Together we make Musique
It has taken a while for Equation Musique to find its feet, but four years after the organisation's optimistic launch, Africa's musicians are going places.
Equation Musique comprises 18 music professionals from across the continent. Funded by Culturesfrance and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, both of which promote French culture, it was formed with the intention of strengthening Africa's music industries so that they can compete with the rest of the world.
"It's easy to be in touch with music professionals in the homelands of our colonial masters, because that's where the trade routes are," said Panji Anoff. "I think the most important thing about Equation Musique is having reliable contacts in other African countries."
Anoff is a Ghanaian record label owner, music promoter and the director of the High Vibes festival in Ghana. He was recently in Johannesburg to attend his fourth Moshito music conference as a member of Equation Musique. His label, Pidgen Music, was founded in 1995 and features a host of cutting–edge Ghanaian musicians such as Wanlov the Kubolor and King Ayisoba.
Anoff is also the man behind the first Ghanaian dancehall musical, Coz ov Moni, which has resulted in subsequent tours for the stars of the film, Wanlov and M3NSA of music duo FOKN Bois.
"For the past two years Luc has given me artists from Senegal for my music festival," said Anoff, pointing at his colleague Luc Mayitoukou. "It is not always easy for me to go to Senegal to figure out which artists would appeal to my audience, but Luc can suggest artists and act as an agent. And he can explain that it is for a festival that can't afford outrageous fees.
"Ordinarily it is very difficult to find artists in your own subregion because the lines of communication aren't open. Let's face it; business is best when it's face to face. There is now someone in 17 or 18 countries in Africa who I can trust and rely on," he said.
Damon Forbes of Sheer Sound ensures that South Africa is also represented.
"It's been great to extend my network into the rest of Africa," he said. "It's great when you're emailing someone you know and your mail's not ending up in the junk folder.
"I am their eyes and ears for opportunities in South Africa because I know the South African landscape," said Forbes.
"For example, I introduced Luc to Brad [Holmes], who runs [popular music venue] the Bassline and through that we have ensured that the artists Luc works with in Senegal can be booked to come out here.
"Luc works with the big Senegalese stars, but he is also tapped into the new generation. If you want to book Baaba Maal, previously you had to go to a United Kingdom–based agent. Now you don't have to – you can call Luc, so you are no longer allowing a Westerner to take a commission. At least an African is taking the commission," said Forbes.
Mayitoukou has also had many opportunities through Equation Musique.
"Like with Panji, where for the last two years I have had artists at his festival, now I am working on booking South African artists to take to Congo Brazzaville," he said.
Roman Kanobana from Rwanda is one of the five new members of Equation Musique. Representatives from Senegal, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mauritania have also joined.
Kanobana said he joined Equation Musique to network with his peers and book artists for his Kigali Up music festival.
"In the past I brought Tumi and the Volume from South Africa and Chiwoniso from Zimbabwe to Rwanda, but it was very difficult," said Kanobana. "Now, with the help of my colleagues from Equation Musique, it will be much easier when I try to book artists."
It is clear that Equation Musique is paying dividends. An example is the International Exhibition of Black Music, which was launched at Museum Africa in September and is on show until December.
It has travelled to Senegal and Réunion and is on its way to Brazil after South Africa.
Forbes attended a conference in France under the Equation Musique banner and was on a panel with Marc Benaiche from production house Mondomix.
"Basically that interaction resulted in the exhibition of black music coming to Johannesburg," said Forbes.
Following in the footsteps of a massive drive by the African Union to boost intra–Africa trade, the success of Equation Musique is great news for music and African economies.