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Music: The African artists finding a global audience via TikTok

Nigeria's CKay and South Africa's Moonchild Sanelly at a concert in Lagos, April 2019.

Since the phenomenal success of the song “Love Nwantiti (Ah Ah Ah)”, released in 2019, millions of fans have been singing along to the Igbo lyrics by Nigerian singer CKay featuring his compatriot Joeboy and Ghanaian star Kuami Eugene. The track was the most “shazamed” song in the world in 2021, entering the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and generating a flock of remixes: in Arabic and French by ElGrande Toto, in French by Franglish, in German by Frizzo, but also in Spain, South Africa, etc.

Last October, Ckay became the first African artist to reach 20 million monthly listeners on Spotify. And his hit is not an isolated case. “Piki Piki Skirt” from Zambia’s Afunika, “Sad Girlz Luv Money” from Ghana’s Amaarae, “Woza” from South African DJ Mr JazziQ, “Touch It” from Ghana’s KiDi – all of these have reached explosive viewer numbers in record time. Their common point? TikTok. The Chinese video-sharing app is particularly well suited to launching new musical trends.

Do you still remember the chorus you heard on the radio all summer? Wait until you’ve seen hundreds of dance videos with the same few seconds’ worth of music as a soundtrack. Because the virality of the TikTok phenomenon is primarily due to this: the videos are short. The viewer’s window of attention is reduced (a small movement of the thumb is enough to go to the next video). The clip has to strike quickly and forcefully in the eyes and the ears. Two formats are favored: choreographies learned and repeated endlessly, performed with some variations and more or less talent; and memes, the videos with humorous captions, sometimes playing with the lyrics of the song.

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The song “Piki Piki Skirt” became famous for its hypnotic choreography, with twerking and hip undulations, and “Sad Girlz Luv Money” for its explicit lyrics: “I really like your body, I don’t know why you hide it.” “Touch It”, on the other hand, combines the two: the first phrase of the chorus, “Shut up and bend over!”, has become iconic along with the associated dance step (which we’ll leave to your imagination). It doesn’t take much – a haunting sequence of notes, a few powerful lyrics or just a particularly charismatic performance – for the music to go viral.

“In fact, no one really knows the secret of a TikTok hit,” said Nnamdi Okafor, the head of digital services and partnerships at Sony Music Entertainment Africa. “It’s too spontaneous, too organic to be theorized or anticipated. Sometimes a clip will touch people at a moment’s notice, and those people will communicate their emotion by sharing their videos. The music will go viral without anyone seeing it coming.”

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Sourced From Nigerian Music

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