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Waka Waka

Posted 14 Jun 2010 by Young Lee

By overlooking African and South African music artists have the world's brands missed a trick in this years Ad Campaigns?

As football fever peaks we've been playing spot the "musical" ball, eager to gorge on huge portions of tasty tunes selected from the sidelines of Africa's townships. So far we've been sorely disappointed.

Everybody knows that the World Cup is a monumental marketing opportunity for the world's brands. Likewise, an unknown artist can be catapulted to musical success with that magical marriage of band and brand.

So why have musical diamonds from the land of the drum been overlooked this year? Why haven't Western brands been showcasing Africa's musicians and giving them the platform they deserve?

A snapshot of unlikely musical choices so far are...

  • Visa - Pixies - Isla Isla de Encanta
  • ITV - Jimmy Hendrix - Fire
  • Mars (featuring ex England 'players') - Orchestral music (no African connection)
  • The Sun - Wrighty's World Cup - Orchestral (again)
  • Castrol (featuring Ronaldo) - Non Descript drums

Most ashamedly, FIFA's official World Cup theme 'Waka Waka' is a simple pop ditty by Latino pop princess, Shakira. Ironcially 'Waka Waka' means "This time for Africa".

At the high profile opening music concert in Soweto, Shakira was supported by South African band Freshlyground, but let's not kid ourselves, the tune is as African as the BNP's Nick Griffin.

Yes, Afro-pop sensation Freshlyground, Mzansi Youth Choir, Soweto Gospel Choir and African hip hop artist K'NAAN were on the bill at the globally broadcasted gig but only after fierce complaints that there weren't enough Africans on the line up. They performed alongside global big hitters such as the Black Eyed Peas.

By playing safe with their choice of music, advertisers and broadcasters have missed a crucial penalty, failing to tap into the zeitgeist of today's lucrative youth markets.

Brand directors and ad strategists failed in foresight to check out South Africa's vibrant house scene. Dynamic artists like DJ Cleo, Black Coffee and DJ Mujava (TUNE TIP: check out 'Ayobaness! Compilation on 'Out Here Records') have a growing, switched-on following here.

Or they could've satisfied any retro needs by dipping into 1970's African Funk such as 'Anikana-O' by Kongas (as featured on Africafunk : Return to the original sound of 1970's Funky Africa on Harmless Records). I can see it now, painted fans chanting Fela Kuti choruses on the terraces, as one of the football elite misses a challenge.

"Zombie, Zombie, Zombie!"

Even if African music is considered too challenging by the corporates then there's plenty of credible tunes with their beat firmly in Africa's heart.

The percussive flow of Osunlande, Joe Claussell's afro-house, or the glitchy tribal-centric dancefloor sounds of Diplo or Radioclit (who produced and collaborated with Malawian artist Esau Mwamwaya) would have connected advertisers with that pesky, hard-to-convince 'youth' market whilst proving their affinity with African markets.

There's huge interest at the moment in micro genres such as Baltimore, Brazilian Baile Funk, Kuduro et al, music - all with a heavy take on African sounds and beats. Blogs such as Birdseed's Tunedown turn people onto artists such as Raymond King Gbaji from Nigeria and his novelty dance tune 'Alanta'. Perfect World Cup music and the kids would love it!

One campaign with a perfect musical score is ESPNs. It commissioned specially recorded music by the Soweto Gospel Choir alongside Irish crooners U2 (okay, I know...). But by incorporating South Africa's inspiring sounds they've better managed to capture South Africa's passion, struggle and heart, the vital ingredients for a magical World Cup.

Another positive example is from marketing behemoth Coca-Cola. It's used Somalian born rapper K'NAAN's and his tune 'Wavin Flag' (remixed version) as their official World cup anthem. It's now broken into the top ten in eleven countries, peaking at number 1 in China, Mexico, Germany, Canada, Austria, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Thinking 'local-global' has worked to their favour.

And, rather than just use K'Naan's track, Cola Cola they've built a canny partnership with him. They've launched a digital radio station, available free online, featuring a playlist selected by K'Naan with a truly global flavor. Atists from Latin America, Africa, Europe, Far and Middle East feature. K'Naan will be updating his experience from South Africa during the World Cup.

While no company has any obligation to use South African / African music in their world cup campaigns surely there is a moral consideration as well as a profit motive.

These companies are often desperate to portray themselves as all lovely and ethical (especially toward our '3rd' world brothers and sisters). I think that the majority have missed a great PR opportunity here.

Using African music is an easy, wonderful way of demonstrating social responsibility to ever more cynical Western consumers. And championing African culture would have also helped align these brands more directly with youth tastes.

Football is about bravery and going against the odds, why couldn't the brands?

Here's My Alternative World Cup Top 10

  1. Salah Ragab and the Cairo Egyptian Jazz Band present Egyptian Jazz - Art Yard / Kindred Spirits
  2. Manu Dibango - Soul Makossa
  3. Fela Kuti - Sun Ship
  4. Huge Masekela - Thanayi
  5. Lucky Dube - Captured live
  6. Mahlathini And The Mahotella Queens - Mbaqanga
  7. Extra Golden - Hera Ma Nono
  8. Esau Mwamwaya + Radioclut - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
  9. DJ Mujava - Township Funk
  10. DJ Cleo - The Mix

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