Eddie Hatitye on “Music in Africa” “We have great music, but limited mediums”

The <em>Music in Africa</em> platform wants to be the first port of call for all inquiries related to music in Africa
The Music in Africa platform wants to be the first port of call for all inquiries related to music in Africa | Photo: Goethe-Institut Johannesburg / Jabu Nkosi

The online platform Music In Africa wants to serve as the information desk for Africa in a musical perspective. Co-founder Eddie Hatitye explains why such a desk is needed, how he wants to bring together artists from the entire continent and what differentiates the platform from other music portals.

Eddie, how does it feel to see the Music In Africa platform online?

Hatitye: It’s great! The whole team has been looking forward to this day when we actually get to see the final result of what we have been talking about for already three years. As you can imagine, we were also a little nervous whether the portal would meet everyone’s expectations. But now we are really happy because we are getting responses from all over Africa.

What can be found on the website so far?

At the moment, there are four sections: Directory, Music Education, Magazine and Resources. Under each section you can find a lot of useful information related to music in Africa, including important contact details and data on people who are active in the African music sector, overviews of African music scenes, educational material, music reviews, news, and practical tools for musicians.

Isn’t this information already available anywhere else?

Yes and no. You can find a lot of information on African music online but most of it isn’t accurate. With the portal we want to change this. Every detail on our website is checked before publishing and we work with experts in the fields we are focusing on. We give advice on cultural management, copyright, and legal aspects. The aim is to provide a deeper insight into all the key aspects of music in Africa. To give you an idea: If you are travelling to a foreign country, you go to the information desk first and ask for a map, you ask for suggestions and want to know everything about the different areas and their special characteristics. In that sense, we are serving as the information desk for Africa in a musical perspective. We are bringing all the information together which was previously scattered all over the internet before.

Who is producing all the content?

Eddie Hatitye, director of the Music In Africa Foundation Eddie Hatitye, director of the Music In Africa Foundation | Photo: Siemens Stiftung We have an in-house team with editors in Southern-, Eastern-, Western- and Central Africa. In addition to that, we commission knowledgeable people – researchers, music educators, and journalists to contribute. However, this brings us to another exciting aspect namely trying to create a sustainable portal. The website allows anyone to create a profile or to write an article. If it is reliable, we will publish it. That means the site maintains itself from a content perspective. In terms of creating a basis for financial rewards for writers, we developed a tool with which writers can be financially rewarded by other users. So, if you read an article in the Magazine, there is something called “applause,” a button that readers can click on in order to appreciate the text and give a micro-donation to the writer.

What role does technology play in this context??

I think, generally many musicians might say, “we wish that the internet never existed,” because it has changed completely how music is consumed. It has groomed a new kind of musician. But this is exactly why we need this kind of platform, namely to promote musicians, to reach out to new fans, to build new audiences, etc. The money now is in events, live performances and all these kind of things – however, without awareness people will never go to your show. Technology is there and we aim to make the best out of it.

That means technology changed musicians’ attitudes?

In fact, musicians are changing. Musicians are creating profiles and uploading their music. They are obviously embracing the portal. And it’s our responsibility to make sure that we always put them first. Our open source approach not only makes information readily available and for free, but it also encourages people to grow the website by themselves.

This is a very ambitious goal, creating such a platform.

Yes, indeed. Music In Africa is the first of its kind in Africa. Look at Africa: there are more than one billion people with extremely diverse musical backgrounds. Music occupies a very special place in Africa. And of course today it is not only a matter of culture but it is also a potentially commercial activity. There are very limited resources where music can be preserved or where professionals can exchange knowledge or promote their musical works for free. I think that is why Africa is sometimes seen as less advanced in comparison to other continents. It’s not because we don’t have great music, it’s because the mediums for African musical works are very limited. The Music In Africa portal invites people to know and value music from all over the continent. We want to create awareness of the African music sector and build up networks.

Looking ahead, what is your wish for the future of the portal?

That Music in Africa would be the first port of call for all inquiries related to music in Africa – at a level where it’s not just a portal, but a sustainable contributor to the African creative economy. Our aim includes creating visibility for artists as well as consistent consumption from music fans all over the globe. At the same time I wish that create bridges for the interaction between the people who are involved in the music sector. And by this I do not only mean musicians, but also music journalists, researchers, educators, and publishers.

The interview was conducted by Eva-Katharina Lang.