If Music Be the Food of Unity, Never Stop Playing (By Babatunde Fagbayibo)

Posted: July 1, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,


As a student of the African integration process, there is the inclination to pay special attention to ANY issue that speaks to the strengthening of unity amongst African nations. The emphasis on ‘any’ in the foregoing sentence implies that I tend to consider both formal and informal measures of regional integration. In this respect, formal (or macro) measures include the legal, political and economic factors that underpin and/or boost regional integration efforts. These include issues such as macro-economic policy convergence, intra-African trade, technocratic capacity of regional institutions, effect of regional laws in member states and transnational infrastructural developments. Informal (or micro) measures are factors, which on the face of it, appear not to have a direct impact on the technicalities of integration initiatives but when viewed objectively, have the potential of firming up the very foundation of unity. These are social elements that express the essence of horizontal interactions amongst the peoples of Africa. One such is music.

The narrative of music as an essential catalyst for unity is better understood within the context of the proliferation of satellite music television channels in recent years. These music channels serve as a platform for showcasing African talents to millions of viewers across the continent, a factor which has a number of implications. The first is that it has created a new generation of pan-African stars who, in the mould of American and European superstars, generate considerable influence among their fans across the continent. Capitalising on the star-power of these artistes, these music channels give them the opportunity – through individual interviews, documentaries and award shows – to articulate their opinions on the essence of unity. The second is the increasing number of collaborations amongst these musicians, a measure which often highlights the idea of unity. The third relates to the primary audience of these music channels – youths. Africa has the largest global youthful population, a reality which makes their inclusion in the process of unity crucial. One could argue, based on the preceding points, that these music channels play an important role in enhancing the consciousness of unity amongst African youths.

African unity is an aspiration that is still far from been fulfilled. An assessment of how the continent has fared in terms of achieving the formal measures mentioned in the first paragraph paints a picture of broken promises, half-hearted commitments and missed opportunities. This is not to say that formal/ technical measures should be discarded, rather it points to the importance of paying equal attention to other ‘less formal’ factors. In other words, if music is seen as a potential tool for entrenching unity, then more efforts should be geared towards channelling this realisation into the general programme of regional integration. This will require increased and sustained collaborations amongst actors such as the regional organisations, music channels and musicians. This does not necessarily mean that music is the magic wand for bringing about a ‘United States of Africa’; it is simply the recognition of music as an effective medium of promoting and sustaining unity.

Follow this writer on twitter @BabsFagbayibo

  1. FT says:

    Great ideas! My only challenge is the content of the music we have these days

  2. krugamotion says:

    good article Tunde. Music is also particularly a unique means on enhancing an african integration in that it has a certain resonance and appeal that is unmatched by any other continent (see Steve Biko’s comments on the same). the other thing is i think the recommendations on how to further spur music to be catalyst for unifying african peoples could be strengthened. while most of it is organic it still resembles the similar challenges of power dynamics where countries with greater populations and bigger GDPs have greater airplay & prominance. Further more countries that have overtly inward looking may not necessary “open their markets” (if I can abuse the phrase) to music from other countries. Could it be that music can also serve to stagnate integration… 🙂 Just some aspects worth intterrogating…

  3. Awelani Clement Denge says:

    Awelani Clement Denge

    “One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain…”

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