Africa Unsigned: Stimulating African Talent
Several of the most interesting new releases to come out of Africa in the last few years have at least one thing in common: they have been crowdfunded and released by Africa Unsigned. Among our favourite Africa Unsigned artists are the great Zimbabwean collective Mokoomba while the South African rapper Jaak is also worth tuning in to. Jaak overcame the Kenyan bands Sauti Sol and Just A Band in a crowdfunding battle decided by Africa Unsigned supporters. Jaak then used the money raised by fans and followers online to release the Ongerep EP that came out earlier this year.
Africa Unsigned is thus not your ordinary record label. Actually it is really not a label at all, according to Thomas van der Zouwe. “We are a creative agency that develops interactive music campaigns for consumer facing companies in Sub-saharan Africa. Our campaigns benefit artist, music fans and brands,” he explains. Founded in 2010 by Pim Betist, who previously started SellaBand.com, Africa Unsigned has quickly become a pioneering platform that enables unsigned African artists – selected by Africa Unsigned and a panel of music experts – to realize the recording of an album and kick start their musical career.
In 2012, Africa Unsigned organised the Big in Ghana Talent Hunt & Tour sponsored by Dutch brewery Bavaria. “Out of 300 talented musicians from Takoradi, Tema, Kumasi and Accra, 4 musicians got the chance to tour with a live band alongside well known Ghanaian artists FOKN Bois, Efya and Yaa Pono.” Thomas recounts. Bryte, a young hiplife artist from Accra, became the overall winner of the competition and got a cash prize and professional studio time to record an EP. The single Nadia Number is already out while the EP called Abeka Boy – produced by the FOKN Bois – will be released next week, October 22.
Africa Unsigned is now preparing for Big in Ghana 2013 and plans to expand the concept to other countries across the continent next year. Besides Big in Ghana, Africa Unsigned is also also looking into other creative ways of uniting brands, bands and fans. One option that they are particular keen on exploring is the incorporation of new mobile technologies such as Kenya’s M-PESA mobile payment system in future music crowd funding initiatives and campaigns. The opportunities are plenty as is the talent hub across the continent, so make sure to keep an eye out for Africa Unsigned.
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