Pollstar | Touring Africa: ‘It’s Tedious’

So FraicheLucia de Carvalho Performing at the first Reeperbahn Festival in Africa

Reeperbahn Festival carried out its first edition on the African continent, in Accra, Nov. 28-30, in partnership with ACCES, the “Music In Africa” conference to foster collaborations, international exchange and present showcases.

The aim of the first Reeperbahn Festival in Africa, which was sponsored by the German Federal Foreign Office, was to enable the 30 business representatives from the label, distribution, publishing, management and live entertainment sectors to partake in a dialogue on intercultural and music industry topics.

Pollstar took the opportunity, to ask a couple delegates with a live interest in Africa, as well as the manager of Dama Do Bling, an artist from Mozambique, about the state of the African touring market.

Izidine Samamad, Dama Do Bling’s manager and husband, said stringing together a multi-week or even multi-day tour through Africa wasn’t possible at the moment. “There are no spaces to tour the country. There are many difficulties not only in [Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, but mainly in the provinces, since they lack event venues, lodging, etc,” he explained.

 

While there were “many serious promoters in the country that do events, unfortunately there are no corporate sponsorships and events are few.”

 

Samamad said that one thing the country didn’t lack were production companies supplying the necessary equipment. He said advanced touring markets included South Africa and Nigeria. “Namibia, Kenya and Ghana are promising. Countries that still need a lot of work are, of course, Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania, etc.”

nullDama Do Bling live on stageAccording to her manager, stringing together a multi-week or even multi-day tour through Africa wasn

 

Jens Damgaard, managing director of Damgaard Music, who specializes on creating business opportunities for African artists in Europe, said the wage levels played an important role in preventing international artists from touring Africa, as well.

“Some survive on two to three Euros per day. They don’t have the money to go to concerts,” he explained. 

“What is more, you have what I’d call parallel societies. Artists that come over with the support of Goethe Institut, Alliance Française, Auswärtige Amt, and other cultural institutions, are performing in a circle of wealth. Regular people don’t visit these types of events.

“We played a show in Kampala for the Music Day hosted by Alliance Française. It was well-visited, also by a lot of Africans, but mostly because they knew our band or were affiliated with Alliance Française or other elite circles.

“It was a free concert, still there were ordinary people standing at the fence, not daring to enter.

“It’s a two-tier society, but it’s not like they’re being discriminated against, it simply developed that way. You have lots of NGOs in Kampala, people working for Siemens, Vodafone etc. They’re connected with these cultural institutes like Alliance or Goethe, so music happens a lot in these circles.

“We performed at the Ghana Expo, organized by Music In Africa, which is backed by the Siemens Foundation. We performed at the ‘African Futures’ conference in Johannesburg, organized and funded by Goethe Institut. In Nairobi and Kampala we performed at Alliance Française’s Music Days. Nairobi was really cool, open-air and lots of locals.

While the continent still lacks venues that can be strung together to form a tour, there is a great number of festivals, from boutique to large andrepresenting multiple genres. 

Stefanie Schumann, founder of Delicious Tunes, a booking agency, artist management and tour production company specializing in African artists, said, “there’s a festival circuit in May in Southern Africa, where several festivals share the acts, which makes it easier to share the costs.”

When Schumann visits the continent with any of her acts, she “cannot call it touring, really. We’re performing individual shows, mostly at festivals and it´s always a challenge to make it cost effective .”

She confirmed that many of those shows had to be funded by aforementioned cultural institutes and NGOs.

“It’s a huge continent, it can be tedious. The costs to travel in Africa are relatively high. Flight connections suck. You’ll sometimes get offered a flight via Europe, when looking to travel from one country in Africa to another.

“A lot of the time South Africa to Morocco will be cheaper via Madrid or Portugal than directly to Casablanca. Travel times are also crazy with major lay overs on top.

“You need to fly from country to country. And they lack the funds to build a proper infrastructure,” said Schumann.

For now, a solution could be to combine territories, like three venues in Zimbabwe, three or four cities in South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia. “It’s not too bad flights wise. You need to build circuits, which is happening to an extent . 

“Talks are happening, but a more concrete concept is needed, and that requires funding. But hey, our venues in Germany also receive funding, something similar may be achieved in Africa, probably through a private initiative,” said Schumann.

Both Damgaard and Schumann attended the Reeperbahn Festival edition in Africa to forge new business relationships. Damgaard’s band Gato Preto and Schumann´s bands Lucia de Carvalho and Mokoomba performed a showcase, but whether that will yield any business opportunities in Africa remains to be seen. 

So FraicheGato PretoLive on stage during the first African edition of Reeperbahn Festival

“The biggest goal would be new booking requests. But it’s not like there’s somebody waiting at the end of the show, ready to book your band for their festival. Most of the time those contacts are established in the months after the showcase,” Damgaard explained, adding, “we also had a lot of artists from Africa approaching us, asking us to promote them in Europe.”

Publishers, labels, radio were all represented at the conference, however, Stefanie Schumann would have liked to see more international concert promoters. “It was a showcase festival, after all, so I would have expected more promoters. But that’s not the only the responsibility of Reeperbahn Festival, but the underlying event ACCESS, which should bring at least  20 -30 international key bookers I think.

“We are mostly independent and we depend on a balanced attendance of professionals to make our investments work. Otherwise it´s just spending a lot of money to bring our artists to these markets. Overall it was an amazing event and I made great new promising business opportunities.” 

Detlef Schwarte, conference director of Reeperbahn Festival, said, “the first ever Reeperbahn International in Africa has been extremely successful. The music professionals in attendance, but also the artists presented by us, succeeded in establishing a number of solid partnerships and gained valuable insights into the African music market, which is currently developing extremely rapidly. 

“Through the support by the German Federal Foreign Office, for which we would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks, all parties involved were able to make major steps towards establishing excellent and sustainable collaboration between the music markets in Africa and Europe.”

The Reeperbahn Festival delegation in Africa

In Africa, Universal Music parent company Vivendi is operating 13 venues in total under the CanalOlympia brand, in Conakry (Guinea), Yaounde and Douala (Cameroon), Niamey (Niger), two in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), Dakar (Senegal), two in Lomé (Togo), Cotonou (Benin), Port-Gentil (Gabon), Brazzaville (Congo) and Antananarivo (Madagascar). CanalOlympia venues are arranged around a modular movie theater with 300 seats that can be transformed into an open-air stage with a capacity of several thousand. Some 30 concerts have taken place at CanalOlympia premises in 2019, mostly by domestic artists, for example Seddiki Diabaté in Lomé, Sept. 19, attracting 20,000 people. Some 6,000 attended the Damso concert in Douala, June 29, while Tekno in Douala attracted 4,000 people, April 14.

“As you can see, CanalOlympia promotes the emergence of a whole new generation of local artists, some of them already well-known outside of Africa. Olympia Production, which is also part of Vivendi Village, produces some of the concerts for its artists. Other artists are from Universal Music Group, part of Vivendi. But this is not exclusive, and other promoters have also enjoyed producing their artists on CanalOlympia premises,” a Vivendi rep told Pollstar.

We also reached out to Midem director Alexandre Deniot, who oversees Midem’s African Music Forum, which launched in 2018 to support the development and internationalization of African music markets. Since then, the Midem delegation has visited Lagos, Johannesburg, Abidjan, Douala, Dakar, Brazzaville, hosting a series of one-day events that complement a dedicated program of conferences, speed meetings and gigs during the main Midem conference in Cannes, France, in June.

 

“On the live side, we’ve learnt that big telcos are behind most festivals and concerts throughout the continent and thus have the booking power. The vast majority of concerts are free to attend, so artists don’t monetize via live but rather through brand partnerships,” Deniot explained, adding, “it’s also clear that there’s a strong need for more infrastructure – venues, material, capacity, tech skills, etc – to produce high quality shows. The exception is South Africa, the only country in sub-saharan Africa currently welcoming major international headliners.” 

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