it's just wonderful being able to see so much of what's cool outside my little cave. Everybody watches – sometimes with equal parts admiration and derision – Nigerian movies. Nigerian singers often go to South Africa to make music videos. Stars from across Africa make songs together.
Music has become the most meritocratic thing in modern Africa.
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With all this cross-pollination necessary to make such a huge part of popular culture, it can be said that, in terms of popular culture, the continent is looking more and more like a country. What's cool easily becomes nationalized, then maybe regionalized, and, if the song is particularly cool, even loved across the continent, like Tu-Face's “African Queen” or Brenda Fassie's “Vulundlela” all those years ago. And there's the collaborations. Wyre (Kenya) and M.I. (Nigeria) did a song together. So did Dama Do Bling (Mozambique) and Sasha (Nigeria). And Fally Ipupa (Nigeria) and J. Martins (DRC). According to MTV Base, P-Square (Nigeria) and Tear Gas (South Africa) are planning a collaboration as well. Then Nigeria's superstar Tu-Face performs with a South African band during the 2010 MAMA awards (Yes, this list is heavy on Nigeria, but that's really is where some of the most popular artists continent-wide come from). Everyone cheers, and there really is no reason why we should not. If it's good music, you dance to it. If it's a good movie, you watch it. After all, Van Vicker is not less handsome because he's Ghanaian, nor are P-Square's abs any less defined for the fact of their Nigerianness. All are equal before the eyes of young, cable-having, cell-phone-using, internet-surfing Africans across the continent.