The Vinyl Scramble for Africa
The trend of DJs from ”the West” travelling to Africa to (re)discover old vinyl gems has been going on for years and has now started to receive a fair share of criticism. DJ Chief Boima is one of the critical voices who has compared the new scramble for vinyl to the 19th century colonial scramble by the European powers. However, an important difference is that while the project of the colonial powers generally was one of change and exploitation, many of the vinyl diggers around are doing their best to preserve what’s currently being lost.
Boima’s critique is fair and important in our opinion. He sums hit point up here:
“My biggest criticism is not that they are going to Africa to shed light on these “lost” recordings and forgotten about artists. I’m instead worried that they concentrate too much on those forms of music that fit nicely into the story that they, the DJs, want to tell about the music. The cataloging tendency tends to be a colonial one. Also, many of the DJs and label owners, perhaps because of its shared lineage with Hip Hop, have concentrated on Afro-Beat, or have given more weight to genres that are popular in the west like Rock and Funk. For African artists, these are generally styles that artists often used as tools, or influences to fuse with their own popular local styles. The reissue train has been slow to recognize larger genres in Africa like Soukous, Highlife, or Benga, unless they find an artist that has an added funk or rock influence. In the past the tendency was to look for “authentic” music that sounded more “traditional.” Are they now shying away from things that sound too … African?”
Is Boima right? Let us know what you think in the comments and read his full critique and listen to some of Boima’s own stuff:
* The scramble is not limited to vinyls. Read our interview with cassette archeologist DJ Mitmitta.